Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., June 9, 1999

First Session

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3308, Lbr. - Econ. Progress (N.S.): Stakeholders - Congrats.,
Hon. R. MacKinnon 6932
Vote - Affirmative 6932
Res. 3309, Agric. - Oxford Wild Blueberry & Maple Ctr.: Contribution -
Recognize, Hon. E. Lorraine (by Hon. K. MacAskill) 6932
Vote - Affirmative 6933
Res. 3310, Agric. - Sc. Fair (Can.): Jennifer McRuer (Hants N RH)
(4-H Prog.) - Congrats., Hon. E. Lorraine (by Hon. K. MacAskill) 6933
Vote - Affirmative 6934
Res. 3311, Educ. - Commonwealth Mins. Conf. (Hfx. 26/11-01/12/2000):
HRM - Congrats., Hon. W. Gaudet 6934
Vote - Affirmative 6934
Res. 3312, Fish. - Illegal Fishing: Elimination - Seriousness Evidenced,
Hon. K. Colwell 6935
Vote - Affirmative 6935
Res. 3313, Fin. - Economy (N.S.) Sound: Leadership (Premier) -
Congrats., Hon. R. MacKinnon 6936
Res. 3314, Nat. Res. - Forests: Fire Safety - Practise Encourage,
Hon. K. MacAskill 6936
Vote - Affirmative 6937
Res. 3315, Kosovo Refugees - Military Bases (N.S.): Volunteers -
Recognize, The Premier 6937
Vote - Affirmative 6937
Res. 3316, Environ. - Awards (N.S.): Winners - Efforts Acknowledge,
Hon. M. Samson 6938
Vote - Affirmative 6938
Res. 3317, Environ. - Reuse Pledge Campaign (Cdn.): Participants -
Congrats., Hon. M. Samson 6938
Vote - Affirmative 6939
Res. 3318, Health - Crohn's & Colitis Fdn. (Can.): Volunteers -
Recognize, Hon. J. Smith 6939
Vote - Affirmative 6940
Res. 3319, Health - Maritime Network for Child & Youth:
Cooperation - Thank, Hon. J. Smith 6940
Vote - Affirmative 6941
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Motive and Fuel Oil Regulation: Removal - Oppose,
Hon. R. Harrison 6941
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Educ. - Educational Funding Review Work Group, Hon. W. Gaudet 6941
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Environ. - Nova Scotia Reuse Flag, Hon. M. Samson 6942
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 115, Flight 111 Special Places Memorial Act, Hon. R. Harrison 6943
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3320, Fin. - Expenditure Excessive: Credit Card - Destroy,
Mr. H. Epstein 6944
Res. 3321, Truro Boys & Girls Club: Facility Renovation - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Muir 6944
Vote - Affirmative 6945
Res. 3322, Culture - Bridgewater Centennial Soc.: Rwy. Heritage Display -
Congrats., Hon. D. Downe 6945
Vote - Affirmative 6946
Res. 3323, Educ. - Expenditure (1997-98 [Party Pigs]) - Check,
Mr. D. Dexter 6946
Res. 3324, Educ. - Expenditure (1997-98 [Party Pigs]): NDP (N.S.)
Ref. (08/06/99) - Commend, Hon. W. Gaudet 6946
Vote - Affirmative 6947
Res. 3325, Camb. Utd. Baptist Church: Anniv. 125th - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Harrison 6947
Vote - Affirmative 6948
Res. 3326, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - BABTA & Bras d'Or Lakes
Preservation Fdn.: Volunteers - Applaud, Hon. K. MacAskill 6948
Vote - Affirmative 6949
Res. 3327, Sports - Special Olympics (N.S.): Athletes & Volunteers -
Congrats., Mr. G. Fogarty 6949
Vote - Affirmative 6950
Res. 3328, Educ. - Schools: Teachers Multiply - Class Sizes Reduce,
Ms. E. O'Connell 6950
Res. 3329, Environ. - Crescent Beach Green Bay: Beach Sweep -
Participants Congrats., Hon. D. Downe 6950
Vote - Affirmative 6951
Res. 3330, NDP (N.S.) Leader - Actions: Signal - Clear,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 6951
Res. 3331, NDP (N.S.) - Health Care: Comments - Believability,
Mr. P. MacEwan 6952
Res. 3332, Cadet Corps - Musquodoboit Hbr. (2741): Anniv. 36th -
Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 6952
Vote - Affirmative 6953
Res. 3333, NDP (N.S.): Campaign Wkrs. & Contribs. (Non-N.S.) -
Believability, Mr. H. Fraser 6953
Res. 3334, NDP (N.S.) - Tune Changes: Frequency - Believability,
Mr. L. Montgomery 6953
Res. 3335, Sports - Slow-Pitch (N.S. HS Girls): Eastern Shore DHS -
Success Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 6954
Vote - Affirmative 6955
Res. 3336, NDP (Gov'ts.) - Record: Voters (N.S.) - Avoid,
Mr. P. MacEwan 6955
Res. 3337, Scouts - Middleton: Anniv. 75th - Congrats.,
Mr. L. Montgomery 6956
Vote - Affirmative 6956
Res. 3338, Culture - Music: Arise (St. F.X. Univ.-July 1999) Organizers -
Congrats., Mr. H. Fraser 6957
Vote - Affirmative 6957
Res. 3339, RCAF-Anniv. 75th & AFA (Can.) - Anniv. 50th: Greetings -
Send, Hon. R. Harrison 6957
Vote - Affirmative 6958
Res. 3340, Sports - Tae Kwon Do (Champs [Can.] 1999):
Michael Maheaux (Cole Hbr. E. Pass.) - Gold Medal Congrats.,
Hon. J. Smith 6958
Vote - Affirmative 6959
Res. 3341, NDP (N.S.) - Workers (Ex-Prov.): Advice Taken -
Believability, Mr. Charles MacDonald 6959
Res. 3342, Commun. Serv. - Disabled Commun. Concerns:
Recognition - Staff Congrats., Mr. G. Fogarty 6960
Vote - Affirmative 6960
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1155, Fin. - Budgets: Balanced - Advertising, Mr. R. Chisholm 6961
No. 1156, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Secondary Roads: Tenders -
Constituencies (Lib.), Mr. B. Taylor 6962
No. 1157, Health - Care: Patient Care - Risk, Mr. R. Chisholm 6963
No. 1158, Justice - Crown Prosecutors: Kaufman Report - Future,
Dr. J. Hamm 6964
No. 1159, Health - Employees: Front Line - Support,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6965
No. 1160, Justice: Jail (Bedford) - Consultation, Dr. J. Hamm 6967
No. 1161, Fin. - Health Budgets: Predictions - Review, Mr. H. Epstein 6968
No. 1162, Fin. - Surplus: Generation - Methodology, Mr. H. Epstein 6969
No. 1163, Educ. - School Bds.: Class (Primary) Hrs. - Control Remove,
Mr. B. Taylor 6970
No. 1164, Health - Budget (1999-2000): Advertising -
Expenditures Provide, Mr. D. Dexter 6971
No. 1165, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Pleasant Bay (C.B.):
Whale Interpretive Ctr. - Commitment, Mr. G. Balser 6973
No. 1166, Nat. Res. - NSRL: Report & Fin. Statement - Table,
Mr. J. Holm 6973
No. 1167, Health - Long-Term Care Beds: Payments (Priv.:Pub.) -
Equalize, Mr. G. Moody 6975
No. 1168, Fin. - Educ. Budget (1999-2000): SW Reg. Sch. Bd. -
Expenditure Exclusion Details, Ms. E. O'Connell 6976
No. 1169, Health - Investment Fund: Progs. Services - Proportion,
Mr. N. LeBlanc 6977
No. 1170, Justice - Crown Prosecutors: Collective Bargaining -
Implement, Mr. Kevin Deveaux 6978
No. 1171, Justice - DPP: Hiring Process - Crown Prosecutors
Exclusion, Mr. Kevin Deveaux 6979
No. 1172, Health - EMC: Contract - Sole-Sourced, Mr. G. Moody 6980
No. 1173, Justice - Crown Prosecutors: Kaufman Report -
Wkg. Gp.-Challenges (Min.), Mr. Kevin Deveaux 6981
No. 1174, Educ.: Judique/Creignish Schools - Moratorium Decision,
Mr. E. Fage 6982
No. 1175, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Prog. & Serv. - Cuts,
Ms. E. O'Connell 6983
No. 1176, Educ. - Glooscap Elem. Sch. (Canning): Elevator -
Commitment Fulfil, Mr. G. Archibald 6984
No. 1177, Lbr. - Rodd Grand Hotel (Yar.): Dispute - Status,
Mr. John Deveau 6985
No. 1178, Educ. - Digby Reg. HS: Construction Contracts - Status,
Mr. G. Balser 6986
No. 1179, Health - Foods: Genetic Modification - Consumer Risk,
Ms. Y. Atwell 6987
No. 1180, Health - Potatoes: Genetic Modification - Label,
Mr. John MacDonell 6988
No. 1181, Educ. - Fall River-Beaver Bank School: Students/Residents -
Safety Ensure, Mr. E. Fage 6989
No. 1182, Tech. & Sc. Sec't. - Year 2000: Progress Reports -
Accuracy, Mr. P. Delefes 6990
No. 1183, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Mac Timber: Sale - Finalization,
Mr. J. Muir 6991
No. 1184, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Middleton Grain Centre:
Operation Plan - Response, Mr. John MacDonell 6991
No. 1185, Sports - Rink (Yar. Co.): Proposal - Status, Mr. N. LeBlanc 6992
No. 1186, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Paving: Cost-Sharing (Prov.-Mun.) -
Process Improve, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6993
No. 1187, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Secondary Rds.: Tender -
Constituencies (PC), Mr. B. Taylor 6994
No. 1188, Nat. Res. - Clam Hbr. (Crown Land): Golf Course -
Negotiations, Mr. C. Parker 6995
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 114, Provincial Finance Act 6996
Mr. H. Epstein 6996
Hon. D. Downe 6999
Mr. G. Balser 7003
Mr. D. Dexter 7007
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 3225, Fin. - Debt: Increase Address - Plan Outline,
Mr. J. Holm 7011
Mr. J. Holm 7011
Hon. K.MacAskill 7014
Mr. G. Archibald 7017
Mr. H. Epstein 7020
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Growth: Optimism (Rural Commun.) -
Renewed:
Mr. L. Montgomery 7023
Mr. John MacDonell 7026
Mr. G. Balser 7029
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., June 10th at 12:00 p.m. 7031

[Page 6931]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9, 1999

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we commence with the daily routine, I would advise members that the late debate today was submitted by the honourable member for Annapolis. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that positive indications of growth and confidence in the initiatives of this government have prompted a renewed sense of optimism in Nova Scotia's rural communities.

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

6931

[Page 6932]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3308

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

Whereas federal program spending runs about 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, the lowest since the 1950's; and

Whereas transfers to individuals are down also with the province's current employment insurance premiums balancing its benefits; and

Whereas these factors are contrary to the opinion that Nova Scotians live on the backs of the so-called have provinces;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all stakeholders for this amazing economic progress and take pride in their own personal contributions.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3309

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

Whereas Oxford, Nova Scotia, is the Blueberry Capital of Canada; and

Whereas Oxford Wild Blueberry and Maple Centre was opened last year and celebrates the history of blueberries in Nova Scotia and their importance to our agricultural industry; and

[Page 6933]

Whereas the Oxford Wild Blueberry and Maple Centre will open for another season on a full-time basis this June 14th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the Oxford Wild Blueberry and Maple Centre for its contribution in the promotion of the blueberry industry in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3310

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

Whereas Jennifer McRuer, a senior at Hants North Rural High School and a nine year member of the 4-H Program, has conducted nationally-recognized research on the health benefits of a variety of fruits; and

Whereas Ms. McRuer came first in a national science fair for this research in Edmonton, Alberta; and

Whereas because of this win, Ms. McRuer will study in Israel at the world-renowned Weizmann Institute of Science;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the accomplishments of Ms. McRuer and the shining example she sets of the abilities of Nova Scotia's youth.

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

[Page 6934]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 3311

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

Whereas from November 26 to December 1, 2000, education leaders from Canada and 50 Commonwealth countries will gather in Halifax for the 14th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers; and

Whereas the city was recommended by the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada and approved by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to be the first conference of its kind to be hosted in Canada; and

Whereas a parallel conference will be held at the same time as the ministers' conference to allow public and private sector organizations to display educational software and discuss areas of expertise;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations to Halifax City and wish them all the best as they plan for this major international conference.

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.

[Page 6935]

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 3312

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

Whereas this government is determined to eliminate illegal fishing activities in an aggressive manner as evidenced by the amendments to the Fisheries Coastal Resources Act having passed third reading this past Monday; and

Whereas illegal fishing is an unscrupulous behaviour that threatens people's livelihoods and erodes a made-in-Nova Scotia industry worth $1.1 billion to our provincial economy; and

Whereas the financial penalties for illegal fishing will be increased dramatically along with other measures when the Act is proclaimed, effective as of midnight yesterday;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature is taking the elimination of illegal fishery activities seriously as evidenced by the unusual speedy proclamation of an Act immediately following third reading.

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 Bedford Basin on an introduction.

MR. GERALD FOGARTY: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the House of Assembly, I would like to introduce Mr. Louie Brill who is General Manager of the Nova Scotia Special Olympics Society. The Special Olympics are to be held here in Halifax this weekend at Saint Mary's University. I draw members attention to the east gallery, Mr. Brill is here with us today. Would all members give Mr. Brill a warm welcome to the House of Assembly. (Applause)

[Page 6936]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3313

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

Whereas in the past 10 years, Nova Scotia has experienced a dramatic shift in the creation of jobs; and

Whereas changing of attitudes and forward thinking has assisted in the creation of 43,000 private sector jobs; and

Whereas in 1997-98, Nova Scotia had the nation's highest rate of full-time job creation, including the creation of 6,000 new jobs for Cape Breton, numbers confirmed by Statistics Canada and the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Assembly congratulate the Premier for his leadership in creating a sound economy and making Nova Scotia a stronger partner in a united Canada.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3314

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

Whereas forest fires destroy hundreds of hectares of land each year in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this year we have already experienced two very serious forest fires; and

Whereas so far this summer, it has been extremely dry and the risk of forest fires has been extreme in some areas of the province;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in encouraging Nova Scotians and visitors to our province to practice fire safety and be very careful this summer around fires, making sure all fires are extinguished properly.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 6937]

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 Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3315

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has become a home away from home for hundreds of refugees from war-torn Kosovo; and

Whereas during my visit to one of the military bases, I met a number of Kosovars and some of the 750 volunteers who are there around the clock providing services such as medical care and teaching English; and

Whereas thousands of Nova Scotians are donating money, clothes and other items to help the Kosovars;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the time, energy and compassion of our on-site volunteers and the goodwill thousands of Nova Scotians have shown to ensure the Kosovo refugees feel welcome in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 6938]

The honourable Minister of the Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 3316

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

Whereas 20 environmental stewards were recently honoured at the 23rd annual Nova Scotia Environmental Awards in Halifax; and

Whereas the awards program recognizes individuals and organizations for activities that enhance, preserve and protect the environment of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the activities undertaken by these individuals and organizations are vitally important to our environment and our future;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House acknowledge their efforts and encourage all Nova Scotians to follow in their footsteps.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of the Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 3317

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

Whereas this past April, the citizens of Nova Scotia along with all Canadians were educated through the National Reuse Pledge Campaign about the virtues of the age-old environmental and social ethics of reuse; and

[Page 6939]

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas today I joined with Clean Nova Scotia and Earth Day Canada on the grounds of the provincial Legislature to raise the Nova Scotia Reuse Flag containing the names of thousands of Canadians; and

Whereas nearly 100,000 Canadians took the time and effort to register their signatures as people committed to establishing reuse as part of their daily lifestyle;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House join in congratulating the organizers and thanking Nova Scotians for their participation in this reuse program.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3318

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

Whereas on Sunday, June 13th the local chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada is holding a heel'n wheel-a-thon; and

Whereas this year's goal is to raise $15,000 to be used for research into inflammatory bowel disease; and

Whereas about 100,000 Canadians suffer from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis and there is no known cause or cure;

[Page 6940]

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank and recognize all the volunteers of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada for their commitment to raise awareness and funds for this disease and encourage all Nova Scotians to support the foundation by attending the heel'n wheel-a-thon this weekend.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3319

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

Whereas the Maritime Network for Child and Youth recently held their founding meeting, in Moncton, I believe; and

Whereas this network has established specific goals to improve the health and well-being of children and youth in the Maritimes, including improving the accessibility to the services they need, when they need them; and

Whereas they are committed to creating and strengthening relationships among people working with children and youth and will encourage children, youth and their families to be active participants in their health care;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank the health regions, hospitals, community service providers and staff of the Department of Health who are working together to advocate for and improve the health of Maritime children, youth and their families.

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

[Page 6941]

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 are reverting back to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: In my capacity as Minister of Business and Consumer Services, I wish to table a petition on behalf of 170 residents of Kings County, who are opposed to the removal of or the weakening of Section 15, the Motive and Fuel Oil Regulation. I have affixed my name to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the House yesterday, today I beg leave to table the report of the Educational Funding Review Work Group.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw attention to the members of the House. In our west gallery we have visiting with us today residents from the Wolfville area, Maynard Stevens and Mary Chalupa and I would ask them to stand. (Interruption) Yes, in fact they are getting married in July and we wish them well. We would like them to stand and receive the warm regards of the House. (Applause)

[Page 6942]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, today I had the pleasure of joining with representatives from Earth Day Canada and Clean Nova Scotia, along with children from a local school here in Halifax, on the grounds of our provincial Legislature to raise the Nova Scotia Reuse Flag, containing the names of thousands of Canadians. This event was part of a national effort to raise awareness about the importance of reuse as a critical part of waste management. It is very encouraging and uplifting to see that so many people have embraced the virtues of reuse as part of their daily lifestyle.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to waste management, Nova Scotia has made unbelievable progress in a relatively short period of time. As I have noted before, we are well on our way to reaching our goal of 50 per cent waste diversion in the Year 2000, a significant accomplishment for all Nova Scotians. Now, instead of throwing away our resources, we are converting material into useful products and jobs for Nova Scotians. Of course, one of the best ways to reduce waste and conserve natural resources continues to be through reuse practices. Nova Scotians have and continue to embrace the practice of stopping waste before it happens.

There are numerous examples of Nova Scotians reusing materials which they used to throw away. For example, much of our construction and demolition waste is now being reused. When buildings are torn down, they are carefully dismantled so that the material can be reused. Many businesses have cropped up around the province to resell these valuable goods.

When it comes to tires, we have businesses that are now retreading them for a second round of use and diverting them away from our landfills and the legal dump sites throughout our province. There is also a successful program in place to reuse computers. Through NovaKnowledge, computers from government and businesses are refurbished and given to school boards for redistribution. On an industrial level, a lot of packaging used for shipping is now being reused. This has contributed to an over 50 per cent reduction in the weight of packaging sent for disposal since 1988. On an individual basis, Mr. Speaker, we see many instances where people are donating or reusing goods that used to be thrown away, from clothes and toys to appliances and other household items.

Together, Mr. Speaker, we are setting high standards of environmental protection for our citizens. I am confident that this good work will continue throughout our province, especially with the support of educational initiatives like the one I participated in today. I trust that members of the House will join me in thanking the organizers of this campaign and the many Nova Scotians who are working to stop waste before it happens. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 6943]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. DONALD CHARD: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to join with the minister to congratulate the representatives from Earth Day Canada and Clean Nova Scotia on the efforts they are making to recycle and reuse. It is an important part of our efforts to ensure that materials in this country are not wasted and ending up in our landfills. I am very pleased to hear about the event this morning. If I had known about it prior to receiving this announcement, I would have made an effort to be there.

I would have to make two other points. While reusing materials is important and has an important place in waste management, I am not convinced it is always the best practice. Certainly in some cases we could reduce wasteful packaging. I feel compelled to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the Government of Nova Scotia might set a better example in this regard. Our caucus just received copies of the Kaufman Report and when they came in, they were all individually packaged in these very attractive bubble-packed envelopes. I would suggest that while these can be reused and we certainly will reuse them, that it might have been less wasteful had the government found an alternative way of delivering these reports to us. On that note, I will take my seat. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for the applause. I am pleased to hear that the minister is taking the time to congratulate all those who work so hard to maintain a healthy environment. I am also pleased with the progress that is being reported today on the issue of waste management.

I would, however, like to remind and caution the minister that there is much work ahead for his department in working with organizations and municipal governments to develop and secure markets for the materials that can be recycled. Marketing is very important if we are going to proceed to the 50 per cent diversion that we are all aiming for.

Earth Day Canada and Clean Nova Scotia Foundation have contributed significantly to education and promotion of health environment and I would like to extend a special thanks to them on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We can get back to where we were in the daily routine, which is Introduction of Bills.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 115 - Entitled an Act to Establish Special Places as a Memorial to the Passengers and Crew of Flight 111. (Hon. Robert Harrison)

[Page 6944]

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3320

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

Whereas the Finance Minister announced yesterday that the province will be going with one credit card in order to negotiate some buying power; and

Whereas given the Liberals' track record on provincial finances, it is deeply troubling to imagine the Finance Minister given free reign with a MasterCard or a Visa; and

Whereas it is the sincerest hope of our caucus that the Finance Minister is not considering putting the $600 million so-called Health Investment Fund on plastic;

Therefore be it resolved that the Finance Minister heed the most basic lesson in containing out-of-control spending: tear up the credit card, live within your means and pay as you go.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 3321

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

Whereas the Truro Boys and Girls Club will hold an open house this evening to celebrate the grand opening of its new facility; and

Whereas nearly 300 businesses and volunteers, as well as the Town of Truro, gave tremendous support in the renovation of the new premises, including $90,000 worth of donated work, labour and product; and

Whereas the new facility enables the club to provide many more activities than it could in its former premises and has already resulted in a doubling of memberships;

[Page 6945]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank all who contributed to the renovation of the new Truro Boys and Girls Club facility and wish the club every success as it provides expanded services to the youth in the Truro area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 3322

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

Whereas the Bridgewater Centennial Society will host the opening ceremonies of the Railway Heritage Display on Friday, June 11, 1999; and

Whereas the railway exhibit features 80 model railcars, 15 to 20 diesel and steam locomotives, 20 miniature railway buildings, over 500 feet of track, reconstructed models of the former train station, roundhouse baggage and coal sheds, and the water tower set against the Donald Pentz backdrop of the LaHave River; and

Whereas this history lesson has been recreated through the efforts of Glendon Langille, David Freeman, Duane Porter and subsequent team members Stan Dagley, Carlton Selig and Neil Chambers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate these craftsmen on their significant contribution to this centennial project, which will educate and enthral the public and railroaders of all ages.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 6946]

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 members for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3323

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

Whereas the Minister of Education admits that the education expenditure of nearly $6,000 to Party Pigs during the 1997-98 fiscal year is puzzling; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas the minister has promised to find out who, what or where are the Party Pigs;

Therefore be it resolved that before he does too much digging, the minister should first check out the Liberal trough.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3324

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

Whereas the gift shop at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History maintains a solid business with a superior line of souvenir items available to the museum's many visitors; and

Whereas items such as Astronaut Ice Cream, Insect Squish, and Glow-in-the-dark Tyrannosaurus Rex appeal to children of all ages, including the members across the floor; and

[Page 6947]

Whereas these items are supplied by Party Pigs, a North American, award-winning manufacturer and distributor of quality toys, crafts and gifts;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the Party across the floor for drawing public attention to this fine company during yesterday's estimates and for reminding us that even Zoo Putty, Glow Glitter Mermaids and the Make Your Own Gummies Kit have their place in this House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

That notice of motion was much too long.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: You agreed? I thought I heard Noes. However, let me ask again.

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 3325

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

Whereas the Cambridge United Baptist Church was organized on June 23, 1874, with 93 members and the first Pastor being the Rev. J.R. Robbins; and

[Page 6948]

Whereas the Cambridge United Baptist Church, often referred to as the Church by the Side of the Road, has steadfastly served the spiritual needs of the Cambridge community from the original building for 125 years; and

Whereas this church continues to thrive and grow in strength with a dedicated and determined congregation under the pastorage of Rev. Judith Saunders;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the congregation of the Cambridge United Baptist Church as they celebrate their 125th Anniversary on Sunday, June 13, 1999.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3326

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

Whereas this past weekend a ceremony signifying the official transfer of ownership of the Baddeck Government Wharf from Transport Canada to the Baddeck Area Business and Tourism Association, BABTA, took place, creating an opportunity for this local community to have a greater say in the potential growth of this port; and

Whereas that same day it was announced that the Bras d'Or Lakes Preservation Foundation will design and build an interpretive centre, which will highlight the local culture, its history and the Bras d'Or Lakes in general; and

Whereas both of these initiatives clearly signify how volunteers in small communities can successfully work together in better promoting their areas to tourists by taking a direct role in how attractions are operated and managed;

[Page 6949]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House show their appreciation towards the volunteers associated with BABTA and the Bras d'Or Lakes Preservation Foundation for their collective efforts in promoting the Baddeck area and Cape Breton in general and wish them the very best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

I caution the honourable minister that that is much, much too long.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 3327

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Special Olympics Society will be hosting the 1999 Special Olympic Summer Games in Halifax, beginning Friday, June 11th, through till Sunday, June 13th; and

Whereas some 572 participants from 13 parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will be competing this weekend in aquatics, soccer and candlepin bowling; and

Whereas these games allow mentally challenged athletes to compete at the provincial level and can serve as a tune up for many who will go on to represent Nova Scotia at either national or world events;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend our support and congratulations to the athletes and volunteers who have trained and worked so hard to compete in the Special Olympic Summer Games and wish them the best of luck.

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

[Page 6950]

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. 3328

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 the Minister of Education is proposing to reduce class sizes by adding one and one-seventh teachers to each school board; and

Whereas teachers are already stretched pretty thin, but now this latest proposal will have some of them divided up into sevenths; and

Whereas it is imperative that class size numbers are reduced so that children can get a better education and the only way to do this is to make sure there are enough whole teachers to go around;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education abandon his scheme to divide teachers and turn his attention instead to multiplying teachers in order to reduce classroom sizes to acceptable levels.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 3329

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

Whereas the Friends of Crescent Beach Green Bay and Area Society is hosting a beach sweep commencing at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 12, 1999 in conjunction with the Clean Nova Scotia's Moosehead Maritime Beach Sweep; and

[Page 6951]

Whereas these "Friends" have been involved with the beach sweep program since 1992; and

Whereas the 1st Petite Rivière Girl Guides and the 2nd Petite Rivière Cubs will be assisting in this year's clean-up and beach beautification;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the society, the Girl Guides, the Cubs and other participants for their contribution to coastal clean-up.

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 Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 3330

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

Whereas in November, the Amherst daily paper called the NDP Leader, trigger happy, and wrote, "If Chisholm truly aspires to be premier . . . he should start by conducting himself in a manner appropriate to his position as leader of the opposition"; and

Whereas also in November, the Halifax Daily News wrote, "The political immaturity of the NDP sounds out an alarm bell. It had better grow up fast"; and

Whereas this past Sunday, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald called the Leader of the NDP, immature, and said, "This is not the sort of behaviour you hope to see from a man who wants to be premier";

Therefore be it resolved that actions speak louder than words and the only thing the actions of the NDP Leader say is, let's get it on man!

[Page 6952]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3331

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

Whereas the NDP have fear-mongered for years on health care, insisting this government has not done enough on health; and

Whereas the NDP now have the opportunity to vote for health, yet preliminary indications are that they want nothing to do with it; and

Whereas if the NDP has been sincere about anything they have said to date on health, they would at least in principle support measures conducive to improved health care;

Therefore be it resolved that this House is justified to ask why should we believe anything the NDP says on health care, if they fail to vote for it here in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 3332

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

Whereas the Army Cadet Corps throughout Nova Scotia have many years being part of our communities involving youth, both male and female, 12 to 19 years old; and

Whereas the Cadet Corps' traditions are highly regarded and practised by corps such as Musquodoboit Harbour Cadet Corps, which was formed on May 6, 1963; and

Whereas the 2741 Musquodoboit Harbour Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps celebrate their 36th Anniversary on May 29, 1999 with 57 proud cadets in ranks turning out an impeccable show of dress and deportment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate 2741 Musquodoboit Harbour Cadet Corps on their 36 years of outstanding commitment to the Corps and to the community and wish them many more successful years.

[Page 6953]

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 Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 3333

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

Whereas the scandal over out-of-province donations to the Nova Scotia NDP erupted last week on the floor of the Manitoba Legislature; and

Whereas Premier Gary Filmon said a donation of $3,200 to the Nova Scotia NDP from Manitoba New Democrats was inappropriate and borders on questionable ethical conduct by the NDP; and

Whereas Premier Filmon said the NDP will use any loophole they can find to secretly funnel cash to the NDP candidates;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotia voters ask themselves, why should we believe the NDP when it resorts to secretive and manipulative ways to obtain non-Nova Scotian paid campaign workers and contributions?

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3334

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

[Page 6954]

Whereas on April 19, 1996, the Leader of the NDP was quoted in Hansard as saying, ". . . we in the NDP do not make a fetish out of balanced budgets"; and

Whereas in January 1997, the Leader of the NDP went on record as saying, "What the situation demands is that the energy that has been going into the other initiatives . . . foreign trade missions, deficit fighting and so on . . . be re-directed"; and

Whereas a headline in the Chronicle-Herald on March 27, 1996, read, "One more year in the red will do Nova Scotia a lot more good than harm, according to the New Democrats";

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians are asking the question, why should we believe the NDP when they change their tune more often than a jukebox?

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 3335

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

Whereas June 4 and June 5, 1999, would not be overlooked by sports enthusiasts from the Eastern Shore and from across Nova Scotia who watched the provincial high school girls slow-pitch tournament; and

Whereas the Eastern Shore District High School was proud to host, for the first time ever, the 1999 Nova Scotia Athletic Federation provincial tournament for girls slow-pitch, with eight teams from across the province battling for first place; and

Whereas the Eastern Shore District High School girls team had a 20 and 0 regular season, winning the Cornwallis Invitational, the metro high school championships, the capital regional championships and capturing the provincial championships with a five straight games win streak;

[Page 6955]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Eastern Shore District High School girls' team for their outstanding accomplishments during their 1998-99 season and wish them all the best in upcoming games.

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 Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3336

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

Whereas the NPD seem less than enthusiastic about this good-news budget, with its primary emphasis on supporting health care; and

Whereas doubtless the NDP is more enthusiastic about the fudge-it budget of British Columbia Premier Glen Clark, whose prudent fiscal medicine the NDP seek to duplicate here in Nova Scotia; and . . .

Pardon me, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: I didn't interrupt the honourable member. You have the floor. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, what I was saying was:

Whereas doubtless the NDP is more enthusiastic about the fudge-it budget of British Columbia Premier Glen Clark, whose prudent fiscal medicine the NDP seek to duplicate here in Nova Scotia; and

[Page 6956]

Whereas NDP Government in practice is so terrible the voters of Ontario, once the victims of the NDP themselves, have now cut them to less-than-recognized Party status;

Therefore be it resolved that the voters of Nova Scotia would be very wise to have nothing at all to do with the so-called New Democratic Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3337

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

Whereas this marks the 75th year of the Middleton Scout Troop; and

Whereas since 1923 the look of the Middleton Scouts has changed, including a new badge in computer skills and the inclusion of girls in the troop; and

Whereas with all the changes, the Middleton Scouts still promote physical health, personal growth and community spirit;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House thank the many Scout leaders who have given their time to the Middleton Scouts in the past 75 years and congratulate the countless young people who have benefited from their leadership and guidance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[2:45 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

[Page 6957]

RESOLUTION NO. 3338

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

Whereas this July St. F.X. will host the first annual Antigonish Regional Instrumental Student Education (ARISE) Program; and

Whereas ARISE is a series of musical day camps aimed at youth who play concert band instruments; and

Whereas the goal of ARISE is to promote and encourage music programs at schools and in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the organizers of ARISE and wish them luck as they support the rich musical tapestry that makes up Nova Scotia culture.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 3339

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

Whereas in 1909 the people of Baddeck, Nova Scotia, witnessed the flight of the Silver Dart, the first flight in the British Empire; and

Whereas on April 1, 1924, the Canadian Air Force was given the title royal by King George V and thus became the Royal Canadian Air Force; and

[Page 6958]

Whereas during World War II, Nova Scotians were prominent in all operations from the highest ranking officers to the many who fought in the air war, Battle of Britain, or patrolled the convoys from our Ports of Halifax and Sydney to the United Kingdom;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send greetings to the Air Force Association of Canada in recognition of their 50th Anniversary and to the Royal Canadian Air Force on their 75th Anniversary and extend our appreciation to past and present members who served in wartime and who continue to serve our country and the world through UN peacekeeping activities.

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.

I will recognize the honourable member for Kings North. We are going to have a moment here for an introduction.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to make an introduction to you and to all the members of the House. In the gallery opposite me is the Kentville Elementary School class of Mrs. Jain. Mrs. Jain has been a visitor to this Legislature many times and she has brought her class with her today, along with some people who are assisting - Mr. MacKinnon, Mrs. Buchanan and Mrs. Harnum. I was wondering if they could all stand and we will give them the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3340

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

Whereas the best tae kwon do athletes in the country gathered in Montreal on May 15 and 16, 1999, for the National Tae Kwon Do Championships; and

[Page 6959]

Whereas Michael Maheux, a Grade 6 student at Bel Ayr School in Dartmouth, was the gold medal winner in the Junior Black Belt - Lightweight Division; and

Whereas Michael has been actively perfecting his technique in tae kwon do for seven years, having started in the sport when he was five years old;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate Michael Maheux of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage on his gold medal performance at the National Tae Kwon Do Championships and wish him the best in the times ahead.

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 Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 3341

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

Whereas last fall the Inverness NDP Association publicly expressed dismay and disillusionment over their absentee MP, Michelle Dockrill; and

Whereas in March, several members of the Cape Breton East NDP Association resigned in disgust over the Party's disregard for grass-roots workers; and

Whereas last week, the Cape Breton North NDP Association was hijacked by Party bosses from Halifax who are ignoring the wishes of members at the local level;

Therefore be it resolved that since the NDP would rather take advice from out-of-province workers than listen to their own local members, the people of Nova Scotia are asking, why should we believe the NDP will actually listen to us?

[Page 6960]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 3342

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

Whereas Partnership for Access Awareness - Nova Scotia held its annual legislative breakfast on June 2nd, to discuss issues of concerns to the disabled community; and

Whereas an additional highlight was the announcement of the Hourglass Action Award winners urging organizations, business on communities to be more accessible to the public; and

Whereas Certificates of Appreciation were also presented to the Department of Community Services in recognition of their efforts toward supporting employment for persons with disabilities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to the staff of the Department of Community Services for this recognition of persons with disabilities.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time being 2:52 p.m., we will take Question Period until 4:22 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 6961]

FIN. - BUDGETS: BALANCED - ADVERTISING

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. This Liberal Government ran ads a few weeks ago boasting about their balanced budgets, when they knew that, in fact, every Liberal budget since 1993 has been a deficit budget. They ran these ads when they knew they were hiding the real level of health care spending. I want to ask the Premier, why did his government run these $18,000 ads knowing full well that the government had broken your own Expenditure Control Act by hiding the overspending?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is getting a little tedious listening to the Leader of the NDP slander and malign the government's accountants and pretty well everyone in this province. The fact of the matter is those budgets were balanced, the auditors said they were balanced, just because the regional health boards had deficits, we all know that the budgets presented by those governments were balanced.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, here are the ads. They ran full page, right across the province, boasting about three years of consecutive balanced budgets, knowing that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . the opposite was true. I want to ask the Premier, who, knowing the true state of the province's finances, approved these ads? Did the Premier sign off on these ads before they ran?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the NDP likes to deal in history, talking about budgets that were balanced, but he doesn't like to deal in history when it is brought up to him that he, in fact, suggested a deficit in order to finance health care improvements.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, everyone in the province now knows that these ads were wrong. I want to ask the Premier, will he finally do the right thing, admit these ads were wrong, and retract them? Will he do the right thing and retract these ads?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is rather pathetic frankly to see a grown man who has nothing more to do than make accusations that are far out to lunch, when, in fact, he is supposed to be a person who wants better health care in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Next question.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

[Page 6962]

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Justice. I just noticed that while he was there a moment ago, he has now disappeared. I believe he is without (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is improper to draw the attention of the House to an absence of any person.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - SECONDARY ROADS:

TENDERS - CONSTITUENCIES (LIB.)

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works. One would think that in an effort to make a minority government work that all government departments would treat ridings throughout the province equally. Today - and I will table this document - a small number of highway projects have been called. Six tenders regarding repairing . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: My question. There were six tenders regarding repaving on secondary roads, joint seal and gravel delivered to various sites, would the Minister of Transportation tell Nova Scotians and this House how many of these tenders are in Liberal ridings?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, there are several tenders that have gone out and there will be more tenders going out across the province. This will be made evident in the very short days to come.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, when that minister was election campaigning back in 1993, he campaigned on patronage. Is the minister now practising what he was preaching back in 1993?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the member, I absolutely did not campaign on patronage. That isn't correct whatsoever.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, all those tenders I referenced are in Liberal ridings. Would the minister then tell this House, since he became Minister of Transportation, when last has he called a tender for repaving on a secondary road in a Tory riding?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the member, I would like to call his attention to one of the largest projects that we have going in the Province of Nova Scotia at this time, from Salt Springs to Alma; that project is worth over $58 million.

[Page 6963]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - CARE: PATIENT CARE - RISK

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to table a 1999 employee opinion survey from the QE II Hospital.

My question is to the Premier. People who work in health care say that you are putting the lives of Nova Scotians at risk. Health care providers say that they are doing paperwork instead of providing patient care. They say your mergers and amalgamations . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . have detracted from patient care in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier. What do you say to the health care workers who believe overwhelmingly that your government's measures are putting patient care at risk?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, he must be getting his information from Saskatchewan because the health care providers that I have spoken to, and others have spoken to, have nothing but praise for this Liberal budget. They see that finally health care is going to be where they want it to be.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier wants to pile $600 million more debt on the health care system with no plan. It is $600 million in the hands of a government that has missed . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . every single opportunity to make sure health care is there when Nova Scotians need it. I want to ask the Premier. The Premier and his ministers haven't been able to outline a plan . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question please! Your question.

MR. CHISHOLM: Why should Nova Scotians trust you now?

[Page 6964]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if anyone is doing the piling, it is the honourable Leader of the Opposition and he is piling high. I want to tell everyone in Nova Scotia that this is a program to recreate a health care program that is going to allow us to keep universality in Nova Scotia for many years to come.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, six years of promises to improve the health care system. (Interruptions)

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions)

MR. CHISHOLM: Six years of trust me.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Your question.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, after six years of promises, why should Nova Scotians believe that the seventh year is going to be any different than the pathetic performance of the last six?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, six years? The NDP has been posturing on health care for 20 years, letting on that they really were concerned about the health care of Nova Scotians. We bring forward a program and they want nothing to do with it.

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

JUSTICE - CROWN PROSECUTORS:

KAUFMAN REPORT - FUTURE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Justice. Five years ago, this government was presented with the Ghiz-Archibald Report and it was ignored. Five months ago, this minister was presented with the interim report of the Kaufman Inquiry into the prosecution service and it was ignored. Today, you have the completed report. I ask the Minister of Justice, is this the report to which you will adhere or are you simply going to commission another report?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is misleading to characterize the response to this government to the Ghiz-Archibald Report and to the other elements of the prosecution service as, ignoring. Great steps have been made to make sure that we have a service that serves the people of this province and new steps will be taken as a result of this morning's Kaufman Report.

[Page 6965]

DR. HAMM: The minister's words are, indeed, impressive. It is the action that is lacking. The Minister of Justice has now before him a comprehensive report recommending action to improve morale in the Public Prosecution Service of this province . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

DR. HAMM: . . . therefore improving our system of justice. My question to the minister is, what is the time-frame that you will adhere to, to implement the recommendations of the Kaufman Report?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the honourable Leader of the Third Party that it was his Party in 1990, as a result of the Marshall Inquiry Report that brought in an Act to create an independent prosecution service, free of political interference. Since 1990, Justice Kaufman has said that we have achieved the objective of eliminating political interference from the prosecution service of the Province of Nova Scotia.

DR. HAMM: The minister is clearly off base because you ask him one question and he answers another. My question, by way of final supplementary, one of the key issues that has been identified by the Kaufman Report is the issue of collective bargaining for the prosecution services in this province. Are you prepared to implement that recommendation?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I will come back to first base and home plate here. The essence of the question is (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we have indicated in this morning's briefings and to the press that within three weeks the government's position will be made clear and decisively. Within three weeks, a position will be taken on the mechanism for establishing salary and benefits and grievance and we will take into consideration the Human Resources Working Group Report, the working group report and Justice Kaufman when we announce the government position.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - EMPLOYEES: FRONT LINE - SUPPORT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Health. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 6966]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: QE II Health Sciences Centre workers are saying this government's incompetence has put patient care at risk. Now I would like to table a letter to the minister from the government employees union. It says, "we are not yet convinced that this new funding will actually translate into improved services for Nova Scotians, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . or that it will bring any relief for front-line workers . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . or for their patients.". My question to the minister . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . when will the minister stop pretending that this government has the support of front-line health workers?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member is referring to something that was written or contributed to by a previous researcher from that particular Party. But we have (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: . . . statements like, having 200 nurses that have been doing casual hours for a very long time and to have converted to full time would benefit and stabilize employment. It is an excellent step into the future.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Joan Jessome, Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, President.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: That is the kind of support we are getting, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: That document that the honourable member was quoting from should be tabled. I would indicate to both members that reading long excerpts from published materials or from letters, et cetera, is verboten.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 6967]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this letter talks about the inadequate planning, the poor prioritizing, the lack of commitment to consultation with front-line workers and growing regional disparities. My question to the minister is if the people who work in the health care system don't believe the empty Liberal rhetoric, why should anyone else?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have a plan that will benefit all Nova Scotians. It is based on the Blueprint Report, it is based on information technology, it is coming to a plan and now we are moving into implementation. We will have announcements this week.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows he has no plan and he hasn't been able to produce a plan. My question is, why after six years of absolute chaos created by this government should Nova Scotians hand the health care system back to them?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, number one we have stabilized much of the health care plan. I can show you here dozens of instances where we are leading Canada in the main criteria. I just hope that some day I will be able to play back those words that the member just made about our health care plan. We have a plan and we have an action plan for implementation.

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

JUSTICE: JAIL (BEDFORD) - CONSULTATION

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier is aware of the value of strong communities and the value of communities having a say in their own destiny. Does this Premier believe that the people of Bedford were appropriately consulted on the location of the jail and the forensic unit?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the people of Bedford were consulted and are still being consulted. I will ask the Minister of Justice to answer this question.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, last August the former Minister of Justice made clear public statements that the citizens of Bedford, Sackville and area were invited to come to two workshops to discuss a preferred site, the Jack Lake site. After two workshops attended by the people of the area a confirmed site was announced in November of last year.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the Premier. Why does the Premier allow his government to ignore the local municipal planning strategy and to ignore the cries of the substantial number of people in Bedford who don't want that facility in their town? Will the Premier back up and look at the issue on behalf of the people of Bedford?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the meetings with the people of Bedford have gone on and the Minister of Justice has been there. Other meetings are being planned, the dialogue is continuing. This is our government's commitment to further communication.

[Page 6968]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask the Premier a simple yes or no question. Is he prepared to halt construction on the new facility in Bedford until the people of Bedford have had a satisfactory opportunity to discuss the issue with this government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can't say yes or no until we have further dialogue with the people of Bedford but I will turn that over to the Minister of Justice.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, for the honourable Leader of the Third Party, we have had three meetings with the Bedford Futures group. We honoured our commitment that we made here in this House yesterday to respond to them by yesterday afternoon on the results of one of those meetings, in fact the third meeting. They have in their hands the government response. We continue to meet with the citizens of Bedford and we continue to work on the timetable for the development of a badly needed provincial facility.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - HEALTH BUDGETS: PREDICTIONS - REVIEW

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Finance. The minister's colleague, the Minister of Health, has said that health care costs will increase by 11.3 per cent every year into the future, never mind that he can't back up that number and no other jurisdiction in Canada agrees with him. The minister has also said the $600 million spending now will save hundreds of millions in the future, never mind he has no idea how that will happen.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. EPSTEIN: My question for the Minister of Finance is, did the minister's department do any independent review of the Minister of Health's arithmetic?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in fact, the member opposite asked the question yesterday in budget discussions. I indicated to him then and I indicate to him again, that the Department of Health, in fact, had a private sector company involved with determining those numbers, so they are available.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, it was yesterday, indeed, that the Minister of Finance told us for the first time that PricewaterhouseCoopers, a large accounting and consulting firm, had reviewed the mortgage fund numbers, but they did not provide a written report. What I would like to know from the minister is, will the minister table the terms of reference he gave to PricewaterhouseCoopers, tell us exactly what they were asked to do, and how much they were paid to do it?

[Page 6969]

MR. DOWNE: Again, Mr. Speaker, this was done by the Department of Health, the Minister of Health would be reviewing, but the one point that was very clear yesterday, clearly presented to everyone, health care is the issue of the day and the member opposite understands we are prepared to invest in the future of health care in this province and we have the numbers to substantiate it.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars based on lousy arithmetic and non-existent planning. Can the minister explain why Nova Scotians should ever again trust him with a single nickel of their money?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite realizes, yesterday, in a presentation we pointed out from 1996-97 expenditures, including health boards, was $1.318 billion; 1997-98 was $1.487 billion; and 1998-99 was $1.633 billion. That is almost 11.3 per cent, exactly what we have been talking about.

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

FIN. - SURPLUS: GENERATION - METHODOLOGY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this government is asking for a mortgage of $600 million, but it just does not have the cash flow to handle the payments. The Minister of Finance says he will use Sable royalties plus the surpluses he generates. My question to the Minister of Finance is this, will he explain how he intends to generate the multi-year surpluses needed to pay down this mortgage when he has not yet produced one single, honest surplus?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I do not like the use of the word honest used in that context. Perhaps the honourable member would re-put his question.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, would the minister, if he can, explain how he intends to generate the surpluses over a multi-year period when he has not yet produced one single, accurate surplus?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, we have already had the surpluses. It has been approved, it was an internal audit, an audit done by the Province of Nova Scotia, but I would like to know how the NDP is going to clarify to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia they do not support health care and do not support the investment in the health care in this province.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that if the minister were the chief financial officer in a corporation and he came forward with a budget like this, the board of directors would fire his sorry behind.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

[Page 6970]

MR. EPSTEIN: The minister's own projections for the next four years indicate small surpluses, $1 million or $2 million . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Your question.

MR. EPSTEIN: To pay down the mortgage, they have to grow. How does Merlin the minister, explain that particular piece of magic?

MR. DOWNE: We not only had one balanced budget, we not only had two balanced budgets, we are even forecasting a third balanced budget in the Province of Nova Scotia, unlike what the NDP would ever be able to do in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the Conference Board of Canada today predicts that Nova Scotia will have the nation's slowest economic growth.

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

MR. EPSTEIN: Will the minister admit that the looming slowdown in the Nova Scotia economy indicates we just cannot carry this huge, new, Liberal mortgage?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I explained to him yesterday, but I would like him to explain to Nova Scotians. At the current rate of growth in health care, how can they explain . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not the government's business to ask the questions. (Laughter)

MR. DOWNE: I would like to rephrase that, Mr. Speaker. I hope somebody asks the NDP the question, how do they look after the sick people in the Province of Nova Scotia when their costs are going up . . .

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

EDUC. - SCHOOLS BDS:

CLASS (PRIMARY) HRS. - CONTROL REMOVE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Education and Culture. The Halifax Regional School Board is once again floating a proposal that would see Grade Primary school class time cut in half. As in the past, this is not supported by parents and certainly not supported by the teaching fraternity, because it has

[Page 6971]

shown that it is not in the best interests of the students. Why has the minister and this Liberal Government not incorporated a policy that takes this education-damaging option away from the school boards in this province?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. I am glad he brings this very significant issue to the floor of this House, which would maybe clear the record for the honourable member. This government had shown last year that education was a high priority of our government. We invested $82 million in our education budget. This year, once again, education is a high priority of our government. We are investing another . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, your first supplementary.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, he never came within a country mile of answering that question. The Premier won't listen to the residents of Bedford; the Minister of Health listens to regional hospital boards; and the Minister of Education listens to school boards. When is this government going to start listening to Nova Scotians?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that this government is listening to the school boards and will continue to work with the school boards across the Province of Nova Scotia. Again, this year in our budget, we are proposing further funding and we will continue to provide further funding to school boards across the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary. Will the Minister of Education intervene on behalf of Grade Primary students in this province and tell school boards that their education is not for sale?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. This year, with our current budget that is before the House, we are proposing to provide the Halifax Regional School Board with an additional $12 million.

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

HEALTH - BUDGET (1999-2000):

ADVERTISING - EXPENDITURES PROVIDE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is also the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia. This is not only ironic, given the "grin-and-spin" plan accompanying the budget, it is also very convenient for the minister. I want to ask the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia to provide the details on how much money this government spent on polls, advertising, and the public relations wizards, in an attempt to try to sell its failed budget to Nova Scotians.

[Page 6972]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, during estimates for the Department of Health, we discussed matters relative to the costs of the Health Investment Fund. I answered that the bill for the brochure and newspaper ads is not complete. We also mentioned, there was $49,000 there for advertising.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, if this minister put the effort into developing a health care plan that he put into trying to hoodwink Nova Scotians, he might have come up with an acceptable budget. I want to ask the maladroit minister of public propaganda whether he thinks that the more than $100,000 he spent on public relations would have been better spent on health care?

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. The addressing of a minister as the minister of propaganda is clearly out of order. I would ask the honourable member to (Interruptions)

MR. DEXTER: I just want to ask the maladroit minister whether he thinks the more than $100,000 he spent on public relations would have been better spent on health care?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the health care system is very complex and is a lot about choices. You can take money and you can shift it from one area to the other. We have committed to Nova Scotians that we are stabilizing the acute care system while we build on the long-term continuum of care. That is what we are communicating and they will hold us responsible.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister had a choice, he chose to spin instead of plan. Will the minister admit that his budget was not crafted for health care but rather fabricated with polls and spun out with deceptive advertising, all in the name of political opportunism?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, I have to ask the honourable member, deceptive is not a good parliamentary word. Please come up with another term.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, how about fabricated with polls and spun out with unbelievable advertising, all in the name of political opportunism.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I can only assume that the socialist Party's spin doctors must be from out of province because I don't think any Nova Scotian would recommend that they use unparliamentary language like they have used in the last several days, last Friday and again today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The next question.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

[Page 6973]

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - PLEASANT BAY (C.B.):

WHALE INTERPRETIVE CTR. - COMMITMENT

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Will the minister confirm that his department has committed something in the neighbourhood of $600,000 to a whale watching interpretive centre for the community of Pleasant Bay in Cape Breton?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, yes, I am pleased to report that we are dealing with the people of Pleasant Bay regarding a whale interpretive centre. An announcement on that particular project should be forthcoming fairly soon.

MR. BALSER: The minister somewhat avoided the question of whether or not it would be in the neighbourhood of $600,000. That aside, there are a number of communities in Nova Scotia that depend on whale watching for the generation of tourist dollars. What was the rationale for the selection of Pleasant Bay?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Each project, Mr. Speaker, that our department deals with is dealt in a manner that after a presentation is made to our department, we look at it and we weigh the options for that particular community, what it will do for that particular community. In this particular case, we think it is an excellent investment in the tourism sector for that particular part of the province.

MR. BALSER: East Coast Ecotourism Systems is located on Brier Island and is recognized as a world leader in whale conservation as well as research related to whale populations. That organization has a proposal with the department for a number of years. How would the minister respond to the criticism that Pleasant Bay was chosen for political reasons and for no other reason?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you could use the same analysis as to why that member is standing up promoting his own area.

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

NAT. RES. - NSRL: REPORT & FIN. STATEMENT - TABLE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Minister of Natural Resources. By the end of this current fiscal year, the off-book debt of NSRL will be approximately three times the combined debt of all hospital boards and health boards in the Province of Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, why is it that the minister's department has not filed an annual report and audited financial statement since 1994?

[Page 6974]

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is being very hypothetical here. In the House last week I informed the honourable member that there would be an audited financial report coming out within a very short period of time, within two weeks, and the honourable member will have a chance to review it then and maybe he will have further questions to ask.

MR. HOLM: Five years, two weeks. The last annual report in 1994 showed that the debt, then $495 million, reflected the Tory mistakes of the past and the failure to deal with realities. Now the Liberals are holding up the report . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: . . . to hide their mistakes and mismanagement. My question to the minister is quite simply this, what are you trying to hide? Why won't you come clean with Nova Scotians as to the size of the debt that you are putting around their necks?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, if he doesn't know, he should very well know and I am sure he does, that we inherited a debt of I forget what number, but it is a big one. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACASKILL: We are dealing with that debt. NSRL is a partner in SOEP, of which they own 8.5 per cent. When the cash flow comes, then we will put that toward the debt.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the size of the debt the minister inherited was so great that it has made the current Minister of Finance want to hurl when he was in your spot. That debt has grown and continues to grow.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. HOLM: My question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Natural Resources is quite simply this, will you table, this week, an audited financial statement of NSRL so that Nova Scotians and members of this House can judge the Liberal mismanagement as part of this budget debate?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I would be delighted to table the audited financial report when I have it. If I have it this week, I will table it, and if I have it next week, I will table it.

[Page 6975]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE BEDS:

PAYMENTS (PRIV.:PUB.) - EQUALIZE

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. We have known for some time we have had a moratorium on long-term care beds - we freed up 41 in the last year - we have had a freeze on the per diem. The problem has occurred with a large rate difference between what the government pays and the private payer pays. One example is one nursing home, the government pays $97 per day, the private payer pays $125 per day, almost a 30 per cent difference. I would ask the minister, is his department going to do anything to make a more level playing field for those people that are private pay versus government pay?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is part of the whole process in looking at long-term care and developing that as an integral part of the continuum of care. This has been an issue, I won't guarantee that it will come together, but it is an issue that we are certainly looking at as we are developing other issues and initiatives like standards and quality of care within that long-term sector.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, that is unacceptable. We are the only province in Canada that is sticking it to the private payers, who are going into nursing homes. I would ask the minister, will he address that issue in his budget so that the private payers are treated fairly and not have to pay 30 per cent more than the government is paying?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not quite clear that that is the case across the country, but it is an area that we are looking at and we have made provisions in several parts of our budget to address the long-term care issue. That is a significant initiative and we will be addressing that.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, we haven't long to address it. I wonder when? I would ask the minister, how many of the 129 beds that have not been allocated for long-term care, are private pay, which costs the government nothing, and how many are government-funded beds?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have before us 25 proposals. They would be a mix, and as the honourable member would know, they have not been allocated. We will try to accommodate, some of these are beds that are being added on to a facility that is being replaced. There is a mixture. That is the way the system has been functioning.

[Page 6976]

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

FIN. - EDUC. BUDGET (1999-2000):

SW REG. SCH. BD. - EXPENDITURE EXCLUSION DETAILS

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Yesterday the Minister of Education admitted that this budget isn't worth the paper it is printed on because the minister granted an extra $2 million to the Southwest Regional School Board, the board that covers his own riding. My question to the Minister of Finance is this, when did he know about this extra expenditure and why isn't it in the budget?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, what I do know is that we put and additional $38.8 million in the educational system, notwithstanding over $5.3 million for community colleges. I will ask the Minister of Education to address this specific question.

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member yesterday during our estimates, after the budget was tabled the Southwest Regional School Board had a chance to look at the profile sheet. Again, once that exercise was done the Southwest Regional School Board approached us with some further, additional information that they had not submitted prior to the budget being tabled. I did undertake to examine these numbers and indicated that I would be making a commitment to the Southwest Regional School Board that once the numbers were firm to the department, we would certainly be ready to help out.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary is to the Minister of Finance. Even before the ink is dry the government's claim of a surplus is untenable. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, what effect does the Education Minister's generosity have on this minister's claim that the budget has a surplus?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, that is an unfair question to the Minister of Finance. We have already put money and investment in education as a primary investment in the future of this province. There was $82 million last year and in excess of $40-some million this year. That is a commitment to education and economic stability and I am not ashamed of the fact that we are investing in education in this province.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I guess the question is how much and is it in the budget? My final question to the Finance Minister is where else is he hiding funds that will be used to bail out the 18 other Liberal MLAs?

[Page 6977]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think the reality is that they are, again, upset and I am glad Nova Scotians realize all too well that we are investing in Nova Scotia's education system, as we are in health care. They just can't get over the fact that we are living up to that commitment for the future of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HEALTH - INVESTMENT FUND:

PROGS. & SERVICES - PROPORTION

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. This Liberal Government has brought in a budget with its major initiative, of course, being the $600 million Health Investment Fund. In this fiscal year $250 million is to be spent, with $139 million for operations and $111 million for investment. Can the minister please inform the House as to what portion of the $111 million investment will be going to expand programs and services?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, other than that particular part of the Health Investment Fund there is $50 million that is allocated to Y2K and the enhancement of that and the building of that infrastructure to lead toward health information technology. The other $61 million, while some of that would be capital, that is where the program initiatives will come from.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, that concerns me because the $50 million for Y2K obviously will not be going to expand services. Has the minister explained to the health partners that the $111 million is actually $61 million that will be going into this? I believe that they deserve an answer.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, oh yes, we have met with the regional health boards and the NDOs prior to releasing the budget and we informed them of that. I would point out to the honourable member that I believe, and it is my opinion, that the information health technology is really much a part of programming and measuring outcomes and determining services. That is really what is lacking in the system and that is why planning has been so difficult. We are going to change that.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we have been trying to get answers but I will bring to the minister's attention that Y2K is not information technology. If the minister is trying to promote health care by taking care of the Year 2000 millennium bug, those are not the results. Will the minister be forwarding more information specifically in regard to this computer initiative that he is bringing forward so that all members of the House will be properly informed before the budget is brought to a vote?

[Page 6978]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, yes, we have the 1995 report that we have had done in our department. That has been here in the House. I would certainly share that, but I would make a commitment to share even more. On the Y2K allotment, I want to be clear that while it is addressing some of the Y2K initiative, it is also replacing equipment and enhancing the information technology within the province. So it not just a narrow Y2K repair.

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

JUSTICE - CROWN PROSECUTORS:

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING - IMPLEMENT

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. In 10 years we have had four reports on the Public Prosecution Service. One thing is crystal clear. The only people who think Crown Prosecutors do not deserve collective bargaining rights are this government. So my question to the Minister of Justice is, will he commit to taking the necessary steps to implement collective bargaining for Crown Attorneys before the House rises?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite will know that we will take three weeks. Part of the reason we are taking three weeks to declare the government's position in response to the Kaufman Report is because the Public Prosecution Service itself will take 12 days of those three weeks to render a report to government so that ours is comprehensive.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice in December, and again in February, received recommendations that collective bargaining be implemented for the Crown Attorneys. Now he wants another month to make a simple decision. My question to the minister is, you had six months to consider these recommendations, why is he unwilling to commit to its implementation today?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, who has a copy of the working group report, will full well know that it does not recommend collective bargaining. It recommends a tribunal to set a salary-setting mechanism. That is quite a different process than collective bargaining. (Interruptions) The member opposite heckles a rose is a rose, but they are quite different. A tribunal based on independence and collective bargaining are two very different things.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: I might beg to differ with the minister but, Mr. Speaker, the minister can no longer hide behind Justice Kaufman's shirt-tails. My question is, why should we believe that four more weeks will change anything if you are unwilling to commit to collective bargaining today?

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MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we have made it perfectly clear today that since 1990 we have eliminated political interference in the Public Prosecution Service of the province and from this day forward we will take constructive steps to improve the quality of law before the courts of this province. That is a commitment we make as a Liberal Government and we will honour that commitment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, on a new question.

JUSTICE - DPP: HIRING PROCESS -

CROWN PROSECUTORS EXCLUSION

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I hope the Minister of Justice's commitments are better than the Minister of Health. Justice Kaufman in his report is severely critical of the divisions between the Public Prosecution Service managers and the Crowns. Meanwhile, the minister has endorsed a DPP hiring process that only serves to feed this division. So my question to the Minister of Justice is, in light of Mr. Kaufman's report, will he now reconsider his decision to exclude Crown Attorneys from the DPP hiring process?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would love to drive divisions and create sort of fictional divisions. The reality is that all Nova Scotians are interested in a quality service. It will take work from within the service and it will take work on the part of government to implement those decisions that Justice Kaufman has rendered today in this province. We are committed to do our part and we invite the staff to do theirs.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, according to the minister, the interview process for the position of DPP is set to begin. So my question is, were exceptional leadership skills and extensive courtroom experience, criteria laid out by Justice Kaufman in his report, used in the selection process?

MR. HARRISON: Not only criteria for selection, Mr. Speaker, but also in the panel itself we tried to assemble what we believe is as good a panel as you can find anywhere in the country to make sure that the panel also reflected those same characteristics.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, maybe the question was not clear, I was not talking about the panel. It seems that this minister only knows how to do things from back to front: first, the jail; now, the selection process. So I will ask the minister, will the minister ensure that all applicants being interviewed for the position of DPP are being assessed using Justice Kaufman's criteria?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, first the preferred site, then the confirmed site, after public consultation with the very people in whose community the preferred site was located. It is front to back, as opposed to back to front. The issue with Justice Kaufman, his report,

[Page 6980]

the characteristics we have declared in this House, exemplary legal practice and managerial skills for long-term sustainable leadership of the service.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - EMC: CONTRACT - SOLE-SOURCED

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health was kind enough to give me the contract for the EMC during estimates. I would ask the minister if he could tell me why the contract was let in the first place without going to public tender; why was it sole-sourced?

HON. JAMES SMITH: That is a very valid and important point, Mr. Speaker. The group that was in this area, that was expert in that field, was certainly the MMC that had been entrusted with the MSI programs and they were a company that government had done business with, trusted, and were found to be reliable over the years. It was deemed that there was not an alternative group that would be available to do that.

MR. MOODY: I am not questioning MMC, Mr. Speaker, but if you never put it out to tender, you never know if there is another group that is capable of doing it. I would ask the minister, why was the agreement for eight years with a possible extension of one, instead of the normal three to five year contract - which seems to me like a reasonable time - that this contract was kind of special, it was for eight years and possibly nine? I would ask the minister, why?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there are off-ramps and clauses there that that could be terminated. It is only based on the high performance and that is written in the contract. I think the honourable member would have to admit that the safeguards are there for building in performances and it would only be extended under the circumstances that the care was of a high quality.

MR. MOODY: I hope the minister is not saying that other contracts they have with other people are not high quality and all of those things; that can stand for any company. I would ask the minister, in the contract there is a fee of about $1 million - $975,000 - in addition to the base payments and adjustments and possible savings. I wonder why the government would fork out another almost $1 million in addition to the base payments and adjustments and what not; why was the extra $1 million given?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there were monies held in trust by the company that made the EMC, had made payments, and there were determinations made as to how the assets - in other words, the territories - were allocated and those monies, I do not have the exact breakdown in front of me, I finished my estimates of yesterday.

[Page 6981]

I would like to refer to an area here as to what we did take over when the services began in 1994. Thirty-eight of the vehicles registered as ambulances were not actively licensed to the Registry of Motor Vehicles . . .

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

JUSTICE - CROWN PROSECUTORS:

KAUFMAN REPORT - WKG. GP.-CHALLENGES (MIN.)

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. In a letter that is referenced in the Kaufman Report, the minister blatantly criticized his own working group for only considering the interests of Crown Attorneys when it recommended an independent review process. My question is a simple one to the Minister of Justice. Why is the minister challenging the findings of a bipartisan working group that he established?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we are not challenging the findings of that group at all. They conducted their affairs within the terms of reference set for that group. The Minister of Justice has an obligation to take that work and fold it into the corporate existence of Public Service lawyers who work in Justice, Workers' Compensation and Legal Aid.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the minister criticizes the make-up of his own working group, stating that it was not one that would unselfishly represent all issues. My question to the Minister of Justice is, wasn't it the Minister of Justice's job to ensure that the make-up of your working group was up to the task at hand?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the working group was up to the task at hand. The task at hand was to come to a consensus on the issue of a mechanism for salary-setting, which they did, which they delivered to me and which I, in turn, have delivered to the Human Resources Department of government to ensure that it fits into a corporate context.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Kaufman Report, the minister has already had the report since May 31st, yet he wants three more weeks to conduct a review. My question, Mr. Minister. Like Westray, is this another unpopular decision that this government is trying to keep off the floor of the House?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is a member of the legal profession and he would know full well that that is a leading question. The answer to his question as to why are we taking three weeks - after he has just challenged me for not listening to the service - is it will take 12 days for the Public Prosecution Service to render

[Page 6982]

a report to us on their reaction to Kaufman and we intend to enfold that into the government position.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC.: JUDIQUE/CREIGNISH SCHOOLS -

MORATORIUM DECISION

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. Mr. Premier, on May 5th, I understand you met with the parents of the Judique Area Concerned Citizens, and you made a commitment to them to bring back a decision within two weeks on their request to have a moratorium for five years on the school there in Judique. Are you prepared to render that decision to those parents at this time?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think it is only fair that when we come down with our decision, we give it to the parents themselves.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. The parents of the children in Judique and Inverness have asked me to ask that question of the Premier. The Premier made a commitment that it would take two weeks and he would be back to them with an answer. It is now June 9th, five weeks later, and they want that answer. Can you deliver that answer to them today?

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

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to my honourable colleague across the floor. Again, when that meeting was held, a number of parents did raise some further concerns that the staff within our Department of Education is looking at. Once the department has arrived at a decision, we will be communicating that decision to the parents first.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier again. This has nothing to do with the Minister of Education, this has everything to do with commitment on behalf of the Premier of this province to the parents of the children in Judique. The member for Inverness must be very . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. FAGE: . . . disappointed that the decision hasn't been made. When will the announcement be made? When are you going to keep your commitment?

[Page 6983]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it also has an awful lot to do with the education of the young people in that area and being fair to them. There is a sense of community in Judique-Creignish that is extremely important. These are not easy decisions to make. We have to look at the community profile, but we also have to look at how best to educate the young people.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

EDUC. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.: PROG. & SERV. - CUTS

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The Halifax Regional School Board is looking for ways to cut its budget by $16 million. The board chair admitted that everything is on the table. My question to the Minister of Education is, why has this department forced the Halifax Regional School Board into cutting programs and services?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member. As we have stated previously in this House, it is certainly our intention to continue to work with all school boards in this province. Again, we have been working with the Halifax Regional School Board and we will continue with that practice.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, one program that the board is looking at cutting is full-day primary in order to save $3 million. I want to ask the minister to answer this question as both the minister and as an educator. How many years will it take these kids to catch up?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member. As I stated in this House, the Halifax Regional School Board this year will receive a 5 per cent increase in funding. This is the largest percentage increase to any school board across this province. So, again, our commitment as we have seen this year, as last year, is education will continue to be a priority of our government and we will continue to work with all school boards.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I have a really simple question for the minister. If the Halifax Regional School Board comes and asks for more money as the Southwest Regional School Board did, will he give it to them?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as we have done in the past, any school board that notifies our department, for whatever problem that they do encounter, we have always been there to work with them along the way and at the end, if there is a request for further funding, that request will certainly be examined.

[Page 6984]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

EDUC. - GLOOSCAP ELEM. SCH. (CANNING):

ELEVATOR - COMMITMENT FULFIL

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education will know that Glooscap Elementary School, located in Canning, is a two-storey building. There are three students in wheelchairs, one teacher and one parent who visits the school. In 1997 the Department of Education indicated there would be an elevator installed in that school. Will the minister indicate when he is going to keep the 1997 commitment?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I do not have the information with me here today, but I certainly will undertake to provide the honourable member with an answer before the day is over.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you, of course, is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. Last week the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs announced a $350,000 undertaking to improve access to public buildings. In fact, I can quote him. He said, ". . . it's imperative that government at all levels pay closer attention to issues relating to public facilities . . .".

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Will the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs indicate if his department will do the elevator problem in the Glooscap Elementary School?

HON. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, was that question if we would deal with the elevator in a school? Could I have that repeated, please?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member may just repeat the main part of the question.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, he announced last week that the government was going to spend $350,000. This is a public facility. Will his department put an elevator in Glooscap Elementary School?

MR. WHITE: Mr. Speaker, we are evaluating how we will deliver the program. We indicated publicly that we would be meeting with the stakeholders to deal with accessibility, then releasing the details of that program, and we will be doing that.

[Page 6985]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education, I cannot emphasize the importance of this. I have written you a letter. You have replied. It does not look as though you are going to get any assistance from the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. ARCHIBALD: How soon will you get out and get on the phone so you can report back?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as I have indicated to him just earlier, I will take that question under advisement and I will provide the honourable member with an answer before the day is over.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

LBR. - RODD GRAND HOTEL (YAR.): DISPUTE - STATUS

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour. The labour dispute between the Rodd Grand Hotel and its unionized employees continues. Yarmouth, the gateway to Nova Scotia tourism, is receiving a black eye. Our American friends are being greeted at dockside by a labour dispute.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: My question to the minister is, can the minister inform the House of the status of negotiations between the parties?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will give an undertaking to the honourable member that I will check with Ms. Rantala, who is Director of Conciliation Services, and try to report back to him before the end of the day, if that is acceptable.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Labour, tourism-based businesses are definitely hurting in Yarmouth and no doubt across the province because of this dispute. Will the Minister of Labour tell us what he will do to bring both parties back to the table for meaningful negotiations?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, again I thank the honourable member for the question, but as I indicated in my original answer, I will receive a report from Ms. Laurie Rantala, who is Director of Conciliation Services, responsible for overseeing that both parties negotiate in a fair and equitable fashion. As I have indicated, I will give him a report before the end of the day and its impact.

[Page 6986]

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Minister of Labour. Will this minister assure the House, the tourism industry of Nova Scotia and the workers at Rodd's Grand Hotel, that he will not fiddle away over this dispute while the tourism industry burns?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the first two answers were not satisfactory. He is not interested in a substantive answer. But, notwithstanding that, this government is very concerned about tourism in Nova Scotia. It is very concerned about labour-management relations. I can assure all members of the House that we will, as I have indicated, receive the information from our Director of Conciliation Services and report back in a responsible fashion.

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

EDUC. - DIGBY REG. HS: CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS - STATUS

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education and Culture. The parents at Digby Regional High School are anxious to know the status of the contracts to begin construction of the renovations and the new construction. Have the contracts for the Digby Regional High School been let?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. I know the honourable member has a lot of interest in this project. This project certainly has taken considerable time in planning with teachers and with the community. I anticipate that the department will be, very shortly, ready to announce the tender call on that project.

MR. BALSER: The Digby Regional High School project is being financed directly by the Department of Education. Are the delays with the Digby high school simply a result of the fact that it is not a P3 school and so much department staff time is devoted to P3 school construction that they do not have time to deal with those traditionally financed schools?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again, to the honourable member. The Digby Regional High School, this is a major renovation project and close to $14 million will be spent in renovating that school. It has taken a little bit longer to get the tender, but I am advised that this whole process is in its final stage and we anticipate to call the tender very shortly.

MR. BALSER: The Department of Education has indicated that school will be ready for September 2000. Will the minister guarantee the parents that that time line will be met and that in September 2000, it will be open for students?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, the good news about the tendering call is that the tender will be called on July 21st on this major renovation project for the Digby Regional High School.

[Page 6987]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

HEALTH - FOODS: GENETIC MODIFICATION - CONSUMER RISK

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Health. The federal Deputy Health Minister, David Dodge, recently told the Senate Agricultural Committee that his department has not got the resources to assess the number of genetically modified foods now being produced. My question to the Minister of Health is, do genetically modified foods pose a risk to the consumers?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is relatively new. This is being dealt with at the federal level. We are in communication with them. Our deputy and others have been speaking on this and other matters. If she is asking my opinion (Interruption)

Well, maybe the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's has the answer. He is over there waving his hands around or he just has to go out of the room.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. You will direct your response to me.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the member for Chester-St. Margaret's may want to answer the question. But it is my opinion that this has to be handled very carefully . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your first supplementary.

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my second question is to the Minister of Health. Many European countries have banned or required labelling of genetically modified foods because of health concerns. My question to the Minister of Health is, does your department have a position on the labelling of genetically modified foods?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are working with the federal government, whose area this is (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: I do believe the member for Chester-St. Margaret's has the answer to all this, like he has the answer to almost everything else in health care, but we are working with the federal government as this is a work in progress. We are keeping up to date on this and we will take every precaution that we need to protect Nova Scotians.

[4:00 p.m.]

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my final question is to the Premier. Will your government call for and support the mandatory labelling of all genetically modified foods?

[Page 6988]

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

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as I stated, this is a work in progress. We will do what is right within the federal regulations to protect Nova Scotians. This is a matter that we take very seriously and we are trying to keep abreast of anything of a scientific nature as well. That is the basis of good health care.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

HEALTH - POTATOES: GENETIC MODIFICATION - LABEL

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last spring Nova Scotia farmers planted 121 acres of Monsanto's NewLeaf potatoes which contain genes from Bacillus thuringinienses, or Bt, as well as an antibiotic resistant gene which could contribute to human antibiotic resistance problems. My question to the minister is, why would his government not insist that these potatoes be labelled?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the information. I didn't recognize the organism, but I think I know some of their cousins. (Laughter) This is a work in progress and we take this very seriously. To use a farmer's term, this is breaking new ground and we take this very seriously. We are working with the federal government and they are the prime initiators as the regulators in this area.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question would be to the Minister of the Environment. This high-tech strategy of introducing genes from other species accelerates the selection process for resistant insects. My question to the minister is, what protection is his department offering Nova Scotia organic farmers whose use of small amounts of Bt to control pests is now jeopardized?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as my colleague the Minister of Health has indicated, this is an issue we take very seriously. We are working directly with the Minister of Agriculture on issues within the agricultural community, along with members of our staff and our federal colleagues, to address some of these concerns to protect the interests of our agricultural industry and to protect the interests of Nova Scotians.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question this time will be to the Minister of Economic Development. Nova Scotia is currently looking at expanding its organic farming potential by tapping into U.S. and European markets. Why is your department allowing the access to these export markets to be jeopardized?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware that that is a fact and if it is a fact, if he could present me with some information that it is a fact, I will look into it.

[Page 6989]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - FALL RIVER-BEAVER BANK SCHOOL:

STUDENTS/RESIDENTS - SAFETY ENSURE

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education. Mr. Minister, as you are well aware, the new Fall River-Beaver Bank school is under construction on Lockview Drive. As the minister is aware, that site is on a dead-end street with over 100 homes on it. The municipal by-law planning strategy requires there be two entrances in that situation as it is an extremely unsafe situation. The question is, will the minister ensure that there is a second entrance there to protect the safety of those children and the residents?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, there has been a request for four lanes in order to divide the road that is leading to the school. The partner involved with that project is currently looking at this request and I anticipate at a future time we should be in a position to provide the honourable member with an answer.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the answer, but it doesn't address the safety of the children or the residents of the area. My next question is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. Mr. Minister, you are responsible for enforcing the municipal planning strategy on behalf of HRM as the provincial minister. Will you enforce those guidelines to ensure the safety of those young people and the residents?

HON. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the developer has been in contact with HRM. They have asked for a traffic study to deal with that issue. On completion of that traffic study, which looks at safety, a decision of how it will be addressed will be made.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Minister, you are responsible for the department, not the private developer. When are you going to ensure that these regulations that protect the safety of the citizens and school are upheld, instead of doing a study on behalf of the private developer? When are you going to enforce those regulations?

MR. WHITE: Mr. Speaker, safety is an important issue. In order to determine what is the best way to deal with it, the study has been requested by HRM, that is, it is being done on HRM's request, by the developer. This is covered under street by-laws and, under that jurisdiction, that work is being done. When that is completed, a proper decision to address the concerns not only of the by-law but of HRM will be made.

[Page 6990]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

TECH. & SC. SEC'T. - YEAR 2000:

PROGRESS REPORTS - ACCURACY

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the honourable Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat. After buckling to pressure from this caucus, the minister started posting Year 2000 progress reports on the government website. The reports include planned implementation dates and latest possible completion dates for all departmental projects, including the Department of Health.

My question to the minister, is his department verifying the accuracy of these reports, or is he simply posting whatever information is given to him by various departments?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: I think I caught that - "buckling to pressure from this caucus" - I just want to make sure I got that straight, Mr. Speaker.

In the interests of informing Nova Scotians about the millennium bug and the progress this government is making towards that end, we have been posting information on the web site for some months now.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, I am quite concerned to see that many of the Health Department implementation dates have been quietly pushed back. For example, the MSI public insurance system was originally supposed to be implemented by September 1st but the latest report says it won't be done until November 19th at the earliest. My question to the minister, when are you going to be forthright and explain to Nova Scotians the risks of failure and the contingency plans?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, not only does the website give accurate information to Nova Scotians so that they can have confidence in efforts made by this government, but in the Public Accounts Committee the member's own caucus asked the Auditor General how Nova Scotia was doing. In fact, his response was extremely complimentary to this government and this province.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, I didn't get an answer to my question. It looks like this is just another area where the government is having trouble meeting its commitments. My final question to the minister, since the government's own Y2K target dates appear to be very flexible, why should Nova Scotians believe anything in these reports?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the theme seems to be belief. Surely the members opposite, after all the ranting and raving, have faith and belief in the Auditor General of Nova Scotia. Surely that is one person whose opinion they respect and he says that Nova Scotia is leading the nation.

[Page 6991]

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - MAC TIMBER: SALE - FINALIZATION

MR. JAMES MUIR: My question is going to the honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. The issue which was raised in the House a number of times, the failure of the Mac Timber plant in Debert, is that matter now settled and has the final sale to the Julimar interest been completed?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. The matter with Mac Timber is currently still in the negotiation stages. We hope to have it resolved fairly soon. I know it is a very important issue for that area of the province and we would like to get the company up and running again as soon as possible.

MR. MUIR: Again, Mr. Speaker, to the honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. I thought I heard you say two things in that response. I have been told that there were maybe a couple of liens on that property which have added a glitch to the sale of Mac Timber and, therefore, the final arrangements have not been made. Now you did say that the sale had been completed, so would you confirm that again, please?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I certainly didn't want to mislead the honourable member. What I said was that negotiations are continuing. We hope to have it resolved very soon.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, through you. How much of the proceeds of that sale will be given to the small-business people, the unsecured creditors, that took a licking when that business collapsed?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that is a matter that is presently being discussed with our department and the receivers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - MIDDLETON GRAIN CENTRE:

OPERATION PLAN - RESPONSE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, will be to the Minister of Economic Development. In March, the Western Nova Scotia Agricultural Society presented a business plan for operating the Middleton grain centre to the Minister of Agriculture. His deputy minister then met with the Deputy Minister of Economic Development about funding for the centre. My question is, what do you have to say in response to these representatives about the report?

[Page 6992]

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I have said so many times in this House before, I am not going to discuss individual proposals to our department on the floor of this Legislature.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Premier. Any chance that farmers are going to plant grain this year is slowly getting by, so they want to know if this delay is the last straw. What action will be taken today to address the mess his government's stalling tactics have left these farmers in?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that there is no hesitation in this government to be anything but very supportive of the farmers.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, again, to the Premier. The Minister of Agriculture said the group's report was excellent. The Minister of Economic Development has not said anything. My question to the Premier is, what commitment will the Premier make to ensure that this plan is implemented, instead of being bounced from department to department?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the plan is being considered. I don't have the up-to-date decision of the department. The minister is not here today because of illness, but I will take it upon myself to inquire and get back to the honourable member.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

SPORTS - RINK (YAR. CO.): PROPOSAL - STATUS

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: My question, through you, is to the Premier. The Premier was down in Yarmouth recently making an announcement regarding the art gallery expansion in Yarmouth, for which we are very supportive, very appreciative. However, this project had been entwined together with the Skate Yarmouth project and it was anticipated that both projects would come down or be announced at the same time. Can the Premier indicate whether or not the fact that one of the projects was announced is an indication that the Skate Yarmouth project is not receiving consideration?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member because I agree that the art gallery announcement is a good one. I was not aware, quite frankly, personally, that the art gallery and Skate Yarmouth were linked together and had to be announced at the same time. As the honourable member knows, the federal government is concerned here, as well, and we have to coordinate anything that we would be announcing on Skate Yarmouth, I would imagine, with them.

[Page 6993]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, during negotiations with this government, the government indicated that it was a group package and it would be announced as one. So that was an indication from the government. But I want to say that Skate Yarmouth, which put together the proposal, has been waiting for two and one-half years for an answer. Will the Premier acknowledge in the House today that the people of Yarmouth County are deserving of a new facility, one that I know that he personally visited on a trip to Yarmouth?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the announcement on the art gallery was made, of course, because of the annual meeting that was taking place. They had a right to know, as well, whether that project was going to proceed. But I will say, in no uncertain terms to the honourable member and to this Legislature, that he is right, the people of Yarmouth do deserve a new facility.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that he says they deserve it and, being in government, they would, obviously, have the opportunity to enact some initiatives. So my final question to the Premier is, if he agrees that it is deserving and he agrees that the people of Yarmouth have waited long enough, I would ask him whether or not, personally, he would become involved with the federal government to bring this to a head, because I think the people of Yarmouth need to have an answer today, not in the months ahead, which has been promised for the last two and one-half years.

[4:15 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the honourable member that I have been involved personally with the federal government, and I can't give him a decision today or an announcement today, but I would hope that there would be something forthcoming before too long.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - PAVING:

COST-SHARING (PROV.-MUN.) - PROCESS IMPROVE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Mr. Minister, the municipal-provincial 50/50 cost-sharing agreement for paving subdivision roads is frustrating residents who spend their time and energy petitioning the municipality to pave a particular road under this agreement only to have it rejected by the province. Mr. Minister, is there not a better process for establishing priorities under this cost-sharing agreement than the current petitioning process?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, the way that roads are prioritized in the Province of Nova Scotia is the best working system that we are using at present time, and we will continue to use that system.

[Page 6994]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the minister's own area manager suburban, in a letter replying to me about the same question said, and I will table this, you are correct that the process is not good. Mr. Minister, what are you going to do to improve the current process with regard to this cost-sharing agreement?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, these cost-sharing deals that we have with the municipalities and with the towns in the Province of Nova Scotia are very important and we will continue to work with these cost-sharing agreements so that they will work out for the areas that are in question.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, out of 40 projects submitted under this arrangement, only 12 were approved. Mr. Minister, municipal residents are frustrated with the process. What are you going to do to ease this frustration?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as I have said, I think 12 out of 40 is an excellent number to work with. We have limited funds in the Province of Nova Scotia for this cost-sharing agreement, and I believe 12 out of 40 is good. Also I would just like to mention that in some areas they went back on them and asked the residents on these roads to pay their share, and I don't agree with that.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - SECONDARY RDS.:

TENDERS - CONSTITUENCIES (PC)

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, through you I would like to ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works a question. We had pointed out earlier on in Question Period that no highway projects on secondary roads have been called in Tory ridings since that minister started representing Transportation and Public Works. I would like to ask the minister to explain to the Tory caucus why?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, there have been over 19 paving projects that have been called around the province. There are several areas, there is a Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley one that has been called, a Digby-Annapolis one has been called, Kings North, Kings West.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, with all respect, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works seems to be a little hard of hearing. My question was, why haven't any repaving projects been called since he became the Minister of Transportation and Public Works on rural secondary roads? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 6995]

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, he is being a wascally wabbit today. (Laughter)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, we could have perhaps called the former Premier of the province, but we left that to somebody else. My question again to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is this, why hasn't he called a single tender on a secondary road in a Tory riding since he became minister?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, that statement is not correct. There have been tenders called on secondary roads in the Province of Nova Scotia. It doesn't matter what the politics are, it is the condition of the roads, I want to make that very clear. That is how they come on a priority list.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

NAT. RES. - CLAM HBR. (CROWN LAND):

GOLF COURSE - NEGOTIATIONS

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. May 30th's edition of The Sunday Daily News ran a story about a Massachusetts developer, James DePaolo and his plans to build a resort retirement community at Clam Harbour on 566 hectares. My question to the minister is, why is the province currently negotiating with this developer for an additional 100 hectares of Crown land for a private golf course?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, if we are negotiating with a developer for golf course, I would assume that it is a good deal for the province and it is a good deal for the developer.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West, your first supplementary; make it short.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Natural Resources is presently involved in an integrated resource management planning process to determine the future use and status of Crown lands in this province. Mr. Minister, why is your department looking at determining the future use of a piece of Crown land before their own process is complete?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I can inform the honourable member that if the integrated resource management team takes recommendations to the minister, we will look at these recommendations very carefully. I would be very surprised if we would overrule their recommendations.

MR. SPEAKER: You have 13, 12, 11, 10 seconds.

[Page 6996]

MR. PARKER: The headline of The Daily News says, Selling the seashore. Why are you selling Nova Scotia's coastal resource areas?

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

Before we go to Opposition Members' Business I would call upon the member for Argyle on an introduction.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the members of the House someone in the Speaker's Gallery, Désiré Boudreau, who resides in my Village of Wedgeport, a long-time former civil servant of the province with the Department of Education. He served in the community at many different functions. I would ask him to rise and receive the approbation of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston on an introduction.

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, also seated in your gallery is a constituent and a family member, Mr. Ainslie Crawley, who is visiting the House this afternoon. I would like the House to welcome him. Will you please stand? (Applause)

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 114.

Bill No. 114 - Provincial Finance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. Bill No. 114 is a piece of legislation that I introduced and I would like to make some remarks as we deal with second reading of the bill. Members of the House will note that the purpose of this bill is to add an amendment to the Provincial Finance Act that deals quite specifically with a topic that has been of great concern to members of our Party.

[Page 6997]

I would like to read into the record, if I may, the Explanatory Note since it quite succinctly points out what it is that this bill is designed to do. The note reads as follows, "This Bill prohibits the forgiving of a debt due to the Province in the form of a loan without the approval of the House of Assembly.". There already are sections in the Provincial Finance Act that deal with circumstances in which the government has power quite independently of this new proposed provision, to deal with forgiveness of certain kinds of debts due to the province. Those kinds of debts that are already addressed in the legislation have to do with circumstances that might arise when the province is sued, or in the case of some taxes owing, or in the cases of fines. Those are quite distinct from what it is that this bill proposes to deal with.

The existing sections of the Provincial Finance Act that allow for forgiveness of debts due to the province, do not extend to the circumstances in which those debts arise through the granting of a loan by the province. I want to emphasize again that the existing circumstances provided for in the legislation are quite separate, quite usual and they are the kinds of provisions with which we have no quarrel.

It is obviously efficient in the management of the government that when, on occasion, it becomes apparent to the financial administrators that it is going to be too expensive to recover a certain amount of money owed to the government as a debt, it might make sense to write it off; indeed, from time to time we are presented with lists of debts owing to the province that have been written off. What this amendment is designed to do is to make sure that in no circumstances in which a debt is due to the province as a result of a loan will that debt be written off without the government first seeking the consent, the approval of the House of Assembly.

This bill is designed to deal with two very fundamentally important aspects of government administration here. On the one hand, it deals with the principle of accountability; on the other hand, it also deals with the whole problem of economic development in this province. Any bill has a context and that is the context of public accountability and the context of how it is that economic development takes place in this province in which this bill arises.

I want to place this bill first within the context of the problem of economic development. Although the bill quite clearly amends a piece of financial legislation, and therefore relates to the Department of Finance, it is equally aimed at problems that we have seen in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism. I have to say that the problems have not just been confined to the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, they are the problems that we see day in, day out, that we have seen year in, and year out with respect to how economic development is, unfortunately, not well addressed in this province.

[Page 6998]

There are many things that we have tried to come to grips with - either through the mechanism of questions in the House, or proposing other kinds of amendments, or calling the government to account - that have focused on economic development. This picks up on one important aspect, the aspect of debt forgiveness. Economic development is quite clearly a broader theme than just the problem of debt forgiveness.

When we look back at six years of what it is that this government has attempted to do in terms of economic development, we find that the record has not been good. To the extent that there has been any claim made by this government with respect to the managing of the finances of the province or with respect to economic development, they have tried to claim that they have balanced the budgets and they have tried to focus on the Sable development. I think we all now see that neither of these claims is really convincing. Nova Scotians do not find these claims credible.

We have seen the problem with respect to balanced budgets. We have seen the weakness in what it is that is being proposed with respect to Sable and, indeed, in the latest budget we see where even the royalties that may come from Sable are now going to be committed for the first half of their life. There are other aspects of economic development that have not been well handled. There is the problem of regional inequalities. We know that particularly in Cape Breton, but also in other parts of the province, there are areas that have not had the benefit of economic development that has tended to characterize the immediate close metro area, and that has been a problem that this government has fundamentally failed to deal with.

What we have seen them do is rely on casinos and the wish that Nova Scotians will gamble more. That does not seem to me to be a strong element of economic development. This government has failed to promote community economic development, has failed to promote co-ops, has failed to promote credit unions. There is a long list of things that this government has failed to do in economic development. Our natural resources have not been protected in forestry, and our natural resources have not been protected in the fishery. Wherever you look there has been failure in the economic development plan of this government.

[4:30 p.m.]

One of the worst failures, however, has been the tendency of this government to forgive loans that they do not have to forgive, and that has been scandalous. That has been worse than an omission; that has been scandalous. We have seen a number of instances of that, and that is the context within which this legislation comes forward.

There is only so much we can do about Sable. There is only so much we can do about trying to say to the Minister of Economic Development and his colleagues, for heaven's sake, do something about community economic development; for heaven's sake pay attention to

[Page 6999]

the regions that need economic development. There are all of those problems that we have tried to deal with, but what we are focusing on here is one of the most scandalous aspects of what this government has done. It has forgiven debts due to the province by way of loans when it ought not to have done that.

What we are calling for here is accountability, and we are calling for that accountability in the context of other pieces of legislation that we have put forward in front of the House. A series of pieces of legislation. For example: a moratorium on grants and loans to large corporations; various amendments to the Provincial Finance Act that have dealt with other problems; an amendment that would require that the Department of Economic Development actually produce its annual report. We have produced the Lobbyists' Registration Act, a Whistleblowers Act. This piece of legislation, Bill No. 114 that we are speaking to now, is in the context of that series of bills which incrementally sets out the framework for our approach that we believe is a solid, a responsible, a transparent, an accountable approach to the finances of this government, and it is the kind of agenda we would follow if we had the opportunity to form a government.

It is, unfortunately, exactly the kind of agenda that this government has not followed. I am sorry to say that along with their fundamental failures in coming to grips with the needs for economic development, they have failed to be forthright with the people of Nova Scotia. In my opinion, it is essential that when the government thinks it is appropriate that it should forgive a loan to a corporation, that it should come first to this Legislature and justify their case.

Clearly there is a financial impact on the province if they forgive what was otherwise a regular business loan contemplated to be repayable and they translate that into a debt forgiven; that impacts the bottom line of the province. It is not acceptable to do that, which is essentially a budget measure, simply through the ipse dixit, the fiat of the Minister of Economic Development. In my opinion, it is absolutely necessary that that kind of measure comes to the floor of this House, hence Bill No. 114. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about Bill No. 114, amendments to the Financial Measures Act, with regard to the amendments being proposed to this House today. The member talked very well about the issue of accountability in economic development. Well, I can say that in regard to economic development, if this particular measure were to go through, it would actually stymie economic opportunity and development in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is good for the business community of this province to understand what the socialist point of view is of economic opportunity, developing and growing the economy.

[Page 7000]

I remember back, in fact, Mr. Speaker, in 1993, when there was less than 1 per cent GDP in the Province of Nova Scotia, the lowest growth we have seen in a long time. We have just come off a 3 per cent GDP in the Province of Nova Scotia, again this year 2.9 per cent, leading the nation above the national average. This province has never seen economic opportunities as they have today, part and parcel because of the strong entrepreneurial attitude of Nova Scotians, part and parcel because of the economic opportunities that exist in the Province of Nova Scotia, and part and parcel because of the hard work of the economic development initiatives in creating a better environment for growth.

Mr. Speaker, forgiveness of the loans are not one that anyone takes lightly. One has to be very careful and prudent about the situation and they come in two forms. The first one is in regard to sometimes loan forgiveness actually secure new investment. They actually secure economic opportunity. They actually secure and enhance the possibilities of jobs and economic stability for companies. One would think of a company like Stora, or one thinks of a company like Michelin, as an example of bedrock industries in the Province of Nova Scotia that are rural, and create tens of thousands - in fact, Michelin itself, and I know that my colleagues in the New Democratic Party don't agree with Michelin being in the Province of Nova Scotia, or supporting Michelin in the way that we do. I, as a member of this government, am very proud of the efforts that we have made in working with Michelin because I, as a member, am very proud of the track record that Michelin provides.

There are 3,500 people working and over $40 million a year provided in tax revenues to the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, with the renovations and upgrading that they have created, hundreds of new jobs have been created. In fact, in the Province of Nova Scotia, whether it is in Trenton or whether it is in Bridgewater or whether it is in Waterville, we have seen the economic effects of those Michelin plants across the board. In fact, Michelin, since they have been here, have invested about $2 billion in capital. That is $2 billion in capital. That means that plumbers, electricians, carpenters, contractors all get an economic benefit out of those particular investments. They have put in, in wages alone, to the Province of Nova Scotia, $2.5 billion in salaries. Mr. Speaker, those are salaries in rural Nova Scotia. Those are salaries that men and women are able to bring home and feed their families and it is because of a company like Michelin. So we are very proud when we do make a decision on a company like Michelin or Stora or those things. They do create further economic opportunity.

One has to realize that there is other circumstances with regard to the whole issue of forgiveness of loans. One would be when companies are in financial trouble. I want to say that you cannot always help all companies. We realize that and that is not our job. But, sometimes, the government has to stop and take a look and realize that, maybe, postponing or forgiving some portion of their loan actually enables a company to get their feet underneath them.

[Page 7001]

I will give you an example, Mr. Speaker. I think of companies that are in agriculture, either processing or agriculture production. There are times that situations have occurred that government has reached out to try to help those cooperatives or those industries by providing benefits - not only by our administration, but previous administration - to help. Those are the kind of rural cooperative companies that have actually created opportunity for this province and created economic growth. So we do take that particular initiative very seriously, but they also have to take into account maintaining jobs and long-term stability.

Now, one has to ask the question and assume by the issue by the member opposite who has said that there is no accountability to the process. Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe there is a lot of accountability and any member of this House, especially now, realizes, that through Public Accounts, we are part and parcel of the issue of when we do write-off a loan or forgive a loan, that we are accountable to the taxpayers of this province. We are accountable, through this process and through our legislative process, to explain exactly what is going on, to give the information to the House. So we are open about that process and we are not ashamed of that. It is part of the democratic process.

The other issue that crosses my mind when I read this amendment that the member opposite is proposing to bring forward, and that is the issue of timing and doing business in Nova Scotia. Can you imagine a company wanting to come here, or a company that is here, that is in a situation where they are looking at expansion, jobs, economic development, growth, taxation revenue to the Province of Nova Scotia, only to be held up to the Legislature by the Legislature. What happens if the House gets over next week or the week after and we don't go back in for another two or three months, whatever that time-frame, we are going to stop economic growth in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is the NDP way. We will stop economic opportunity in the Province of Nova Scotia. We will only do it maybe once or twice a year.

So if you are a company in rural Nova Scotia that is going through some troubled times, or a company that wants to expand, or a company that wants to come to town, we will have to say, listen, Nova Scotia under our regime is open for business in this country. We are creating economic growth, but by the way, under the New Democratic Party it is not business that we are saying we are open for business. We are saying, well, we will have to schedule and see whether or not the Legislature can sit, to see whether or not we want to disclose everything about your company, to see whether or not we want to go forward with this particular initiative.

I want to say to all the companies in Canada and all the companies in Nova Scotia that we, as a Liberal Government, and our predecessors have said, we want an open process to allow economic growth in this province, but under a New Democratic process the doors will shut in the Province of Nova Scotia for economic growth in this province. (Interruptions) I remember debates in this House and I thought I heard from the Official Opposition, the New Democratic Party of this province, that we need to find ways to streamline businesses so that

[Page 7002]

government is less intrusive in their operations, that we need to open it up. Obviously, I was wrong.

One of the things that we have tried to do, Mr. Speaker, is to get rid of the red tape of doing business in the Province of Nova Scotia, notwithstanding our fiduciary responsibility absolutely, but what we are trying to do is create a better environment for growth in this province. What we have tried to do is to continue to build on that particular success.

Another component I think should be brought into discussion with regard to the member opposite is the issue of accountability and economic opportunity. He threw that in as a sidebar, you know, thinking that maybe people will think what he is doing here is creating economic growth. Can you imagine how many companies, and there are very few people in this room that have their own business, but some of us have our own business. If we want to go to deal with the government, we want to come in here and disclose all our financial wares, not only to the bankers and to the people we have to deal with in the lending institutions, but now to every person in the House and to every person that watches the Legislature on TV and there are companies that, quite frankly, because of their structure are not willing to disclose certain financial information for their competitors to realize their situation but, in fact, that is what we would be doing.

We would be asking businesses to disclose their finances so that their competitors would know exactly the position they are in. So what we are doing now is saying to some small cooperative, some small rural businesses that we have, our resource industries, economic development in those areas, that, in fact, what we want to do to you, we want to handcuff you so that you cannot compete or that your competitors will now know exactly what you are so that they can take advantage of the situation.

Where companies are struggling, we do make an effort, Mr. Speaker, to try to secure companies where we can. We cannot do all for all. We are not all things to all people. We realize that is not our job, but clearly we do have a responsibility, where there are opportunities, to help companies. As Minister of Finance, I can tell you none of us take the issue of forgiveness lightly, not for a second, but what we do is weigh off the economic benefit, weigh off the reality of whether or not that company will survive, and whether or not that company is prepared to make hundreds of millions of dollars of economic investment in this province, securing economic opportunity, securing jobs, securing tax revenue, and securing stability of the economy of Nova Scotia. As for the member opposite, he is saying what we need to continue to do.

We are accountable through the Public Accounts. We are accountable to the people of Nova Scotia and we are not ashamed of that. That is exactly the responsibility we have. I question the logic from a business point of view and from a government point of view that we would now start bringing in businesses and let the world know, any business that wants

[Page 7003]

to come to town, that we are going to disclose to their world competitors, their national competitors and their provincial competitors exactly what their situation is.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that would shut down economic opportunity. That would freeze off economic opportunity and that would say to the business community, under a New Democratic Government, this province is not a province that is open for economic growth, development and prosperity.

In concluding, I want to say that the Department of Economic Development and Tourism has a real touch on what is happening in the Province of Nova Scotia. They counsel and work with some 900 businesses in this province, from small to large, from rural to urban, from high-tech to resource, whatever sector they are involved in, they work closely with them to try to help nurture our businesses.

Eighty per cent of these 900 companies, Mr. Speaker, are in rural Nova Scotia, something that the NDP will not support, something that the NDP do not want to have happen in the Province of Nova Scotia, I am sure, by the way they are approaching it.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the Economic Development and Tourism Department has a track record of helping companies that have now created something like $2.5 billion of sales not only domestically, not only across this country, but clearly around the world; creating new wealth around the world, creating jobs and economic opportunity around the world and, yes, taxation revenue to the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, their record is showing that over $110 million of tax revenue comes in directly through some of the efforts that they have made to help some of the small companies in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The economy is important to this province. The economy is showing a great deal of strength and part of it is our attitude toward growing the economy and our attitude toward building an economic self-reliance in Nova Scotia, not a matter of turning around and saying goodbye to business. Thank you.

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

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to rise today and say a few words regarding Bill No. 114, an Act to Restrict the Forgiveness of Debts Due to the Province of Nova Scotia. I would also like to thank the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto for bringing this issue to the floor of the Legislature so it could be debated.

This bill provides the opportunity for all three Parties to express their views on how the monies should be allocated. The bill provides the opportunity for them to express their views on how the elected representatives of this province spend taxpayers' dollars, particularly as

[Page 7004]

those expenditures relate to job creation and economic development, one of the most serious issues in this province.

Taxpayers in the province and across this country are fed up with the way governments treat their tax dollars, the way in which tax dollars are expended on their behalf. They are cynical about governments' intentions and abilities when it comes to money. They don't believe that government can follow through. At a time when this province is prepared to return to deficit budget financing as a way of providing services, their cynicism may be well founded. Certainly there is merit in having a public debate on how that money should be expended, particularly, as I said earlier, when that money is targeted to a particular business or a particular sector of the economy.

Whenever a company is able to access government funding, the public is always left to question and question they do. They question, why now? How much is it going to cost? What will the province gain? What does it mean to me as a taxpayer? Will the jobs that are created last? Is it in fact necessary at this point in time? Will it help regional economic disparity?

All too often the answer to these questions is lost in that fuzzy world of job creation and regional disparity and economic development, and most importantly, in politics. This is particularly true when the financial support comes in the form of forgiven loans. Nothing draws media attention or public ire any more quickly than the announcement that a loan has been forgiven, particularly when that loan is forgiven to a large corporation. We don't need to look too far back in the past to hear the public outcry and the debate that raged about whether or not particularly large corporations in this province should have had loans forgiven. Those corporations too, I might add, have a long history of being responsible corporate citizens, but nonetheless the debate raged.

These situations always polarize public and political opinion. As soon as the announcement is made, the government is forced to defend the position they have taken. The Opposition politicians attack the decision, the public grumbles and wonders if once more their money will be lost or ill spent, and the business community is left to wonder if it is all worth it. Is it worth it to try and generate employment, to work to be good corporate citizens? There is a perception that whenever a company is able to access government funds, it has been done so because they have been able to take advantage of political connections, that the government of the day reaches out to reward supporters by opening up the public coffers for a corporate feeding frenzy. But you know, there is not always truth in perception.

This bill would lead you to assume the worst of every business, that every business has the opportunity to have a loan forgiven is taking advantage of the taxpayers of this province. That is not true. Many reputable firms do fulfil every obligation and term of their agreement. They do, in fact, hit and maintain various targets that are established in the lending agreement. They are responsible, they are effective and; not only are they creating employment, they are

[Page 7005]

also being responsible corporate citizens. Sometimes you are left to wonder why they continue to do that, in the face of a difficult climate.

In the highly competitive business world, do they really deserve to have their dealings politicized on the floor of the House of Assembly? Politicized they would be, there is no question about it. If these issues came to the floor of the House, they would debate it. The debate on the merits of a particular loan or agreement would, no doubt, eventually digress to the level where you are dissecting political affiliations, political associations, the history of the corporate principles, whether or not they have ties with the government, whether or not they have had access to loans before. Why is it necessary to reduce business proposals and the debate around them to whether or not they are the result of politics? No company should have to undergo that.

What should be the focus of a discussion about whether or not a company has a loan forgiven is whether or not they have been able to reach targets. Are their problems tied to loans that are pegged to job creation targets or plant locations, things like that? Are there problems with that? Yes, there can be. Are there always? Not necessarily. Should every company that tries to access loan arrangements through the Department of Economic Development be treated with suspicion? Not necessarily. There are instances where wrong decisions are made and that is unfortunate, but business involves risk to be taken. Sometimes you lose but most of the time you win. When good corporate citizens attempt to expand their business with the help of government, that should not necessarily be treated with suspicion.

We are always pretty quick to point out failures. I noticed today in the papers there was a comment that $50 million in loans had been written off since 1997. That is a great deal of money, no one would argue that it is not. I guess when you look at the economy of Nova Scotia, which has a Gross Domestic Product of almost $20 billion, is $50 million excessive?

Now when you think about what it means to certain areas of the province when a business moves in. I look to my area, the fact that Shaw Wood has located in the Cornwallis Park. I can tell you that the location of that plant in the Cornwallis Park has been a godsend to my local economy, there is no question. I hope they see fit to expand and increase their workforce by 400. If, in fact, it is done through a loan guarantee and they meet the targets and they meet their commitments, that, to me, is a good investment in Nova Scotia.

Job creation and economic stimulation is really one of the biggest dilemmas that faces any government. Regional unemployment is a problem. Weak economies are a problem. The fact that not too long ago in the Budget Address, the Minister of Finance talked about a vibrant metro economy and the fact that there are two economies in Nova Scotia, that rural Nova Scotia has a weak economy that needs some help, so that does create problems.

[Page 7006]

What has to happen and what has to be taken into consideration is that governments, regardless of their political stripe, are often forced to use economic development strategies as social programs. There is no other way to describe it. There have been decisions taken to locate plants in areas of regional economic disparity because of what that might do to the local economy. Herein lies the real problem because companies know this. Companies can use this to bargain for attractive incentives, and they do because they are business people. They want to get the best deal.

Public debate, in this instance, if it were to happen on the floor of the Legislature, would hopefully expose the true natures of the plans, the merits of the plans, whether or not the targets are realistic, whether or not they can be met.

On the other hand, though, the very fact that their proposals might be debated on the floor of the Legislature might cause legitimate businesses to withdraw from an area simply because they do not wish to have their financial dealings exposed to public scrutiny, not because what they are intending to do is underhanded or dishonest, simply because they, as the principals of a company, may not wish to have their own personal finances open to public scrutiny any more than anyone in this Legislature would open up their bank book and bank accounts for public scrutiny.

The heart of this issue is whether or not the government can be trusted to handle taxpayers' money. The quick and cynical answer is, no. We have heard that said. All you need to do is look at public opinion polls, another 40 per cent of the people don't vote. That means they don't really have a whole lot of regard for politicians and government to do right by them. But, really, that answer is far too simplistic. What is needed, obviously, are clear guidelines for any loan programs that the government decides to implement. Loans that are made should have clearly defined requirements about what the parameters of loan forgiveness will be: they should be tied to clear targets; everyone involved should know what is expected; the businesses involved should know what they are required to do; government should have a reasonable expectation that the targets will be met.

At the core of this debate is the need for us to take a close look at the government's economic development policies on a much broader scale. The bill is well intended. It does bring to the floor a very serious issue that needs to be discussed. But one of the things that businesses are saying is that in a difficult economy, they need stability. They need to be sure that policies that are implemented today will be there two and three and five years from now, because many of the companies located in this province have a long history and they intend to have an even longer history. If you look at Michelin, if you look at Stora, if you look at, as I said earlier, Shaw Wood, their intention is to be here for the long haul. They don't want to deal with the instability of changing governments.

[Page 7007]

Another question is, should the government be involved as a bank? I see that the Speaker has said that I have one minute left. I think what needs to happen here is if this bill were to proceed to the Law Amendments Committee, I think it would be a good thing. Because, at that point in time, the various people who have a true opinion and an understanding of the issue would have the opportunity to bring forth their concerns. Business people who want to access loan guarantees would have the opportunity to discuss them in the Law Amendments Committee, so that the bill might, in fact, come back for third reading improved and would then be a bill that could be accepted by all three Parties, because it would improve the economic policies for this government and for future governments. On that note, Mr. Speaker, I thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak this evening to Bill No. 114, a bill introduced by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. I listened intently as the Minister of Finance and as my colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis, spoke on this bill. I must say, I think it would have been beneficial to them to read the actual bill before they decided to make their comments. Because I think nothing could be more clear than their obvious misunderstanding, both of the intent and of the letter of this piece of legislation, than the utterances that were put forth by both those members in the last 20 minutes.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely astounded. I am flabbergasted. I am absolutely floored that a minister of this government could stand up and give that kind of a weak and stale justification for the continued activities of this government, because that is exactly what it is - weak and stale, a remnant of by-gone years. I say this is a rare glimpse into the operation of the 18th Century mines, because all this legislation does, in a very simple way, is to try to provide for accountability and transparency in the finances of this province. What it does is it forces the government, when they decide that they are going to go out and tell the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that they are loaning money to a company and when they decide to convert that into a grant, when they decide to make it a giveaway, that what they have to do is bring it back to this Legislature and justify it. That is all they have to do. It is not like there is some huge process that they have to undergo that, as was said by the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, that somehow the finances of the company are going to be opened up to the world. That is false and a complete misrepresentation of the intention of this bill.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you what would be very useful. We would not have had to bring forward a bill like this and we would not have had to bring forward a bill like the one that was required to ensure the annual report from the Department of Economic Development and Tourism was actually brought forward, if the government acting in good faith and obeying

[Page 7008]

its own legislation would simply do what it was supposed to do, which was to bring forward an annual report.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that they did here in the past number of years is to write off a huge amount of money to a company by the name of Michelin. Much has been made about this. The members opposite, and for that matter the members of the Third Party, like to portray us as somehow, you know, enemies of Michelin. That simply is not the case.

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Speaker, will the member entertain a question?

MR. DEXTER: No, I will not. I am going to use my time to expose this.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite will not entertain a question, but the question that would have been posed had he entertained it, is how can he justify the Leader of his Party calling the company? He is now defending blackmailers and saying he is supporting Michelin in this province and the jobs that come with Michelin.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, what the honourable member does not know is (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: . . . who work at Michelin and they earn their incomes from, and I well know how that corporation operates and I well know what kind of an impact they have had on that area of the province. So do not tell me, or try to tell me, what the impact of a corporation like that is on that part of the province because I do know.

Mr. Speaker, all we wanted to do with this legislation is to provide a mechanism for that government to honestly and truthfully come forward with its reasons for giving huge loan write-offs to multi-billion dollar corporations who routinely take the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to the cleaners. That is all we are asking for.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.

MR. DEXTER: They are using up my time, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice on a point of order.

[Page 7009]

MR. HARRISON: . . . generates about $2 billion in salaries over the last 10 years is accused of taking the Nova Scotia taxpayer to the cleaner, Mr. Speaker. That justifies a point of order and I would ask that member to apologize to Michelin and to its employees.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the member knows he is trespassing on my time in this. The reality is they write off this huge loan to Michelin and what does it get in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism Annual Report, one line on a sidebar of the report. They do not even have the spine to put anything in their annual report about what it is that they do and they wonder why it is that we are cynical about it. They wonder why it is that the people of Nova Scotia do not understand how they can give huge grants to multinational corporations and yet deny the help that is needed in health, or education, or housing, and in all the other services that are provided to people. That is why we bring forward pieces of legislation like this. That is why we are required to do it.

Mr. Speaker, in the United States there was a famous case that came forward called Ford vs. the Ford Motor Car Company. In that case Henry Ford wanted to reduce the price of his cars and he wanted to provide certain benefits to his workers. The Supreme Court would not allow him to do that and he called him a menace to the shareholders because the major objective of the corporation was to make profits and not to look after either its workers or to look after its community.

Well, I want to tell you something, Mr. Speaker, in this case the shareholders of Nova Scotia are the voters. They are the voters and when the government takes it upon itself to write off its money, then they are menaces to the shareholders of this province. They are menaces to the voters of this province. The analogy works completely. This is part of the problem with this government.

I want to take a look at the question of the Public Accounts Committee and whether or not that is a reasonable vehicle for providing a check on these kinds of loan write-offs. The reality is that in a usual House, with a majority government, the agenda of the Public Accounts Committee is controlled by the government. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: And what they do is they refuse to call forward these kinds of examinations. It is only by virtue of the make-up of this House that we have been able to make the Public Accounts Committee work in the way that it ought to work, Mr. Speaker. We have provided the . . .

[Page 7010]

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, on another point of order. He calls me someone who is trespassing on his time. Let me suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the honourable member on behalf of his caucus apologize to the private sector in this province for the fact that his comments have just, in a sense, stereotyped every private sector industry in this province as being somehow anti-Nova Scotian quality of life. I can assure that member that the only anti-Nova Scotian quality of life are the remarks from that member in the last few minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is hard to believe that the members opposite would behave in this way to try to demean and diminish the really good work that has gone into this piece of legislation. The reality is . . .

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order (Interruption) said the only thing I care about is the bottom line. I care about my employees, that is right. That member has stood up here today and said that all I care about is the bottom line. I have been affronted and I want that member to apologize to the many companies in this province that care about their employees and just don't care about the bottom line (Interruptions) to apologize.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) We have had members rise on four points of order. Differences of opinion between members are not points of order.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the reality of this piece of legislation is that it doesn't even refer to companies which get loans that are tied to performance targets, it doesn't even allude to them, the legislation doesn't apply. It only applies when the government decides to take a loan and transfer it from a loan write-off, into a grant, that is the only time it applies. All of this window dressing, all of this superfluous commentary around this bill is just nonsense. I have confidence in the good sense of Nova Scotians that they won't allow themselves to be hoodwinked into believing falsities about this kind of a piece of legislation.

This is good legislation, it deserves to be passed and it deserves to have the full attention of the members opposite. It is difficult to understand how any government can disagree with the basic tenets of accountability and transparency.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It is not the bill with which we are disagreeing today, it is the classic remarks of the NDP that are anti-business, anti-business owners and anti-Michelin, that is what we are complaining about.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what it is or how many times we have to say that we have no problem, we have not undertaken any kind of campaign to demean or diminish any company in this (Interruptions) No, good corporate citizens and I want to raise as an example . . .

[Page 7011]

MR. SPEAKER: Would the minister please take his seat.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to raise as an example that the company of Michelin wrote to this government and what they agreed to do was to take a deferral over 10 years, they didn't even ask to have the money written off. This is why these things don't make any sense. They didn't ask to have the money given to them, far from that, they said, we want to be a good corporate citizen. They said, we want to participate in the life of this community and we are prepared to repay what it is you lent us. What did the government do? They turned around and said no, that is all right, forget about it, it is just the taxpayers' money, don't worry about it. Then the solution or the excuse that was offered on behalf of the government is totally unbelievable. They said, if we deferred it for 10 years it would be the same as if we wrote it off so we might as well write it off.

I think students who have student loans that often extend with interest to relief periods over 10 years, they would wish that the government would apply that logic to them so they didn't come out with a mountainous student debt. It is the contrast and treatment between different but what should be equal people in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Motions Other Than Government Motions.

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 3225.

Res. No. 3225, re Fin. - Debt: Increase Address - Plan Outline - notice given June 4/99 - (Mr. J. Holm)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am the mover of the resolution this afternoon. This is another matter we are bringing before the House that deals with good fiscal management, and talks about plans and budgets and how we are handling the public trust in terms of the monies that this government owes - or the people of the Province of Nova Scotia owe as a result of the dealings of this government - and we saw the kind of reaction that we got in the last bill that was being debated, so it will be interesting to see if we get the same kind of comic response from the government members this time.

[Page 7012]

Mr. Speaker, there is a fundamental question, when is a debt not a debt? Now, to the government, if they say it is not a debt because it doesn't appear in our books, if I am asked to co-sign a loan for somebody and that individual does not pay back the money or does not have the ability to pay back the money they borrowed, the banks come after me because I co-signed it, I am the borrower.

Nova Scotia Resources Limited is a Crown Corporation - and I am not going to go into the whole long history of why it was set up, it had noble purposes: to help develop, of course, the offshore oil and gas industry of Nova Scotia back in 1981 that was established on the basis of debt. It did not have equity, it did not have an infusion of initial capital funds to get it going. It was established and set up on the basis of debt.

Now the government and the Minister of Natural Resources, who is responsible for NSRL, today said that oh yes, an annual report and an audited financial statement will be coming in a few weeks. The Minister of Natural Resources knows that at the rate we are going, the budget for the Province of Nova Scotia will have been voted on by next Friday - a week from this coming Friday - before any time that the minister has agreed to table an audited financial statement and after the minister's estimates will have been debated.

The minister across the floor says you never know. The minister knows, of course, that he is required and that the government is required to table an audited financial report every single year, and the fiscal year for Nova Scotia Resources Limited ends at December 31st. The last report we had was in 1994, five years ago. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources, who is now our Merlin, our Minister of Finance, that minister back in those days said that the debt was so great it made him want to hurl.

In 1994, the last year we had a financial report, the debt was $495 million. It doesn't appear in the Estimates Books that we are debating on the floor of the House; it is not included in that $10 billion debt that we are going to have after the minister's mortgage that he is proposing by creative financing. That doesn't appear in the books in the budget. Then it was $495 million. The annual report five years ago points out that our financial statements reflect the financial mistakes of the past and the failures to deal with these realities. That of course was referring to our friends in the Third Party.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the first full year that the Liberals, the red team, occupied the government benches, they were quite anxious to have an annual report. Why? I might suggest because it gave them an opportunity to criticize the Tories for their mishandling. But you know, since 1994, they haven't been too anxious to come out with one. I suggest the reason is because they would show that this Liberal bunch has taken what the Tories did and raised it.

[Page 7013]

Mr. Speaker, by the end of this fiscal year, that debt of NSRL, which is guaranteed by the Government of Nova Scotia, which means that it is a debt of every Nova Scotian, whether you live in Yarmouth or Sydney or any point in between. That debt is going to be approximately $700 million and growing. That is three times the size of the combined debts of the hospital boards and the regional health boards across this province that so much has been made about in the estimates. Three times.

Mr. Speaker, the government can stand up and say, well we have ways, we are going to be trying to address that from revenues. The report of the Crown Corporations' business plan talks about the fact that we have another $85 million that we have to invest for phase two, to be able to pay for our share of bringing that gas on shore so that we can start to collect from our 8.4 per cent ownership of that natural gas and that is true.

We will be getting some revenues, but the amount of revenues that we are going to be receiving from the sale of that gas, we cannot start to collect that until the entire cost for the Nova Scotia investment on bringing that gas on shore - that $85 million, in fact the whole $170 million to bring it on shore - has been paid for. In the meantime, at the rate of just a modest 6 per cent, you take $700 million and you multiply that by 6 per cent, you add it on, that is another $42 million in debt. You then take your $742 million and multiply that by 6 per cent again and you have gone up now to $786 million. Multiply that by 6 per cent and all of a sudden you are up to $833 million and climbing.

We will not be starting to receive real profits from the sale of that gas until approximately the year 2008. I know that the past President of Nova Scotia Resources Limited, in conversations with me, predicted that by the year 2008, that debt will have reached $1.4 billion, and where is the plan? Where is the discussion about that? How is Nova Scotia going to pay for it? That is a mortgage.

We are hearing an awful lot about health care and we know that the Sable royalties - the puny amounts that we are going to get of 1 per cent, even Alberta gets a royalty rate on average of 24 per cent. It is a different situation, of course, Newfoundland gets 5 per cent, we get 1 per cent. That royalty money, of course, is going to go to pay for this health care mortgage or at least half of it, if all the stars line up as the government hopes. We will get half of it.

But the debt of NSRL is continuing to grow. We don't have the royalties. The minister gave away, gave up the opportunity to sell the tax credits that we have, and the Minister of Finance cancelled the federal government plan. Now the federal government changed the Income Tax Act so we can't even sell those tax credits any more. We can't use them, because we haven't got any profits. And add to that that they didn't even get a nickel when they gave up the right to own 50 per cent of the onshore pipes that would have been a guaranteed money maker because it is regulated and the profits are guaranteed.

[Page 7014]

So we got zero with that. Cohasset/Panuke has pretty well reached the end of its life in terms of the production and there certainly have been no announcements made, and I would love the minister to stand up and say a huge new field has been found and many hundreds of millions of dollars are going to start to pour into the coffers, but no such announcements have been made. So the revenue stream there has dropped and, in fact, this year, when you look at the budget, if you can call it that, under the Crown Corporation business plans, it shows, under the budget line, that the net loss this year, that includes your operating and financial ones, is $67 million.

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about huge dollars here. The Liberals were very critical of the Tories over NSRL and how they handled it. Five years, not so much as a report. What are you trying to hide? Why don't you bring it forward? Why don't you lay it on the table? Why aren't you making that part of the Budget Debate? Nova Scotians have a right to know the accumulated debt that you have run this province into. We are going to be paying it back. Our children are going to be paying it back and a credit card doesn't cut it. We have to have your plan. How are you going to be addressing the $700 million debt that is skyrocketing and putting a millstone around the neck of our province and of our children. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, a couple of things, after listening to the honourable member, two things I can remind you. I won't be as noisy, but I will be a little closer to reality. I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to speak on our participation and ownership of this province's booming oil and gas industry. As Nova Scotians, we should all be proud that after years of waiting and speculation, we are finally in the midst of the biggest and most exciting project ever undertaken in our history.

Mr. Speaker, I am referring, of course, to the $3 billion Sable Offshore Energy Project. This long-awaited project is on time. It is on budget. Gas will start flowing in November, just six short months from now. Already, hundreds and hundreds of Nova Scotians are employed in the various construction phases of this major development. As a Nova Scotian, I am pleased that through the provincial Crown Agency, Nova Scotia Resources Limited, the people of the province have a stake in this exciting venture. That is something that both Parties opposite have called for and they have called for it consistently, that Nova Scotians should have a stake in development of this resource. We have that stake, that investment in the future, and it is going to be a bright future through Nova Scotia Resources Limited.

Mr. Speaker, here are a few facts that I would like to run through this afternoon, with respect to this project. Fact number one, Nova Scotia is the owner of the Sable gas project. Nova Scotians can be proud of this fact. Nova Scotians own 8.4 per cent of everything that comes through that pipeline and this is a very valuable commodity. Secondly, we own Sable Gas because of Nova Scotia Resources Limited. Without NSRL we would not be participating in this project. Without NSRL we would not have access to the same level of

[Page 7015]

benefits and involvement. In addition to providing a means to service NSRL's debt without reaching into taxpayers' pockets, the province, through NSRL, has a seat at the oil and gas table.

Third, Mr. Speaker, the Sable project is a solid investment. It means good jobs for thousands of Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other. This includes the construction of a gas plant at Goldboro, Guysborough County, a fractionation plant at Port Hawkesbury and a pipe coating facility at Sheet Harbour. It includes fabrication and assembly activities in Halifax, Amherst and other communities across our province.

Mr. Speaker, Sable means great opportunities for local companies. It is a $3 billion boost to our economy. This year has seen significant investment in the Sable project. Even though we share 8 per cent of the cost, we also share 8 per cent of the return, and a sizeable return at that.

This leads me to my fourth point. Sable will result in a positive cash flow for NSRL. This is good news for the NSRL debt. Sable revenues will make significant contribution towards debt reduction. At its peak Sable will mean approximately $40 million to $50 million in revenue for NSRL each year. 1999 marks year number one for gas to start flowing through the pipeline and the project is estimated to last for 20 years. That is getting close to $1 billion and that is good news for our debt situation.

Outside of gas revenue NSRL owns a valuable commodity, 8.4 per cent of the SOEP facilities, including the sub-sea pipeline. These assets can be sold or leased out to companies that will pay a fee to process or move gas through those facilities. Overall the return on investment from Sable is positive news for our province. One of the reasons Sable is where it is today, Mr. Speaker, is due to NSRL and the Cohasset/Panuke project.

My fifth point is this, NSRL has contributed to the success of Sable through its investment and involvement in this project. Cohasset/Panuke was Canada's first offshore oil development. It has surpassed everyone's expectation, producing 42 million barrels of oil rather than the expected 35 million. (Interruptions) I love the coaching, Mr. Speaker. This is a project we have learned from. It has helped pave the way for Sable and the thousands of jobs and economic opportunities that come with it. Without NSRL and Cohasset/Panuke we might not be where we are today with Sable and all its benefits.

Fact six, Mr. Speaker, keeping NSRL was the right decision for Nova Scotia. We inherited NSRL and its large debt from another government in 1993. We have made a concerted effort to relieve taxpayers of this burden. We tried to sell the agency but it was virtually impossible to find a buyer for a company with a $500 million debt and, at the time, precious few assets.

[Page 7016]

There was an offer to buy the company but the buyer was not willing to assume the $500 million debt. Government could have accepted the offer and been done with NSRL but the province, the taxpayers, would have been left with the debt. As the start of the Sable gas project drew near, the government had to decide whether NSRL would be a partner in the biggest undertaking that Nova Scotia has ever experienced, development of the first Sable gas fields. We decided that the province should be a partner and have a stake in this project.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this was the right decision at the right time. Now we are a partner and owner of this exciting and valuable industry. Fact number seven, future prospects for Nova Scotia offshore gas fields look bright indeed. Natural gas is the energy of choice for the future. The market is big and expanding. Nova Scotia will have a share of that big and expanding market through NSRL. Development of additional gas fields in the Sable area will surely happen.

This year saw a confidence in the oil and gas sector expand beyond the Sable project. In fact, Mr. Speaker, investment in the industry reached historic heights in May with the announcement of the $592 million in petroleum exploration. NSRL is currently participating with its partner, PanCanadian, to evaluate future opportunities. In 1998 it began a program to find more hydro carbons within the Panuke license. They are currently drilling and evaluating an exploratory well under the Panuke oil field. It is at its early stages. We are optimistic.

Mr. Speaker, that is why I say it was a bold decision for our Premier and the Government of Nova Scotia to keep NSRL. As a stakeholder in this gas project, NSRL will have gas revenues to pay its own way out of debt and this is without using taxpayers' money.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I wonder if the minister would entertain a question?

MR. MACASKILL: No.

MR. HOLM: I am wondering if the minister would be prepared to table, today, then, a schedule, not only showing what the debt is, but showing what the repayment schedule is going to be of that debt and that, of course, that would also show when it comes into a positive situation, if he has got all the facts and information?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I will take that question under advisement and probably when we table the financial audited report, we may include that with the audited report. How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker? What time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You have one minute left.

[Page 7017]

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to state very clearly that addressing NSRL's debt is a priority for this government. As a stakeholder in the Sable gas project, NSRL will have gas revenues to pay its own way out of debt. The great value of NSRL is that it gives the province and the taxpayers a stake in gas development today and in the future. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, more importantly, it gives Nova Scotians a seat at the gas-industry table and a voice in future development of Sable's rich and expansive gas fields. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I read this resolution that the NDP, who think they are so smart and they speak, they have got the answer for everything. Were you ever a schoolteacher? I would like you to read some of the whereases in this and tell me if you can make one iota of sense. Let me read this to you and then you tell me what in the name of time it means.

"Whereas revenues from the sale of NSRL's share of natural gas revenues must go to pay for its $85 million outstanding development costs and revenues from Cohasset-Panuke have dried up;".

Mr. Speaker, perhaps some commas in there would have made some sense. Maybe it would have made it read better, but for the Party that thinks they know everything and never make a mistake, I think they could do a heck of a lot better job writing out their resolutions. You were a schoolteacher. You speak to those people that are doing the writing because they do not make any more sense than a chipmunk and the Therefore be it resolved has very little to do with the first whereas.

Mr. Speaker, you know, that happens sometimes when governments are in Opposition. It happens sometimes when political Parties are in Opposition. In 1993 the government changed. The Liberal Party took over and they thought they had the answers to everything. They thought the former government had the answers to nothing. So they looked at NSRL and the minister of the day said it made him feel pretty crummy. So what did they do? They said we are going to fix NSRL, we are going to sell it and, to this day, no man, woman or child outside this government knows how much they paid that company to run around the world and then not sell it.

What was the retainer? Was it as big as Sysco's retainer, $750,000 a month and still clicking? How much did they pay them not to sell the company? Then they turned around and the Nova Scotia Government had a deal that any offshore pipeline coming ashore would be owned 50 per cent by the people of Nova Scotia, so all the revenue from this would be going right to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

[Page 7018]

What happened to the 50 per cent right-of-ownership that Nova Scotia had, that you and I had as private citizens? What happened to that? I will tell you what happened to it. There was a letter with not that much ink on it, written by the minister, and it said we don't want it anymore, you can have it. What is the value of that? How much did the government give away on that 50 per cent buy-back? I bet you don't know. I don't know, but I can tell you 12.5 per cent of the onshore pipeline went for over $200 million, so what did the province give away? Then they said, my soul, that CEO that the Conservatives hired, after they did a cross-Canada search, he's not good, we're going to fire him.

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, they did.

MR. ARCHIBALD: They did, and do you know what happened after that? He sued them. He said, boys, you shouldn't have fired me. I was doing a good job; I had a business plan; this thing is going to be in the black. So what did they do? They fired him and he sued them and he got a lot of money, Mr. Speaker. He got over $0.5 million, plus costs. Two more people they fired at the same time, they got a settlement as well, for wrongful dismissal. What is going on here? It is something, a disease, I guess, that you get if you are an Opposition Party and then you get all the answers. So they fired him and they replaced the general manager of NSRL with people of lesser experience, people who weren't as familiar with the oil industry.

Then there was some property out in western Canada and they hired an appraiser to go out and give them a value. We want to know what that is worth. So they hired a fellow to go out and he came back and told them what it was worth and they said, hmm, how much will you give us for it? He said one-half of what the appraisal is. They said sold. So, after he appraised it, they sold it to him for one-half of what he appraised it for. I asked a question about that and they said, well, it has been pumping now for six months, so it is probably worth one-half. You know, Mr. Speaker, I would like to sell that fellow all sorts of things. So it hasn't been going very well at NSRL.

In spite of any mistakes and any errors and anything that might have been peculiar that happened to NSRL over the last few years, NSRL has been a good thing to have for this province, Mr. Speaker, and I will tell you why. This place, Cohasset-Panuke, wouldn't have happened if the Government of Nova Scotia hadn't been there with NSRL. I really believe that. If Cohasset-Panuke hadn't happened, would Sable be happening today? That is the question. I am not sure that Sable would be happening today if hadn't been for the foresight of a previous government to get involved in the oil industry.

All governments across Canada, Mr. Speaker, that get involved in the oil industry have a bit of a learning curve. Alberta didn't start out as aggressive and as knowledgeable as it is today. The government in Alberta made some investments in the oil industry, and Opposition Parties criticized them and said you shouldn't have done it. You shouldn't do that, it is a

[Page 7019]

waste of money, you are squandering taxpayers' money. But look at the oil industry in Alberta, would you know where Alberta is if it wasn't for the oil industry?

Oil has really made something out of Alberta. It has enabled Alberta to become one of the great provinces in this country and one of the great centres in North America for oil and gas. Much of that was due to the initial involvement of elected MLAs, no different than here. I am sure they made a few peculiar mistakes along the way, but it has been worth it.

If you look at Cohasset/Panuke, the new operator of Cohasset/Panuke after they bought out LASMO is PanCanadian, Canada's largest oil company. Since PanCanadian has taken over the operation, a lot of good things have happened, not just to Cohasset/Panuke but to all of the people involved in the Sable offshore. The general manager recently wrote that when PanCanadian started managing in Nova Scotia, there weren't a lot of suppliers. They had to bring in a lot of goods and services they needed from elsewhere. But as time has gone on, more and more Nova Scotians are getting involved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, where you live you can look out your back window and see some of the effects of the offshore, directly attributed to NSRL. Not the mistakes that the current government made with NSRL, but the NSRL that they inherited from a previous government. In July 1998, Cohasset/Panuke surpassed the 40 million barrel milestone, and that was something to be proud of and to be happy with.

It is an investment that Nova Scotians have made, and it may not have been the smartest investment. But one of the bright things this government did since 1993, they said we are not selling NSRL. After they paid somebody to sell it or not sell it and they sold off a few of the assets, they did decide to keep it and it has been beneficial that they did. It is so beneficial that the partner with NSRL, working the Cohasset/Panuke, is now one of the large bidders to do more offshore exploration. There is almost $600 million worth of exploration going to take place in the next five years in the offshore. One of the large players is the partner of NSRL.

NSRL owns 8 per cent of the Sable offshore project. That is you and me, that is Nova Scotians that are going to be benefiting directly from the development of gas in our offshore. This all wouldn't have happened without NSRL. The work that is happening now with the supply companies, they are threading pipe in Nova Scotia for the offshore. There are supply boat bases, there are service industries, there are fabrication companies. The employment picture looks much better now in this region than it has for several years. That is due to the offshore. PanCanadian itself has over 250 people working under contract. They have 95 full-time people all living and working in Nova Scotia. That is just one oil development. The SOEP is going to get larger.

[Page 7020]

[5:45 p.m.]

As we go on and as we progress, NSRL will be part of future developments in our offshore. It will be part of the development when natural gas comes ashore on Cape Breton Island; when the natural gas goes through industrial Cape Breton; when the chemical industry is established in Nova Scotia. I have a great deal of faith that we are going to see developments that are directly attributed to NSRL and the foresight that a previous government had to establish it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was seriously worried about Nova Scotia Resources Limited before today's debate but let me tell you, now that I have heard the comments, particularly of the Minister of Natural Resources, I am even more profoundly worried than I can describe to you.

I am not normally a person who believes in public prayer but let me tell you that tomorrow morning when the Legislature opens and before the session when the members pray, I hope they pray for the good health of Nova Scotia Resources Limited because let me tell you, we are in big trouble.

I listened to the comments of the minister as carefully as I could. Although he purported to list the points he was making, I think really only three things emerged and none of them seemed to me to be very comforting. The three things that I think we could maybe nail down that he said were, first, that he believes that the future prospects of the offshore look good. Well, that was a general comment and you know even if it is true it doesn't tell us anything about the position of Nova Scotia Resources Limited, because there is only one portion of the offshore that Nova Scotia Resources Limited owns, that is the six SDLs that are now being developed as part of the SOEP project, that is the 8.4 per cent that NSRL owns.

If all kinds of other fields, the Laurentian Basin, or some other offshore project on the Sable fields develop, that has nothing to do with Nova Scotia Resources Limited unless the minister is telling us that Nova Scotia Resources Limited is going to pony up more dollars to buy a portion of some new developments. That would be, I think, unwelcome news. So the minister's first point does not help us.

Second, he informed us that the peak revenues flowing to Nova Scotia Resources Limited would be in the order of $40 million to $50 million a year. Now I have to say that I would really welcome seeing a detailed cash flow projection for Nova Scotia Resources Limited because I do not think that that money can possibly be net to Nova Scotia Resources Limited after paying for its obligations, first for the development of SOEP for which it has a bill of $170 million and second for paying off the costs associated with the full development

[Page 7021]

of the SOEP project, which will be $2.5 billion in which Nova Scotia Resources Limited has to participate.

It seems to me that the picture is that there will not be any cash flow to Nova Scotia Resources Limited until about the year 2008. What we need is a detailed projection of cash flow, not the minister's casual statement that there might be $40 million or $50 million and I noticed he said, at its peak.

The third thing the minister said was that it was a good thing for the province to own a stake in SOEP. Again, that stands to be proven and what will prove it, if it is possible to prove it, will be the cash flow statement. The revenue projections for Nova Scotia Resources Limited, over its 25 year lifespan - that is the 25 year lifespan of the SOEP - have never been presented. But, I assure you, they have been asked for. I asked for them one year ago. I spoke with officials at Nova Scotia Resources Limited. They told me that such projections exist. They told me that 25 year projections for the cash flow to Nova Scotia Resources Limited have been done according to different scenarios that vary with the assumed price of the sale of gas. Terrific, I said. Could we, perhaps, have copies of these 25 year projects? Well, the officials said, they would have to check with their political masters. Twenty-four hours later, we got the call back, sorry you cannot have them. We then put in a request under the Freedom of Information Act to have these projections.

They have still not responded, and that was last August that we put in the request under the Freedom of Information Act. This is not something that is designed to give us very much confidence, because I can tell you what I think are reasonable projections, both for the expenses and the cash flow. Let me tell you that I haven't just done them myself. We have been talking with Jim Livingstone, the former President of Nova Scotia Resources Limited, the fellow who was fired by the Liberals and who they then had to pay $500,000 as a result of a damage claim for the privilege of having mistakenly wrongfully dismissed a competent chief executive officer of NSRL.

What the figures are is that Mr. Livingstone confirms that given the fact that there was at least $500 million of debt that we already knew about last year, and given the fact that we now see, in the Crown Corporation's business plans filed for this year, that they are going to lose another $67 million this year and given that that doesn't include the $170 million that they are going to have to pony up in order to pay for their share of the development of SOEP, the net picture is that there is at least $700 million of debt that that company has probably generated. Now, what does it have in the way of cash flow? Let me read to you from the business plan this year, with respect to the one asset that is actually cash producing, that it has right now. That is the Cohasset/Panuke project. Cohasset/Panuke says this document, is approaching its economic limit at today's oil prices and if the exploration well, Panuke PP3C, currently being evaluated, is unsuccessful, abandonment will begin by mid-1999.

[Page 7022]

Now, we all know what that means. It means it is losing its one and only cash generating asset this year. Cohasset/Panuke is finished this year. It is over. There is no money coming anymore. So we will be sitting with $700 million of debt for Nova Scotia Resources Limited until about the year 2008, at which point, maybe, there might be some cash flow back to NSRL as a result of its 8.4 per cent interest in SOEP. By that time, the $700 million that is owing will have increased somewhat. The projection that has been done by Mr. Livingstone is that it will be about $1.4 billion by the time there is some positive cash flow from SOEP to help deal with it. Well, let me tell you. If the minister is correct that the peak of cash flow back to NSRL from SOEP is going to be in the $40 million to $50 million a year range, it will not even remotely pay for the costs of servicing $1.4 billion worth of debt. It won't pay for the debt of $700 million.

Nova Scotia Resources Limited is in a weak position. The minister may have tried to suggest to us that it was a wise thing and we have heard from the Third Party that it was a wise thing to have first started Nova Scotia Resources Limited and to have held onto it. But, do you know what? Unless you can come up with the figures for the cash flow to show otherwise, it is a big money loser and everyone knows it. You can't come up with figures that will show otherwise.

The problem, I think, and the reason that the Liberal Government tried to say it made a positive decision to keep a window on the oil and gas industry is because it couldn't sell it. There were no buyers out there for it. Who was going to buy it? What assets did it have? When they were trying to flog NSRL, it had Cohasset/Panuke with a limited shelf life and the only other possible thing that it might have had would have been (Interruption) Well, the pipeline is a different thing, that is another sad story. The other thing it had were the resource tax pools. This is referred to in the Crown Corporations' Business Plans for this year. You know what they say - and I love this because the wording is clearly deliberately chosen. Here is what this says about the resource tax pools; it points out that Nova Scotia Resources Limited has $600 million of resource tax pools. "These tax pools may be applied to reduce future taxable income generated from SOEP and other projects.".

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? That ain't the case because there is not going to be positive cash flow to which these resource tax pools can be applied. Do you know what? As I understand it, under the federal legislation, the time expired for selling these to another oil and gas company. At one point it might have been an attractive investment - Nova Scotia Resources Limited might have been an attractive investment, in part because of these but the time went by.

Do you know what the net result of all this is? The responsible business community at large in Nova Scotia is worried about debt. They are worried about the debt that this government proposes to pile on as a result of this budget now. They are worried about the debt that we already have and, let me tell you, looking at the NSRL picture makes it very dubious that we can afford that new, $600 million mortgage. The final bottom line here is that

[Page 7023]

the government has no credibility when it comes to handling the finances or the debt of this province. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the House will sit tomorrow from 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. Following the daily routine, we will be going into Supply for the four hour period. Following that we propose to call Private and Local Bills for Third Reading: Bill No. 63, Bill No. 95, Bill No. 103 and Bill No. 106; followed by third reading of Private Members' Public Bills, Bill No. 108; followed by Public Bills for Third Reading and we will be calling Bill No. 102. Now does anybody want me to repeat those bills again? Got it?

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to sit again tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We have reached the moment of interruption and the late debate this evening, as I indicated to the House earlier, was submitted by the honourable member for Annapolis.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - GROWTH:

OPTIMISM (RURAL COMMUN.) - RENEWED

MR. LAWRENCE MONTGOMERY: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be a rural Nova Scotian and I am proud to stand in the Legislature this evening and speak on this resolution. That is because this resolution is about rural Nova Scotia and rural Nova Scotians taking advantage of the opportunities that come from a strong economy. The resolution we are debating tonight reads:

"Therefore be it resolved positive indications of growth and confidence in the initiatives of this government have prompted a renewed sense of optimism in Nova Scotia's rural communities.".

This resolution does not say everything is rosy. We can always do more. Tonight I want to take a look at what this government is doing. I also want to look at a couple of rural areas where communities are thriving because the economy is doing well.

[Page 7024]

[6:00 p.m.]

Before I get into the main part, I would like to give an overview. In my overview I think that it is necessary in order for us to develop our economy that we have a strong infrastructure. We have seen in the communities of Annapolis, Bridgetown and Middleton, construction on infrastructure for their water and sewage treatment programs. This was done through the cooperation of three levels of government, municipal government, the Nova Scotia Government and the federal government.

Again, if we look at the development of infrastructures along the coast of the riding in which I represent, the Annapolis riding, we see the improvement of infrastructures in the wharves for the fishing communities. The Minister of Fisheries, the Honourable Keith Colwell, has visited these outlying communities and he, along with myself, have encouraged and worked with the fishermen of this community to repair the wharves and make sure that the economy is more stabilized for the fishing industry. Also, credit should be given to the federal government, small crafts and harbours, for taking initiative along with the provincial government. In addition, we see what this infrastructure has done in terms of this area, major infrastructures, such as the airport and the harbour facility.

We must also look at the area of the farming community where this government under the direction of the Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Edward Lorraine, has seen fit to establish a Drought Relief Program in cooperation with the federal government; in 1998, Cattle Relief Program; assistance for the hog industry; and has pushed for increased amounts of monies in the area of the assistance nationally for the drought program. Not only that, we see no tax on farmland, an initiative that was brought about by this government, making it better for the economy of the farmers across this province and, indeed, in my particular riding of Annapolis. So I think credit is due there.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism has stood in this House and said his department is doing business with more than 900 Nova Scotia companies. Eighty per cent of those are in rural Nova Scotia. These companies generate more than $2.5 million in sales and $110 million in provincial tax revenues. Last year, the Business Development Corporation provided $50 million in loans and loan guarantees to Nova Scotia companies, and $42 million of that total went to companies outside of the metro Halifax area. These do not sound like the actions of a government that is focused only on Halifax.

I would like to speak for a moment about a world-class company located not in Halifax but in my riding of Annapolis. Britex is a Nova Scotia owned company and is the largest industrial employer in Annapolis County. They employ 200 people. Britex makes elastic fabrics and markets its products to clothing manufacturers around the world. Just a few months back this government assisted Britex to the tune of a $4.9 million loan. This loan will allow the company to install new equipment and expand into new markets across the globe, but most importantly, with the help from this government, Britex will be able to add 60 more

[Page 7025]

new jobs to its workforce. That means 60 more families will benefit from a regular paycheque. I will admit things have been tough in my area and these jobs will be a major boost to the economy.

Another initiative that had some assistance federally and provincially is Den Haans Nursery, one of the most prominent hydrophonic systems of growing vegetables in the province. They employ 35 people and have offered employment opportunities in my community for the last 35 years, and we hope this will continue.

Both Britex and Den Haans have something in common. The family of Den Haans is the new generation that is coming along and they will be taking over the business; similarly, such is the case with Britex. I think it is wonderful that we have this opportunity to see these companies grow and expand.

It is this type of initiative that allows a rural community to feel optimistic. The provincial government also provided funds to allow a company in my area to market whole, frozen scallops. Funding was made available for Hillsburn Basin Scallop Group Ltd. to develop a product and market the whole, frozen scallop. As part of the funding arrangement, scallops to be frozen must be supplied by the Nova Scotia aquaculture industry. This is an example of a local entrepreneur who saw a need and filled it and this government was prepared to help.

When the military pulled out of Cornwallis, there was considerable fear in the community. That fear has been replaced with new hope. Just a few weeks ago the marketing agency for Cornwallis Park announced two more buildings have been approved for sale and another 12 jobs will be coming to the park. Today, the civilian jobs that were lost when the military left have been more than replaced. A recent newspaper article contains some interesting figures. CFB Cornwallis employed 500 civilians at its peak. When it closed in 1993, it affected 20 per cent of the economy of Digby and Annapolis Counties. In January, 1997, there were a total of 115 jobs at the park. Today there are 354 full-time jobs and 506 total jobs. That is phenomenal growth, and it has been done through the cooperation of municipal, provincial and government funding.

A similar story unfolded not far from my riding in Yarmouth. The Town of Yarmouth faced a grim future when one of its cornerstone industries closed down a few years back. Today the former Dominion Textile mill is a thriving business community of its own. With government assistance, the mill now contains a fence manufacturer, an enviro-depot, a rope maker, and even a newspaper. Further down the Yarmouth waterfront is a new seafood plant, and in Yarmouth they are also building a new school and expanding their hospital. Next door to my riding, in Digby, Annapolis Basin Seafoods received assistance to expand their facility, and this allowed them to smoke and freeze new fish products for market.

[Page 7026]

How do some of these rural communities market their products? This government continues to make rural business a priority on trade missions; in fact, the majority of companies that participate in trade missions are from outside of metro. Last year these companies returned to their communities with $93 million in new contracts. That equals hundreds of jobs for Nova Scotians, but the Opposition critics don't like trade missions either, they will say they are just expensive vacations.

Herb Shannon, the President of Blue Mist Pewter, attacked critics of trade missions recently in the paper. He said critics do not understand how important these missions are to small- and medium-sized businesses in Nova Scotia. Mr. Shannon said a recent trade trip to New England helped Blue Mist Pewter land nine new accounts, worth up to $30,000 each in annual sales. This translates into jobs for Nova Scotians. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that Nova Scotia's success in increasing our workforce by 12,000 new jobs puts us in front of the pack in Canada.

I would like to close by saying that government does not have all the answers but we are working with communities to find solutions. I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, for the most part I am glad to respond to this resolution, although I guess the honourable member opposite will say, it will be typical that my response won't be quite as positive as his. His remarks regarding trade missions, I think in the past trade missions have shown that they have brought some positive results but not all of them have. In cases where they do, I think members of our caucus will be glad to acknowledge that.

I think the industries that the honourable member has mentioned and the positive things that they do for those communities, who would argue with that? Certainly, people who want jobs, who want security for their families would be glad to have those jobs there as long as those jobs are long-term, well-paying and secure.

I do want to draw the attention of the members of the House, those who are brave enough to stay, to a document titled, Striking A Balance. I don't know if the honourable member would be aware but there are a number of counties throughout this province that are having negative growth and those counties are Digby, Annapolis, Queens, Cumberland, Pictou, Guysborough, Inverness, Richmond, and Cape Breton. When I say negative growth, I mean that the population is moving away from those counties. Shelburne and Victoria Counties have indicated no growth and then the others are growing or have positive growth. So, I think most people would recognize those counties that I have mentioned as being rural environments for the most part, although they all would have an urban component.

[Page 7027]

If there is this renewed sense of optimism, as this resolution says, then where can it be coming from? The only thing I can see is maybe it is the hope that people have that there could be an election, that might be the renewed sense of optimism. But for the most part and I will deal fairly strictly with rural resource-based industries; the fishery, agriculture and tourism. I would like to deal with health and transportation if I get time to do that.

In the case of the fishery I think all Nova Scotians, even though you don't live in a coastal community, you must be aware of the downturn in the fishery; boats tied up, plant closures, the inter-transferable quota system gives more control to a few and takes away from independent fishers. If we consider the direct and indirect jobs and quite often we don't give enough consideration to the spin-offs that are generated from these sectors, then even for people who never set foot on a fishing boat or worked in a plant but they own the local store or whatever, then we can see that these communities are slowly being choked off. One example I can think of, of individuals who have spoken to us, were people from Mulgrave who were trying to get enough shrimp quota to keep the plant open - they have a little but not nearly enough. The province has ignored retired fishers less than 55 years old for early retirement and what are we going to say to somebody 50 years old - that you will be retrained and in this province, retrained for what?

The honourable member for Annapolis, certainly coming from an agricultural community should be aware of some of the devastation that has occurred in this province over the last couple of years, in particular with regard to the drought. He mentioned about the assistance program that the province has negotiated with the federal government. That was a long-time negotiation, the key component of which was the three year averaging of income. What we found was that the relief of 70 per cent of that average over three years for the make-up of the Nova Scotia farming sector, doesn't provide any relief for most of those individuals. How can we say that there is optimism on their part?

Actually, today I found out that applications which I thought were supposed to be available as of April 1st, which was the announcement the minister made last fall, as it turns out applications were only available a week ago, and as yet, there has been no Nova Scotia farmer that has sent in an application asking for relief. What we have heard is that the criteria are so strict that it may not be something that can apply to many Nova Scotia farmers anyway. For those individuals, I don't see a lot of optimism.

[6:15 p.m.]

Agriculture is a $300 million farm-gate receipt industry in this province with spin-offs upwards of $1 billion. If we think about the equipment dealers, the fertilizer companies, the local co-op, et cetera, then there are a lot of jobs provided by that sector. He mentioned about the pork industry and, last fall, the assistance that that industry received. Those prices have not bounced back the way that it was hoped. Pork Nova Scotia was predicting by about March that prices would be back to normal; that hasn't occurred. There has been no great

[Page 7028]

rebound in that market, and actually whether that is because enough people didn't get out of that industry, which was predicted; they thought that production in the United States would drop and reduce the glut, but so far that doesn't seem to have happened.

Anybody from the Valley would certainly be aware of Larsen Packers. Some time ago, they stopped their killing plant as far as the killing of beef. So, in this province, I think Armstrong's and I am not sure who else may be the only ones who are doing that. The beef industry in this province has been decimated for years, and there has really been no relief to help prop up that sector.

Mr. Speaker, from the Nova Scotia Agricultural Statistics 1994, the type of farms in Nova Scotia and the number of farms, and the total number of farms in Nova Scotia between 1981 and 1991 has reduced by a little over 1,000 farms. If that is an indicator of optimism, then I don't see it, and I am sure that a lot of young farmers, we refer to them now as new entrants - because it is getting to the point where the industry really looks to anybody who is interested in going into farming, not just a young person, and it is pretty difficult actually to attract young people because of the cost, and also anybody who is retiring and thinks they want to take their retirement fund and invest it into farming at that stage in life had probably better have a big fund.

The department did say, and I would be willing to grant this, that there has been an increase in farms of say, blueberry operations in the province, but also in crops grown; the number of acreage of crops grown in the province has increased, but they attribute that to the idea that livestock production has gone down and therefore there is an increase in acreage that is really being turned into forage production that otherwise wouldn't have occurred.

In that case, I don't see any great optimism. This is the New Glasgow Evening News, The number of family farms has dwindled over the years for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is a fair return for the work involved and intense competition in the marketplace. Actually, farmers have always made the case, when there was always criticism of subsidization of farms, that if they could get paid a reasonable price for what they produce there would be no need to subsidize them.

Quickly, I want to talk about my own riding in the case of tourism. Hants East is known as being the home of the highest tides in the world, I think as you would be aware, and infrastructure, the honourable member mentioned as far as what that does for the economy. I think roads in my area is an area where I would like to see a few more dollars spent. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 7029]

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

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise this afternoon and speak to the resolution: "Therefore be it resolved that positive indications of growth and confidence in the initiatives of this government have prompted a renewed sense of optimism in Nova Scotia's rural communities.".

Once again, government has put forward one of these, don't worry , be happy, good news resolutions. I sometimes wonder if it is a Liberal Government or a natural law government, who simply think that if you think happy thoughts, that will come to pass. It reminds me very much of the story of Catherine the Great. She was the Czarina of Russia and, in fact, was very concerned about the rural communities outside of the capital city. She would ask her minister of economic development how things were going and he assured her, time and time and again, that things were wonderful. The peasantry were truly happy and there was much growth and prosperity. Each time she wanted to make a trip out into the countryside, he put her off. So, eventually, she decided that she would, in fact, travel by carriage through the kingdom to see the happy peasantry in their wonderful villages.

So what the minister of economic development did is, prior to her trip, he prefabricated very ornate storefronts and village fronts and he would herd the peasants ahead of her as she travelled. So each night she would stop and he would dismantle the town and move it to the next town and she would travel and the peasants would be waving at her and smiling gleefully. When she got back to Moscow, of course, she thought everything was wonderful. I wonder if that is not something that this Liberal Government is attempting to do, that is hoodwink the people of Nova Scotia into believing that everything is wonderful throughout the kingdom. It is improving, but there is, in fact, a long way to go.

We heard the minister himself speak to the issues in his Budget Address. I would quote directly from the comments that the minister made. In his address he said, "I also see people who are in despair. They look at the world and they fear for their jobs . . . They look to their children and they fear and worry for their future.". Our economic growth is not even. He said that in his Budget Address. He said, ". . . we have two economies in Nova Scotia: one inside metro Halifax and another outside.", in the rest of Nova Scotia. He also indicated that better management decisions were critical and he is right in that. Those comments are small comfort to the people who live in my riding. The people in my riding have an unemployment rate in excess of 17 per cent. The people in other areas of this province face unemployment of 12 per cent, 14 per cent and 16 per cent.

Now the minister, in his address, talked about unemployment levels of 9 per cent and that is true in metro. There is no question about it. We do have a vibrant economy in metro. What is also interesting is that politicians have discovered the word community. Everything now is community-driven economic development, community policing, community-based school input, community this, community that. That is a wonderful thing to think. It is a

[Page 7030]

wonderful idea, but the problem is how do you, in fact, empower communities to take charge of their own destinies? There are examples in this province where they have done that effectively.

The member for Annapolis talked of the renewal at Cornwallis and that is a direct result of communities taking charge of their own destiny. On numerous occasions, we have talked about the success at Isle Madame, the fact that that community rallied and did something for themselves. Those are shining examples of what is possible when a government actually empowers communities. Across this province we have rural economic development RDAs. They are empowered to try to put in place economic initiatives that are sustainable. This rural economy has been driven primarily by natural-resource-based industries, lumbering and fishing and, to some degree, farming, where it is appropriate. That creates difficulty in itself because the economy is fragile. It is based on the whim of global markets and of nature and the extent to which the natural resource can be harvested.

What has to happen is we need to put in place a multi-faceted economic strategy that will ensure that rural communities are not entirely reliant on one particular industry. What has happened in many communities, in my community, in fact, is that we have looked to tourism as the single salvation after the downturn in the fisheries. I am not going to belittle tourism. It is a true economic engine in this economy. But the problem is, when resources are simply redirected in search of the next new salvation, opportunities can be missed. What needs to happen is we need to ensure that the people have the opportunity to diversify, that businesses that rely on tourism are promoted but, at the same time, we look at means of developing value-added products. Those ideas have to be developed more fully.

It is true that we also need to ensure that our infrastructure is there to support rural Nova Scotia. The roads across this province are in a deplorable condition. What needs to happen is partisan politics need to be set aside so that highway infrastructure can be improved and upgraded, regardless of a political affiliation, so that in 5 years, in 10 years, we can look to some positive change. If that is done, then those businesses that are relying on transporting their product to market will have a better opportunity to do so.

Another major issue that needs to be addressed in rural Nova Scotia is access to educational opportunities. Every day we hear of the growing IT industry in this province, the fact that there are many jobs being created, high paying jobs, jobs that offer a secure future, but those jobs require training and opportunity to take training. The reality is that last year this province lost 32,000 jobs. While the government would put forward that in excess of 32,000 jobs were created, the reality is the jobs that were created were for people who had formal training and who were able to enter the IT industries.

The jobs that were lost were the jobs that were entry level jobs that required minimum educational levels. The reality in my riding is that secondary education is not what most of the workforce have to offer to potential employers. That is why the government needs to

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increase its focus on adult education, allowing people who now recognize the need for more formal training to be able to gain employment, to have the opportunity to do that, and do it in their communities rather than having to travel great distances at great expense.

If we do that, in fact, we can help nurture the fledgling economies that are growing around this province. What we need to have is long-term vision to ensure that the opportunities that present themselves are taken advantage of. We need to ensure that the people in a position to determine what direction economic growth would take in this province have available the resources to make those initiatives happen. They have to have the input from the various stakeholders and bring forward the employers who would be looking at creating jobs. They have to talk to the people who do the financing of those businesses and encourage them to talk to the government and the Human Resources Development Agencies, and certainly they deserve a pat on the back because they have been very helpful in allowing a great deal of liberty in how jobs are created in rural ridings where any job is a godsend, the fact that each and every job that is created is a value in rural Nova Scotia.

We talk often of call centres coming and locating a job in metro, a call centre job. They are all wonderful jobs, but the reality is that a call centre job that may pay slightly higher than minimum wage in metro probably doesn't provide the level of income to assure an adequate lifestyle. Yet, if that call centre was to locate in a place of high unemployment, whether it be Cape Breton or Digby-Annapolis or Yarmouth or Annapolis or one of the other rural ridings, those jobs create the opportunity for people to stay in their community and raise a family.

The honourable member from the Official Opposition spoke about negative growth. In fact, what negative growth means is that the people who have seen their employment opportunities dry up have been forced to leave their homes. I don't think there is a person in this Legislature who doesn't have a relative living in another part of Canada, maybe in some instances because they wanted the adventure of travelling to a new area but, in many instances, it is simply because they had to go there to find work.

I do believe that Nova Scotia is poised on an economic renewal, but what has to happen is the government has to stop putting forward happy, good news resolutions to try to prop up and promote their own success and get down to the real debate about how we ensure that rural Nova Scotians have the same opportunity as those who live in metro. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 6:29 p.m.]