Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., Apr. 8, 1999

First Session

THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ. - Pictou Co.: School Closures - Oppose, Ms. E. O'Connell 5567
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Environ.: Eco-School Program - St. Patrick's-Alexandra School (Hfx.),
Hon. M. Samson 5568
Bus. & Cons. Serv. - The Canadian Consumer Handbook ,
Hon. R. Harrison 5570
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Crosswalks: Safety - Need Increased,
Hon. C. Huskilson 5573
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 96, Animal Cruelty Prevention Act, Mr. Kevin Deveaux 5576
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2610, Human Rights - Exco: Counselling - Seek, Mr. R. Chisholm 5576
Res. 2611, Commun. Serv. - Kosovo: Refugees - Anna. Valley
Support Recognize, Mr. G. Moody 5577
Vote - Affirmative 5577
Res. 2612, Human Res. Comm. - Liberal-Tories: Partnership Pose -
Abandon, Ms. E. O'Connell 5577
Res. 2613, Environ. - Sydney Tar Ponds: Pollutants (Frederick St.) -
Meeting Classification, Dr. J. Hamm 5578
Res. 2614, Educ. - Tallahassee Commun. School (Sue Moxon & Gr. 5):
Rights of Pets - Commend, Mr. Kevin Deveaux 5578
Vote - Affirmative 5579
Res. 2615, Fish. - Seniors: Sport Fishery Threat - Apologize (Min.),
Mr. N. LeBlanc 5579
Res. 2616, Culture - Marco Simmonds (North Preston):
CBC Series "Touched By An Angel" - Congrats., Ms. Y. Atwell 5580
Vote - Affirmative 5580
Res. 2617, Fish. - Seniors: Concerns - Heed (Min.), Mr. M. Scott 5581
Res. 2618, PC Party (N.S.) - Steel Industry (N.S.): Support -
Call Awaited, Mr. F. Corbett 5581
Res. 2619, Res. 228 [Fish. - Seniors: Licences Free - Provide] - Honour,
Mr. B. Taylor 5582
Res. 2620, Environ. - Plutonium Surplus (Russia-U.S.): Import (Hfx.) -
Protection Ensure, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5582
Res. 2621, GG (Can.) Certificate of Commendation - Jamie Chiasson
(Inv. Co.): Bravery Award - Congrats., Mr. Charles MacDonald 5583
Vote - Affirmative 5584
Res. 2622, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: TV (Children's) - Watch,
Mr. G. Balser 5584
Res. 2623, Commun. Serv. - Kosovo Refugees: Assistance - Provide,
Mr. John MacDonell 5585
Vote - Affirmative 5585
Res. 2624, Educ. - MSVU & Queens Commun.: Univ. Courses
(Liverpool-May 1999) - Congrats., Mr. J. Leefe 5585
Vote - Affirmative 5586
Res. 2625, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Environ. Act: Motor Fuel Regs. (S.15) -
Gasoline Retailers Protect, Mr. B. Taylor 5586
Res. 2626, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Staples Call Centre: Incentives -
Release, Mr. G. Balser 5587
Res. 2627, Don Atkinson, Jr. & Cdn. Assoc. for the Blind - Service:
Efforts - Applaud, Mr. J. Leefe 5587
Vote - Affirmative 5588
Res. 2628, Sports - Hockey (C.B. West HS League): Cheticamp
NDA Acadiens (Champs.) & Inv. Rebels - Congrats.,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 5588
Vote - Affirmative 5589
Res. 2629, Health - Cancer Soc. (Cdn.): Daffodil Days - Mayors
(Pictou & New Glasgow) Support, Mr. J. DeWolfe 5589
Vote - Affirmative 5590
Res. 2630, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Tourism Guide: Yar. Marina
Exclusion - Apologize, Mr. N. LeBlanc 5590
Res. 2631, Educ. - Salmon River Elem. School: Shirley Langille
Retirement - Thank, Mr. J. Muir 5590
Vote - Affirmative 5591
Res. 2632, Sports - Basketball (Girls HS [N.S.]): Oxford Lady
Golden Bears - Champs. Congrats., Mr. M. Scott 5591
Vote - Affirmative 5592
Res. 2633, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Trenton Works: Quality Supplier
Awards (TTX Co. [Chicago]) - Congrats., Dr. J. Hamm 5592
Vote - Affirmative 5592
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 863, Health - Dal. Univ.: Doctors (Rural Practice) -
Training Criticism, Mr. R. Chisholm 5593
No. 864, Health: Pharmacare - Ret. Civil Serv. (Gov't. [Can.]),
Dr. J. Hamm 5594
No. 865, Human Rights Comm'n. - Chairman (James Dewar): Appt. -
Patronage, Mr. R. Chisholm 5595
No. 866, Nat. Res. - Petrochemical Industry: Status - Update,
Dr. J. Hamm 5597
No. 867, Human Rights - Challenges (N.S.), Ms. Y. Atwell 5598
No. 868, Health: Nursing Homes Strike - Contingency Plans,
Mr. G. Moody 5599
No. 869, Lbr. - Lbr. Relations Bd.: Appt. - Patronage, Mr. F. Corbett 5600
No. 870, Health: Reg. Bd. (Eastern) - Appts., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5601
No. 871, Educ. - Windsor RHS: Safety Requirements - Fulfil,
Mr. G. Archibald 5602
No. 872, Commun. Serv. - Kosovo: Refugees Arrival - Preparation,
Mr. J. Pye 5603
No. 873, Commun. Serv.: Foster Parents - Role, Mr. J. Muir 5605
No. 874, Health - Cancer (Tobacco-Related): Reduce - Action,
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 5606
No. 875, Health - Physicians: Under-Serviced Areas (Yar. Co.) - Plans,
Mr. N. LeBlanc 5607
No. 876, Health - Smoking: Teenagers - Prevent, Mr. J. Pye 5608
No. 877, Justice - Abuse: Shelburne School - Compensation Process,
Mr. M. Scott 5609
No. 878, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Mac Timber: Kiln - Monies Use,
Mr. D. Dexter 5610
No. 879, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Budget (1999-2000): Depots -
Layoffs, Mr. B. Taylor 5611
No. 880, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Williams St. (East Preston) -
Paving, Ms. Y. Atwell 5612
No. 881, Educ.: Horton HS - Ownership, Ms. E. O'Connell 5613
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 1:57 P.M. 5613
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:49 P.M. 5613
CWH REPORTS 5614
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Commun. Serv.: Secure Treatment Centre - Urgency:
Mr. J. Muir 5614
Mr. J. Pye 5617
Hon. F. Cosman 5618
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 9th at 10:00 a.m. 5621

[Page 5567]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 1999

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Before we commence with the daily routing, I would advise members that the debate at 6:00 p.m. today is on a resolution submitted by the honourable member for Argyle. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the government immediately address the urgent need for a secure treatment centre.

We will commence with the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing 226 signatures from residents of Pictou County 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 document.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

5567

[Page 5568]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the House's attention today to a new program recently launched by the Department of the Environment and other partners at St. Patrick's-Alexandra School here in Halifax. This program is called the Eco-School Program and it means students attending schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality will be composting in their schools similar to the way we do at home. There will also be recycling opportunities in the classroom, which will include lessons for students on the reasons why this program is so important.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our department and this government, I want to thank those who made this program happen. The Halifax Regional School Board, as you know, has 144 schools and that is some 58,000 students to think of when considering its waste management programs. I want to congratulate the board and all of its members for its foresight in adopting this program. A number of students participated in the recent launch and made it a tremendous success.

Mr. Speaker, in particular, I want to thank Justin Friesen, a seven year old student from Halifax who had the courage to speak at the launch and tell us how important the environment is to our young people. Ironically, during his speech, he turned to me and said, Mr. Minister, this program is very important to us because, as you know, we are going to need this earth a lot longer than you will. I don't know if that was some foresight on his part or not.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank Troylena Chambers, Chiree Johnson, Alishia Clayton and Ashton Bennett, who wrote two wonderful songs about the environment for this event on the importance of composting. In addition, I want to thank all of the students who sang these songs and the teachers who assisted with the production.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to recognize Earth Cycle Opportunities Society, who worked out a brilliant eco-school program for us, one that will surely become a model for other systems in this province. I want to congratulate and thank them for their energy and enthusiasm around the entire eco-school project.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, the Resource Recovery Fund Board's assistance was invaluable to making this project work. The Atlantic Dairy Council has given us their support and we are very grateful to have them on board as part of this program.

[Page 5569]

Mr. Speaker, together we are setting high standards of environmental protection for our citizens, and children are helping show all of us how to make this happen. Because our children are growing up learning to respect the environment, they will have fewer problems to address than we do.

Mr. Speaker, when I made the announcement of this program at St. Patrick's-Alexandra School, I was asked whether our department was going to impose this program on other school boards. My response was that we would not have to impose this program on anyone, because this is the type of program that school boards are going to want to be part of and it is something that is going to educate our children, and it will be of significant importance to our future. I look forward to those boards coming before us. We have already had a number of enquiries.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, the accomplishments that our department has made in the field of environmental protection has been through cooperation, not through imposition. As a result of that I would therefore call on all the members of this House, when speaking with their school board members, to encourage them to call our department to consider implementing a similar program throughout their schools so that this can become a province-wide program.

In closing, I would like to congratulate all the teachers, the staff and especially the students of the Halifax Regional Municipality for their part in ensuring that this program is successful, along with all the dedicated, hard-working people in my department and through all the other agencies who have made this a success. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for the opportunity to bring recognition to the important work of teachers and students at St. Patrick's-Alexandra School in my riding. This is a wonderful school. It has lots of very innovative programs, and certainly this is one that they have had under way for some time. It is an inner-city school that was able to survive being on the chopping block last year. It is a vital part of the North End community, and I am looking forward to the support from the honourable minister and members of his government if that local community school is ever jeopardized again.

I think it is really important that recognition for the teachers and students in this school not be confused by the honourable minister claiming credit for their work, work that has been going on actually in this school for many years. Ms. Moriarty, the Grade 6 schoolteacher there, for many years has involved her class in very important recycling projects, and the money raised has been used to sustain class trips and adventures for the students.

[Page 5570]

Many other schools throughout this province are in fact engaged in these kinds of projects: composting, recycling. They have been leading the way in this province for a long time, far before the Department of the Environment realized that small is beautiful. I will look forward to seeing some change from that department, which has a record of imposing environmental megaprojects on municipalities without consultation. It is very welcome to see that the minister has been able to recognize the good work of small schools. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that environmental concerns are being addressed by St. Patrick's-Alexandra School. On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, I would like to congratulate the students and staff for participating in such a significant program and for their obvious interest and enthusiasm for recycling and composting. I would also like to extend congratulations to the Halifax Regional School Board and Earth Cycle Opportunities, as well as those whose participation has made this important initiative possible.

I think that it is important to remind the minister, now that the province is moving forward with so many recycling and composting initiatives, of his role in working towards securing markets for the materials that are being recycled and composted. Now, more than ever, those markets are significant to Nova Scotia and the need will only continue to grow. Government cannot forget its responsibility to follow through with all initiatives that are designed to protect the environment for future generations.

Once again, congratulations to all who have worked in developing and implementing this significant program. Thank you.

[12:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, what I would also like to do is table a booklet called The Canadian Consumer Handbook. Every day Nova Scotians are faced with a market place full of consumer choices. From signing a contract to mail order shopping and electronic commerce, smart shopping means being informed.

Putting the customer first is the raison d'etre for the Department of Business and Consumer Services. In our continued efforts to deliver better service to Nova Scotians, we are committed to protecting and educating consumers in our province. Toward that goal we worked with the Government of Canada, provincial ministers responsible for consumer issues and the Consumer Measures Committee to create this resource - the Canadian Consumer Handbook.

[Page 5571]

The handbook contains advice and guidance, making it a valuable tool for every Nova Scotian. Inside are helpful contacts for business, trade associations, consumer organizations and government departments. We have made this resource available at Access Nova Scotia Centres across the province, public libraries, universities, government departments and trade and consumer associations such as the Better Business Bureau, as well as seniors' organizations. It is also available on-line through the Business and Consumer Service's and Industry Canada's website.

Consumer protection remains a very important part of this government's agenda. The creation of this handbook is a positive step in helping consumers of our province as well as those across our country.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize the cooperation that went into producing this new resource. This handbook is part of a larger national initiative to improve the market place for Canadian consumers through harmonization of laws, regulations and practices, and through actions to raise public awareness. The Department of Business and Consumer Services is committed to protecting Nova Scotians from unfair business practices. That is why we administer a number of Statues to protect the rights of customers.

It is also why we are involved in a number of initiatives such as Partners Against Consumer Telefraud, or PACT as it is more commonly known. Our partners in PACT are the RCMP, the Nova Scotia Seniors' Secretariat and Industry Canada. Its mission is to reduce telemarketing fraud in Nova Scotia while increasing consumer confidence in legitimate telemarketing businesses. I am pleased to tell you that this effort is working. Telefraud is affecting fewer and fewer Nova Scotians each and every year. On behalf of Business and Consumer Services I am pleased to support this positive initiative that will help make us all more mindful when it comes to smart shopping.

The Canadian Consumer Handbook will go a long way to raise public awareness and help consumers find answers to the questions they have before they buy. I also want to thank the staff of our department, the Consumer and Commercial Relations Division of Business and Consumer Services, whose expertise on the front lines of consumer education has contributed immeasurably to the value and quality of the services we offer Nova Scotians. This new handbook reflects our ongoing efforts to improve service to customers and I encourage everyone to take advantage of it to help keep the Canadian market place one of the best in the world. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Business and Consumer Services for the announcement today. I believe that it is very important that steps are taken to ensure that the consumer has more choices and that the consumer have good, viable information to help them make those choices.

[Page 5572]

I see this announcement, Mr. Speaker, as a good first step towards protection of the consumer. As we know, consumer fraud has become more and more sophisticated and as we all know seniors are often a target of much of this fraud. I would also like to say that I would like to see this as a first step towards consumer protection. I think we at some point need legislation to ensure better consumer protection, particularly in the area of consumer fraud. I do thank the minister for his announcement today and for the fact that there are other partners working together to ensure better consumer protection. The creation of the handbook is a positive step, however, this is only a positive first step. Thank you very much.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I notice you forgot your hat today, but nonetheless I am pleased to rise in my place and on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus I want to welcome the minister's statement. The minister did provide our caucus with a copy of his statement a few moments before we came into the House and that is appreciated, a few more moments in advance would have been more appreciated but nonetheless we did receive it, I guess, approximately 15 minutes before we came into the Legislature this afternoon.

The initiative that I guess essentially was put together by the Government of Canada, provincial ministers responsible for consumer issues and the Consumer Measures Committee is certainly commendable. I am not sure of the composition of the Consumer Measures Committee but I trust that stakeholders representing Nova Scotia's interests are members of that committee and, as a consequence, the handbook, which we have not received, reflects issues and concerns that are unique to Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. So, it is extremely difficult to prejudge when you haven't had an opportunity to actually look at the handbook. But anything that will assist consumers I think has to be supported by all members in the House.

There are a lot of scams out there, Mr. Speaker. For example, telefraud, at least, from my knowledge, the perpetrators target those that are the most vulnerable and those that are quite defenceless. I think especially our senior community out there, many of our seniors are alarmed when they receive either information from the telephone or through the mail. They have to be very, very careful. So, in that sense I do support this government's initiative, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus. I also support the PACT partnership that essentially targets telefraud because it is a big concern and I understand as a consequence of PACT, that partnership, it is reducing telefraud. So, again, I commend the handbook but I also commend the PACT group.

Now, if this government wanted to go a step further to help consumers in this province, they could also eliminate some of the unnecessary regulation, legislation and policy that this province has, which is really suffocating business and consumers. Mr. Speaker, last year, you will recall in this Legislature, the then Minister of Business and Consumer Services brought forward a piece of legislation that was essentially huff and puff, did no more than change the

[Page 5573]

name from policy to regulation or vice-versa, it really didn't have a positive impact on the business community and the consumer out there. But nonetheless I will say, again, on behalf of caucus, we do appreciate this government's involvement in the Canadian Consumer Handbook, however, we are concerned that Nova Scotia's concerns may not be represented as much as we would like to see. Thank you.

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

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to bring attention to the need for increased crosswalk safety. There have been too many tragedies. Paul Andrew Levy was struck and killed in a crosswalk in Halifax last January. He was only 15 years old, and I might say that his grandfather was a past member of this Legislature and a colleague to some of the members that are present today.

Last month, a woman was hit at the same crosswalk. We want this kind of tragedy to stop. We want to raise the awareness in motorists and in pedestrians about being safe on Nova Scotia's roads.

The honourable Minister of Justice, and Business and Consumer Services and I had the privilege of being responsible for the Road Safety Advisory Committee. This committee is a partnership of public and private sector partners with interests and responsibilities in road safety. We are asking that the committee give special attention to the safety of pedestrians using crosswalks.

Both Minister Harrison and myself have asked the committee to review existing legislation and regulations, and to look at practices in Nova Scotia and other jurisdictions. We want the committee to take a closer look at the public eduction programs and enforcements methods. We are also requesting an analysis of new and innovative technologies.

We care about the safety of Nova Scotians. We want to make crosswalks in Nova Scotia as safe as possible. I look for the support of all our government colleagues in this venture. Together, we can make a difference. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the minister with providing me and other colleagues a copy of his statement far in advance, as he usually does. I appreciate that, Mr. Minister.

It seems to me, however, this committee should have initiated this review on their own. I hope that the committee is aware of the fact that they have a number of important groups that they must consult. There are, without doubt, dangerous crosswalks not just in metro, but

[Page 5574]

across this province. It is very important, Mr. Speaker, that these crosswalks be prioritized so that we are very sure of the ones that need immediate attention.

I would like to bring to the attention of the House and the minister, in particular, that our Leader earlier had expressed a concern on behalf of a constituent to review the technology that is available so that we can move on from some of the crosswalks that currently exist. There are, after all, unmarked crosswalks; there are controlled crosswalks; uncontrolled crosswalks; there are pedestrian activated, overhead lights; and more in particularly there is the best technology available at this time, the half-signals that go from caution to a full stop red and a green. I think it is important that this technology be advanced in certain crucial crosswalks immediately. (Applause)

I would urge the committee to please make sure they contact very important people in the community who are near these crosswalks and that is school principals and young school people, who travel them regularly. I would hope that they would show the initiative and get into some public schools that are very close to these crosswalks.

My final point is of consequence, I think, to all of us. We have a committee, it has been given a mandate. My question to the minister, however, is when will they report? I think they must report as soon as possible after a thorough review of not just crosswalks in metro, but in places across the province. I can mention one right opposite Tantallon Elementary School. That is a dangerous area. The fatalities are absolutely unacceptable. The near misses don't attract some of that particular media attention. Of course, my roots in Sackville tell me that there are crosswalks in that community, particularly the elementary school at Magee Drive. I thank you for your time and I congratulate the minister for this initiative. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate, as the previous member indicated, receiving the minister's statement in advance of the House coming in.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say, whereas the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and the Minister of Justice indicated the fact that young Paul Andrew Levy was killed at that crosswalk that one tragedy is one too many. When a crosswalk has had as many accidents and tragic consequences as that particular crosswalk, I think perhaps more than study, it is time to immediately implement additional safety measures.

The minister talks about wanting to make crosswalks in Nova Scotia as safe as possible. Well, I caution the minister and remind him that on several occasions, over the last five years - on behalf of Stewiacke residents, on behalf of town council and on behalf of the RCMP - we have asked that his department lower the speed limit from 70 kilometres an hour to 50 kilometres an hour through the Town of Stewiacke. Our primary concern is the safety of our pedestrians at the crosswalk where Highway No. 2 and Main Street intersect.

[Page 5575]

[12:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, each and every time we have brought that particular concern to the minister's office or to his department staff, we have been turned down. In the corridor area from Lantz, including communities of Milford, Shubenacadie, Elmsdale, et cetera, the speed limit is 50 kilometres an hour. I want to know why, through the Town of Stewiacke, it isn't 50 kilometres an hour? Numerous correspondence, phone calls, et cetera, have been made to the minister in his office, but each time they have been turned down. So, if we are talking about enhancing that safety of crosswalks, we darn well better be consistent in this province. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable minister for bringing this statement in. The crosswalk, where the young man referred to in this statement was killed, is in my riding; it is at Robie Street and Welsford. I want to say to all members of this House, if there is any issue where we have to put aside political rhetoric and work together, this is it.

The most difficult thing I have had to do in my short tenure as being an MLA is to go and speak to Mrs. MacLean and Mr. Levy, the parents of young Paul Levy, following the tragic death in that crosswalk. I want to remind members that this young man's death in that crosswalk was not the first fatality in that crosswalk of children. Its proximity to the Commons and its proximity to a major thoroughfare in and out of the city has demonstrated, I think, through the unfortunate number of fatalities and other injuries and accidents, that that crosswalk has to be one of, if not the most, dangerous crossings in this province.

I would beg the minister to place this crosswalk at the top of the review for urgent consideration for whatever measures we can take so that there are no further fatalities or accidents. I would like to say that Sheila Fougere, who is the Municipal Councillor for that area, is right now working with people in Halifax Regional Municipality and, I am sure, with the Department of Transportation. I have been in contact with her with respect to the possibility of half-signals at that crossing.

Any form of cooperation, any form of support that this caucus can give to the minister and his colleagues in terms of this review and addressing this situation, you have it 100 per cent. Thank you. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, on an introduction.

[Page 5576]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, up in the west gallery is Ms. Susan Moxon, who is the teacher of Grade 5 at Tallahassee Community School, Eastern Passage. She is attended today by 23 of her Grade 5 class and 5 other adults who are here to supervise, Kevin Morrow, David Millar, Deirdre McDonald, Joanne Stapleton and Jocelyn LeBlanc. I would ask that they all stand and be recognized by the House. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 96 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 22 of the Acts of 1996. The Animal Cruelty Prevention Act. (Mr. Kevin Deveaux)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2610

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

Whereas in February, the Premier said he had learned his lesson, apologized to Black and Aboriginal students, and undertook to advance human rights by ensuring fair hiring by major law firms; and

Whereas this government then ignored the Marshall Commission recommendation of a representative judiciary when it advised who should be raised to the new Family Division; and

Whereas this government is now trying to claim that the Justice Minister's official agent is the most qualified person in Nova Scotia to head the Human Rights Commission;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier seek counselling and training in human rights for himself and his colleagues before they again offend Nova Scotians' belief in basic human rights for every individual.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 5577]

RESOLUTION NO. 2611

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 devastation being experienced in Kosovo has been reflected in the faces of several thousand refugees who have been forced from their homes and communities; and

Whereas CFB Greenwood has been selected as one of two arrival centres for Kosovar refugees coming to Canada; and

Whereas the people of Greenwood and as well the people of Nova Scotia have a strong history of extending a helping hand to others facing tragic circumstances;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize and applaud the tremendous show of support and the humanitarian efforts being offered by the communities in the Annapolis Valley to those suffering from the perils of war.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 2612

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 NDP attempts to improve the process of appointments to government boards and commissions have met with equal parts Liberal obtuseness and Conservative indifference; and

Whereas Nova Scotians have long harboured the suspicion there is little or no difference between Liberals and Conservatives; and

[Page 5578]

Whereas the member for Kings North, and committee Chair, confirmed this on Tuesday when he said in reference to the newly appointed Chair of the Human Rights Commission, "I'm disappointed he's a Liberal. I wish he was a Tory."; (Laughter)

Therefore be it resolved that the LiberalTories toss their posture of partisanship aside and join together in a rousing chorus of, Now you've got your ABCs, won't you play along with me.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2613

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

Whereas yesterday the Minister of the Environment admitted that when he was first appointed minister, almost four months ago, he publicly stated that the concerns of Frederick Street were a top priority for him; and

Whereas instead of organizing a formal meeting to address the concerns of this top priority, the minister ambushed residents, who just happened to be home, by dropping by unannounced; and

Whereas the residents of Frederick Street have made requests for a formal meeting to this minister that continue to be ignored;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier work with his new Cabinet Minister to help him grasp the distinction between an unannounced visit and a formal meeting to address the significant concerns of the residents living near one of North America's worst toxic waste sites.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2614

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

[Page 5579]

Whereas Sue Moxon is a Grade 5 teacher at Tallahassee Community School in Eastern Passage; and

Whereas Ms. Moxon's Grade 5 class has been actively lobbying to protect pets that are not being treated properly; and

Whereas the Grade 5 class has written letters, contacted media and have learned a lot about how to effect change through active participation in the system;

Therefore be it resolved that Sue Moxon and her Grade 5 class from Tallahassee Community School be commended for their efforts to enhance the rights of our beloved pets.

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 Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 2615

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

Whereas yesterday the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture made the outrageous claim that he could not drop the fishing licence fee for seniors because it is part of the government's conservation strategy; and

Whereas this is just plain ridiculous; and

Whereas the cost of exempting seniors the cost of a yearly fishing licence would be almost entirely offset by ending the "stay at home pick up your pay pass" this government has given the former Deputy Minister of Health;

[Page 5580]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture apologize to seniors for suggesting they were threatening Nova Scotia's sport fishery, for squandering their tax dollars on a stay-at-home deputy and for reneging on his commitment to this House to end their fishing tax.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2616

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

Whereas North Preston's Marco Simmonds will travel today to Salt Lake City to participate in the taping of the CBC television series Touched By An Angel; and

Whereas Simmonds, who is 16 years old, is a talented classical pianist and was chosen last summer to participate in the first Nova Scotia Pathways to Freedom Program; and

Whereas as a member of that program, Simmonds spent much of the summer with political rights activist Dr. Rosa Parks, about whom this Touched By An Angel episode will focus;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate this exceptional young Black Nova Scotian and wish him well in his latest project.

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 Cumberland South.

[Page 5581]

RESOLUTION NO. 2617

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

Whereas yesterday the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture admitted that he has received calls from seniors regarding the issue of fishing licensing fees; and

Whereas the minister explained that the fee could not be lifted due to conservation concerns and explained that the resource had to be preserved for future generations; and

Whereas the minister has finally demonstrated a finely-tuned, scientific plan aimed at resource conservation entitled, make seniors pay so the fish won't go away;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture make a sincere effort to start taking the business of this House and the concerns of Nova Scotia's seniors seriously.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 2618

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

Whereas many Progressive Conservative MLAs have singled out the Mike Harris Conservative Government of Ontario as a model for Nova Scotia; and

Whereas some observers of this House may actually think that Mike Harris is a Conservative candidate in Nova Scotia, since his name gets such frequent and favourable mention; and

[Page 5582]

Whereas yesterday the Mike Harris Government announced a new package of financial support for the steel industry and steel communities, featuring a new government-funded Steel Research Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House await with interest a call by Mike Harris' Nova Scotia cousins for new provincial government support of the steel industry.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2619

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

Whereas program coordinators claim seniors in homes for special care usually go fishing only once a year; and

Whereas it is unfair to gouge these seniors $17.25 each for dangling a line; and

Whereas seniors enjoy the social and recreational value of fishing;

Therefore be it resolved that this Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and this Liberal Government honour the resolution which was unanimously passed in this House to exempt seniors from this unfair tax grab.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2620

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

[Page 5583]

Whereas yesterday in this House a Tory member characterized the movement of weapons-grade plutonium as no different from the movement of PCBs on our highways; and

Whereas unlike PCBs, weapons-grade plutonium is far and away the most valuable and desirable substance sought by international terrorists and criminal organizations; and

Whereas wherever weapons-grade plutonium is being transported, grave security measures must be taken to prevent groups from hijacking these dangerous substances;

[12:45 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government demand the clearest and most complete accounting from Ottawa as to how the health and security of Nova Scotians will be protected against the considerable risks relating to the transhipment of weapons-grade plutonium.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 2621

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

Whereas Jamie Chiasson recently received a Certificate of Commendation from Governor General Romeo LeBlanc on behalf of the people of Canada; and

Whereas Jamie was recognized for risking his own life to go to the aid of two people struggling in the rough seas off Belle Cote Beach last July; and

Whereas the 21 year old native of Inverness County reacted quickly and with little regard for his own safety to prevent a possible tragedy;

[Page 5584]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations to Jamie Chiasson on his award, and thank him for his bravery and unselfish willingness to help those most in need.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2622

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

Whereas yesterday in responding to a question regarding his department's budget deficit the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism became fixated on the use of the word largesse, perhaps because he was unsure of the meaning; and

Whereas the minister may also be confused over the meaning of the word philanthropic since it should not be associated with the lending programs of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism; and

Whereas the minister may also find it informative to learn the meaning of such words as arrogant, bombastic, condescending and derisive;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Economic Development, as a personal growth activity, commit to watching the Our New Word for the Day segment of the children's television program Mr. Roger's Neighbourhood.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

[Page 5585]

RESOLUTION NO. 2623

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

Whereas CFB Greenwood has been named one of the two processing centres for Kosovar refugees into Canada; and

Whereas these refugees have lost their homes and, in many cases, loved ones to the war; and

Whereas Nova Scotians will be rallying round to do everything possible to make these people welcome;

Therefore be it resolved that this government follow this example and likewise do everything possible to provide assistance to this humanitarian effort.

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2624

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

Whereas Mount Saint Vincent University is eminent in higher education and is prominent in provision of new learning opportunities for rural communities; and

Whereas the needs of Queens residents with respect to higher learning opportunities dovetail with the mission of Mount Saint Vincent University; and

[Page 5586]

Whereas Mount Saint Vincent University and a committee of Queens residents have been striving to create higher education opportunities for Queens and other South Shore residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly congratulate Mount Saint Vincent University and the Queens community on successfully offering university courses in Liverpool beginning in May.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2625

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

Whereas the Minister of Business and Consumer Services contradicted himself Tuesday when he said Section 15 of the motive fuel regulation was not being reviewed at the request of a major oil company; and

Whereas the minister's statement is sending a confusing signal to gasoline retailers because the retailers never asked for such a review; and

Whereas upon completion of this mysterious review, the minister and his Cabinet have only one option, which is to ensure Nova Scotia's 800 gasoline retailers and their employees are protected;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Business and Consumer Services not allow any changes that could weaken gasoline retailers from standing up for their rights before the major oil companies.

[Page 5587]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2626

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

Whereas yesterday the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism confirmed that negotiations with Staples have been completed for some time; and

Whereas yesterday the minister refused to tell taxpayers what incentives his government had provided to bring the call centre to Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this flies in the face of an earlier statement by the Premier and by a spokesman for the department who said, "There's no question we're going to make it (the details) public, because we always do. It's just the way we operate.";

Therefore be it resolved that the tight-lipped Minister of Economic Development and Tourism recognize the taxpayers' right to know and immediately release details of the incentive package his department used to lure Staples to Halifax.

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2627

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

Whereas the Canadian Association for the Blind, founded by Mr. Donald Atkinson, Jr., has recently set up its head office in Liverpool; and

[Page 5588]

Whereas the organization which has representatives and offices throughout the country was founded to assist people who, like Mr. Atkinson, are visually impaired; and

Whereas the association subsidizes the cost of technical aids to help those who are visually impaired gain access to devices that will allow them to read and lead independent lives;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the efforts of Mr. Atkinson and the Canadian Association for the Blind in serving the needs of those who are visually impaired.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 2628

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

Whereas 13 was a lucky number for the Inverness Rebels who recently won the Cape Breton West High School Hockey League title for the first time in 13 years; and

Whereas the Rebels won the championship game by defeating the Cheticamp NDA Acadiens 5 to 4 in the best-of-three final; and

Whereas both teams displayed skill, determination and sportsmanship as they did battle in the Cabot Trail Arena on March 18th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all players of the Cheticamp Acadiens and the Inverness Rebels on playing excellent hockey with special recognition to the Rebels who are champions after 13 years.

[Page 5589]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2629

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

Whereas Pictou Mayor, Lawrence LeBlanc and New Glasgow Mayor, Ann MacLean have recently pledged their support for the annual Daffodil Days campaign by signing a proclamation to officially declare Daffodil Days in Pictou County; and

Whereas the bright daffodils are a symbol of hope for people living with cancer and are sold through the Canadian Cancer Society's annual Help a Bunch campaign which starts today and runs through Saturday, April 10th; and

Whereas proceeds from the sales of the flowers will be used to continue funding promising cancer research, cancer prevention programs and services for families affected by cancer;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend heartfelt support to Mayor LeBlanc and Mayor MacLean for highlighting this important campaign and to the Canadian Cancer Society for their hard work in continuing the fight against this disease.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 5590]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 2630

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

Whereas the Yarmouth Marina is an important part of the tourism infrastructure of Yarmouth County; and

Whereas despite the best efforts of the Yarmouth County Tourist Association, the Yarmouth Marina, unlike much smaller marinas elsewhere in the province, has once again been left out of the government's Doers & Dreamers Guide; and

Whereas the government's steadfast refusal to address this glaring oversight will mean lost tourism traffic and lost spin-offs for local businesses;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism apologize to the people of Yarmouth County for once again ignoring the area as an important tourism destination, and further that he commit that this oversight will not be repeated when future publications of the Doers & Dreamers Guide are printed.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 2631

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

Whereas Shirley Langille retired after 25 years of preparing meals for the students of Salmon River Elementary School; and

Whereas in those 25 years, Shirley Langille has prepared meals for thousands of students; and

Whereas Shirley Langille is recognized as the unofficial mother for the students of the Salmon River Elementary School;

[Page 5591]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish Shirley Langille good health and happiness in her retirement and thank her for 25 years of exemplary service to the students of Salmon River Elementary School.

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2632

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 Oxford Lady Golden Bears girls high school basketball team won the provincial title by defeating Halifax Grammar, Advocate and River Hebert High Schools in recent competition held at Kings College; and

Whereas the Lady Golden Bears previously won the Coca-Cola Classic tournament in Springhill; and

Whereas the Lady Golden Bears won the qualifier over Port Hood, Lunenburg and Pugwash to go to provincials;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature congratulate the Oxford Lady Golden Bears on their hard work and commitment which lead to a successful year and wish them all the best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5592]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2633

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

Whereas Trenton Works Ltd. is a major economic generator for Pictou County; and

Whereas the Greenbrier-owned railcar plant ships orders around the world; and

Whereas Trenton Works Ltd. has been honoured in the past with awards, including one for exports by the Nova Scotia Division of the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly recognize Trenton Works Ltd. for their latest accomplishment in receiving a quality supplier award from the largest purchaser of freight cars in North America, TTX Company of Chicago.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We will now move to the Oral Question Period. The time of expiry will be 1:57 p.m.

[Page 5593]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - DAL. UNIV.:

DOCTORS (RURAL PRACTICE) - TRAINING CRITICISM

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my first question through you to the Premier. A report has just been released today in New Brunswick, an extensive report on the health care system, which is very critical of the training of doctors at Dalhousie University, in particular rural doctors for Atlantic Canada. The report says that doctors are not getting the training they need for rural practice.

I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, since he can't silence doctors from outside the province, how does his government respond to this indictment from another province in the Maritimes?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, it never ceases to amaze me how easily the Leader of the Official Opposition will believe something against Nova Scotia said by somebody outside Nova Scotia, rather than believe the people in this province that he wants to represent. I would like to refer his question to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there has been a report to the government released. I haven't seen it in full copy, but we are checking it out. I know that, in particular, this is a relationship between the people of New Brunswick and Dalhousie University. I would just say that Dalhousie has an excellent medical school. For a long time, it has been training family physicians and is known for training rural physicians, probably the best in Canada. He is quoting the president of Mount Allison University who may or may not know what he is talking about.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the Premier and seek an answer from him. We have the Province of Nova Scotia going to court with P.E.I., we have them pulling out of Atlantic Lottery, now this health care concern. You reap what you sow, is the question that Nova Scotians are asking.

I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, what will this government do to repair the damage that it has caused in relations with not only other Maritime Provinces, but also to restore the national reputation of our medical school?

[Page 5594]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would seem that the Leader of the Official Opposition would rather the Province of Nova Scotia at this time of fiscal restraint and difficulty in getting the revenues to do the things that we need to do for this province, that this Leader of the Opposition would want to give $4.5 million to other Atlantic Provinces rather than using that money in Nova Scotia.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Province of Nova Scotia, of course, has probably been the main beneficiary as a result of Maritime cooperation. There has not been a meeting of the Maritime Premiers for over a year. I want to ask the Premier, what is he doing to ensure that relations that benefit Nova Scotians and Nova Scotia are repaired after the damage that has been done in the past under his leadership?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has no basis for saying that Nova Scotia has been the prime beneficiary of Maritime cooperation, no basis at all. But I would tell the Leader of the Opposition that on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday there will be a trade mission of all four Atlantic Premiers going to New England. I hope he will support that kind of initiative.

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

HEALTH: PHARMACARE - RET. CIVIL SERV. (GOV'T. [CAN.])

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. Nova Scotians seem to be catching it on the chin again from Ottawa because retired federal civil servants here in Nova Scotia are not getting the same benefits in terms of their retirement prescription drugs as those in other provinces. My question to the minister, is he having any success in dealing with his Liberal counterparts in Ottawa in convincing them to pick up the cost of prescription drugs for retired federal civil servants here in Nova Scotia similar to what they do in every other province in Canada?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. This is an important issue. Yes, we have been speaking with Ottawa. My officials from the Department of Health will be meeting tomorrow with officials representing the federal government and the employers, the Treasury Board, and we will be discussing that issue.

I think his facts are not quite clear, as he mentioned, as they do in all other provinces. Certainly in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, the Yukon and several other provinces they do pay for that part of the prescription drugs and we, in Nova Scotia, are being treated unfairly from some other provinces.

[Page 5595]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, in the course of the answer the minister at first disagreed with me and then by the time he finished he agreed. I thank the minister for that acknowledgement. Would the minister indicate - because this is a very serious and very confusing issue for seniors, they are paying two premiums - to whom it is he speaks when he calls Ottawa to discuss this and what has been the nature of the preliminary response from Ottawa?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I have been speaking with the deputy in Marcel Masse's office. Mr. Masse was away when I called at the time so I spoke to whoever was there. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: This is a matter that we are actively pursuing and we want Nova Scotians treated like other provinces, as done in several other provinces in Canada.

DR. HAMM: There are so many examples of how since 1993 Nova Scotians have been harder hit than any other province and this is just another good example. By way of a final question to the minister, if he gets nowhere with his federal counterparts, is he prepared to consider legal action on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia to ensure that the federal government treats Nova Scotians fairly and equitably compared to other provinces in this country?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, yes, the federal government is in violation of regulations that are in effect in the Province of Nova Scotia as of April 1st. I would ask that honourable member for his support should we go in that direction and I thank him for his suggestion, and we will count on the Official Opposition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HUMAN RIGHTS COMM'N. - CHAIRMAN (JAMES DEWAR):

APPT. - PATRONAGE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question to the Premier. The removal of the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission, together with the Premier's unjustified attack on the IBM Program and the failure to appoint Judge Corrine Sparks, raise serious doubts about this government's commitment to human rights. These concerns are now followed by the appointment of the Justice Minister's official agent to the Chair of the Human Rights Commission. I want to ask the Premier, why will his government not reconsider this latent and so blatant of political patronage appointments?

[Page 5596]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure everyone in this House that this government has nothing but the highest need for the greatest board and most efficient board regarding human rights that we can possibly have. I would like to refer this question to the Minister of Justice.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, once again - to restate for the Leader of the Opposition - not only the commitment to human rights that this Liberal Government here in Nova Scotia and in this country has upheld since the inception of commissions and charters of rights and freedoms is the diversity that is represented by the members of the Human Rights Commission in Nova Scotia today, those are the kinds of attributes that lead to human rights leadership in this province.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask my first supplementary to the Premier, and let me say this is about your Minister of Justice. You should be answering these questions not him, because it is about him.

My first supplementary. The Human Rights Commission should be arm's length and independent of government, arm's length and independent of the Liberal Party. My question is, how can Nova Scotians have any confidence that the Human Rights Commission will be objective in their cases if they, themselves, are not Liberals?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, regardless of what Party a person belongs to, they can still do a very good job, and the fact of the matter is the Human Rights Commission will be at arm's length from the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. CHISHOLM: It is not a surprise to anybody in this province that the Premier just doesn't get it, Mr. Speaker.

My final supplementary to the Premier. The person in the eye of this firestorm, Mr. James Dewar, has said that he will step aside because he is tainted. So I want to ask the Premier, will he explain why he and his government won't clear the air and find a commission Chair who has the confidence of Nova Scotians? It is time to do the right thing, Mr. Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the Minister of Justice. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HARRISON: The reason for the referral, Mr. Speaker, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order!

[Page 5597]

MR. HARRISON: . . . is because as Minister of Justice, I am the one who takes responsibility for the appointment of somebody who has 21 years of experience in the practice of law in this province, is a fine and upstanding and ethical Nova Scotian who was put before the Human Resources Committee of this government (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order.

MR. HARRISON: . . . and will serve this province . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HARRISON: . . . as will the other members of the Human Rights Commission.

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

NAT. RES. - PETROCHEMICAL INDUSTRY: STATUS - UPDATE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. In the November 7th issue of the Chronicle-Herald, the Premier indicated - and he was, I understand, speaking from Boston - that he was confident the Sable petrochemical project will go through. He said he was delighted and he said that they have deep pockets. My question to the Premier is, what is the current development status of a petrochemical industry in Nova Scotia, some five months plus, since you made that statement?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I did not say it would go through. I said that this was a company that is making an offer and that we had to be very careful because we had to assure ourselves that they would offer a fair price for the feedstock and that we could not be assured that this would, in fact, go through, but there would be a petrochemical industry in Nova Scotia in the not-too-distant future. I will refer that question to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in answer to the question, I can only tell you at this point that we have interests expressed to us from companies in Nova Scotia that want to talk to government and to the SOEP people regarding their interest in a petrochemical project in Nova Scotia.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, in the interests of accuracy, I will table this document in which the Premier is quoted as saying he is confident Sable petrochemical's project will go through, and possibly he was misquoted but I would like to table that. My question to the Premier is - because he was very jubilant on this particular occasion - has any agreement been reached with anyone to extract the precursors of a plastics industry or a petrochemical industry from the product that is coming from Sable? Has it been arranged with anyone at this particular time?

[Page 5598]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there has been no agreement reached with any particular company for a petrochemical industry in Nova Scotia. As the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate has said, there are company that have expressed an interest. I also said at the time that announcement was made, that announcement originated with the company itself not with the Province of Nova Scotia, and we were reacting to their announcement. This was not an initiative of the Province of Nova Scotia.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I hope it wasn't Sable Petrochemical that was producing quotes on behalf of the Premier. By way of final supplementary, at what point will the Premier get beyond delighted, because those are the words he used back on November 7th, when will he get beyond delighted and when will he really begin and instruct his minister responsible to get going and start facilitating a petrochemical industry here in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have already begun working on getting a petrochemical industry in Nova Scotia. We hope there will be one in the not too distant future, but I have to assure the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and others that we are not going to give away the resources of Nova Scotia for a price that is lower than the price we should be getting for that feedstock. We have to be assured of a suitable price for the feedstock before we enter into an agreement.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

HUMAN RIGHTS - CHALLENGES (N.S.)

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. It is a very simple question. Mr. Premier, what in your opinion are the major human rights challenges that are facing Nova Scotians today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, human rights are something that we must be vigilant on continually. We have to work to improve human rights and there is no jurisdiction in this country or any country where human rights are at the state they should be. We continue to work on this and we will continue to work on this.

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, there is still widespread discrimination against Blacks, Aboriginals and other visible minorities in this province. We also don't deal very well with issues of age, sexual orientation or physical disabilities. There are so many other issues that we don't deal well with. My question to the Premier is what issues are on your government's human rights agenda?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, from the Human Rights Commission themselves (Interruptions) The question is an important question, what is the agenda of the Human Rights Commission, what are the human rights issues in this province. All of those described by the honourable member are in fact part of the Human Rights Commission.

[Page 5599]

In fact, the means to achieving greater human rights in this province, greater standards of equity, are part and parcel through the new design of the Human Rights Commission to look at alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, mediation mechanisms, to work proactively with government and the private sector to establish higher and higher standards of human rights. That is the ambition for the Human Rights Commission.

[1:15 p.m.]

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Will the Premier please explain how appointing a white, male lawyer, with no track record on human rights as Chairman of the Human Rights Commission advance the human rights agenda in this province? How can he look me in the eye and explain that?

THE PREMIER: The basic fundamental on human rights is that everyone is treated equally. We believe that on this side of the House. We believe that this has to be the cornerstone of the operation of the Human Rights Commission. We will see the results of whoever is appointed the Human Rights Commission by the work they do and that commission will have the complete support of this government and we will be at arm's length from that commission.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH: NURSING HOME STRIKE - CONTINGENCY PLANS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. We have had our first incident on the picket lines at Breton Bay and the incident was over the number of caregivers that are providing care for those unfortunate residents who are caught up in this strike. I would ask the minister what his department is doing to monitor the care that the residents are being given to ensure that they are receiving adequate care?

HON. JAMES SMITH: This is a very important issue, Mr. Speaker, and one we take very seriously. I have sent Dr. Murray Nixon and there is also a Director of Long Term Care, two senior officials in our department, who are visiting individually all residents of the two that are now on strike and I think maybe there might be a third, but we have people on-site and monitoring and reporting back. In fact, I have been getting, in some cases, hourly reports on the condition of residents.

MR. MOODY: I would ask the minister, given the report, if action needs to be taken, does the minister have a plan of action if those residents aren't receiving the quality of care they should be receiving, does he have a plan?

[Page 5600]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the last several months we have been dealing with nursing home that may be affected by strike. We have worked out and reviewed with them their contingency plans. Yes, there are plans in effect. Of course, these are not usually announced publicly because there could be various interventions that could thwart the efforts to protect those seniors and those residents in those homes.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, given the fact that we have two or three nursing homes, and that was the case last time, and we are talking possibly 41 nursing homes going out on strike, I would ask the minister, does he have enough staff, if that is the case, to adequately deal with 41 nursing home strikes and if he doesn't have adequate staff, what does he plan to do about it?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, over 40 per cent of the nursing homes have settled in this province and I really thank the six unions that have been involved in that. There are negotiations ongoing, I believe continuing as we speak. I am hopeful that reasonable people will do reasonable things. I agree with the honourable member, you could paint a picture like in Saskatchewan today where the hospitals are closing down, 8,500 nurses on strike, hospitals closing. It is difficult, it is very difficult. This nothing to gloat about, just because it may be in Saskatchewan where everything is roses and honey, but it isn't really. This is a very serious matter, I don't want to treat it lightly, but I hope that reason will prevail and fair people will do what is fair.

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

LBR. - LBR. RELATIONS BD.: APPT. - PATRONAGE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, with all the fuss around the Human Rights Commission we may have lost sight of another patronage scandal. On Tuesday, the Human Resources Committee of the Legislature, over the objections of the NDP, appointed a friend of the Labour Minister as vice-chairman of the Labour Relations Board.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Are you aware that your Minister of Labour has upset both labour and management by appointing one of his buddies to the Labour Relations Board?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think that is a very unfair comment by the honourable member.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, everybody knows that good labour relations requires a fine balance between the interest of management and labour. Appointees to the Labour Relations Board have to be well respected and they have to have the confidence of all sides. My question is to the Minister of Labour. What groups did you consult with before you made this appointment?

[Page 5601]

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I can assure you, it certainly wasn't the member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that is the type of rhetoric that is moving this province backwards. My final question is to the Premier. Labour and management representatives have both been telling you that this appointment is wrong, wrong, wrong. What are you doing to reverse this appointment to one of the most sensitive positions in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is not a wrong appointment. This, in fact, is a good appointment, but we are working with all groups to make sure there is proper representation on all of these boards.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: REG. BD. (EASTERN) - APPTS.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I would like to table short biographies of Clotilda Yakimchuk, Vice-Chair and Acting Chair of the Eastern Regional Health Board, a registered nurse, and former member of the Blueprint Committee on Health System Reform; and Joe O'Connor, an engineer, with no apparent expertise in the health care system. Mr. O'Connor received the appointment as Chair of the Eastern Regional Health Board when they both applied. This prompted Ms. Yakimchuk's resignation.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question to the minister, given Ms. Yakimchuk's stellar qualifications, why was she passed over as chair of the Eastern Regional Health Board?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not clear that she was passed over. The recommendations were evaluated and taken under due consideration. I did sign the forms that went to Human Resources for all members of that committee and I accept responsibility for that.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Ms. Yakimchuk is a Black woman from Cape Breton who has spent 45 years in the health profession. This government's commitment to gender and diversity issues is as suspect as its ability to manage the health care system.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Will the minister admit that the fact that Ms. Yakimchuk is not a Liberal was the real reason she was not appointed to the board. (Interruptions)

[Page 5602]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I doubt very much if anyone in the House heard that question. I will give the member the opportunity to repeat that question and I would request that members maintain sufficient order that other members and the Speaker can hear the question.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Will the minister admit that the fact that Ms. Yakimchuk is not a Liberal was the real reason he passed her over as board chair?

DR. SMITH: I think I heard the question. At this juncture I have no indication or knowledge whatsoever as to any political affiliation that the named person would have. If she has any information that she would like to bring before the House, I would ask her to. Maybe she would like to inform the House of her orientation.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to tell us what message this Liberal Government is sending to Black women and the Black community in Nova Scotia with this appointment?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I just find this a very difficult, low, mean, miserable question. Since I have been a member of this Assembly and the appointments that I have made, we have spent many hours (Interruption) Would you ask that honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Yes, have you got a problem? Mr. Speaker, I have been fair. My executive assistant and myself and others in whatever department I have been in have spent many hours looking for diversity, persons with disabilities, people of colour and all others. I really resent that that person there, who I don't believe is a bad person, but the group around her is putting her up to saying things (Interruptions) Oh, so whether she is admitting that she is as bad as the rest of them (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

EDUC. - WINDSOR RHS: SAFETY REQUIREMENTS - FULFIL

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education, and it is regarding the Windsor Regional High School. The Nova Scotia Department of Labour, through Occupational Health and Safety, conducted an inspection of that school and they found the open-web steel joists in place at this school were faulty. Remedial measures were recommended to meet the safety requirements of the Nova Scotia Building Code. Could the minister indicate to me why nothing has been done in that school to make the remedies?

[Page 5603]

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a good question on the floor, and I can assure the member that the staff within our department is currently working with the local school board that has the Windsor Regional High School under their jurisdiction to arrive at some type of satisfactory accommodations.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Again to the Minister of Education. Now look, there were some very simple recommendations made. One of them was to hire an organization or a company to take the snow off the roof if it snowed in the winter. There was no contractor hired. Also, if it did snow, it was recommended that an inspection be done of the roof trusses during a heavy load. Could the minister indicate why these two procedures were not followed, as recommended by the inspectors of his government?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, some responsibilities are carried out by the local school board within their jurisdiction. As I have indicated earlier, our staff within our department will continue to work with all school boards across this province. I assure the honourable member, I am sure that the staff within our department is currently working to arrive at a satisfactory solution to the problem that the honourable member raises.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister. The parents and the teachers are very concerned. There are problems with mice in the school, there are problems with poor air quality, and now we have found that there is a problem with the roof trusses. When will the minister indicate that there will be major renovations taking place to that school so that the parents, the teachers and the students can again get the education that they deserve in some health and comfort?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the honourable member. This government has invested over $0.5 billion into either new school constructions or renovation programs. As I have indicated to the House, since I have arrived in this department, calls have been coming from all parts of this province, not just from elected school board members, but from parents, from students and we will continue to work with the local school boards to help arrive at some satisfactory solutions along the way.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - KOSOVO REFUGEES:

ARRIVAL - PREPARATION

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to see that Nova Scotia will be able to contribute to the issue of refugees from Kosovo. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, what arrangements is the province currently making to prepare for refugees coming to Nova Scotia?

[Page 5604]

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to this question because it is one of extreme significance to the people of Nova Scotia, let alone the immigrants that we are expecting to land here probably within the week. We are working very closely with the federal government on this, with the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. We have senior staff from across the Department of Community Services and other departments, intergovernmental agencies, working as well. This is a very fluid process at the present time. Obviously, at this time, we do not know how many immigrants will be coming here, but there is a major effort under way with our federal counterparts to deal with this crisis.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, people who are familiar with immigration issues have suggested to us that many of the refugees coming to Greenwood would likely want to stay in Nova Scotia. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, what preparation is this government making to prepare for this possibility?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, in my first answer I did indicate that there is an across-government response and I would like to refer this to the Minister of Education who has the responsibility on immigration issues.

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, CIC, which is Citizenship and Immigration Canada, basically is strictly responsible for the current accommodations. As Canada has indicated, they are presently looking at accepting 5,000 refugees in Canada where half will be landed here in Greenwood, we anticipate in the next few days, and the federal government is assuming all responsibilities.

MR. PYE: My final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Community Services. What assurances can you give Nova Scotians that this government is ready for what is likely to be a major humanitarian and immigration effort?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I have been advised to tell you again, and I think I want to preface my comment by quoting from Vanier who wrote, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.". That calls us to a humanitarian response not only as politicians but as the people of Nova Scotia and as Canadians. We will come together in this crisis. We will manage it appropriately. We will manage it compassionately and very, very strategically.

[Page 5605]

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

COMMUN. SERV.: FOSTER PARENTS - ROLE

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Will you agree that foster parents are professional caregivers who provide an essential service which meets the needs of children and families in Nova Scotia?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I would go well beyond that in a description of what foster caregivers are. They are just incredible people who do an incredibly challenging job. They use a lot of human skills and loving skills to meet the needs of the children that they take care of. It goes well beyond your description.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to hear the minister recognize the contribution that foster parents play in Nova Scotia, but to continue with the question for the minister, in light of what she has said, does she really believe that the foster care maintenance rate of $13.24 a day adequately covers the child-rearing costs of foster parents?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the honourable member opposite that there was a major study undertaken and a report called Too Good To Lose which addressed a whole host of things that have to be done around foster care in this province. The per diem rates are only one element of that and I know he is expressing dissatisfaction around the question of the per diems, but there are a number of activities that are very positive this year in the area of foster care redesign that the Department of Community Services has embarked upon.

MR. MUIR: I am continuing with the Minister of Community Services, Mr. Speaker. In 1997 a recommendation was put forth by the chairperson of the government negotiation for the Federation of Foster Families which recommended a 10 per cent increase in the board rate. In light of this recommendation, is the minister satisfied that the 2 per cent increase recently offered by her department is adequate compensation for the important service provided by foster parents?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, again, I think the honourable member opposite wants to take one element out of a package of elements that we are offering to the foster care community in Nova Scotia, and clearly you just cannot take one element out of the entire package and get an appropriate response. We are doing a number of initiatives in the department to strengthen and to enhance the delivery of foster care in this province, working with our caregivers, and the per diem rate is just one element of that.

[Page 5606]

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

HEALTH - CANCER (TOBACCO-RELATED): REDUCE - ACTION

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, last fall this government told Cape Bretoners that high cancer rates were a lifestyle issue. It said that smoking is far more dangerous than living next to the tar ponds. My question is to the Minister of Health. If the minister is finished with blaming the victims, will he tell us what steps he has taken to reduce the number of tobacco-related deaths in this province?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a very relevant question and a very important one to Nova Scotians. We have hired a new cancer care commissioner, the first in Nova Scotia; we have Cancer Care Nova Scotia up and functioning; we have an advisory body on cancer drawn from across this province; we have enhanced pap smear screening and breast screening programs; and we have opened up the Cancer Care Centre in Cape Breton, where 50 people at any one time are not having to leave their homes on the Island of Cape Breton to come to Halifax.

Those are just a few of the things that we have done. We take this very seriously. This is a very important health issue in Nova Scotia. We take it very seriously, and we are acting.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Just for the information of the minister, I spoke about cancer-related deaths due to smoking and not breast cancer; there is a difference, Mr. Minister. More Nova Scotians are addicted to tobacco than to any other substance, but nicotine withdrawal programs like the patch can cost up to $300. If this government is truly committed to cancer prevention, why doesn't it cover the cost for such programs?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would know, addiction to any drug, or gambling or whatever, is a multifaceted, multi-causal issue. I think there are programs that are available in the schools targetting youth, and there is the issue of taxation. There is a multiplicity of programs available. Whether we make programs, we are trying to balance, within the Pharmacare Program for seniors, those with heart disease, cancer and children with chronic illnesses, trying to balance that with programs. We are trying to have priorities within that.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, the minister, as a doctor, knows that if you start young, you die earlier, concerning smoking. When will the minister heed the advice of many players in the health field and raise taxes to discourage our children from starting to smoke early and die early?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, taxation is an issue we have dealt with, with the federal government and cooperated with their particular programs. Again, I think there are many different ways that government can address it. I don't believe the honourable member is

[Page 5607]

suggesting that there is one solution to this particularly important issue. I think taxation is part of it. We are a national team player on this particular issue of taxation. It is one that is very important. I thank him for his suggestions.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HEALTH - PHYSICIANS:

UNDER-SERVICED AREAS (YAR. CO.) - PLANS

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, through you my question is to the Minister of Health. In both sessions last year, Mr. Minister, I raised concerns in this House about the plight of the thousands of people in Yarmouth County who are currently without family physicians, and the situation has not changed. Can the minister please indicate to the House what plans his department is bringing about to hopefully change this?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, yes, I am pleased to say that we have probably the more innovative and aggressive programs to have physicians enter more rural communities, which I think the honourable member is referring to. Last year we had a net gain of, I think, approximately 59 physicians in Nova Scotia. There are very few communities that are without physicians at this particular juncture. There are a couple of communities.

I think you have to look at how you are basing your evidence and how that is following, but we have primary care, two pilot projects we are looking at; in fact, how primary care is delivered in the communities is often more the issue than how many doctors we have.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we can do the arithmetic any way we want, but the bottom line is that people do not have family physicians. Two weeks ago the Premier was in our constituency and he indicated that with the new hospital, maybe doctors will come. Well, I would rather not have to follow but lead as a government. I am asking the government specifically, what are you going to do now to help alleviate the problem that is present in Yarmouth County?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are concerned with the total delivery of health care, but we are not totally responsible. That honourable member, as an elected representative, has the responsibility to work with his community and I hope that he can tell us what he has done, personally, to do that. There was a net gain of 59 physicians last year in Nova Scotia. We have reversed the trend. There are very few communities, and most of them urban not rural. We have programs in this province of supplemental and on-call for salaries and all the other incentives that the other provinces do not. We talked about New Brunswick this morning and rural physicians. We can tell them what to do, we are doing it, and that honourable member will see some results.

[Page 5608]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will tell you what I will do in my area to help alleviate the problem, I will get the community to meet with the minister. He can come down to our area, personally, and tell them what he is going to do. If 59 doctors came to this province, they did not come to Yarmouth County, so let him come down and show us . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please. Question.

MR. LEBLANC: . . . what they should do to get this government to act. Is he prepared to come down to Yarmouth County, if I set up the meeting?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I have been to Yarmouth County and I have been to many other communities. (Interruption) I grew up not too far from there and I know the issues of that particular shore. Physicians have spouses and they make choices. Maybe that honourable member is a little sensitive that he should be doing something more. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have been making some success. There are some things to be done in the way of physician recruitment and retention. There are some areas in Yarmouth and in the southwestern part of the province that for some reason physicians do not want to go there, particularly, and if they do they do not want to stay. So that is an issue, but it is a societal issue of those communities and we will work with them as well as we can for their special needs.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - SMOKING: TEENAGERS - PREVENT

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. There has been a 40 per cent increase in teenage smoking since 1991. The average Nova Scotian began using tobacco at 12 years of age. What are the minister's plans for preventing our children from taking up this deadly habit?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not quite clear on this statistic that he quoted. It sounded a little bit high to me, but I will take that under advisement. This is not an issue that the Minister of Health or the Department of Health, or any one government, is going to solve. This is a societal issue and we have programs right in the schools. We have public health programs, as well as within the Canadian Cancer Society and other support groups that we can work with. There are many issues. There is television advertising, a whole host of issues. We are very active, we are very concerned about this particular issue.

[Page 5609]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, many children start smoking because they see other kids, or even teachers, doing it on the school grounds. My question to the Minister of Education is, why has this government not acted in banning smoking on all school properties?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the smoking policy does not directly fall under the jurisdiction of the department, but (Interruptions) As the honourable member knows, school policy is determined by the school board in the area. And again, at any time if the local school board wishes to (Interruptions) Again, the smoking policy is left to the local school board to determine.

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, since the Minister of Education didn't answer my supplementary - today's 12 year old smokers are tomorrow's cancer and emphysema patients - my final supplementary is to the Minister of Health. Will the Minister of Health stop sending mixed messages to youth? Will he ban smoking on all school properties?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I wish that honourable member had been a little proactive in his anti-smoking when he was a member of council. I wonder maybe if he will tell the House what he has done. I am not sure that is in my jurisdiction. We have the strongest enforcement legislation in the country. We have programs to match it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

JUSTICE - ABUSE: SHELBURNE SCHOOL -

COMPENSATION PROCESS

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. In regards to the Shelburne investigation, the Auditor General noted some concerns regarding the abuse compensation process administered by your department. Since that report, the number of claims referred to the RCMP for investigation of fraud has more than doubled. Will the minister explain how the process - which was created and administered by his department - has been fair to all involved, including those who have had complaints made against them?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, that process was designed to ensure that certain key objectives were accomplished. One of the most important objectives was that there be an element of confidentiality and an alternate to the courts method for fairly compensating those people who had suffered abuse at that school.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Justice. Almost 1,000 former residents of the Shelburne Youth Centre have been compensated for alleged abuse. Does the minister feel a sense of responsibility towards those who say they have been wrongly accused?

[Page 5610]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, in this matter there is no question that those who suffered at the hands of those who were working at the institution need to be fairly compensated and in a process that does so properly, while at the same time respecting the rights of all the other individuals. That is why the police are involved in following up on their investigation and their responsibility within this process.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Justice knows, his department is solely responsible for this process, a process that has made victims of people on both sides of the issue. My question is, what are you, as minister, going to do to bring a sense of integrity back to this process, a process that has hurt everyone involved?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, in matters of this magnitude and of this dimension, it is critical that there be a process that is fair to all, as fair as it can be to all. Clearly the decision was made to embark on an alternate to the courts process here, one that required a certain amount of confidentiality in terms of those who are alleged to be perpetrators as well as those who are victims. We have attempted to find the right balance in this process and achieve all the objectives that were set from day one.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - MAC TIMBER: KILN - MONIES USE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I learned yesterday that an Ontario company placed a lien against Mac Timber's sister company for two kilns for which they have not been paid. The government's press release announcing the funding of Mac Timber said its money was for the purchase and installation of those same two kilns. I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development through you, what steps did your department take to ensure the money the government gave Mac Timber for kilns went where it was supposed to go?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the honorable member for the question. This is getting to be the daily question on Mac Timber. I will repeat what I said yesterday and the day before and the day before that. We are presently meeting with the receivers of Mac Timber trying to find out exactly what happened with that particular company. When we have all the information, we will certainly make it known to the gentleman opposite.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I will table this information to help the minister with his investigation of himself. I am also tabling information showing that the federal Business Development Bank secured itself against Mac Timber's sister company. I want to ask the minister, what steps did he take, or his department take, to secure their funding when he discovered that the money did not go where it was supposed to?

[Page 5611]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not responsible for Mac Timber's sister company.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this is a minister who constantly gets his pocket picked by fly-by-night companies and he still does not have the good sense to chain his wallet to his pants. I want to ask the Premier, will he finally order a forensic audit into Mac Timber so that Nova Scotians will not have to put up with the spectacle of this minister investigating his own failures?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I said before, there is an investigation going on regarding Mac Timber. It is a very objective investigation and, as I mentioned before, we want to know about this as much as the honourable member does. When we do find the answers, we will certainly make them available.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - BUDGET (1999-2000):

DEPOTS - LAYOFFS

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The Department of Transportation's supervisors and officials are complaining that the minister has cut their operational budgets for this upcoming summer at various depots across the province by up to 33 per cent. As a consequence, a lot of people that require this work, a lot of employees are being laid off. Some layoffs have already taken place. There is more to happen down the road. Can the minister tell me when his Liberal Government is going to stop slashing and burning the Department of Transportation's budget?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, with the Department of Transportation and Public Works, we push ahead to try to do as much work as we possibly can out in the surrounding areas on the highways and throughout all Nova Scotia, but where this honourable member is getting all his information from, I certainly have not got any budget targets for next year or put out any budget whatsoever.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, during Question Period, the Minister of Transportation indicated excluding volunteer groups and the Adopt-A-Highway project, et cetera, that the Department of Transportation and Public Works' employees are cleaning up this province's highways. I want the Minister of Transportation and Public Works to tell this House and all Nova Scotians a name of one highway that the Department of Transportation and Public Works solely cleaned up by themselves with Department of Transportation and Public Works' employees, one highway?

[Page 5612]

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, when we are talking about clean-up of highways, we can be talking about cutting brush, cutting back the growth that is along the side of the highway, and they are doing that. They did that all last summer, they do it in the fall and they will be also doing it this spring. They will be cleaning up the highways of Nova Scotia.

MR. TAYLOR: Again, I appeal to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works to tell Nova Scotians the name of one highway where Department of Transportation and Public Works' employees have gathered up the litter along it?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I want to inform him that our staff are very conscientious. They are out there working. They are cleaning up the highways and they are doing the work in the province with what resources that we have to work with. I wish we had a lot more to work with but, as I said the other day about the resources and about the funding, we would have a lot more money to work in the Province of Nova Scotia if we did not have that $800 million that we have to pay down each year.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

WILLIAMS ST. (EAST PRESTON) - PAVING

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Nearly six months ago I stood in this House and asked the minister why Williams Street had not been paved. In this House you promised to work with the residents to get the road paved. In February I met with the minister to once again talk about Williams Street and he assured me, again, that we could rely on his word. My question to the minister is, what has the minister done to make the paving of Williams Street a priority?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. I had the opportunity to be out in the honourable member's area. I have gone over streets and roads in that area, and I have looked at them. They are also being placed on a priority list. I am waiting for our Operations Supervisors to get this list together and, once we have our list together, then we will proceed.

MS. ATWELL: Last session you said Williams Street is on the list, it is a priority. Well, Mr. Minister, where is this list and where is Williams Street ranked on the list?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the honourable member that that list was tabled here in the Legislature in December.

[Page 5613]

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, that list is last year's list; I haven't seen a list for this year. Will the minister keep his word and guarantee that Williams Street is paved before the end of this calendar year?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, it takes time to put these lists together. We have to wait for our area superintendents to send in this information to us on a priority list, so that we can do this properly. As you know, the seasons have not gone ahead far enough yet that we can categorize these roads and highways. We are working on this.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

EDUC.: HORTON HS - OWNERSHIP

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Who owns Horton High School?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: I want to thank the honourable member (Interruptions) I didn't hear the comment that the honourable member raised.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

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

The motion is carried.

[1:57 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

[5:49 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 5614]

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: The House will sit tomorrow from the hours of 10:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m. and, following the daily routine, we will be in Committee of the Whole House, once again on Bill No. 90.

I move that we do now adjourn until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

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.

We have reached the moment of interruption. The late debate this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Argyle. It is:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government immediately address the urgent need for a secure treatment centre.".

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill will be taking the debate.

COMMUN. SERV.: SECURE TREATMENT CENTRE - URGENCY

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise and speak on the motion. When I was thinking about what I would say to my colleagues tonight about the secure treatment centre, I was tempted to simply take these newspaper articles and read from them. There are five or six cases of young people who clearly need the services of a secure treatment centre, and they have been publicized in the major newspapers in the province in the last three and one-half months.

[Page 5615]

The government itself has recognized the need for a secure treatment centre for young people. In 1996 it adopted a report entitled Too Good to Lose, which recommended that the Department of Community Services establish a secure treatment program for children with complex emotional and behavioural problems. Indeed, the then Minister of Education - and I must say, Mr. Speaker, probably editorially I did not agree with a whole lot of what this minister had to say on other topics - I did have to agree with him on the issue of care of children with severe behavioural and emotional problems when he said in February 1997, "While most children can benefit from a foster or group home placement, a few Nova Scotian youths require treatment that is more intrusive and costly because of the severity of their problems or because they would be a danger to themselves or others.".

He concluded that particular press release by saying that it was the intention of the government to renovate the facility of the former Nova Scotia Residential Centre and open a secure treatment centre for troubled young people from Nova Scotia in early 1998.

The need for a secure treatment centre is not only known by people who are involved in the community services field, such as those in Children's Aid or those who deal with families and try to help families with distressed children, but it has also been recognized by the judiciary.

For example, because of a young person who was, I will use the term "out of control", and had no appropriate facility to house them, Judge David Hubley of the Family Court of Nova Scotia said this, "We as a court have been trying to point out that there is a need for a secure treatment facility in Nova Scotia. We do have a difficulty at the present time because there are some cases that we are being told there is no place to send these children and there's nothing we can do. If there is anything I can do without compromising my position to encourage the establishment of a secure treatment facility, I would. Certainly, as my role as a judge, I am in favour of such a facility.".

Some of these young people who have these severe emotional behavioural problems, who are out of control, who are damaged or at risk to themselves, of damaging themselves or injuring other people, once they get into the system, they have been on occasion sent down to the institution in Shelburne.

Just in reference to one of the young people who was sent there, a psychologist who had treated that particular young person said that Shelburne is not an appropriate placement because of the lack of medical resources, lack of mental health resources, and because of the young person's inability to respond constructively to the rules and the regulations of a correctional facility.

Clearly, there is a need for a secure treatment centre in Nova Scotia. At the present time, the Minister of Community Services informed me earlier this week in response to a question, there are 25 young Nova Scotians who are being served in secure treatment

[Page 5616]

facilities outside this province. The cost is probably in the area of $3 million a year. The minister did indicate that she would provide me with those details, but I haven't seen them yet.

If we are sending 25 young Nova Scotians outside this province for treatment in a secure facility, certainly that appears to me to be a sufficient number to provide the critical mass to rationalize the provision of secure treatment here in this province. On top of that, we have an existing facility which is owned or at least under the jurisdiction of Community Services in Truro, the former Nova Scotia Residential Centre, which the government itself has said that it intended to renovate to provide the secure treatment facility which is needed for the young people of Nova Scotia.

The Minister of Community Services made that commitment in 1997. The present Minister of Community Services has made that commitment in the House in response to questions or in debate. The Premier of the province made that commitment in 1998 during the election campaign.

Mr. Speaker, these people are all reasonable, and I can't see that the situation has changed when these promises were made and the Department of Community Services decided as part of the provision of a complete range of services for the children and youth of Nova Scotia and the secure treatment centre was essential. It wasn't deemed as being desirable. It is named in the report as being essential to the provision of services for troubled youth in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, for that reason, I don't understand. The Department of Community Services has adopted this plan, yet up to this point, although acknowledging the need, has refused to do anything concrete to get that plan into place. As a consequence, we have a rather significant number of young people who can't or aren't receiving treatment. Now there are 25 being treated outside of the province. But I would really wonder what the number of young people are that could benefit from a secure treatment facility if it was here in the province.

I am very sensitive. One of the first phone calls I received when I became an MLA was from a parent who had a child who I will call 'out of control'. He was saying, look, we are out of options. We can't get the help we need from Family and Children's Services, foster care is not an option, what am I going to do? This was a candidate who could have been well served by a secure treatment centre. Unfortunately, and I don't like to be a portrayer of gloom and doom, this case had a very unhappy ending. The young woman was so distressed, she eventually ended her own life.

[Page 5617]

Mr. Speaker, I have met two or three other young people and actually have about half a dozen in my constituency whose parents have come to me and said, please, give us help. We need a secure treatment centre. We have to have a place where our young son or daughter can receive help so that they can become a well-functioning member of society. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of this resolution urging the government to immediately address the need for a secure treatment centre in Nova Scotia. This has been the most difficult, excruciating exercise that I have gone through as an elected MLA; the horror stories that I have heard from families who have children with behavioural and emotional problems. I recall the very first time that the issue was brought to my attention. It was late one evening, around 12:00 a.m., and the mother had her child put up in a hotel only two blocks from where I live. The hotel had two Halifax Regional Police Service personnel and a caseworker present with the child at that hotel until the next morning when the caseworker was able to, at least, get the hotel secure to keep that child there for a period of time. That hotel was ransacked and, as a matter of fact, it was extremely difficult coming to grips with the problem of that child. Another was, in fact, the very same issue, where a person from the Correctional Services, who wore a Correctional Services jacket, was protecting a child with behavioural and emotional problems.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this cannot and must not go on in Nova Scotia. The parents of these children asked the Department of Community Services and Children's Services to assist them, not because they don't love their children, it is because they absolutely do. They have so much love for their children, but because of the emotional behavioural problems, are unable to cope with that kind of an environment. So what they do is they call the Department of Community Services seeking help. They call the Children's Aid Services asking them to come and help. It is a very last resort. Often these children are brought forward by a police service which apprehends them and has to take them and then, their matters are addressed.

I recall a mother who just recently brought her child to my attention because there was not a secure treatment centre in Nova Scotia, having to be located in a group home in British Columbia. The mother was quite disturbed. This child, after leaving Nova Scotia, had absolutely no contact with the mother. The mother had no contact with the child, other than by telephone conversation. (Interruption) Yes, by telephone conversation. Mr. Speaker, there is nothing like the personal human touch of a parent to their child. This cannot - 4,000 miles away - possibly occur. The child being 4,000 miles away from home was charged with assault, actually mutilated herself with bottles, tried to do every possible thing to damage her own physical structure as a result of not having the opportunity to have that compassionate environment whereby her mother could come very close to helping this child out.

[Page 5618]

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that these are indeed very real, serious problems. Most recently, I also had a grandmother who requested the Department of Community Services to come and take a child because as a grandmother rearing a number of children, she thought they could take a child from the daughter and be able to bring the child up in an environment because she knew a great deal about raising children. She admitted that is was an extreme difficulty addressing children with behavioural and emotional problems. They are very real issues. They are issues which were so stressful and demanding. She called the Department of Community Services, not once, twice, three times, but on the fifth time, the Department of Community Services, Children's Aid, finally came to the rescue and offered to assist this grandmother in making sure that there was some facility available for the child. That child also ended up in a hotel.

Now there are two or three hotels in the City of Dartmouth where this, in fact, is happening. I cannot tell you, Mr. Speaker, the number of children that are in hotel units. It would be interesting to note that and I am sure that the Minister of Community Services will let us know about that. (Interruption)

Well, that is very good to hear, Mr. Speaker, if, in fact, the Minister of Community Services is correct and that zero must have happened most recently and I am pleased to hear it. I, as a member of this Legislative Assembly, am very pleased to hear that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to hearken back some period of time. The expanded regional services were recommended in 1996 in a report, Too Good to Lose, which studied the placement and treatment options available to children and youth in Nova Scotia who may have behavioural problems. They did make a report and they did make a statement. Then in 1998 the Department of Community Services put $2.6 million towards the implementation of a Too Good To Lose Program. Again, in June 1998, the Department of Community Services stated, after completion of the regional placement services, the department would proceed with the development of a facility within Nova Scotia for the most intense treatment and complex placement known as secure treatment.

Mr. Speaker, now is the time. This is a time that parents, grandparents, foster parents, guardians, of those 25 children were waiting for, a secure treatment centre for behavioural, emotional problems, and they have been waiting a long time. The Minister of Community Services should do the honourable thing and make the secure treatment facility available to Nova Scotian children now in this millennium and not the next. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, what time-frame are we working on?

MR. SPEAKER: Actually you have 10 minutes.

[Page 5619]

MRS. COSMAN: Thank you. I am very pleased to be able to engage in this debate this evening because it is a very strategic subject to families and to children across Nova Scotia and, of course, in the wider population across Canada because what we are seeing happen over the last decade to 15 years is that we are seeing children evidencing more and more severe, acute behavioural problems and families in crisis situations where they are trying to manage through children who are severely behaviourally acting out.

This is not a new problem obviously, but the degree of severity that we are seeing is worsening over the last five to 10 years and this spills over in many ways across society. I think if you visit schoolgrounds and you start to look at the level of aggression with some of the smaller children on schoolgrounds, you will start to recognize that if you were in the system 15 years ago, you did not see that kind of behaviour. There is sort of a general decline in the ability of children to handle conflict in many cases and what we are having to deal with across government structures is to come up with a response and a mechanism that effectively deals with children with these severe behavioural acting-out patterns. So I think this debate is very timely and I thank the honourable member for raising it.

Last spring in this House I did announce the implementation of new residential services and the honourable member opposite was talking about those arising out of the placement review and the report, Too Good to Lose. Basically what is being built right now and put in place are those 56 residential treatment beds in four regions in Nova Scotia. I have made the reference on that at times that it is like building up the foundation and the walls of the house and that you do not put the roof on the house until you have in place the structures of the walls and the foundation; those 56 beds are basically providing us with that foundation to go further and move on to the area of the secure treatment facility itself.

The reason for that obviously is that as these children present different kinds of behaviours and present with different needs, there is going to be sort of a continuum or a flow of care that is required. At times a youngster may be in one of those 56 residential beds and at other times they may move into a secure treatment kind of component. At other times, with improvement, they may move back into the 56 regional beds. So it is not a cut-and-dried delivery of this kind of a service model.

I think it is important that we realize that because we are evolving a new way of dealing with this behavioural issue. It is not just simply cut and dried that you go here and you are fixed and you go home or you go there and you are well, and you leave and it is all over. There is going to be somewhat of a continuum of care and a demand there for quite some time.

I want to talk about the regional placements just briefly. These are designed so that the care of the children, obviously, is going to take place closer to home. That was one of the very key recommendations in that report, Too Good to Lose. Part of that, of course, speaks for itself, the fact that parents want to be close to where the children are being cared for so

[Page 5620]

that they are closer to their home environment when it is positive, and that they don't have to travel long distances to make that contact.

I think we are making good progress on these 56 beds. The Reigh Allen Centre opened in January and added 20 beds to the system. The South Shore facility in Dayspring is scheduled to open, and that will be adding another 12 beds. The facility in the northern region, we expect to be up and running in July, adding another series of beds. Then, of course, the new parent counsellor program which is going to take place in Sydney, Cape Breton, is another strategic component of this.

What this gives us is a capacity with 56 beds and this new model that we are emerging into to assess and determine exactly how effective this is in answering the special needs that these children present. In addition to adding the new beds, we are also working on the accountability framework for the provision of treatment services. Part of that, of course, is the new method of service for contracting with facilities which specifies the results we expect to be achieved and the reporting requirements and the financial arrangements. Again, it is a complex set of factors here at work that we are concurrently working on.

I have heard the honourable member opposite speak about the examples of children placed in hotels, and there have been occasions in the past when children have gone to a hotel. As strange as it may sound, at that given moment, that was the only and best choice for that child at that particular time in their life presenting that particular type of behaviour that had to be managed one on one or two on one. I would be the first to stand here and say, it doesn't sound like it makes any sense, but sometimes with the kinds of behaviours which are desperately out of control behaviours, that was the only answer at that given time.

Clearly, with the 56 residential beds in the four regions, we know that we are into territory here that is new for Nova Scotia in the delivery of the service that it is providing, and we are moving into this whole continuum of services trying to meet these greater needs as being demonstrated by these youngsters. I think it is important, though, when we talk about the kinds of stories we have seen in the media and the kinds of stories and anecdotes we have heard on the radio talk shows, that we try to get a context of understanding around this. We are not talking about hundreds and hundreds of examples here, we are talking about very small numbers. Wouldn't it be ideal if we didn't have those numbers at all, but unfortunately that is not the case.

Contextually, we are talking about a very small portion of youngsters that have come into care that were in those circumstances. The majority of those cases were short term. They usually required stabilization of the child's behaviour, a very intensive one on one or two on one, and it basically would present as an emergency circumstance or an emergency situation that had to be dealt with effectively and carefully and quickly.

[Page 5621]

I don't like the idea of a child being placed in a hotel setting any more than any other member in this House does. I think it does point up to the fact that children are presenting with severe behaviours at younger and younger ages. That has identified that there are gaps in the services that we must address and work very carefully to address. Younger children with these challenging behaviours is one of those gaps that we now recognize is happening more often and more often.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important around the question of secure treatment to go on the record that we are making excellent progress in the area of those 56 regional beds. As this initiative is approaching its completion, we will be turning our attention to the whole question of the secure treatment facility.

[6:15 p.m.]

It is obvious that we are going to be looking at the previous proposals to determine their currency. We will be reviewing the financial implications and we will be reviewing the legislative implications and we will be continuing to refine the actual program and the model to be used in this province. It is our overall objective to be able to serve all of the children in this province when we have completed our strategic restructuring of the child welfare system.

It is very important to clarify a few points in respect to secure treatment. First, the number of out-of-province placements is very low and I mentioned that in this House - we have had questions around that - that, thank goodness, it is low. Nova Scotia is not unique in having to send its children, on occasion, out-of-province. This is happening across the country.

Finally, a simplistic approach to this problem is not possible. We can't just say we are going to bring all those kids home overnight, because, quite frankly, some of these children, for the first time in their short lives, are actually in positive, enhancing relationships with adults in authority and positive, enhancing relationships with friends that they are meeting in the same circumstances. You just don't yank them out of treatment and bring them back to Nova Scotia because suddenly a building is there. I think it is important to recognize that the trust relationships that these youngsters are building are very positive and enhancing for their well-being, so there is no sort of quick fix. There is no simplistic fix on this question. It is very complex. We are, clearly, and I have said it before on the record, committed to the secure treatment facility being built in this province.

I see I am being given the signal that my time is up. So I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 6:17 p.m.]