MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time and commence the daily routine. Are there any introduction of guests before we begin?
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 33 - Entitled an Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade. (Hon. Robert Harrison)
Bill No. 34 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 6 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Maintenance Enforcement Act. (Hon. William Gillis)
Bill No. 35 - Entitled an Act to Enable Information to be Filed Electronically by Business. (Hon. William Gillis)
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.
A reversion to Government Notices of Motion.
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.
HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I apologize for being late.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Canadians were heartened to learn that Quebecers voted to remain a part of this great country, while at the same time recognizing that the victory was marginal and much work remains to be done; and
Whereas history will record that, at this moment, in the life of our country, Canadians have been given a window of opportunity, a narrow window I would add, that must not be ignored; and
Whereas Canada sees itself as a tolerant land, able to embrace the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all its people, regardless of religious, cultural, linguistic or national origins;
Therefore be it resolved that this House support all constructive efforts to renew the Canadian federation and express our desire that those efforts include an enhancement of the cultural differences that exist in all of us.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Canada won a reprieve in yesterday's referendum, but no real victory; and
Whereas more than ever before in our history it is clear that the status quo will no longer work in Canada; and
Whereas Nova Scotians must be guaranteed a say in what our restructured country will be to ensure that regional economic disparity will be eliminated and that we will have the opportunity to strengthen our transportation infrastructure to secure jobs for Nova Scotians;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier follow the example of the previous government in 1991 and establish a tripartite process which would include the Progressive Conservative caucus and the New Democratic Party caucus as well as Nova Scotians to prepare any position that Nova Scotia will take to Ottawa in the near future.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Municipal Affairs Minister declared in this House on May 5, 1994, that her Cape Breton Regional Municipality would, "be more efficient and effective" and would "cost less to run"; and
Whereas she also promised decision-making on a regional basis to address regional problems and regional services with simple and direct responsibility for all services; and
Whereas the minister further promised, "significant savings in the cost of government", adding that for "financial difficulties, structural changes . . . [are] the preferred solution";
Therefore be it resolved that the minister and her colleagues should now put their money where their mouth was by picking up the ruinous amalgamation costs imposed on the citizens of Cape Breton County and no longer mislead other Nova Scotians with such claims of lower costs and lower taxes.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Eastern Shore.
MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas this october marks the 1st Anniversary of Country Treasures Marketplace in Head of Chezzetcook, owned by Wanda Arnold; and
Whereas Country Treasures is an incubator mall complex for six newly formed fledgling businesses, which assists the development of sound entrepreneurial and business skills; and
Whereas ventures such as Country Treasures on the Eastern Shore, supported by the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency, play a critical part in assuring the start-up of successful businesses;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Wanda Arnold for her initiative in starting Country Treasures Marketplace in Head of Chezzetcook and encouraging other such ventures to promote community economic development in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: 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.
MR. CHARLES MACARTHUR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas after five years of planning, a French language community radio station began broadcasting from Cheticamp to Inverness County, Antigonish County, Prince Edward Island and the Iles-de-la Madeleine on Friday, October 6, 1995; and
Whereas Radio Station CKJM is a community effort, demonstrated by raising $88,000 in order to help fund the station, while three paid employees and over 70 volunteers have made CKJM very popular in the Cheticamp area; and
Whereas the provincial government's Economic Renewal Agency, the federal Official Languages Program and Human Resources Development Canada have all contributed to the initial success of this project;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly of the Province of Nova Scotia applaud the efforts of the Acadian community of Cheticamp to enhance their quality of life while aiding in the preservation and promotion of the French language and Acadian culture on the Island of Cape Breton.
I so move the adoption without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Waiver is requested, I believe.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried. (Applause)
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Finance Minister was one of many Liberals elected to this House by pledging that their objective would be to ensure that Cape Breton has its fair share; and
Whereas when people realized this government had abandoned its commitments to decentralizing to Cape Breton, the Finance Minister and others suggested they would engineer a private sector decentralization of jobs; and
Whereas dozens of Nova Scotia Power and MT&T jobs in Cape Breton are now being wiped out through centralization and high cost contracting-out;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges both Nova Scotia Power and Maritime Tel and Tel to sit down with their Cape Breton workers, municipal and community representatives to discuss how to sustain and increase local jobs rather than lose them through more centralization.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Waive notice.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
Is there a request for waiver of notice?
AN HON. MEMBER: There is.
MR. SPEAKER: There is.
Is it agreed?
I here a No or two.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: 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 refused on Thursday to give the students, employees and community an answer when asked whether he would meet with them to discuss the possibility of allowing the Hants Campus to remain as part of an associate campus, as the government had already done for the community of Shelburne; and
Whereas the minister continued to use the excuse that the students of Hants are merely an hour from metro and 45 minutes from Kentville when asked how the decision to close the campus was made; and
Whereas he ignores the fact that Shelburne is only an hour away from Yarmouth and the nearest campus when allowing it to stay open as an associate campus to Burridge;
Therefore be it resolved that this minister recognize that this is a disservice to the students wishing to retain quality vocational training at affordable costs, since travel will be difficult if not impossible for many, and agree today to meet with the principal and faculty to discuss the possibility of a second chance for Hants Campus.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas it now appears that the finances of the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton are in disarray after only three months of operation, bringing the threat of excessive tax rates being imposed upon taxpayers in the new regional municipality; and
Whereas it now appears that the regional municipality faces an accumulated deficit of $6.3 million even before it sets a budget and tax rate; and
Whereas Rick Farmer, the Finance Director of the new regional municipality, has stated publicly that the dilemma faced by the regional municipality is, "because of the imposition of regional government that we have these costs";
Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government explain to all Nova Scotians how their promise of reduced costs and taxes in the new regional municipality has failed so miserably that taxpayers now face the likelihood of extremely excessive tax increases.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Premier.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas in 1955, the Pugwash Movement was founded in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, by Cyrus Eaton in response to a declaration by Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell of the need for a Thinkers' Conference on science and world peace; and
Whereas the conference has for 40 years contributed to the efforts of the international community to bridge gaps and form bonds that contribute to the ultimate goal of peaceful co-existence between nations; and
Whereas in October of this year, the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, chaired by nuclear physicist Joseph Rotblat, was honoured by the presentation of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for its anti-war efforts;
Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the efforts of the Pugwash Movement and recognize the contribution made by the community of Pugwash, Nova Scotia, toward the ultimate goal of world peace.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice on this motion.
MR. SPEAKER: 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 have several requests for introductions. I will recognize the Minister of Natural Resources first and then the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, through you and to the members of the House, it is my pleasure to introduce to the members of the Legislative Assembly my mother-in-law, who is visiting from British Columbia. I am happy to report that she is going to be able to still be in Canada when she goes home this afternoon. I ask the members to give a warm welcome to my mother-in-law, Ms. Peters.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to introduce to you and to all members of the House, in the east galleries, a visitor that we have with us here in Canada, Jaan Peiel, who is from the Estonian Association of Local Authorities. He is a legal advisor and he is visiting here with us in Nova Scotia for four days with our counterpart, Shingai Nyajeka. We would like to welcome them to the House.
MR. SPEAKER: Now are there any additional introductions of guests? If not we will return back to Notices of Motion.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Municipal Affairs said in this Legislature on Thursday, May 5, 1995, "The new Cape Breton Regional Municipality will be more efficient and effective and cost less to run"; and
Whereas less than three months after the formation of the new regional municipal unit, provincial assistance is being sought to help offset the costs of amalgamation; and
Whereas without this assistance, residents living in the new municipality are being warned they could face a very expensive tax hike;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Municipal Affairs today explain to the residents of the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality what went wrong in her planning process that, without provincial assistance, will mean significant tax increases for residents of the new municipality.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice on this motion.
MR. SPEAKER: I do not detect unanimous consent.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the waiting list for the Shelburne Regional Housing Authority has grown from 112 to 157 in the last year, with 366 individuals in the families waiting for housing; and
Whereas all three area municipalities have endorsed a bid by the Housing Authority Tenants' Association to take over the Roseway Park subdivision that formerly served CFS Shelburne; and
Whereas the Tenants' Association's bid best addresses the growing poverty and homelessness in Shelburne County by offering non-profit housing with effective opportunities for self-improvement;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs to support the bid by the Shelburne Regional Housing Authority Tenants' Association for Roseway Park by using her good offices to help secure this community-minded use of the former military subdivision.
Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear a No.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Breast Cancer Action Group began last spring to advocate for the support and counselling services that are crucial for women diagnosed with breast cancer; and
Whereas women in rural mainland Nova Scotia have waited four years for the training and mammography clinic necessary to provide the advantages of asymptomatic breast screening; and
Whereas through Breast Cancer Awareness Month this government has failed to ensure either support and counselling, additional research or a schedule for the Nova Scotia Breast Screening program to operate province-wide;
Therefore be it resolved that the House affirms the need long after October has ended, for increased awareness and action from this government to address the clear agenda of support and prevention that are long overdue to help women deal with breast cancer.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas due to the recent forced amalgamation of our province's 22 school boards to 7 by the Minister of Education, the employees of those boards are concerned for their futures; and
Whereas the Minister of Education, to his surprise, recently discovered that there are 700 non-unionized employees in the school board offices throughout Nova Scotia and they have organized, because of their worries abut their future employment; and
Whereas in many circumstances throughout the province, staff in one district are unionized but the same position in a neighbouring board is non-unionized, many are in what they consider a vulnerable position;
Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Department of Education, through its minister, reassure the workers that he will take their concerns seriously and ensure they are given equal opportunity to secure employment in the new, super boards.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Chief Fire Officer's Association of Nova Scotia is dismayed with the inaction being shown by the government towards the implementation of a province-wide enhanced 911 emergency number; and
Whereas the Minister of Transportation and Communications said last March that the Nova Scotia Government's initiative to develop a wide area network attracted 450 inquiries and international interest from as far away as Japan and Germany; and
Whereas despite the minister's enthusiasm about attracting companies from across the world in developing a wide area network, only two local companies actually ended up putting a proposal in;
Therefore be it resolved that the government make it abundantly clear within a very short period of time their exact plans on a province-wide enhanced 911 emergency telephone number and, in the process, offer a clear and consultative plan to emergency responders in Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
Are there further notices of motion? If not, that will conclude the daily routine and we will now advance to the Orders of the Day.
I wish to advise the House that the Clerk conducted a draw for the late debate at Adjournment time, 6:00 p.m. The winner this afternoon is the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party. He has submitted a resolution for debate:
Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government's family violence prevention efforts become comprehensive and thereby truly effective.
We will hear a discussion of that matter at six o'clock this afternoon.
The time now being 2:25 p.m., the Oral Question Period today will run for one hour, until 3:25 p.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The results of last night's vote have given us a short reprieve and, again, an opportunity to develop an appropriate federalism which addresses all the needs of all the regions of this country. It is obvious that the next step must be taken by our Prime Minister.
My question to the Premier is, has the Premier been in touch with the Prime Minister this morning by way of conference call or any other form of communication, to learn what action or what direction the Prime Minister intends to take over the next few days, few weeks and few months?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. No, we have not. We have had meetings all morning. Staff have been in contact but as soon as I get any information, I will include the Leader of the Opposition in that information and also the Leader of the New Democratic Party. (Interruptions)
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for his answer.
All Nova Scotians watched, I think with tremendous trepidation, last night the results and I think we all realize that we have a great stake in this situation as well. Will the Premier be indicating to the Prime Minister that Nova Scotia wants to play a strong role in the process as we design, perhaps, a somewhat different federalism?
THE PREMIER: I think, Mr. Speaker, I have said in many interviews since last night - and it seems a longer period given the shortness of it - that Nova Scotia has already indicated to the people of Quebec that we are prepared to follow up the wave of emotion that peaked, if you like, on Friday when so many Nova Scotians, including people from the two opposing Parties, joined us in Montreal. It was a tremendous wave of emotion and the people of Nova Scotia deserve to be congratulated on that but it is important that we follow that up with the reality of translating that emotion and those promises into something that is real. I have stated that the distinct society inclusion is one of the issues that I am prepared to raise and support and I am also prepared, as I have indicated before, that the meeting with the Prime Minister and with the various Premiers, all these are on the cards.
It is, however, less than 24 hours since the announcement of the referendum and I think the caution that I gave last night still stands, that we think calmly, that we look at this window of opportunity with which we have been given a second chance, that we don't get into statements that can be seen as ungenerous and that we work hard to protect our country, Canada. (Applause)
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier made reference to the last minute efforts that many made in this area and it well may be that those efforts helped in some small way to generate the narrow victory that occurred last night. Many members of this House, in all Parties, participated in that effort.
My final supplementary to the Premier, is the Premier prepared to use the tri-partite approach as was used in 1991 to form the Nova Scotia position as this process goes on so there will be as broad a base as possible of consensus as to what it is Nova Scotians want out of a somewhat different federalism that must come out of the process that the Prime Minister will initiate, I am sure, over the next number of days and weeks?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to take that question under advisement and until the decision is arrived at, I will keep the two opposing Leaders up-to-date on all information that I get.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, although the last question was not directed by myself, I very much appreciate the Premier's commitment to keep us advised in terms of upcoming information and the process. I think that this will be a topic certainly that we will be canvassing in the days and weeks ahead as we try to move forward constructively in the country.
My question, however, Mr. Speaker, is going to be on an entirely different topic and I am going to direct my question to the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment, of course, will know that the major problems that are resulting in the loss of quality of life, the loss of property values for those who are living in the areas closest to landfills are directly related to the organic materials that are being deposited in those landfills.
My question to the minister, knowing that and his supposedly proactive position, I would like to ask the minister why hasn't this minister and this government simply declared that composting is a preferred, in fact, the required option for the disposal of organic materials instead of them being disposed of in new landfills that are to be developed?
HON. WAYNE ADAMS: I thank the honourable member for his question. I will reply by telling him that our government and, certainly, the Department of the Environment fully recognizes and understands the importance of composting in any future method of waste management in Nova Scotia. To summarize my answer, I would say that in the not too distant future we will be in the position, a better position than we are today, to tell all Nova Scotians what our plans are for the immediate future in terms of waste management.
MR. HOLM: As my colleague correctly points out, this government has been saying that for three years. Mr. Speaker, the minister and the government have a responsibility and they have a responsibility to show leadership. This minister rightfully showed that he understands that and was prepared to accept that role when he declared that the East Lake site was not environmentally acceptable. He didn't then . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. HOLM: . . . have a waste management strategy. My question to the minister is quite simply this, why are you and your government unprepared to show the leadership now by announcing a ban on the disposal of organic materials in new landfills?
MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I would caution my colleague opposite that it is important to have substance in the question rather than sound. But the fact is that I think this government has shown great leadership in this in regard to that question. We have consulted broadly with every sector of Nova Scotians in terms of how we will plan the future of waste management in Nova Scotia.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I also remind the minister - to throw back his words - that it is important that there be substance in the minister's answers and in the kind of leadership that they show. The minister in his letter, that was published in the Business Journal of October 1995, praised the Municipality of Lunenburg for turning the garbage into gold. Pointed out quite correctly that the decisions that are made now are going to affect the world into the future and said that we have an opportunity now to grasp that chance.
My question to the minister quite simply is why should those who read the minister's statements, who listen to the promises that have been made, three years yet and we still don't have the solid waste management strategy or any kind of concrete leadership from this minister in this area, why should they look at what the minister's statements are as anything more than PR or organic fluff?
MR. ADAMS: I just want to clear the record, it was not three years ago, he made the statement about Lunenburg, it was four months ago, Whynotts Settlement to be precise. Yes, Mr. Speaker, and members of this House will recognize that what we see at Whynotts Settlement is certainly a model for the world. We have people from all over the world coming here to look at the model in waste management and composting. We will see more of that, I am sure, across the province.
As I said earlier, when we do find ourselves in the right spot to tell all Nova Scotians what our plans are for waste management, the member opposite will learn the specific details of what is organic fluff or organic resource as well as waste management in its proper perspective. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. In your statement read in this Legislature on Thursday, May 5, 1994, announcing plans for the creation of the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality, you mentioned on several occasions just how cost-efficient and how effective a new regional municipality would be. At no point was there any mention of the enormous cost that the new municipality would face prior to establishing their first budget. Now we are learning about mounting deficits and over-spending of $3.4 million before even setting a first budget. Can the minister inform Nova Scotians why these difficulties were not addressed in the planning stages, leaving taxpayers and a new municipality with a possible massive hike in their tax bills?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to get that question here today because I have exactly the same question. What has happened to the savings? Where are they? That is why I am having a meeting with the mayor and the council up there, to find out where they are.
AN HON. MEMBER: That was a good plan.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor. The other member had his turn already.
MR. MACLEOD: My first supplementary, Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Metro Coordinator, Bill Hayward, has the authority to veto any spending made by any of the four municipal units prior to the amalgamation in metro next April 1st. Today we are being told that the municipalities spent $4.3 million more in Cape Breton in the first four months of 1995-96 than they could raise in revenues. Did the minister give the same authority to Mr. Charles Campbell and, if so, how does she explain the over-spending?
MS. JOLLY: I think the honourable member has addressed a large part of the question himself with the concern of over-spending. The municipal councils, based on the limited information that I have, have looked at some of the constructions that they have done, some of the severance packages that they have made, and those are all things that I have questions for the municipality about as well.
MR. MACLEOD: My final supplementary, and again it is addressed to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Cape Breton taxpayers were led by this minister to believe that under the plan, savings of $6.5 million could be achieved. How is it that those savings have disappeared and now the taxpayers are looking at a whopping $4.3 million bill?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think as the honourable member will read as well, there are still savings available. What they have looked at and what they are bringing forward is a one-time cost, as a start-up cost, which we all knew was going to be part and parcel of starting a new program, a new municipality, so the savings are still available there. We have offered to the municipality in discussions with them previously that there would be a chance to take the one-time cost and amortize it over five years. So I think they have very clearly said there are still savings available, but we want to look at where the expenditures have come in over the last little while that we have just been advised of.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is directed to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The former member for Cape Breton West was expelled from the Savage Government's caucus because he was scared of the massive tax increases that would be incurred by Cape Breton Regional Municipality ratepayers. He warned the minister and now it appears as if his worse fears are about to be confirmed. Can the minister assure taxpayers and ratepayers of that new unit today that they will not be forced into accepting a massive tax increase because of what appears to be ineptitude during the formation stages of this new unit?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I find the question quite unusual because we have a level of government that this member just spoke about last night on amalgamation as to why I was forcing people into amalgamation. Now he wants me to go there and tell them how to run it and what to do. You can't have it both ways. You can't have a council who is elected and responsible for the expenditures of their region and then, when they don't like the expenditures that have been made, come back and tell the minister to go up there and rap their knuckles. You cannot have it both ways.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with the minister that you cannot have it both ways. In today's Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the Minister of Municipal Affairs states that she was unwilling to comment on the municipality's finances, but she did express interest in meeting with the Warden, Mr. Coady. But Mr. Coady, however, says he is eager to meet with the Minister of Finance. In fact, Mr. Coady says, I don't care when he calls me, I will go to meet with him at 2:00 o'clock in the morning, and that says something in itself.
So my question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs is, will you be meeting with representatives of the new Regional Municipality of Cape Breton? Will you be meeting with representatives including the Mayor, Mr. Coady, and will you be taking the Minister of Finance along with you? (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: All right. I trust she has the drift of the question.
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will be meeting with the mayor and the council in that area and it will be some time during the day.
MR. TAYLOR: When that new municipal unit was formed, the perceived benefits, and, Mr. Speaker, there was great discussion about the assets and the liabilities, can the minister tell this House, and, more importantly, can this minister tell the ratepayers of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality if, in fact, the intention is to raise taxes in the municipal unit to recover the debts that the insolvent units have incurred?
MS. JOLLY: Well, Mr. Speaker, as I said in the response to the initial question, that is the responsibility of the elected council in that municipality and they will have to make decisions on how they spend their money, the services they provide and how they financially are able to provide the services they want to. That is why it is an elected level of government. That is the authority and the responsibility they have and it is also the authority and the responsibility this Opposition have asked me to give to those individuals. They have asked me to stop with the hammer, stop with the forced amalgamations and that is exactly what we have done. So the municipal council will have the opportunity to deal with their finances, as they should.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. In advance of volunteering to proceed with the municipal amalgamation, the Municipality of the County of Queens passed a resolution calling for a single-tiered social assistance system to be implemented and to be funded entirely by the province as a precondition to that amalgamation taking place on a voluntary basis.
On May 9th, the Mayor of Liverpool had a telephone discussion with the Minister of Community Services urging the same transfer of responsibilities. In fact, that very same day, I also spoke in an informal conversation in the House with both the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Community Services on that very same matter. Will the minister confirm that she clearly understood that the two municipal units were seeking creation of a 100 per cent provincially-funded, single-tiered municipal social assistance program in return for volunteering municipal amalgamation in Queens. Mr. Speaker, for the minister's and the members' edification, I will table a copy of the resolution which was passed by the Municipality of the County of Queens in that regard.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: I believe what the honourable member is asking, if I can confirm that Queens and Liverpool would not amalgamate without a single-tiered, 100 per cent paid for social services system and no, I cannot.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I find the minister's response, at the very least, evasive. She was sent a copy of that resolution that was duly passed by the Municipality of the County of Queens and I would be absolutely amazed if she had not had that correspondence provided to her in her daily correspondence when it appeared on her desk. Now, check Hansard. I think you will find that, in fact, that was the question that was asked. Will the Minister of Municipal Affairs confirm that she and the Minister of Community Services have committed the government to April 1, 1996 as the implementation date for a single-tiered, social assistance program in the regional Municipality of Queens?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, in fact both the Minister of Community Services and myself have written Queens and we had recommended to them that we would try to have a single-tiered system available as soon as possible, looking at the April 1st date. But at no time did we confirm that the system would be in place by the April 1st date.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, in response to the minister's reply to that question, I will table two letters, one by her to both the Town of Liverpool and the Municipality of the County of Queens, and the other from the Minister of Community Services, in which the terms, target date, April 1, 1996 are used, the word implementation and similar words are used to, in effect, give the impression if not the undertaking that such a system would be put in place by April 1, 1996. I table those letters for the minister and other members' edification.
My final question to the minister is this, will the minister confirm that the government's commitment to those two municipal units, which cooperated with her in coming together in amalgamation, is a commitment which is firm, respecting the implementation of a 100 per cent provincially-funded, single-tiered system of municipal social assistance and that the minister is not now saying and the government is not now saying that since those two municipal units now are captured by the legislation, that the government is going to pull the mat out from underneath them with respect to that commitment?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member has answered his own question when he read the fact that the government is targeting a particular date for looking at a single-tiered social service system. The government has any number of times, through the Minister of Community Services and myself, had meetings with Queens and Liverpool. The latest meeting I had with them was just last week and we had this very same discussion. I think the honourable member has said, and as we have said, we are targeting toward that date.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. That minister has indicated that there has been an agreement to an extension of some six months of the construction contract commitments with ITT Sheraton, relative to the construction of a new casino. I have had occasion to have a look at the agreement executed by the government and ITT Sheraton and that agreement is most interesting and it provides, among other things and I will table this document, "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Agreement, in the event the commencement, prosecution or Completion of the Construction of the Casino, or any part thereof, is delayed, at any time or from time to time, by a Force Majeure, then the Construction Schedule shall be extended for such reasonable period or periods . . .", and so on.
In the agreement, Force Majeure is defined and it means, ". . . any bona fide delay or state of affairs beyond the control of a party (other than as a result of financial incapacity and other than a delay or state of affairs caused by the party relying upon such Force Majeure) . . .".
I would like to ask the minister responsible if this House can be informed here now if, in fact, there is an agreement and an understanding as between the government and the casino that a delay is being permitted, and if so, on what legal authority relative to the contractual arrangements which were earlier undertaken has that extension been granted?
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. First of all, I can tell him that the Force Majeure clause has no application in this case. That has nothing to do with any extension either contemplated or to be granted. There is a provision in the contract agreed to by both parties that after a certain date, if the casino is not completed and in operation, a penalty clause comes into effect and there is a penalty of x number of dollars a day. It was the request of myself, on behalf of government, in discussions with senior ITT Sheraton people that we consider an extension of that date when the penalty clause will be applicable so that we may gather some more information on the operation. This extension will come into effect and it will be agreed to by both parties. As the honourable member knows from his days practising law, any contract which is made can be buried by the mutual agreement of both parties.
MR. DONAHOE: I appreciate the legal lesson from the Minister of Finance and he is absolutely right. Yes, indeed, parties to a contract can renegotiate that contract.
My question to the Minister of Finance and the minister responsible here as it relates to the casino arrangement is, what justification can the minister possibly offer the taxpayers of Nova Scotia in light of the fact that there was an agreement, which was introduced and announced with such fanfare, that there would be the $25 million a year for a four year deal and a new casino would be constructed? I would like the Minister of Finance to explain to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, why is it now that the minister is saying that he and the government are even contemplating the possibility of any extension and, if they are, is it to be contemplated on the basis that there will be very significant penalties imposed on ITT Sheraton if, in fact, it is extended?
MR. BOUDREAU: I think, Mr. Speaker, I have indicated that the contemplation is the extension of the period where those penalties would come into effect. If any decision is made, any extension comes into play, it will be made strictly for business reasons. Our partner and ourselves will have decided that at this point in time, without further information which further operation will provide, from a business basis we are not prepared to enforce that penalty at the original date.
MR. DONAHOE: By way of final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, because I am not at all satisfied that any explanation that the poor, beleaguered Nova Scotia taxpayer would understand, will this Minister of Finance please try to explain to me and to all Nova Scotians why, when an agreement was executed between the Government of Nova Scotia - against, I might say, the wishes of the majority of Nova Scotians - and ITT Sheraton, that there be a casino down the street, in downtown Halifax, and that that agreement had a provision in it which said that on or before a certain date a commitment to construct a new casino would be undertaken. It also went further and said that if the new construction isn't undertaken, there were financial penalties to be met and honoured by ITT Sheraton.
Through you, Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of Finance explain to the Nova Scotia taxpayer, why is ITT Sheraton now being given a holiday, or relief, at the expense of the Nova Scotia taxpayer, whereby they are apparently not now going to have to pay that penalty which is provided for in the original agreement?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the poor, beleaguered taxpayer, as the honourable member refers to him, has, indeed, been beleaguered by the actions of this honourable member and his former government, but he is not beleaguered by the arrangement we made with the casino. Not one cent of taxpayers' money is invested, not one cent of taxpayers' money is at risk and $100 million of revenue is guaranteed. What part of that arrangement is the honourable member objecting to?
The arrangement that has been made has provided approximately 850 jobs. It has provided $25 million, which is now, indeed, being used to pay for health and education and all of the other services in Nova Scotia. That $25 million is now being used for that, not one cent of taxpayers' money invested, not one cent at risk, guaranteed an additional $75 million of revenue, Mr. Speaker. We have gotten ourselves an excellent business deal and we will continue to stand behind that arrangement.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, a question through you to the Minister of Health. The chair and members of the Cape Breton Regional Health Board are paid a per diem of, in the case of the members, $50 a day and in the case of the chair, $75, although that is under some question. Some concerns have been raised that there are a great many members of hospital boards around the province who do not receive similar per diems. I would like the minister to perhaps explain to me and to those board members why, in fact, there is this discrepancy.
HON. RONALD STEWART: I am not certain from whence comes the information presented by the honourable member; he is not known for his accuracy in health matters, so I would have to assume that he has had some information from the board itself. The Hospitals Act allows that hospital boards be paid a per diem. It has not been the tradition of most hospital boards to do that. I believe that was the case in Cape Breton, that these boards did not receive a per diem and this board, to my knowledge, does not receive a per diem.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, perhaps it is the minister's own press statements that aren't accurate, because that is exactly where the information is coming from. I would be happy to table such a statement, dated September 26, 1995, which says that each member is entitled to receive $50 per day, and we have confirmed that. I will also table a press clipping where the concerns have been cited by members of other boards in this province.
I, again, ask the minister that if, in fact, this is the case, that there are boards, such as the one at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, where members are receiving per diems - because let's not forget that there was some considerable mileage made of the fact that the chairman of that particular board decided not to receive his particular per diem - would the minister agree that if, in fact, there are boards where members - as in the case with Cape Breton - where members are receiving per diems, that this inequity will be addressed so that all board members are treated equally from one end of this province to the other?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the word, entitled, is there and the honourable member raises the question in terms of whether or not it applies to this particular board. The Hospitals Act, and that is where the presentation to Cabinet and the presentation to Priorities and Planning Committee comes automatically, to quote the Hospitals Act that says, these boards are entitled to receive a per diem. In the case of hospital boards, they do not commonly receive a per diem and, in fact, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Board does not receive a per diem as per the previous hospital board; there was no change.
Mr. MacLean, the Chairman, asked me to make it clear through our presentations that he, indeed, was not going to be receiving a per diem, and we agreed. That is a very important issue for him and the board, again, will pursue the same policy as the previous hospital.
It is the law that says they are entitled to a per diem. It is left to the hospital's individual boards to determine that; most of them do not receive a per diem.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let's also clarify the fact that for the Chairman, Mr. MacLean, it would be deducted from his pension if he were to receive those per diems. That is something that was not mentioned in that additional press statement that was made.
Let me also ask the minister in my final question, in the original hospital board, membership was allowed to lapse because the duties of operating the hospitals was to be taken up by the Eastern Regional Health Board. But now we have appointments there for three years. I would like to ask the minister if he could explain why there have been three year appointments now to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Board, when the Eastern Regional Health Board is expected and is proposed to take over those duties at some point in the near future?
DR. STEWART: It isn't a problem, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the honourable gentleman drawing attention to the fact that the board at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital is a transitional board to be in place until the regional board designates that hospital as a facility under their aegis and, therefore, the appointments would lapse automatically.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: My question is for the Minister of Health. When the Minister of Health announced his revised Pharmacare plan in April, he made reference to consultations with seniors. I put in a freedom of information request and got back from his department, they listed 10 seniors' organizations that the department consulted with. I also asked for a summary of any written responses by those organizations and the answer I got, there were none and that any information passed on was verbal communications.
My question to the minister today is, will he table in this House the names of the individuals who attended those meetings and the dates that those meetings occurred?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question. We consulted through various groups, particularly using the Senior Citizens Secretariat and the groups that are represented there. They are the major groups representing almost every organization of seniors in the province. We were very appreciative of their input. I, myself, met several times with the representatives from the various seniors groups around the province but we mainly relied on the input from the Senior Citizens Secretariat which was very useful to us and we did appreciate their input.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I was advised that only selected individuals were chosen to attend these briefings and they were told by the government, the instructions at the time of the meeting was that this information was confidential and they could not go back and talk to the people in the Canadian Pensioners Concerned. They could not go back and talk to the Federation of Senior Citizens. They could not go back and talk to the Royal Canadian Legion members, that this was confidential, it could not be shared. Can the minister confirm that this was the kind of consultation that actually took place? A few individuals were drawn in, they were told this was the plan and they were to discuss it with nobody but just show up at his press conference and support him in his new Pharmacare plan.
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, of course not. It is preposterous to suggest that we would do that. In the first meeting where we were bringing together the elements of the plan, we asked the Senior Citizens Secretariat to send representatives so that we could include them in the very genesis of the plan. We said that this was a draft and we asked them to give us input and we would come back to a second meeting and then a third and we would then be able to introduce them to the elements of the plan. We asked for confidentiality in terms of the first meeting. We did not insist on anything after that, we just merely wanted them to be involved in the very genesis of the plan and the elements were very bare bones. We took their advice and began to construct from there. They made very good suggestions. We built on those suggestions and then consulted them a second time and then I, myself, discussed it with the groups, as I mentioned.
It is interesting to note that many of the changes, in fact, and these were the very beginnings of the plan, many of the changes that resulted afterwards were a result of extensive consultation and the extensive input that the seniors have given us from across the province.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, the seniors that I talked to are not happy with any changes because they have not seen any changes that reflect their views.
I would ask the minister in the final supplementary, I have not been able to receive one piece of paper from his department to verify what he just told me where seniors were consulted. I would ask the minister if he will agree today to table in the House the kinds of consultation he got back from those seniors groups, otherwise what he is calling consultation is a hoax. Will the minister table in this House that kind of information?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I might suggest that we brought seniors into the program in the very genesis of the program - for the first time, I might add. What kind of consultation did he do, what kind of consultation that led to the imposition. (Interruption) You certainly did not. In fact, the kind of consultation done was to impose a user fee on seniors around the province in 1990 and 1991 (Interruption) and that is the kind of consultation . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West does not have the floor.
DR. STEWART: . . . done by the Opposition. In fact, we consulted and we took input from around this province as late, in fact, as several months ago when we added flexibility which the seniors were (Interruption) We have done that and if the honourable wishes to check with the Senior Citizens Secretariat and look at the our meetings that we had, I am sure they would be happy to help him out in this regard.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is directed to the Minister of Health. Despite thousands of dollars worth of advertising by the Department of Health, despite many new communication officers in the Department of Health, the Nova Scotia Pharmacare Program has been a bitter pill for the seniors of this province to swallow. One point that has just recently come to the attention of many seniors is that the $215 premium is really a five month premium. It expires at the end of March 1996. The seniors were never notified of that fact.
Mr. Speaker, can the minister confirm that this is, in fact, the case that the premium expires at the end of March 1996 and all the seniors in this province will have to go through the anxiety and the stress of being assessed again? Will the minister confirm that?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the plan by this government to save the Pharmacare Program from almost certain failure was done in April of this year. It was announced in this place, it was discussed and debated. I think the honourable gentleman opposite who just asked the question actually was part of that debate, knowing full well the requirements of the program.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, again I go to the Minister of Health. The plan is a mishmash of confusion for the seniors and it is a mishmash of confusion for most people in Nova Scotia.
Another fact I would like to get confirmed by the Minister of Health is this. Mr. Speaker, I had a call from a senior the other day who advised me that she received a letter that stated that her Pharmacare co-pay, the component of the Pharmacare Program, expired at the end of December of this year. It doesn't coincide with the premium period, they don't operate on the same timetable. Can the Minister of Health confirm that the co-pay expires at the end of December 1995 and again that the premium expires at the end of March 1996? That is very confusing for the seniors of this province.
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I certainly would like to see the document and the case to which he refers. The fact is that since April of this year, seniors have been, in fact, subject to a reduction in co-pay from $400 to $200, as the honourable gentleman opposite knows, that, in fact, the new program came in to protect seniors of lower income, in many cases protecting them in a very good way and, in fact, that program was in effect since April 1st and has been doing some very good things for seniors in terms of protecting them from drug costs.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the minister completely avoided the question. The question was, does the co-pay coverage period coincide with the premium period? That is the question. It is very confusing for the seniors.
Mr. Speaker, the seniors are looking for some answers. There are all kinds of communication officers. In fact, I phoned the 1-800 number and was told, I hope you like the music, and all this kind of stuff. After you wait 15 minutes, you get somebody on the phone, you push a button and they put you through to another department who will answer the phone after another five minutes and you get somewhere talking to somebody about the music that you were listening to, whether or not you found it comfortable to your ears or something.
MR. SPEAKER: All right, is that the question? We have heard two questions already from you. There is one more to come.
MR. TAYLOR: There is one question and it is the same question I ask again. Will the minister please answer for the seniors of this province if not, for the Official Opposition. Will the minister please tell the seniors in this province if the co-pay period coincides, runs concurrent, operates along the same timeframe as the premium period or does one expire at the end of the fiscal year and the other at the end of the calendar year?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the co-pay and the premium occupy the same timeframe in this new program. The honourable gentleman knows that. If there is a case in which this is not the fact, please table the issue. I will be happy to look into it. The honourable gentleman knows that he has full access to this House and to Question Period and why he is tying up the lines when a senior can get through and while he is on the phone, I would like to know that. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is for the Minister of Health.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to be nice?
MR. MACLEOD: I am always nice. Could the minister please advise if he, or the Department of Health, undertook an actuarial study of the long-term viability and sustainability of the Pharmacare Program he introduced in April, and, if so, would he table in this House at the earliest opportunity?
HON. RONALD STEWART: This is a good question. I appreciate it. It is an interesting question, Mr. Speaker, because, to do an actuarial study, you actually have to have the information. I might say that there was absolutely no information in this program prior to this year when we started to collect it. In fact, the board of directors of this new program is very interested in the data that we have been collecting over the past 12 months and have done some very preliminary work in looking at the long-range outlook and we are very encouraged by some of the work that the board of directors is doing in this regard.
MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, again my question is to the Minister of Health. If there have been no actuarial studies that would for instance reliably predict the participation rates, the inflationary adjustments that have to be made re the co-payments and the premiums, the program costs, how did the Department of Health come to determine the premium to be charged, the income level cut-offs, the credit payments and all those other things that seem to be out there in that world of never-never land? On what other arbitrary predictions were the criteria for setting up the new programs set with?
DR. STEWART: Well, considering, Mr. Speaker, that the program was left a deficit of $20 million - and we had to deal with that - by the previous Party to which the honourable member is a member, that would give some idea of the kind of never-never land that we entered when we came into this place. (Applause) It is indeed, however, in his question, implicit in a well-run insurance program, to look at all of those issues. Indeed, the decisions that were made were made in good faith as we went through the construction of the program, with the knowledge of the number of seniors in the province. I would be happy to outline these in detail if the honourable member wishes, in a written form.
MR. MACLEOD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would appreciate that written information. My second and final supplementary is again to the Minister of Health. Many seniors are wondering how the government came to the decision to provide seniors who earn below $15,000 and who are not required to pay the $215 yearly premium and $85 credit. How did you come to that decision? How did the government come to decide on this amount when the total increase in the old program versus the new program is $50? There is no problem at all in providing low income seniors with modest financial relief but will the minister explain to us in this House why is it calculated against the cost of the Pharmacare Program when he has said that the cost of the program is going through the roof?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, if you will indulge me a moment to think about the ramifications of this, certainly I will do my best to answer. The fact is that relief had to be given to low income seniors. The cut-off point was the same as was used by the previous administration to determine the cut-off in terms of raising the co-pay to $400 over the GIS recipients. We have followed federal guidelines in that regard.
In respect to the programs going through the roof, you are absolutely right. Before 1993, it was absolutely going through the roof, Mr. Speaker. A possibility in this year that we would be paying $135 million and without any kind of adjustments carried out by the previous administration, I might add, it would have gone to $224 million. We have, in fact, saved this program by this innovative insurance. We have changed it from a user pay, user fee kind of system, into a system which resembles Medicare in that we all participate if we wish to have its benefits.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is for the Minister of Health. Approximately one year ago, the board of the Hants Community Hospital was suspended, the CEO was suspended, and a gentleman by the name of John Breen was brought in to do an investigation of the hospital and to run it in the interim period; at the same time there was an RCMP investigation as well. Unfortunately, there are individuals within the Windsor area at the present time over whose heads there still hangs a cloud because of that RCMP investigation.
I have asked the minister, on several occasions, when he intends to release that RCMP report and I ask him today if he could advise the House when that report will be made available to the public?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question by the honourable member opposite, particularly his understanding in these whole issues that surrounded those events at the Hants Community Hospital. I might say, without appearing to be patronizing in any way, his understanding and regard for the sensitivities of the case were much appreciated.
The RCMP investigation, as I understand it, is complete. I have not had a report as yet, Mr. Speaker, but I will certainly share that - as I assume I can do - with the House when I receive it. I am informed as of last week that it should be forthcoming soon. I am afraid I cannot be any more specific than that at this point.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I understand that there is probably a connection between the report made by Mr. John Breen and the RCMP investigation. So would my understanding be correct that when the report from the RCMP or, conversely, the report of John Breen is made available, the other one will be released simultaneously?
DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would assume that is so. There was a connection and there were some bits of information that had to come from the evaluation of Mr. Breen's report.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wrote to the minister, I think it was the end of August of this year, and he mentioned that the facility review team had been working at the hospital for a long period of time. I was wondering if the report from that particular review team would be made public for those who have an interest in the operation of the board?
DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I should think that that is a public document and would be released.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: My question through you, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Health. Is it the Department of Health's policy to sponsor bingo games at 7:30 on Tuesday evenings?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I know of no policy of the Department of Health to sponsor bingo games on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I find it - and I want to table this if one of the Pages would take it over - amazing and appalling at the same time that the Department of Health cannot afford nurses, Pharmacare, or medical treatment for people in need, that they are busy sponsoring bingo in the Annapolis Valley through the radio station when they can't afford to do the medical care that people are demanding. What is the Minister of Health thinking about, allowing bingo to be sponsored under the department's logo and under the Department of Health in the Annapolis Valley? It is just silly that this minister is sponsoring that at the expense of hospitals and health care.
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I have only just now glanced at this. Apparently a radio station is sponsoring a bingo game in conjunction with the Western Regional Board. I would certainly direct the question, on behalf of the honourable member, to the chair of the Western Regional Board.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, the bingo is being sponsored and paid for by this minister's department and he is saying, oh it is just a silly little thing. Well if it is so silly, why are we short of money in his department so that we can't have nurses, we can't have adequate hospital care? Will the minister tell this House how much money his Department of Health is spending on bingo in the Annapolis Valley? Will he tell us how much it is costing his department?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, let me tell you how much money it cost the department and the taxpayers above and beyond what was collected. The $190 million deficit was left to this department by the honourable gentleman opposite as Chair of the Treasury Board. That is just a little bit of information he ignores. As to the bingo game, I will be happy to look into this and happy to report back to him in respect to that. Perhaps he is a sore loser, I don't know, but we will check it out.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. Yesterday, of course, we witnessed a wonderful exercise in democracy. By a very slim majority the people in the Province of Quebec voted to remain part of this country. Regardless, the democratic process was followed. My question to the Premier is quite simply this. Why is it that the Premier has decided and announced that he is going to postpone the democratic rights of the residents who live in Halifax Fairview by delaying the by-election to fill the vacancy that exists?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the plight of the people in that area was brought to me during the unfortunate absence of their member who was away for some four months. I had to get my member, Mr. Fogarty to answer some of their issues because they did not have a member for that particular time. I don't say that in the spirit of recrimination because it is important. I also wish to state that the honourable member did not resign from the House in time for us to do anything about an election. We do not have elections when the House is sitting. These people will be represented by the member who we have asked to look after some of their complaints. If the New Democratic Party chooses to put somebody else there as well, then I will be delighted.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, all I can say is what poppycock and arrogance. I have to ask the Premier through you is it his view of democracy that the Premier picks who will represent the constituents in that riding, not the people themselves? That is in fact what the Premier has just said. He has picked his man from Halifax Bedford Basin to represent the people rather than giving the people in that riding the right to choose their own. What arrogance and poppycock. I ask the Premier, is that his view of democracy?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of any acknowledged substitute by the New Democratic Party for the people of that riding, I humbly and considering and discussing with the membership opposite decided to offer them somebody as a representative. I think that if they had been that concerned at the time that one of those two might have offered to have coped with it just as well. They did not.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the Premier that during the time when Alexa McDonough was involved in the leadership campaign her office remained opened, the constituents' needs were still being addressed and met. In fact, the Premier knows that quite well.
Is it the position of this government that he will decide when it is appropriate to call a by-election, when the poll results turn around and he thinks that he has got a more favourable opportunity to win? Is that what is deciding when the Premier considers he will follow democracy and when he will not?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired. We will now move on.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 28.
Bill No. 28 - Regional Municipalities Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the New Democratic Party will be happy to know that he adjourned the debate so he has the floor once again. I believe you have approximately half an hour or more left; 35 minutes.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Okay, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I am not 100 per cent sure that I will use all 35 minutes, but there are still a number of very cogent points that I would like to make. (Interruption) Pardon me?
AN HON. MEMBER: Is there anything about by-elections in there?
MR. HOLM: No. The member asked if there is anything about by-elections in the bill. No, there isn't anything that stands out in my memory, and that reminds me, though, of another very serious flaw in this bill, as it was a very serious flaw in the amalgamation bill for the Cape Breton region and the metropolitan area. It is one that we gave the government the opportunity to address at that time when we raised it and we even suggested an amendment to be a helpful and constructive Opposition, something now that the minister, after the fact, is making some noises that she may actually be supportive of.
What I am talking about, Mr. Speaker, is the disclosure of contributions to the campaigns of those who are seeking political office. I don't know what the costs were for the individual candidates who ran for mayor in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and I certainly don't know what the costs are going to be for the three who are seeking the position of mayor in the new super-city of the Regional Municipality of Halifax County.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the current Mayor for the City of Halifax has indicated he is going to be spending only, I think the figure was about $100,000 - just small change I guess - and the Mayor of Halifax County has suggested his campaign is going to be costing approximately $200,000.
We heard the minister talking earlier today, when she was asked questions about the Cape Breton Regional Municipality which was supposed to be saving taxpayers about $6.5 million, she is a little bit surprised to find out that, in fact, it is costing about $6.5 million more. Instead of saving $6.5 million - only off by about $13 million - she is a little bit surprised about that and she is trying to find out why that has happened.
Obviously, Mr. Speaker, the government has not thought through their plans very carefully or thoroughly. I would suggest that what would make sense, and it is still not even too late - hopefully the minister will hear these comments - for the municipality that is currently having the elections here to introduce amendments to the legislation that would be retroactive and then to change this bill, to make sure it would come into effect if any new municipalities amalgamate under it, a requirement that political contributions to somebody who is seeking the office of mayor or councillor, that any contributions over and above $50 would have to be public information.
It is crucially important, we are now entering into a system as one of the aldermen in the City of Dartmouth is quoted in today's paper - and I don't have it with me, but anybody who wants to go out and get today's newspaper can go out and get it and check and challenge me if the essence of what I am saying is not accurate - he pointed out that this is becoming basically a rich man's game, that the average person will not be able to afford to run these kinds of campaigns, certainly not be able to run them unless they have a lot of backing. If the decisions of councils are to be seen, as well as actually be totally above board and not be influenced by pressures to support those who have contributed to the campaigns, we have to ensure that is transparent.
You know, Mr. Speaker, when you ran for office, as did I, those who contributed to our campaigns, that information is public. So if I were to come in here and be supporting a particular process or a particular bid for a company or whatever, people could very easily look at the list of those who contributed to my campaign and determine, on the basis of those contributions, if those contributions might have affected some of the decisions and the directions I have taken.
Mr. Speaker, obviously citizens in municipalities, especially once those municipalities are becoming much larger and much more costly to run those campaigns, citizens in those municipalities where you are having budgets estimated to be $200,000 - that is close to $0.25 million - deserve to know that those who are contributing towards those campaigns are not going to be paid back in some kind of favourable way by decisions that are being made or positions that are being taken by those elected representatives. I am not suggesting they would, but there are some - and I have heard of particular names which I will not mention here - who have special interest and particular interest, I know, or at least I have been told, who have been offering certain people, who might favour their kind of development ideas, contributions to their campaigns.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that that be totally transparent and, hopefully, the minister will not only consider amending this bill to ensure public disclosure, but also to amend the current amalgamation Act for the metropolitan area of Halifax to include that and to make it retroactive, so that the current campaign will be covered. It is a betrayal of the best interests of the people in this greater area of Halifax County, Halifax City, Dartmouth and Bedford, not to provide that.
I talked a few minutes ago about arrogance, and I think that we saw a prime example of the arrogance of this government by the Premier's response of the question of the Halifax Fairview by-election.
MR. SPEAKER: Now that does not deal with Bill No. 28, please.
MR. HOLM: That is just my perception; that is just the way it came across to me. But you know, this bill smacks of that same kind of arrogance. There is no question about it, none whatsoever.
Now, Mr. Speaker, let's just look at this scenario. Yes, indeed, they are following their example that they followed before in Cape Breton and Halifax County area. But you know, if you make a mistake once and it has been pointed out, that is not a reason to make it again. Once you have made a mistake twice, that is not a reason to say, well, we have been fouling up so far all along - I almost used another word - but if they had been messing up all along, then we might as well continue to mess up and continue to do it the bad way or the wrong way that we were doing before.
What I am getting at here is the coordinator. The coordinator, the person who is going to be given almost total power, total authority to mold and to design this new municipal unit, is accountable to no one other than the minister, but is not accountable to the people for whom those decisions are being made. The minister, not the councils of those municipalities, and here supposedly, Mr. Speaker, this will only come about if the majority of councils in that municipality of the county to be amalgamated, consolidated, joined together, call it what you will, if the majority request it.
Well, Mr. Speaker, what is so strange, in fact, it would seem to be responsible and democratic, to suggest that that coordinator should be picked by those municipal councils, not by the minister? This coordinator will do all kinds of things. First of all, the coordinator, not the municipal councillors - welcome to the Chair, Madam Speaker - but this new coordinator, not the representatives of the council will select the chief executive officer for that new municipality. Now the coordinator, when their job is done, they are gone, but that new council that is going to be elected, will have to deal with that new chief executive officer.
Madam Speaker, it would seem reasonable to expect that we could turn things upside down so that we are doing things right. For example, if the municipal councils in an area request amalgamation, it would seem reasonable and it may mean a period of time of greater overlap between the time that the existing councils fade into history and the new council takes effect, but it would still seem reasonable for the municipal elections to be held once the boundaries have been determined and the new council then to be elected and that coordinator to be responsible to the new council for the entire area that has been elected. Then that coordinator would have to, in a democratic way, be accountable to the people that he is designing the system for. That coordinator might be involved in selecting the chief executive officer but that council, newly elected council, would then have the final say as to who is going to be appointed.
Under this system, as the minister sees democracy, as the Liberals see democracy, their vision, their brand, it is like the Premier saying, I'll pick my man to be the representative for Halifax-Fairview; the heck with what the people want, we will have a by-election whenever we get around to it. This coordinator hires a chief executive officer and together they hire the staff. Madam Speaker, as I said before, as happened on April 1st when the new municipality in Cape Breton took over, the coordinator is history, he is gone. Mr. Campbell is out of there but the decisions that he made, the new council who had absolutely no say in the people who are put into those positions and who were hired, they have to live with the decisions of that coordinator because the coordinator has all of the powers of council. In other words, declared by the Savage Liberal team to be, in effect, the dictator, the autocratic controller of that municipality.
The coordinator acts as a police commission, Madam Speaker. The coordinator can borrow money and spend money. Do you know, doesn't have to get the approval of council to do that but the taxpayers have to determine how they are going to pay for the money that that coordinator borrowed and here we heard again today, the minister is shocked, she doesn't understand where the savings went in Cape Breton. If she had listened, if she had opened her ears and she had been listening to what people have said and what examples have been shown in other places, those kinds of savings that this government was flaunting and pretending, existed. They have not existed elsewhere and, in fact, they were told by those who are knowledgeable that those kinds of savings will, in fact, not materialize. That is a shock to this government that the savings are gone. It is a shock to this government to learn that there is now $4.5 million worth of new debts as a result of the startup cost for this municipality. The government has indicated that they are not prepared to help pick up some of the costs that they have imposed and therefore the higher taxes that they are imposing upon the people from Louisbourg all the way across Cape Breton County.
Madam Speaker, the coordinator does have an advisory committee though, I have to be fair, he does have those who are to advise him. Advise. No authority, no powers other than to make suggestions. Interestingly, the mayors and the councillors are not even permitted to sit on that advisory committee. That would have at least provided a little sense or semblance of democracy in that duly elected representatives of the people are making advice, having some input in a structured advisory way. Oh no, that obviously is contrary to the Liberal version of democracy. The Liberal version of democracy obviously is, my way or no way and they have decided that they and they alone will decide what is best for the municipalities and the municipal taxpayers.
The coordinator will decide if there are community councils, what the boundaries of those community councils are. Not the council, not elected representatives of the people making these decisions, but the coordinator. Picked, not by the elected representatives, not by the people, picked by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I am sure, in consultation with the other heavyweights of government, the members of Cabinet.
Madam Speaker, somehow to me, this whole model just does not make sense. We have been saying in this Party for a long time, municipal reform is needed in this province, but municipal reform has to be based on a solid footing. It has to be based on fact. It has to be based on involvement of inclusiveness, involving the citizens.
The model that is being presented here is but one model. There are varieties of options that can be followed or options that could be chosen. Did you know that the model the government here in Nova Scotia, the Liberal/Tory model, and I say the Liberal/Tory model because, as the minister pointed out in her statement when she introduced, for example, the Cape Breton bill in this House, much of the work that she was now following through on had been carried out by the former Conservative Government. The former Conservatives started the model and the process, and she said she was just simply bringing it to fruition.
In other words, maybe she was bringing in a model that was crazy, Madam Speaker, because that, of course, was what the Premier called it when he was in Opposition. He said he would never impose this and that it was crazy, but I guess the government, maybe there is something that affects government when people get on government benches and that is when they start to do things that are a little bit crazy. Certainly, this government has borrowed, not only the approach, but also the model that was being imposed.
Where this kind of model has been in effect elsewhere, whether we take a look at the amalgamation or the consolidation that occurred in London, where they took over the neighbouring communities, the cost-savings there that were projected, again, were not there, Madam Speaker. That goes back into the mid-1980's. The kind of model we are seeing here was imposed in Winnipeg. You know the municipalities in those areas are now starting to break away. Legislation has been done to permit some now to hive themselves off because it is not representing and it is not serving the needs of the communities, as decided by the citizens in those communities.
It is not my place to say what form of government or exactly how it should be structured in Shelburne, where they are now looking at it again, or in Pictou or in Lunenburg or those other areas. It is not my position to impose my wishes or my views on them, in terms of the kind of structure. But so, too, Madam Speaker, in a democracy where we supposedly respect the democratic rights of citizens to select their form of government and what is most appropriate for them, it is not the right of this government to impose it on them either.
Madam Speaker, the minister has said that this is strictly voluntary. Now I don't wish to be unkind to the minister but I also can't just brush over such a ridiculous statement as that and accept the minister's word at its face value. The truth of the matter is that the provincial government, by their downloading process, by how they determine they are going to be changing the service exchange cost formulae, for example with Justice, for example within Community Services and, of course, the Liberals in Opposition had promised that they were going to be taking over 100 per cent the cost of social services but, instead, what they have been doing is offloading some of those costs onto municipalities.
The justice system, the sharing of the policing costs, where now again they are talking about shifting another $900,000 from rural to the urban towns and the towns, let's face it, are going to be the only separate urban areas that exist in this province because you cannot call Halifax, after the December 2nd vote and after the April assumption of the new council, it certainly is not an urban area, it is a regional area with an urban core.
Those increased costs that are being downloaded to those small towns intentionally, by the Savage Liberal Team, and it is a team, I am not going to be so unkind to the Minister of Municipal Affairs or to the Premier, to suggest that either of them individually bears full responsibility for the autocratic, arrogant approach of this bill. That is something shared by each and every member.
I have to wonder why it is that members of this Liberal Government are prepared - maybe they won't be, I should not assume, but why they would most likely be prepared - to adopt a bill that will prohibit their constituents from having an opportunity to come before this House in the Law Amendments Committee process, to have their interests and concerns addressed when their municipalities are being amalgamated.
Democracy can sometimes be messy. It is not always the most efficient method. Certainly, Madam Speaker, we saw that yesterday with the Quebec Referendum. I am sure that you, as well as I and all members of this House, were following the events of last evening very carefully and very closely.
You know, you might have made the decision that it would be more efficient for the Government of Quebec simply to have not bothered to try to involve the people of Quebec in a referendum vote and that they will just impose their will. That is, in effect, what this government is doing with the municipalities here in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is not prepared to provide any opportunity for the involvement in a concrete, constructive way for the citizens of those municipalities to be involved in the structure of that municipality; nor is it prepared to provide them with a forum where their issues and concerns can be addressed.
In other words, if Barrington and Shelburne and Lockeport are to be amalgamated, or maybe Lunenburg County and Mahone Bay and Bridgewater and those areas, maybe they will all be amalgamated, but, you know, the people, the workers and others who live in those areas, won't be allowed to come before the Law Amendments Committee, because there won't be a separate bill required. The elected representatives from those areas will not even be sitting on the advisory council. The coordinator, hand-picked by the minister, will be the person who will set tax rates, borrow money, hire staff, make all of the decisions, and the people have no say. That, Madam Speaker, is arrogance at its highest level; that is an autocratic, dictatorial style of government that certainly doesn't fit with my definition of democracy, and I don't believe it fits in with the definition or view of democracy held by the vast majority of Nova Scotians.
Therefore, I can assure you that I will not be able to support this bill unless there are some very major, significant changes made to it, so that the bill is truly going to provide an opportunity for the citizens to have some input and for the citizens to have some kind of control through their elected representatives on what the coordinator is going to be imposing on those citizens who live in those areas. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address a few remarks in relation to Bill No. 28, An Act Respecting Regional Municipalities. The legislation before us is, as you are aware, somewhat of a generic form of amalgamation bill. It is intended that it would, perhaps, be a template that may be used by municipal units province-wide if, as and when they enter into amalgamation agreements or, might I say, more in the context of one of the basic, fundamental public policy flaws of this legislation, when certain municipal units in this province are forced, potentially against their will and against their better judgment, into an amalgamation or a merger.
It is simply not true, despite the Minister of Municipal Affairs' best efforts to have the community at large, the taxpayers, the municipal leaders and anybody who might have seen or heard her comments which she uttered in the course of her bill briefing, it is simply not true that when in a Daily News article of October 27, 1995, with a headline, Jolly bill: No more shotgun weddings. The minister is quoted as follows and I quote her now in this fashion as does the article, "It will now be up to the individual municipalities to decide when (amalgamation is) right for them,". Jolly told a bill briefing. "It's voluntary; it's there when they want it.".
Well, that just simply is not true. I am not going to suggest that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has lied in that bill briefing, but I am going to suggest that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has so grossly mischaracterized the fundamental principle of this legislation as to make it impossible for any rational, reasonable Nova Scotian who has looked at this legislation to put any credence in any word at all that she uttered at that bill briefing.
Why is it not true when the Minister of Municipal Affairs says it will now be up to the individual municipalities to decide when amalgamation is right for them? Well, the reason that is not true is because the very bill which she presents to us says just the opposite. I address it by way of a matter, not by wanting to get into clause by clause but I address it by way of attempting to describe what is a fundamental public policy principle in this legislation and the abysmal, abject failure of the minister to make good on the words which she uses in the bill briefing and, in fact, to perpetrate upon the municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia a situation which is absolutely guaranteed to make it possible to have a municipal unit or a number of municipal units in this province forced into an amalgamation which they may not want, which they may, after analysis, have concluded is not in the best interests of the taxpayers of their municipal unit.
I say that because the language of the legislation makes it clear that this minister, or any subsequent Minister of Municipal Affairs, can be requested by one of more of the councils in a particular county of the province to undertake a study of the form of municipal government in that county and to determine whether a regional municipality would be in the interests of the people of that county. Here is the flaw, it doesn't say.
Once all of those municipal units, who are the subject of the study and who reside adjacent to each other and within that municipal unit, voluntarily agree that they want to be a part of the new municipal unit, the fundamental flaw in this legislation is set out in that same section to the effect that as a matter of public policy principle all that has to happen is that a majority of the councils of the municipal unit in the county request that a regional municipality be established for the county and, lo and behold, we then have a regional municipality.
So I want to pose to you, Madam Speaker, the proposition that in any number of jurisdictions within any number of counties in the Province of Nova Scotia, it is the case that we have a number today, as of this day, a number of legally constituted municipal units. So let us take the example that we have - and I will pick a hypothetical number - five municipal units and it happens that one of those municipal units, one or more as it says, says to the minister that we would like you minister to undertake a study to see whether regional municipality would be appropriate for us. So the legislation affords the minister the authority on the strength of the one request out of the five municipal units. Sure municipal unit, I will start a study for you. Good for you for asking.
There is no indication, first of all, that there has to be any consultation with the other four municipal units as to whether or not they support that there is a study in the first place -and that is a fundamental fatal flaw as far as I am concerned - there is no regard by this Minister of Municipal Affairs that she, and any successor minister, is under any obligation to go to the other municipal units in that county and even so much as extend to them the courtesy of letting them know that the request has been made and ask them and afford them the opportunity to offer a view as to whether or not they wish to be a part of any such study. So the minister, under this legislation, with virtually carte blanche can go ahead and commit that the study is undertaken.
Now, Madam Speaker, stay with my hypothetical formula, if you will, for a moment. We are talking five municipal units in my hypothetical formula. Let's assume that it happens that the one municipal unit that makes the request that there be such a study is (a) the smallest of the five municipal units and (b) the municipal unit in which the assessment base and the tax base is the weakest of all five. That municipal unit comes forward and says to the minister, let's talk regional municipality.
That could happen and indeed it will happen, the human condition being what it is and the political reality being what it is. It can and it will happen for the simple reason that it is very realistic and it is very possible that particularly in a time when this government is extracting and withdrawing financial support from the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia, that those which are smaller and weaker and have more fragile assessment and tax bases, may say to themselves around their council table, aha, if we were to be hooked in with some of our neighbouring, larger municipal units, our very substantial debt, our weak assessment and tax base, might well be supported and subsumed into a larger municipal unit and we might, indeed, receive some very considerable benefit from amalgamation or merger with our neighbours. Then you might even find that a second municipal unit says, well, you know, that might work.
Without beating this to death, I will come to the point and the point is this. That the fundamental flaw, one of many fundamental flaws, in this legislation, is that it is possible that two or three municipal units, in my hypothetical of five, being the largest geographically, being the largest and strongest in terms of assessment and tax base, can, against their will, be forced into an amalgamation or a merger.
It is a lie for anybody to suggest that engagement in a municipal amalgamation is somehow, under the terms and provisions of this legislation, voluntary. That just simply is not true because the legislation is designed in such a way, Madam Speaker, as I know you well know, that once the study is done, as dictated by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, whether two or three or four of the intended partners agree or not, they can be forced, against their will, into an amalgamation, resulting, potentially, and we are now seeing it in Cape Breton, in a situation where those who do not want to be a part of the municipal amalgamation or the merged unit are obligated to assume debts and obligations which the smaller municipal units may well carry into the amalgamation or the merger.
It occurs to me that as a matter of public policy, and one which I would consider is appropriate to be reviewed, considered and I put this sincerely to the Minister of Municipal Affairs because this bill will, with their large majority, pass here through second reading and it will go to the Committee on Law Amendments.
I want to put the proposition here today, Madam Speaker, that the public policy flaw that I am now describing can, to an extent at least, in some measure, be overcome. It can be overcome by this minister agreeing and saying before we close second reading debate, that refinement can be made so as to ensure that the municipal unit or units which can dictate by virtue of their expression or their statement that they wish to be amalgamated, house or contain within their geographical boundaries and I will give the minister an option, either 50 per cent plus one of the population of the entire region intended to be amalgamated or that those municipal units contain at least 50 per cent plus one of the assessment and tax base capacity of all of those which are intended to be amalgamated. How can it be fair? How can it possibly be fair that a municipal unit which might be the largest and the wealthiest and have most of the infrastructure, have a permanent fire department, have a permanent police department and on and on, "be forced" into amalgamation with surrounding municipal units, if in fact, that municipality, has upon study, concluded that it is not in the best interest of that larger municipal unit.
It just simply is not true. It is not true for anybody to say that now, as a consequence of this bill, participation and membership in a merged or amalgamated municipal unit is now voluntary. It is not voluntary whatsoever.
That, Madam Speaker, in my opinion is a fundamental flaw. It is an evidence or an indication of the fact that this government is, quite frankly, notwithstanding the rhetoric which we hear so much from this minister and from other ministers and from the Premier talking about their relationship and dialogue with municipal units and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and so on, it just simply does not reflect a legitimate respect or regard for the legal rights, interests, responsibilities and authorities of the municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia.
I almost choked the other day here in this place when I heard the Minister of Municipal Affairs standing up introducing one of the most significant pieces of legislation which certainly will be before us in this session of the Legislature and one of the most significant pieces of legislation introduced in this place in a very long time, stand up and in her 12 or 13 or 9 or 11 minute introduction of it when she moved second reading and offered little or no explanation as to what the public policy issues were at play here.
In fact, as I said just a moment ago, she rose in her place and suggested without a smirk or any apparent self-conscientiousness about her at all, stood up and said, and one of the beauties of this legislation is that it now means that participation in a merged or amalgamated municipal unit is going to be voluntary. Well, with respect, that is not true and she knew that when she said it and any member of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and any councillor in the municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia knows that and every member of this place knows that. Increasingly, on the basis of the information reaching our office, more and more concerned taxpayers at the municipal level are learning that.
This minister, Madam Speaker, you will recall, again the other day when she introduced this bill on second reading, again, without any degree of sheepishness or self-consciousness or whatever, said no shame, says the Minister of Community Services. Absolutely right, he knows that she should have (Interruption) that colleague minister of the Minister of Municipal Affairs knows that she should have been full of shame. That Minister of Municipal Affairs stands up and says in this place, well, I talked to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. In fact, I went down to Yarmouth and I think it was on October 13th, I told them that this was coming and 13 days later this bill of 98 pages of difficult, complex and threatening legislation is placed here on this table.
I say to you, Madam Speaker, and I say to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, through you, I do not believe for a minute that there was anything close to legitimate, meaningful, professional, responsible communication and consultation between this Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities table officers or any of the individual municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia. There just simply was not any such discussion.
I have to ask and we are now being asked, I ask this minister, through you, Madam Speaker, I ask you if you are so interested if you might be interested and you have a background in municipal government, ask Mayor Gloria McCluskey in Dartmouth as to whether or not there was consultation relative to this piece of legislation. Ask the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities as to whether or not there was discussion between the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities about this legislation and its implications. I know the answer and the answer is there was no such consultation.
After the fact that there was no consultation, this minister stands up (Interruptions) Oh, my goodness, I love it, the Minister of Community Services is helping out again. He was at a function in Yarmouth, I attended the same function a couple of days later. The Minister of Community Services, Madam Speaker, would, by way of his interjection, have you believe that he was present when the Minister of Municipal Affairs discussed this legislation with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member might do well not to be sidetracked.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, indeed, I might. But, Madam Speaker, it is so difficult to resist the invitation from the Minister of Community Services to react to his helpful comments, relative to the principle of the bill and the degree or lack of same of discussion and consultation as between this minister and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, suffice it to say to get off that rabbit track, suffice it to say that all the Minister of Community Services is doing is confirming what I said a moment ago, that is simply that the Minister of Municipal Affairs stood up at a function in front of some hundreds of municipal leaders in Yarmouth at the UNSM meetings and, in effect said, I am going to introduce some legislation that is going to be a generic bill, that is going to set out the ground rules and the parameters for amalgamations and mergers. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, she even at that point indicated to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, absolutely erroneously, that it would only be possible for municipal units to be engaged in a municipal merger or amalgamation if they did so voluntarily.
The legislation before us, one of the fundamental public policy flaws and the principles espoused in it, which needs to be overhauled, indeed needs to be redesigned absolutely, is the fact that it is possible for a municipal unit to be forced against its will into a merged or amalgamated larger, regional municipal unit. That is an issue which I say sincerely through you, Madam Speaker, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I say to her through you that I would hope, and I plead on behalf of the municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia, that those provisions or the principle espoused there, will be redesigned during the course of the debate we have here on second reading, or certainly, if failing that, during the course of the Law Amendments Committee.
There is another principle at play here in this legislation, Madam Speaker, of which I know you are aware, that is that if the minister has even one municipal unit within a county come to her and say, we think we would like you to check out the possibility of regional amalgamation, and then the minister, on the strength of that one request, is authorized under the legislation as it now reads, to set certain things in motion, among them that this minister is empowered to go to the Governor in Council and ask that the Governor in Council appoint a coordinator of a proposed regional municipality. Well, there is a real problem as far as I am concerned when one looks further into the legislation and, again, on the basis of the principle set out and espoused in this bill. The language clothes such coordinators with clearly excessive powers. I will refer in a little while to a couple of those powers and authorities which I believe to be excessive.
The legislation by way of principle, Madam Speaker, you will be aware, indicates that the coordinator is responsible for designing and implementing the administrative structure of the regional municipality. There is a very disappointing couple of provisions in the clauses relating to the powers and authorities of the coordinator. I happen to believe, and I am sure you share the view, I have unfortunately some doubts as to whether or not the Minister of Municipal Affairs shares this view and presumably because she has the blessing of all of her Treasury bench colleagues who supported this legislation at caucus and all of her backbencher colleagues who supported it as it was reviewed clause by clause, I am sure, in your caucus, so every member of this Liberal Government is supporting a principle which as far as I am concerned, as a proud Nova Scotian, is offensive in the extreme. That principle is simply this. The coordinator, able to be appointed under the legislation we now debate, is responsible for doing quite a number of things and among them, that coordinator is responsible and has authority to make appointment of the chief administration officer.
But if you look at another public policy statement in this legislation, Madam Speaker, you will find this. You will find in Clause 5(4) that when the appointment of the chief administrative officer is undertaken by the coordinator, "Preference in employment shall be given to an employee of municipal government where that employee meets the basic requirements for a position and is the most qualified candidate from within municipal government.". However, that provision, that preference in employment should be given to an employee of municipal government where the employee meets the basic requirements for a position and is the most qualified candidate from within municipal government, that preference to the men and women who have been working in municipal government in the Province of Nova Scotia, in the region which is intended to be amalgamated, that preference in employment doesn't apply, as far as the authorities afforded the coordinator are concerned, to the appointment of the chief administrative officer.
What does that say to us? From my vantage point it says that the coordinator doesn't really have to go out of his or her way to ensure that every conceivable step is taken to ensure that the man or woman or a man or a woman in the Province of Nova Scotia already in the employ of one or other of the municipal units to be amalgamated, shall be given preference when it comes to the appointment of the chief administrative officer. I don't know whether I would say that is discriminatory. Some might argue that it is discriminatory to have the preference going the other way. But if it is not discriminatory I think it is illustrative of an attitude that is unfortunately at play here again with this government.
The examples are legion. The examples are legion, Madam Speaker, where this government believes in the old theory that an expert is anybody from out of town. We can look at boards and commissions and community colleges and all kinds of public institutions in this province and we will find that since election day in 1993, up until today, over and over again, senior, significant and well-paying positions in those many institutions of this province and in the Public Service of this province are now occupied by men and women who are from places distant and places outside this province.
It is an attitude on the part of this government that they do not seem to think that they have any obligation or responsibility or indeed that it is appropriate that they beat the bushes as hard as they can in the Province of Nova Scotia and find men and women in Nova Scotia who are able, willing and anxious to assume those responsibilities in the Nova Scotia institutions.
The old line is so true, Nova Scotia is famous for a lot of things and unfortunately too often - and I have spoken along these lines with colleagues opposite and indeed colleagues in my own caucus - one of the things, unfortunately, for which this province is so famous is the export of our brains. Nova Scotia produces tremendously able and bright people. I really am concerned by the principle which is espoused, the principle is setup in this legislation, that appears in Clause 5 relative to the appointment of chief administrative officers.
There is another provision in this legislation, a public policy issue which I think, particularly, Madam Speaker, in light of current experience with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality mess that they are in there, compliments of this current government, I think there is another principle in this legislation which really deserves serious and careful attention.
You will be aware from your reading of this legislation, Madam Speaker, that it is possible for the coordinator, appointed under the mechanism described here in this legislation, to contract and to be contracted with and that he or she can sue and be sued and he or she can acquire real and personal property and engage officers and employees and prescribe a seal and do such things and make such expenditures as are required for the orderly establishment of the regional municipality.
I say to you, Madam Speaker, that is a pretty dangerous and, in my opinion, an excessive authority available to the coordinator. I believe that there has to be some kind of reporting mechanism and approval mechanism so that, as the lawyers might say, a coordinator, some coordinator on a future day, does not go off on a frolic of his own or her own. Any number of things can happen by way of commitments to expenditures as, in the opinion of the coordinator, might be required for the orderly establishment of the regional municipality.
It is the taxpayers' money that that coordinator is spending. That coordinator has not been chosen by any one of the taxpayers involved. That coordinator is the pick of the current Minister of Municipal Affairs or the Minister of Municipal Affairs of any given day (Interruption) or whoever that particular Minister of Municipal Affairs indeed might be told to pick by his or her Premier or his or her Cabinet. That coordinator has a very extensive authority and it is an unfettered authority. It is a totally unfettered authority. I say to you, Madam Speaker, that, as a matter of principle and public policy, it is far too extensive and excessive an authority than should be given to the coordinator.
We have elections at the municipal level upon us here in the metropolitan region and over the last while, debate has started to generate about the size of the electorate to which the candidates in that election and candidates in future elections in that same region will be attempting to appeal. We have candidates now saying publicly that they might spend as much as a couple of hundred thousand dollars to run those elections.
In the face of the knowledge that that was upon us and that this House would be sitting when it would and knowing, as this minister did, that she would be coming forward with a piece of legislation relative to the whole question of mergers and amalgamations and elections of new regional councils, one of the most fundamental failings in this legislation, I suggest to you, Madam Speaker, is that it is absolutely silent on the question of either expenditure limits by candidates for public office in the metropolitan region or indeed, any region, it could be accommodated even with acknowledging that the shape and size and demographics of one region as opposed to another would differ greatly, it could be done by way of a formula. There is no provision here for expenditure limits and I say there should be.
The men and women - in our present case it looks as if it is three men who will seek the mayor's Chair in the metro regional election - are appealing to an electorate which is larger, indeed, if I am not mistaken, the residents in the region are in the numerical order of something like 330,000 people. The qualified electors are in the range of something like 120,000 people. Those candidates are appealing to as many electors as will vote in a provincial election in the Province of Prince Edward Island. Yet there is no provision in this legislation which will provide for spending limits and, as important, there is no provision in this legislation which provides for disclosure of contributions to any candidate, be they mayoralty or any other in these regional elections.
I suggest to you that that is a very serious flaw and a very serious failing on the part of this government and on the part of this legislation. It is passing strange that this minister, knowing of the election upon us, the opening of the House, the introduction of the legislation, that it would not have been possible to provide some legislative language here in this piece of legislation that would address that issue.
I know, as has been said by certain candidates in that municipal election, well I am not going to disclose because I have collected money from a number of people without having told them that they would have to disclose. Well, that same candidate would have some protection if, in fact, he was able to say to those who did contribute earlier, yes you contributed on the basis that you weren't obligated to be disclosed.
Now Minister Jolly has introduced legislation which would have a retroactive effect and I would be required to disclose. It is completely legitimate and possible for that candidate to say, you, Mr. Contributor, have the option. I will give you back the contribution you have made to me and you haven't made it, you don't have to be disclosed or, you make the judgment, leave the contribution with my campaign but you do so on the basis that you know that the legislation will pass and your name will be disclosed. It is not rocket science and it could be done. An honest relationship between the candidate and the contributor could have addressed that issue. I think that is pretty fundamental.
If I am not mistaken, it was this very Minister of Municipal Affairs. I know she will correct me if I am wrong, but my recollection is that just the other day it was she who alluded to the fact that we live in a time when the community at large is unfortunately pretty cynical about those of us who engage in the public life and have responsibility for the public affairs of our province. She is absolutely right. There is unfortunately too much cynicism but what better opportunity for this Minister of Municipal Affairs to respond to at least one part of that and that is, I repeat, the financial contributions and disclosure which would and should be necessary from municipal candidates, particularly in a situation where the municipal candidates in the Halifax metro region elections we are talking about are elections which are appealing to 120,000 voters. Those individual candidates are seeking support from as many people in one election as some 30 candidates in the Province of Prince Edward Island seek from the residents of that province. So I am dismayed and disappointed that this minister and her government colleagues didn't see fit to include that in the legislation as a matter of public principle and public policy. That, I suggest to you, Madam Speaker, is a very substantial flaw.
There is an difficulty with this legislation. I know that the issue which I am now going to raise cuts both ways. There are arguments both ways, but I am going to make the argument in which I believe and which I believe does hold water. One of the public policy flaws in this legislation is set out in the provisions which restrict the merger or amalgamation of municipal units to only those which reside within the confines of the same county boundary. I am not so sure that that is terribly smart at all. I don't know whether there are situations or will be situations in which municipal units which are adjacent each to the other but not geographically situate within the boundaries of the same county, there are lots of communities and for the sake of getting into too much trouble, I will not start to name them, but the minister knows them and knows them well.
There are lots of communities in this province which are situate relative each to the other so closely and their communities of interest are such that they really notwithstanding the fact that they sit in two different counties, do have a tremendous community of interest and would make very natural municipal partners in a merged municipal unit. I don't know whether it would ever happen. I don't know, Madam Speaker, if it would ever happen, that municipal unit A in one county and municipal unit B in the second county would, as long as we have a Nova Scotia, ever decide or agree to join together in a larger regional municipality with or without other partners. The problem with this legislation is that the possibility that that might be able to happen is not provided for. I think that is a very real problem and a very real flaw.
Therefore, as we continue reviewing the legislation here through second reading and as the legislation makes its way, as it inevitably will, to and through the Law Amendments Committee process, I would very seriously ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs to consider that possibility, to consider a possibility of a public policy change as reflected in the language of the legislation, that does not restrict regional municipal mergers or amalgamations only to those municipal units which happen to reside or be geographically present within the same county boundary. There may well be. We may well find that there are circumstances in which municipal units which are not within the same county boundaries have a community of interest of such a nature and, indeed, of such a duration that they would make appropriate municipal regional partners.
Madam Speaker, I cannot adequately put into words the disappointment that was expressed to us by many others, particularly by men and women in municipal government across the province, and the disappointment which we as a caucus felt as we assessed this legislation around our caucus table in regard to this issue.
This legislation fails, in my opinion and in the opinion of my caucus colleagues, to address a significant issue which is of fundamental importance to all municipal units in the Province of Nova Scotia, an issue in relation to which this minister and this Premier and the Minister of Community Services have made promise after promise to the municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia. I refer of course, Madam Speaker, to the fact that this legislation makes no mention at all that the merger of any of the municipal units provided for in this legislation carries with it the commitment and the promise and the legislated undertaking that in the course of amalgamation the assumption by the Province of Nova Scotia of the cost of municipal social assistance will be borne by the Province of Nova Scotia.
Municipal leaders in this province heard through the election campaign of 1993 and have heard virtually every 10 days maximum since that time from this minister and from this government, we are with you, municipal units, and we understand the plight that you experience as a consequence of having to meet those obligations for municipal social assistance and you stay with us and this government, this Liberal John Savage Government, will assume the cost of municipal social assistance. They did it, Madam Speaker, they did it when they did the amalgamation in industrial Cape Breton, and, to their credit, they did it there. But I have real difficulty and, frankly, thousands of taxpayers in other places in this province have very real difficulty understanding why it hasn't happened and why it isn't happening as amalgamations in other parts of Nova Scotia are being contemplated or undertaken.
I think it is incumbent upon this minister and upon this Premier and upon the Minister of Community Services to explain clearly and precisely why they are breaking that promise because the promise was made. It was not just said to the people of Nova Scotia some time ago, Madam Speaker, well, this is something we would like to do or we had hoped to do or we will set up as a target or whatever. You know and I know that it was a promise and a commitment and an undertaking by this government that the cost of municipal social assistance would be undertaken and assumed by this provincial government. Now, unfortunately, we find that is not the case.
There is an old legal principle, Madam Speaker, which talks about alleged contractual arrangements being void for uncertainty. The Clerk is either falling asleep or nodding agreement that I have adequately or properly stated the principle. I should not take liberties like that with my friend, the Clerk. There is such a principle that a document or a purported agreement can be considered to be and ruled to be void for uncertainty.
You know, Madam Speaker, it occurred to me as I read this legislation that it is not unreasonable for me to suggest that this whole piece of legislation should be turfed out of here because it should be regarded by all of us in this place to be void by reason of uncertainty. Why do I say that? I say that for the simple reason that there is something else going on as far as the Department of Municipal Affairs is concerned which, whether this minister is prepared to acknowledge it or not, I happen to believe has tremendous and undoubtedly adverse consequences for all municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia and, indeed, any municipal units which will be merged if, as and when this legislation passes in its present form.
I refer, Madam Speaker, to what is considered by some to be an irrational and inane contemporaneous public policy decision taken by this minister and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs which directly relates to this legislation and the impact on the municipal units who will be affected by this legislation if, in fact, it is not righted. I refer, Madam Speaker - and I am sure you are familiar with it because I am sure you have had communication from the municipal leaders in the community which you represent, as I have - I refer, of course, to the fact that by reason of decisions, more to the point, perhaps, failure by this Minister of Municipal Affairs to take certain decisions, that thousands of Nova Scotia businesses could pay twice their fair share of property taxes in 1996, thanks to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Honourable Sandra Jolly.
Why is that the case? That is the case because this minister has refused to update the assessment and to (Interruption) Well, the Minister of Education is moaning and groaning. He cannot believe she did it? That is the point that I am trying to make, Madam Speaker, I cannot believe that this Minister of Municipal Affairs did it. My guess is that the Minister of Municipal Affairs made it with the full knowledge and concurrence and encouragement of the Minister of Education. That is exactly what I believe because I have no doubt that the Minister of Municipal Affairs took that matter to the Cabinet Room and the Minister of Education, the Minister of Transportation and all of the members of the Treasury benches had this all explained to them and said, yes indeed, Sandy, minister, you go ahead and you stick it to the business community of the Province of Nova Scotia because for the sake of $100,000 expenditure and some computer upgrade, it would have been possible to do the reassessment which would have ensured that the municipal taxpayers would not be as adversely affected as they will be. (Interruption)
May I read, when the babble on the other side calms down, if you would perhaps help me in that regard, Madam Speaker, to you from an editorial comment which says as follows, and it relates to this bill. "Pardon us for being a little skeptical," so says the editorial writer, "but we're not buying the province's line on a delay of commercial tax reassessments. It's quite a simple premise: residential and commercial property taxes are paid based on the assessed values of the properties. The values, especially in the commercial sector, can be highly influenced by the economic health of an area, and a business, when the reassessment occurs.".
"The province has come up with a brilliant plan to make sure municipalities don't come knocking on the door, hat in hand, for additional grant money because their tax bases have shrunk through the last recession: skip the scheduled 1996 business reassessment that would reflect a downturn in property values.".
Madam Speaker, the editorial goes on to say, "This allows the province to avoid paying increased grants to municipalities which are determined based on a unit's tax base, while the municipalities already strained financially because of provincial downloading, can ensure their coffers don't diminish. And in the metropolitan area, where business values in Burnside, downtown Halifax and along the Bedford Highway motel strip are expected to fall, the extra tax money makes the economies of amalgamation more feasible.". That is what is going on here. All of this is part of a plan and a ploy to attempt to, in concert with this legislation, make it look as if this legislation is even modestly or partially palatable.
The editorial goes on and I will quote very briefly only further from it. I quote further from that editorial and they say, "It looks like a tidy little scheme that shoves the knife directly into the heart of the very people who keep the system going to begin with: the property taxpayers . . . The delay of the reassessment is patently unfair and seriously undermines the credibility of the property taxation system. It's hard to view it as anything other than another money grab by government.".
That, Madam Speaker, is what is going on while at the same time this Minister of Municipal Affairs is coming here with Bill No. 28 extolling the virtues of regional government, amalgamation and merger of municipal units. It is a sham and it is a joke. It is a cruel joke on the municipal taxpayers and particularly upon the commercial taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia.
This piece of legislation also has another very serious problem and it is found in those provisions, Madam Speaker, which relate to solid waste management. I want this minister to explain to me, if she is prepared to do so and if she does not want to she can be discourteous and not do it, but more important I want her to explain to the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia, and I trust that she is smart enough not to be discourteous to them. I want this minister to explain to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia why it is that this Bill No. 28 has provisions in it which say that decisions relative to solid waste management are not subject to the Planning Act.
I would refer you, I am not going to read it, but I would refer you to Clause 152 because it there addresses the public policy principle. The public policy principle set out in that part of the legislation says that among other things, Clause 152(1), "A regional municipality may provide compensation to an area or to the residents of an area in which a sanitary landfill is located in amounts . . . ", and so on would be worked out and so on. Then, can you believe it, Madam Speaker, the legislation goes on further to say that, Clause 152(2), "A regional municipality is not subject to the Planning Act or a land use by-law with respect to the siting of any solid waste management facility in the regional municipality.".
I ask you, Madam Speaker, and through you, I ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs what in the name of all that is good and holy is the point of the Province of Nova Scotia having a Planning Act and what is the value of a municipality, be it regional or otherwise, having a land use plan in place if neither of those are required to apply in an issue as fundamental and as volatile and as difficult as the siting of a landfill site?
It occurs to me, as has been said from a colleague down to my left, that way to my left (Laughter), they do not believe in logic. I have to agree.
What is the logic in terms of public policy? What is the logic of saying in legislation which talks about merging and bringing together municipal units, some of them against their will, notwithstanding the fact that this minister would have us believe that only those who voluntarily agreed to get in, get in. That is not true either. If their partners around them say we would like to get in, the one or the two or the three who might even have the largest population, the largest, the deepest and the most valuable assessment in tax base might not want to get in, they can be pushed in, so we end up with a regional municipal unit.
Then, can you believe it, this legislation goes on further to say that that regional municipal unit is not subject to the Planning Act. Why don't we get the Minister of Municipal Affairs to come in here and bring with her her annotated copy of the Planning Act and tomorrow maybe - and we will give her lots of time, it is an Opposition Day, lots of time - she can come in here with the Planning Act and with great fanfare, rip it to shreds and throw it on the floor in front of her place. That is what this provision in this bill does. It is foolishness and it is the most wrong-headed piece of public policy that I have seen in a very long time. The same, I might say, applies to the fact that land use by-laws, with respect to the siting of a solid waste management facility, do not have to and will not apply or constrain the regional municipality.
This piece of legislation is flawed, it is amateurish, it is dangerous in so many of its provisions and, as a consequence, I, therefore, propose to move and now do move the following motion: "I move that the words after `That' be deleted and the following substituted: Bill No. 28, An Act Respecting Regional Municipalities, be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.". Thank you, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: The amendment is being circulated.
The amendment proposed by the honourable member for Halifax Citadel is that "the words after `That' be deleted and the following substituted: Bill No. 28, An Act Respecting Regional Municipalities, be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.".
I would rule that the amendment is in order.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise and speak on this amendment.
Bill No. 28 - An Act Respecting Regional Municipalities be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time six months hence. I think that is going to give this government an opportunity to look into and do the actual consulting that the minister indicated had already been done and, in fact, we have found it has not been done. (Interruption)
Well, according to several people, the municipal governments from Oxford, West Hants, the Municipality of Shelburne, the Town of Stellarton, Stewiacke, Pictou County, Cumberland County, the District of Yarmouth, the Town of Windsor, all of those municipal units for the interest of the minister opposite indicated that they indeed have not been consulted about this amalgamation bill.
One of the interesting things about the bill, the minister was very pleased to say, was that there would be no further shotgun marriages. Well, that is always nice to hear. However, when you look at the reality, I think it is going to take six months to settle it in because a shotgun marriage could indeed take place in Kings County, even though the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency indicated that it would not take place unless it had his approval, because under this legislation, if it were to pass immediately unchallenged and unchanged, the Towns of Kentville, Berwick, the Municipality of Kings could say, let's amalgamate. The amalgamation would motor along and be completed and the Town of Wolfville, perhaps, is not in favour but they are going to get hauled along willy-nilly just the same. So I think we need six months.
But you know, Mr. Speaker, if I could tell you what is happening in Kings County between the municipality and the Town of Kentville, I think you would realize that the minister should make a visit to her home town and just see what cooperation and volunteerism really brings forth. It would be a new experience for her to see cooperation without the aid of a heavy stick that she is so anxious to wield. Because in the Town of Kentville and the Village of New Minas - New Minas has the same population, approximately, as Kentville even though New Minas is a village and Kentville is a town - they have combined their recreation services so that they are able to provide better service for the residents of that area of Kings County. That is just a real good idea. It is good planning and it is good cooperation.
A few years ago, there was some problem with the water in New Minas so Kentville provided the water. The Town of Kentville and the Village of New Minas are cooperating on many, many activities. The Mayor of Kentville, the other day, was telling me that they want to do more cooperative ventures. What better way to work yourself into regionalization or amalgamation than through the cooperative efforts by the local elected officials? I think if the minister had six months, it would give her ample opportunity to spend some time in Kentville and be visiting with the mayor and find out how cooperation really gets thing done. Because so often, this minister has used the heavy handle of government and, to her dismay, things don't work the way they are supposed to.
We had the Cape Breton amalgamation forced on Cape Breton and there has been a lot of difficulties. Now, rather than wait and see what advice could be gleaned from talking with the mayor of that large new super-municipality, rather than talk to the councillors, rather than talk to the people, we are rushing willy-nilly and no doubt we will have amendments to this piece of legislation that has been introduced now, Bill No. 28, no doubt we will have amendments to this even before any municipal unit gets to use it, because it was done in haste. It was done without cooperation. It was done without any input from the people directly affected.
When that happens, Mr. Speaker, you wind up with the problem that we have in Cape Breton at the present time, where the mayor of the super-municipality has indicated he is going to go see his former colleague, when he was campaign manager for the Minister of Finance, he indicated he was going to have a little discussion with the Minister of Finance to see if perhaps they couldn't solve this $4.3 million or $6.3 million, I don't know if it is $4.3 million or $6.3 million, that the municipality is short of funds this year due to oversights and startup costs, I guess.
He indicated he would have to come in here to Halifax. I don't know why but he said his preferred time of meeting the Minister of Finance would perhaps be 2:00 o'clock in the morning. I am not sure just why that would be a time he would pick, most people would want to see the Minister of Finance a little later in the morning than that, after he has had a good night's sleep. However, that is what the Cape Breton Regional Municipality mayor wants to do. He has cancelled the budget money and he is coming to Halifax looking for $4.5 million or $6.5 million.
Mr. Speaker, this is very serious because this government does not have $6 million. If they did, they would be putting it into the health care system or into the school system or into community services. They don't have $6 million. However, the mayor is coming to pick it up. It shows you what happens when proper planning is not done. This government was in such a rush that they didn't do all the figuring. Maybe you will say, well that is only $6 million, who cares, it is only a little money. That is the attitude. Mr. Speaker, when you consider the fact that this government also is providing assistance with social services costs and you add that to this $4.5 million to $6 million, you get a much larger sum. It shows you and me and all Nova Scotians the ill-conceived planning that has gone into this department.
Also one of the interesting things is that the municipal unit has been operating for only a short three months. They are short money. Last week one of the members from Cape Breton had to bring in an amendment to that bill. My goodness, I have it right here, it tells us what a great thing it was. The member for Cape Breton South brought in an amendment so that taxes can be raised. This is exactly what the former member for Cape Breton West said was going to happen, that taxes were going to go up when you brought in this bill. They said no, they are not, and they removed him from their caucus. Already the member for Cape Breton South had to bring in an amendment so they could do exactly what the former member for Cape Breton West said was going to happen. The former member for Cape Breton West said that we were going to have an increase in taxes in Cape Breton and the member for Cape Breton South brought in the amendment so that they could do just that. Mr. Speaker, if that doesn't tell you and me and all Nova Scotians that what this government needs is a little bit of long-range planning (Interruption) Even if it was short range, because it has been going for only three months and already they have run out of money, so it needs some short-term and some long-term planning.
Why didn't the minister consult? Perhaps because she didn't have time. She indicated that municipalities all around the province are saying that we have to get on with this as soon as possible. Well, as one wag just said, she was so busy loading her shotgun that she didn't have time to consult, so this may very well be true. But six months would give her an ample opportunity to do some consulting. So she could ask the municipalities, is this the bill, Bill No. 28, that is going to solve your problems or is this the bill that is going to create some problems? Is this the bill that we are going to bring in and in six months' time, in the spring session of the House, a member of the Legislature will be bringing in another private member's bill to put in some amendments, before we even see whether the bill is going to work? This is the height of lack of planning.
The question is, will this bill solve the problems? Will this bill do what it is supposed to do? I can guarantee you unequivocally, Mr. Speaker, the minister does not know that because the minister refused to meet with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, even though she knew she was bringing in a bill, she did not meet with them. She did not ask their advice. She did not ask their opinion. The minister just brought in a bill that was prepared for her by staff.
There is no mention in this bill of social services costs. What happened? That was one of the great selling points for the Cape Breton bill, that the government was going to take over the cost of social services. But was that another victim of poor planning? Was that another one of the adventures that this government hops on and suddenly, after they announce they are going to do it, they find they cannot afford to do it any more?
Planning takes a little bit of time. We are willing to give the government six months to do just that and it would solve the problem. They should do some consulting. They talk about consulting, but they never seem to do it.
AN HON. MEMBER: You should define consulting because they do not seem to have the same definition as we do.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, the tax rates are climbing in Cape Breton. The tax rates are going to be astronomical in metro, but what is going to happen in the new municipal units that fall into the regime that is permitted under this bill. We really do not know. The municipal councils could have helped this minister. The municipal councils wanted to help. Even some of the members of your caucus could have been helpful because many of them used to sit on municipal councils around the province, several, half a dozen at least, used to sit on the Halifax Municipal Council and they understand municipal government and, probably, . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: You never listen to us when we tell you these things.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I know, one of the members just said that she never listens when we tell her those things. Well, you really have to speak more distinctly and clearly when you are at your caucus meetings. (Interruptions)
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I hate to be misquoted on a heckle, especially when it is a good one, but I was referring to the member never listens when we speak, certainly not the minister. The minister is most open when she hears comments from ex-members of council. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Well, as my predecessor, the Honourable Arthur Donahoe, used to so frequently say, the honourable member has made his point, but I do not detect a point of order.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I don't think it is either. If he wanted to change his quotes, that is fine with me. But, truly, I think he made his point clear as crystal. The member has a message and the minister is not listening. I think that is what I got out of his point of order. I don't know. She is not listening. The minister is not listening to her caucus. She is not listening to the municipal leaders throughout the province.
MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if I could raise a point of order from the Chair.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Oh, please do.
MR. SPEAKER: I might state that debate on amendments is, by definition, more limited and focused than debate on second reading of bills. It would appear to me that the deliberation as to whether the minister does or does not listen hardly relates directly to the proposition that the bill should not be now read, but should be read six months hence. That is the proposition under debate and all comments must be addressed to that proposition.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, you are absolutely right because I have a copy of this amendment that was put here and it says we are going to read this thing, six months hence. I think it would give the minister time to learn and time to meet with the municipalities.
You know, we have been told so many times by this government that we have to hurry. We are in a big rush. Just a moment ago the minister said, six months? There are municipal units that are clamouring for this legislation. How could you hold them up? I mean, if it was not that she would be whistling some other tune, because always this government is in a rush to head down the highway without any real clear goal as to where they want to be when the train stops. They have no idea, Mr. Speaker, because they are in such a rush. Six months would give them an opportunity to meet with the municipal units.
Halifax has not even got off the ground yet with their municipal amalgamation. We have got the campaign going, we have councillors running, we have three people running for mayor. We will not have the experience and the knowledge gained from their amalgamation adventure before this piece is already put in place, if we don't take the six months. We can learn from the experience of other municipal units if only this minister would listen to them. But the minister says, there is no time. Well, let's give them time.
The minister has had advice from several people indicating that there is a problem with the tax rate in metro and throughout Nova Scotia. The people who are suggesting that are property tax experts indicating that this municipal tax structure for this year, which is based on 1991, is going to make a real hardship for business in this province. Is there such a lack of concern from this minister and this government for small business?
They say on one hand, we have to hurry this bill through because we are in a rush, but when it comes to treating taxpayers fairly, no rush, we are going to put that off for a year or two. It is inconsistent. On the one hand when it comes to putting legislation through, the minister can't wait to consult. On the other hand when there is a real problem with businesses, and to quote Michael Turner, he said, there are hundreds of businesses hanging on by their fingernails and this might finish a lot of them off. He was referring to the property taxes that are so unfair and based on an old assessment that this minister is doing nothing about fixing. (Interruption)
The minister says six months is too long to wait to do a decent piece of legislation but a couple of years is not too short a timeframe to fix the tax assessment. So the minister is speaking from both sides of her mouth at the same time. She is telling the municipal units one thing and she is telling the tax collectors, go out there and grab all you can from the small businessmen throughout our province.
The coordinator under this legislation has the same power that the coordinator from Cape Breton had and we all know the marvellous job and the great credit all Nova Scotians are giving to him on his salary assessments. Why the Mayor of Cape Breton gets paid more than the Premier of Nova Scotia. The coordinator decided that. (Interruption) The member for Hants East said, and I have to agree, probably the Premier is worth more.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While I do realize that I tend to cover a lot of distance, I don't sit in his own caucus like the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley who made the comment, not the member for Hants East. Now if the member can't control his own caucus from heckling him, then I certainly can't help him myself.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like to rise and speak in defense of the member for Hants East. I did make the comment that the mayor of the new Cape Breton municipality is worth more than the Premier. I did make that comment and I want to clarify that for the benefit of the House, I wouldn't want the honourable members in this Assembly to think that the member said it but I am sure that the honourable member for . . .
MR. SPEAKER: All right. I have heard enough. These points of order do not relate to the amendment that the bill be read six months hence and I would ask all honourable members to address themselves strictly to the content of the amendment. The salaries of public officials are completely irrelevant to the proposition that the bill be read six months hence.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now that we have got that cleared up and I am sure not going to enter into that but I do apologize to the member if I gave him credit for the wrong quote. However, the coordinator nonetheless has an enormous amount of power; the coordinator is named by the minister, the coordinator will do the bidding of the minister. The coordinator is going to pick the new CEO of the new municipal unit.
This thing just sounds like the minister, which is so typical of this legislation of this government, wants all the power. We see that in legislation after legislation. The minister wants to have more power than the minister truly deserves. If the minister really wanted to do something helpful and useful, the minister could have included in this legislation something about the disclosure of funds, of campaign contributions, campaign spending.
One of the candidates for office running for the new super-city council in metro the other day, indicated to me the reason perhaps is that there is a suspicion that there are trust fund monies helping some candidates. This is not a good rumour to have going around because the minister could squelch any rumours simply by saying there will be disclosure of donations, there will be limits on campaign spending. One of the people who wanted to be a candidate in metro, in the super-city, indicated he ruled it out. He couldn't afford it. Now if we set up a system in municipal politics where the ordinary citizen can no longer afford to stand for office, there are no standards. (Interruption) The member says, what is an ordinary citizen? That is really quite a statement from a member of government. He doesn't know what an ordinary Nova Scotian would be. (Interruption)
A person of ordinary, everyday working situation feels he is not financially in a position to run for municipal council. Now is this the kind of a system that the minister wants to build up? Why didn't the minister include in this legislation some disclosure? Why does the honourable Minister of Transportation think it would be such a terrible thing to have disclosure of donations and limits on spending for municipal councils? Why isn't it in here? Municipal politicians are responsible, I think, for about 18,000 constituents in Halifax. Certainly there is no good reason, Mr. Speaker, why disclosure couldn't come in. There is no reason why municipal contributions to a campaign could not receive a tax receipt, as well. Then people of modest means could run. You wouldn't have to be a wealthy Nova Scotian to be able to underwrite the cost of running for municipal election.
AN HON. MEMBER: They don't all have trust funds.
MR. ARCHIBALD: No, and they all don't have trust funds. (Interruptions) Oh, I am sure we will hear more about trust funds before long. They have a way of resurfacing.
AN HON. MEMBER: They went the way of the files in most of the offices.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Now, the majority in council. I would have liked for the minister to decide whether we are going to have a study to form a municipal government. You know, come on to the Valley, because there is a distinct difference from town to town. The Minister for the ERA has indicated that there will be no amalgamation until it is all voluntary. Well, this legislation does not say that. This legislation says that if Kentville, Berwick and the municipal unit say we are going to have it, when Wolfville says we are not, they are going to have it anyway. We have to listen to the municipal politicians and find out what they are saying.
The coordinator is going to appoint the chief administrator. Is that the best possible solution? What did the municipal unit in Cape Breton say? What are they going to say in the super-city of Halifax? Are they going to say the minister's appointee was the best way to go about this? Is the minister going to advertise or is she just going to make a phone call to a person who she knows, in her heart, will do a good job?
The coordinator shall apply to the board for a determination. The board shall determine the number of councillors and the boundaries and the polling districts of the municipal unit. But it doesn't say anything in this about phone calls because there was a phone call made in forming the boundaries in this municipality of Halifax. That should be included as well, that the coordinator shall apply to the board and determine. You see, it should really say that the coordinator shall apply to the board for the determination and they will also be subject to phone calls, because of certain situations that will or perhaps will not make it easier for people to get elected. Municipal politicians should be listened to and they should be on the record and it should not be subject to phone calls after hours in the determination of the boundaries.
AN HON. MEMBER: A lot of them were municipal councillors, they should know that.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I know they know that, but if their caucus had not seen this legislation any sooner than the rest of us, the caucus, who are made up of many municipal politicians, didn't have an opportunity to speak nor share their wealth of knowledge. If we had six months to study and to consult, I am sure that during that six month time period some of the MLAs on the government benches would have an opportunity to speak to the minister and make their recommendations known.
One of the things that is very unclear in this bill, and we need some clarification on it in the worst way, is with regard to employment. The whole situation on municipal reform, I think, boils down to the fact that they are going to save money because they have fewer people working there, the same as the school board legislation. We have 700 school board employees across Nova Scotia who are wondering, do they or do they not have a job? Will they even be allowed to apply for the jobs? This bill is the same.
AN HON. MEMBER: Because they do not even care.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I don't know if the government cares or not. But this bill doesn't say what happens to the non-union employee applying for a job in the new municipal unit. It talks about seniority and it talks about a bargaining unit, but it doesn't say that a non-union person can immediately enter into that bargaining unit and take their seniority with them. It is very unclear. I asked a labour expert to look at it and tell me what this means. The person, who has a history of working with labour negotiations and labour legislation said, I don't know what it means, it is confusing. Why is this section so unclear?
One of the other things you notice in this bill is that now under this all docks, quarries, wharves, slips, breakwaters and other such will be under the influence of the regional municipality. Well, up until now most wharves and breakwaters have been owned and repaired by the federal government, at great expense. I hope this just means that the municipalities do not have to assume the upkeep of any of these wharves because I know from past history that the repair and upkeep on wharves and retaining walls is almost a prohibitive expense. It must be done by the federal government.
We have community councils with huge amounts of power that even the municipal politicians are afraid of. They have the power to hire, to fire, to decide which roads are going to be paved. The power is endless with these councils. The powers and duties of a community council shall include street lighting, emergency service, police, sidewalks, roads, streets, recreation, solid waste. They are in total control of these municipal areas which they represent. Is this working well in Cape Breton? Is it going to work in our super-city? There has been absolutely no consultation by this minister with anybody who has had any experience, absolutely none.
Now I know we have excellent employees within the Department of Municipal Affairs. I know they are dedicated people and they are good people and they are doing a good job. But the people of Nova Scotia elected the members that are sitting in this House to make the ultimate decision on what is and what is not good legislation. I would like to know, did the minister consult with any people to give her advice other than staff? Certainly, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities had not heard from the minister regarding this. None of the towns and municipal units throughout the province have heard on an individual basis.
So, why do we have this piece of legislation without the proper background work being done? This bill requires six months to look it over. It requires six months to bring it up-to-date so that we can bring in a bill that is not full of pitfalls and bring in a bill that in three months does not have a press release, like this, indicating the budget meeting for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has been cancelled. Mayor John Coady has to meet with the Minister of Finance because he is seeking $4.5 million. Do we want all municipalities to go through this? I do not think so.
MR. JOHN HOLM: I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if the member would entertain a brief question?
MR. SPEAKER: He might possibly be willing to. Are you? Yes, he says he is.
MR. JOHN HOLM: I thank the member for agreeing to take a question. The member, of course, will know that the way the legislation is set up, that it is an omnibus bill. If an amalgamation is to take place, there will be no new legislation required to be introduced into this House, so the citizens in those communities to be amalgamated or consolidated will not have an opportunity to come before the elected body, elected representatives, to have their issues raised and their concerns addressed and also, an opportunity to try to effect some changes to it. As the saying goes, democracy sometimes can be a little bit messy and not totally efficient.
Does the speaker agree with that process or does he think that the concerns, interests and well-being of those communities, and more importantly the residents in those communities, would be better served if legislation had to be introduced each time as it was done voluntarily on behalf of Queens and Liverpool so that the citizens will have a chance to come forward to bring their concerns to the House?
MR. SPEAKER: The question was addressed to the Speaker, but I will defer to the honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Well, thank you very much. I hate to take the same side as one of those left wingers, but from time to time even the left wingers do hit on a valid point.
AN HON. MEMBER: Not too often though.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, occasionally they do. What that member of this House is saying about the bill is absolutely true. Mr. Speaker, I know from your background and interest in working with people you probably, in your own impartial way, are having your own thoughts on what he said.
I can speak for several people in this House and say this bill is not the kind of a bill that this House and that minister should be proud of. It is a bill that will affect all municipal units in this province, some more than others, but the municipal units will not have the opportunity to come to Law Amendments and indicate, yes, we are in favour of it or no, we are not. They will not have anything to do with that. It is amazing some of the things in this bill. There are whole pages in the bill dealing with the licensing of massage parlours, et cetera. There was not room in the bill to put in something that concerns all of us and that is disclosure of campaign funds, disclosure of limits, you see, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well. If I might just make some observations, you are asking me if I have any thoughts on these matters and I do.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you. I know they will be excellent observations.
MR. SPEAKER: What we are dealing with here is an amendment, a dilatory amendment, an amendment designed to delay consideration of the main motion that the bill be read a second time. Erskine May has some observations to make on the debate on dilatory motions and he observes that there is a standing order in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom which restricts debate on all dilatory motions and only the matter of the motion may be debated. That is that the bill be read six months hence; that may be debated, certainly, but the matter of the bill, the deficiencies or the features of the bill, is a separate issue that ought to be properly discussed on second reading.
Now if there are reasons why the bill should be read six months hence, they are legitimate and proper to be stated at this point in the debate but not, in my view, a general critique of the deficiencies of the bill; that should be done under the heading of Public Bills for Second Reading. Those are my thoughts on what is happening right now. Carry on.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I really appreciate your suggestions and your advice, Mr. Speaker. Since we have a new member in this House from Cape Breton West, he even appreciated it more than I did because I have heard some of those things before, but to him, this is all news.
Mr. Speaker, if we had six months, the minister could go around the province and she could hold public hearings even. She could meet with people. You remember, last year, she told us how she drove her car around and she pretty near wore the old thing out driving and she met with every single municipal unit in Nova Scotia. I saw her at two of those meetings and I want you to know that that is the sort of thing, it is the attitude that has to change. The idea was good, but this time she has to take her ears with her so she can hear what the municipal people are saying to her. I think that we could come up with a much better piece of legislation six months from now than we have today.
Is this the piece of legislation that all municipal units say is going to work? In Pictou County and Colchester County they are thinking about doing some amalgamation now.
AN HON. MEMBER: So is Shelburne.
MR. ARCHIBALD: In Shelburne, yes, and Queens did it, sort of. You see, we should be having the advantage of talking to municipal units that are actually in the throes of amalgamation and hear what they have to say to us. We could benefit. This legislation certainly could benefit from pretty nearly anybody's input, Mr. Speaker, because, obviously, it has come forward without the input of the people most directly concerned and the people with the best source of information, and that is the municipal politicians, who we have yet to hear from.
Why didn't she consult? Why didn't we find out whether this will settle the problems and serve the province? There is no mention of social services. Why not? Maybe it was a bad idea.
MR. SPEAKER: There is no mention of social services in the amendment? I want to say that I am quite serious in raising these points. Please be seated while I speak. I am quite serious in raising these points because it is the duty of the Speaker to enforce the rules of debate in the House.
The rules of debate state and I quote from Clause 24 (2), under the heading of Irrelevance or repetition in debate. "Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, after having called the attention of the House or of the Committee to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance or repetition of his own arguments in debate, may direct him to discontinue his speech.".
Now, that type of measure I am very reluctant to invoke. I want to allow the widest possible latitude. But where the rules are clear that on an amendment, the discourse must be directed to the substance of the amendment and where we continually get off that and get into a general discourse on did the minister consult or what is in the bill or what is not in the bill, this is a breach of the rules and a breach of order. I will give the honourable member one last chance and I ask him to direct himself strictly to the amendment that has been tabled.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I certainly would not want to do anything that was unparliamentary, but you know, this bill, with the six months' hoist, becomes a draft bill. Then if it was a draft bill, we could all enjoy the opportunity to discuss it. We would have six months to talk about this bill and make it a better bill, because at the present time, as you well know, this bill was brought in here without adequate research, development or thought. The six month timeframe would give this bill and this minister an opportunity to travel and hold forums throughout the province. They could go to Cape Breton Nova and you could be chairman of the meeting and you could listen to what the people in your area have to say about the situation in Cape Breton and how it has changed.
We could come to Pictou County. They are doing a study in Pictou County and we need the six months so that we can get the input from those people, and for us not to allow the people to speak is unfair. The people who are most directly concerned with this bill will not even realize that it is affecting them at the present time because they will not be at the Law Amendments Committee to talk about it, but if they had six months they would certainly be able to have a look at it and see how it is going to affect them.
The people that I represent in Kings County are not, at the present time, thinking about amalgamation. However, if they knew that this was a draft bill up for discussion for six months they could then meet with the minister and they could discuss and make suggestions. Because, as you know, Kings, Annapolis, Hants, every municipal unit is a little bit different, but this bill, in particular, in the form it is in, Mr. Speaker, is kind of like trying to buy one shirt to fit all the members of this Chamber. We all are different sizes and we need a little more room or a little less room and so on.
What we need is the time, Mr. Speaker, to make a pattern and perhaps pick a material that would expand or contract depending upon your size and then it would work. This bill is incapable of expanding or contracting to fit the needs of each municipal unit, but given six months' time to talk and discuss it it could be made to fit and it could be made to look good. We need to know what the people are having to say. Six months in the scheme of things is not a long time to think about it.
We can be here for six months waiting for this or we can have a recess, you know, sometime after Christmas and come back in the spring. This bill could go whistling through here just like Dixie because all the municipal units would have had their input. They would have had a chance to speak and share their knowledge with the minister who has told us, both in word and by example, she wants to listen. However, there is nothing in this bill that indicates that there has been any listening because the errors that were in previous amalgamation bills are still in this one. The pitfalls are here, but some of the benefits that were in the other bills for some reason are missing. Perhaps in six months the minister could figure out what happened to the sections that are not here. It is going to take six months because as we are evolving and as we are finding out more and more about amalgamation from experience we are learning some of the pitfalls from Cape Breton.
We are going to learn some from Queens. Queens County have got something they want to tell. They would like to have a forum so they could tell us what is happening because there are some discussions going on in Queens County as to timeframes and they are worrying about six months and social services. We need the time to discuss all these matters, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I know that you are a very fair person because you certainly give me lots of latitude to discuss this stuff. After 25 years you have seen it all take place in this Chamber. I know you have used every rule to its maximum benefit more than once. I want to take my place in the Chamber and listen to others who are going to debate on the six months' hoist of this bill. The six months' hoist does not mean the end of this bill, what it means is the beginning of a new bill that is going to be better and will be passed through this Legislature probably with unanimous consent from all members of this House. If the minister had an opportunity to write a decent bill all members could just stand up and say, I think this is a good bill and I support it and it will be member after member.
She could do that, Mr. Speaker, that minister in six months' time the bill would be something that even you could be proud of.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and yield the floor to another member who would like to lend his words of wisdom to the minister and other members of this House.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, the proper way to do that is to speak on second reading of the bill. Debate on this amendment, that the bill be not now read a second time but be read a second day this time six months hence. That is what is on the floor right now. Are there any other members that wish to speak to that amendment?
The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I welcome this opportunity that is provided me tonight by the mover of this amendment. I could not help but take note of many of the remarks made by my colleague, the member for Kings North, but I most particularly noted the metaphor that he created for the House with respect to the importance of the government, through this legislation, providing a shirt which will fit people or, in this instance, the municipalities, of all configurations and all sizes. Certainly the purpose of this amendment is to ensure the minister is able to effect just such a solution to a problem which faces municipal units across this province who are considering or may even be seeking to amalgamate. What we want to help her to do is to create the very kind of shirt to which my colleague referred, a shirt made of Spandex but we want to avoid and what the purpose of this amendment is to do, is to ensure that we avoid, rather than creating a Spandex shirt is putting the municipalities and indeed the minister as well, in a hair shirt.
The purpose of the motion, Mr. Speaker, very clearly is to hoist the bill for six months. We have put this forward, not as a vexatious motion, but rather as a serious motion, one which we hope that the minister and the government will entertain for a good reason, and, indeed, in the public interest. Time and time again we have heard this government state that it wants its hallmark to be consultation and yet time and time again we find that while consultation is on their lips and in their minds, it is not to be found in their actions.
We had hoped that perhaps the experiences of the last year and one-half, two years, had been sufficient to cause them to understand that. However, the response of the municipal units that have been in contact with us consequent to the tabling of the introduction of this bill in the House at first reading, not only suggests but gives proof positive that in fact consultation, if there was consultation at all, was very modest indeed.
I have heard some of my colleagues on the government benches say, have you never heard of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities? Indeed, I have. However, I think it is safe to say that simply because a matter may have been raised in discussion with some members, indeed perhaps even a committee of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, one should not assume that the opportunity has been presented face to face to all municipal units in order that they understand the bill which the minister has brought before the House today.
We heard from a number of municipalities in different parts of the province, some large, some small, some rural, some semi-urban, but all of them complaining of the lack of consultation, I think, with one exception, each and every one of them saying, we heard nothing of this legislation until it was introduced in the House for first reading and was reported in the news. Indeed, in some instances, they said we heard nothing of it until it was brought to our attention by you, that is by the Progressive Conservative caucus and, most particularly by our critic, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
So one of the principal reasons for seeking a six months' hoist is to provide that absolutely essential consultation which should take place before any bill of this nature is pushed through. There is no emergency afoot here which must be dealt with by this legislation. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why this bill could not be set aside and consultation proceed, either under the direction of the minister or perhaps through the minister's staff or perhaps through a committee composed of a combination of minister's staff and members of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, possibly a bipartisan committee of this House. There are all kinds of options open in order to effect consultation.
My remarks to this point have really been focused on the councils across this province, the town councils and the municipal councils. Indeed, it would seem to me that those are the first people with whom consultation should occur. However, they are not the only people with whom consultation should occur because, in fact, this kind of legislation, as we know from the experience with the Cape Breton legislation which is now in effect, the only legislation which is in effect - the Halifax legislation is not yet in effect nor is the legislation governing the new regional municipality of Queens - it strikes me and I think strikes many among the general public who have no particular political interest or loyalty, that there is a need here to say, whoa, put on the brakes, let's see what has happened in Cape Breton, let's see what is happening in the other municipal units, to ensure that what we are creating is something which is functional and that we, in fact, are not creating some kind of municipal Frankenstein's monster.
That means that the communities must have an opportunity to be consulted. After all, it is the communities, which are composed of both residential and commercial taxpayers, which are going to foot the bills for these new municipal units when they are established. It is absolutely essential that the people have the opportunity to understand what it is that the government intends to do with the introduction of legislation of this nature so that they can not only make up their own minds with respect to what they believe to be in their own best self-interest as individuals, but indeed, so that they can, where they so choose, band together or as individuals, approach their respective councils in order to either convince their councils that it is appropriate that they should seek to have a study undertaken and move toward amalgamation or that they should, in fact, avoid that or, indeed, within a given county boundary it may well be that a number of municipal units may choose to amalgamate and others may not.
Again, the decision is to be taken by the councils but it strikes me, and I am sure every member of this House, that it is absolutely essential that those councils are motivated not by the wishes of the minister or by the wishes of any special interests within the communities but, rather, are motivated by the desires of the citizens of those communities, most particularly but not solely the ratepayers. I say not solely the ratepayers because, indeed, there are many young people in our communities who are not ratepayers, there are many renters in our communities who are not ratepayers and they, too, should have the opportunity to be consulted during this six month period.
I also note that a clause of this bill references the Education Act, specifically with respect to Section 42 of the Education Act, which deals with the provision of area rates. This bill states that Section 42 does not apply. Well, the tie-in between that observation and the need for consultation and the need for a six month hoist is specifically this, Mr. Speaker. We do not know whether the reference to Section 42 of the Education Act is a reference which will be conveyed forward in the bill which the Minister of Education will be tabling, a bill which will be a new Education Act and which will result in the repeal of the Education Act referenced in this bill which is before the House.
So better to hoist the bill now and to put the bill under scrutiny until the Minister of Education is able to advise Nova Scotians with respect to whether there will or will not be a provision in the new Education Act which mirrors the provision in the old Education Act which is referenced in the bill which is before us tonight.
We also know that there have been some very serious difficulties with respect to the implementation of the Cape Breton Act. Until those questions are answered to the satisfaction of the minister - and she said this afternoon in Question Period that she was very concerned about these problems and she wants answers, I believe it is fair to say that she certainly implicitly if not explicitly said that she wants to ensure that those answers are provided to the public, certainly to the public in general, but most particularly to the men and the women who are ratepayers in the new Cape Breton Municipality.
Why would we choose to run the risk of recreating the kind of process and administrative structure which apparently is not serving the Cape Breton Municipality well in this new bill, which is going to be legislation available to all other municipal units across this province except, of course, the City of Halifax and the new Regional Municipality of Queens?
I have been told that, for example, under the Cape Breton legislation where municipal social assistance costs are assumed 100 per cent by the province, there is a tremendous over-expenditure there which has occurred since amalgamation. We also know by the reports referenced in the House today that there are over $4 million in additional funds which have been spent in that new regional municipality yet we do not know on what those funds were spent and why such a tremendous over-expenditure would occur. We don't want to build in the opportunity for that kind of problem to occur in legislation which has province-wide application. That is why we should stand back from this legislation today and provide the opportunity to understand what has gone wrong with the Cape Breton legislation, to ensure that we do not recreate those difficulties in the legislation that the minister has introduced in the House and which is under the scrutiny of the House today.
We also want to ensure that people who work for municipal units have ample opportunity to understand what it is that an amalgamation bill of this nature would do to them. We want to ensure that people who are workers, both those who have chosen to certify in the bargaining units and those who have chosen not to certify, are properly protected, that fairness and equity are built into this legislation such that at the end of the day all those who are touched by it, all of those who work for the municipal units that will be in these amalgamations, who are touched by it, will be able to walk away from the process understanding very clearly that they were fairly and justly and equitably dealt with. Is that too much to ask of this minister, that we ensure that?
So in our small communities, our towns and our rural municipalities across this province, ample opportunity should be given for the workers to come forward to address this bill either formally or informally in their home surroundings and to ensure that not only do they understand it but that they express to those who would be the eyes and ears of the minister what their concerns are and indeed what they see to be the strong points in the bill.
I often think that those of us who live in areas where most workers have chosen not to certify themselves into bargaining units, those who have chosen to work independently of an organization or a labour union, look to government to provide them a fair and level playing field, a level of protection that they could only otherwise achieve if they were to chose to certify. That is why it is absolutely essential, among other things, that government ensure that this legislation is absolutely fair to every worker, irrespective whether that worker belongs to a certified bargaining unit or has chosen to be an independent. All must be treated with fairness and equity and the six months' hoist would give an opportunity for that dialogue to take place.
Every member in this Chamber who represents rural areas, knows that very few, if any, of those rural dwellers will come forward here to Halifax to sit in front of the Law Amendments Committee as witnesses but if the legislation is taken out to them for consultation then there is a much greater opportunity to draw these people out in their own communities and have the benefit of that good, solid, local wisdom.
Mr. Speaker, we also have before us the unfolding of the Queen's Bill which I sponsored in this House some many months ago. To date, the process of moving towards that critical April 1, 1996 date seems to be going relatively smoothly, albeit, there now is a very serious question not answered to the satisfaction of the two councils or to myself, to date, with respect to the provision of a single-tiered provincially financed social assistance program.
But, that aside, it strikes me that if we were going to look at the Queen's legislation, as prototype legislation for most of the communities in this province, that it will be wise to see what happens in the period immediately following April 1, 1996 so that we have a defined playing field, we have lines in the playing field, we have the goal post in the playing field, we know where offside and onside are and we know where the centre line is and we know how we can move about that playing field. That then, would give us an opportunity to ensure that the new legislation can be set up against that base mark that is provided in the Queen's legislation and will determine whether it is adequate, not only in the general sense, but also with respect to the specific municipalities that it is designed work.
The hour is getting late and I will wrap up my remarks and yield the floor to another. I would like to close by saying that the purpose for seeking a six months' hoist is so that this bill can be properly and thoroughly vetted by the men and the women of Nova Scotia who it is likely to touch, vetted in such a way that it will not only have their understanding, but also their complete support so that we can restructure and rebuild municipal government as we move into the new century in a fashion which will cause the citizens of the next century to be able to enjoy municipal government to the same extent as those who entered this century. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to the amendment to Bill No. 28, an important amendment and one that I would like to spend some time on. However, observing the hour, I would move adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 28.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well, the debate is adjourned.
I will call now on the Opposition House Leader to indicate the business for tomorrow.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Tomorrow we will be calling Resolution No. 157, which is a resolution with regard to education reform. We will be calling Resolution No. 450, which is a resolution with regard to Pharmacare reform. When we complete those two resolutions, we will be looking after whatever House Orders we have on the order paper.
MR. SPEAKER: We have now reached the conclusion of this afternoon's business.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I will just advise members that we will be sitting tomorrow from the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well, but our having reached 6:00 o'clock the House is now adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
The draw for the Adjournment debate was won by the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party who wishes to debate the matter:
Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government's family violence prevention efforts become comprehensive and thereby truly effective.
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise this evening to bring forward a topic for the consideration of members of this House and maybe what some would be saying is uncharacteristic of me, I do not raise the topic tonight in any way to be accusatory or trying to cast blame or aspersions on anybody, or the government or what have you, but rather to give members an opportunity not only to, again, express their absolute resolve to bring about an end to violence and family violence, but also to discuss some of the causes and the reasons why that exists and possibly discuss some possible additional measures that can be undertaken in order to address this problem.
I raise the topic this evening, and I thought is was appropriate, having sat through what I consider to be a very excellent presentation that was made this morning in the Human Resources Committee by representatives from the Advisory Council on the Status of Women: Katherine McDonald, of course, who is the Chair and Marilyn Berry, who works for the Council.
I recognize that all members of this House and this government and governments generally - in fact, adopted by United Nations resolutions and so on - have adopted a policy of zero tolerance for violence.
I know, too, Mr. Speaker, and I was very pleased to hear and I have no hesitation in passing an accolade to the minister - I certainly heard from those present this morning that the minister himself is trying to take a very active involvement and interest in family violence issues and violence against women and that is great to hear - I have no hesitation in saying that certainly made me, personally, and I know everybody else who heard that, feel very good because we need to know that those who are in positions of power, those who are in positions to effect change, are taking this matter very seriously and are working and doing their utmost to try to address the problem. So I have no hesitation but to say thank you.
I was, in fact, slightly envious of the fact that the minister had been able to and had attended a workshop in Sydney not too long ago which was dealing with this very matter, and I made the request at that meeting that at future workshops it would be helpful for all members of this House because, although we may read, we may hear a great deal, you still do not get the full flavour and full appreciation, no matter how intellectually we may try, of the difficulties that are faced by women and children who are trying to escape from violence in their homes and in their daily lives, so I made the request that, at future workshops, members of this House be advised and possibly invited. I don't mean all at once, but be invited so that we, too, can gain from the benefit of the insight and the learning experience. I am very pleased to be able to say that I was assured that that kind of invitation would, in fact, be forthcoming.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I do not have the actual resolution before me but, basically, what I am saying in the resolution is that we need to have a more coordinated effort to try to make sure that our efforts to reduce the violence are even more effective. I am not saying that in the sense that I am trying to be critical, as I said, for what the minister is trying to do and through the other measures that are in place, but one of the things that struck me in our presentation today, and which the minister will be very familiar with, is the complexity of the web, the complexity of the network that those who are trapped in family violence situations have to go through in order to try to get themselves out of that situation.
The example was used, with which I know the minister will be familiar, what they did in the workshop is, I understand, they passed out popsicle sticks to all the people present. Then a ball of yarn was passed out and passed to one person to whom this person had to go and some of the yarn was wrapped around it and then it was passed on to the next person with whom that person may have to deal and more was wrapped around it and back and forth. Very soon there was a very complicated web of yarn across this room which was very visual of the kind of real situation that women and children who are trapped in violent situations have to try to address.
So, Mr. Speaker, although there are some efforts being made, and I am not trying to be critical but I am never satisfied if there is more we can do, and I believe the minister also shares that view. One of the things we were told about today is, of those family violence situations that are reported, well in excess of 1,100 per year, only 14 of those persons who are guilty of the violent behaviour actually spend more than three months incarcerated for that violence. So the perception is that indeed, those who are involved in perpetrating this violence will get away with it.
Now I know that the minister and his department are trying to increase the cooperation and coordination of services between the prosecution and the police and so on. But you know, Mr. Speaker, many of those who are trapped in a violent situation have also dealt with Health, and Community Services and so on.
Part of what I am trying to get at here this evening, maybe not very articulately, is the need to have a complete and comprehensive process, a coordinated approach, where all of the different government departments that are involved in dealing with women and children who are trying to escape from family violence situations, will have a protocol and a procedure to work together that will cut down on the difficulties and enhance the ability to provide services to those persons.
I think another very important consideration is the cause of the violence and the reason why people stay trapped. Mr. Speaker, certainly there are, in the very few minutes that I have left, just a couple, I can't get into all the reasons. But obviously, and as we were told, violence has more to do with power than with anything else and attempts to try to control. Those who are trying to escape these situations often find themselves trapped in their inability to get out, possibly because of financial reasons, they do not have the financial independence. Here, for example, still in Nova Scotia women are making 64 cents per dollar for what a man makes. We do not have pay equity. The government had promised that pay equity was going to be expanded not only in the public sector but also through the private sector. All these matters helped to contribute to keep women and children in low economic situations, trapped in a sense of dependency.
In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, with the downloading that we are seeing in provincial costs to municipalities, many municipalities are making eligibility requirements more difficult for those who are trying to get on assistance and also reducing a lot of the support services that are available. All these things compound to make it all that much more difficult for those trapped in these kinds of situations to escape.
So what I am trying to say, Mr. Speaker, and I am not trying to lay all this on the minister and I am certainly not trying to be critical of the minister at this stage, I am just saying that we have to have very - yes, and I see that my time has expired - definitely a coordinated approach that involves all of these various services. I look forward to hearing from the minister on ways in which we can actually expand and improve upon those services.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party for putting forward the motion tonight which is, "Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government's family violence prevention efforts become comprehensive and thereby truly effective.". As I say, I thank the member for bringing it forward in a non-confrontational way.
As we speak I think the member for Sackville-Cobequid would be pleased to know that he is getting his wish, that the government is making a strong effort with many partners, including the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, in order to become more effective in combatting family violence. What I would like to do is explain what I think is real progress and I share what our partners think is real progress over the last seven months.
The member would know that family violence is a priority. It was mentioned in the campaign by the Honourable John Savage and I think we have come a distance, we have made progress. We are trying to get beyond the reports and the discussions and beyond the committee meetings. I want to thank those people who took part including the Advisory Council and the Chief Judges of the Provincial and Family Courts, the head of the RCMP, the head of the chiefs of police, transition houses, the Family Violence Prevention Initiative. You name it, they were there and we met right through the summer. It wasn't every week but we met every month or six weeks right through the summer so we could get the thing going.
We are moving forward with a Framework for Action relating to family violence. I have here a copy of the framework and this was made available in September and I would just like to take the opportunity to table that. In so doing, I just want to mention the principles of the Framework of Action which is a cooperative effort from the various partners and this includes Community Services, Health, Education and many others who have worked together, that took part in these meetings as well.
The principles are, and that is all I am going to quote from, "Everyone has a right to live free of violence. Response to family violence is a high priority of the justice system. Safety of the victim is the overriding concern in responding to family violence. Breaking the cycle of violence requires a coordinated multidisciplinary approach in which justice agencies play a key role.". Finally, "The justice system is accountable to the public for its response to family violence.". Those are the principles and I think they are important principles. As I say, we are moving forward with these new policies and with training. My colleagues on the Treasury benches have been very kind to me and my department and our partners in providing money so we can provide staff that will do more than just talk about the matter, will do the research, will do the training, will work in terms of providing services to victims, in part through our own department but also through community organizations. The benefits will be felt across Nova Scotia where family violence is all too real.
I am sure some honourable members would know that the Premier and my colleagues have committed more than $0.75 million over the next 18 months. As part of this, we are hiring a coordinator on a term basis, I believe it is 18 months; it is not a bureaucratic thing, we want to get this thing moving. Interviews, as a matter of fact, were being held today and we hope to have the coordinator in place by the end of next month.
What we plan to do is implement new rules that will govern the police, the lawyers and the courts, or at least push them in the right direction, we hope. We will provide training for all Justice workers. We will be strengthening services for victims and in this regard and as a suggestion by the transition houses and the Advisory Council and others with whom we met as partners, consultations were held earlier this month in five centres across the province ranging from Sydney to Digby to find out how we might best deliver services to victims, not just through government agencies but through other community organizations that can help the victims cope with the pressures of appearing in court and testifying and try to rid ourselves of the horror of domestic violence.
I want to also mention that it is our plan that we will report publicly the results of our efforts relating to family violence so that we will have a score card to know in one year's time or two years' time or three years' time if we are making progress. We will see if the cases that are reported, to see what happens to them. We will know how many people spend how much time or how many complaints that are made and how many charges are laid and followed through. (Interruption) Oh, well, the monitoring, I am not sure that the family violence committee has decided that yet. We might have a group such as the Advisory Council to help us on that to get somebody that is not right in the middle of it to take a look at it.
We know that there have been failures by the system, Mr. Speaker, and we know it is time to try to do better and that is what we are trying to do without criticizing anybody else as I know former governments have put out guidelines on spousal violence, and I think some changes have been made, but we have to do better.
We cannot tolerate domestic violence. We cannot put up with violence against family members. We have to change the attitudes towards domestic violence. Over the past 10, 15, 20 years people do not put up with drunk driving any more. People who get behind the wheel of their car and drive when they are drinking are looked down upon. I know in my community and in my family when somebody talks about having an ale or two or doing some drinking and driving, it is not well-thought of and it should not be. People die and are injured and people suffer because of it. In the same way we must make family violence unacceptable and when people do this cruel thing they must be looked down upon for that because it just is not acceptable.
As the honourable member opposite said, we are dealing with a complex problem. Some of the workshops and the family violence prevention and others have shown the great web and we have to try to untangle that web. Part of the entanglement, as far as we can tell will be to develop a pro-arrest policy, pro-prosecution policy. In the pro-arrest policy that is where training of police come in. They have to be given the tools. They have to be encouraged to take evidence, not only from the victim, but also from anybody else who is there to tape the victim, get evidence on the spot. To use videotapes, audiotapes, anything at all so that if something happens in the person, the victim feels a bit cowed, then other evidence can be used so the perpetrator will not walk.
This police training is important so police will respond. We want perpetrators removed from the home. We want victims referred to victim services or transition houses or other support because too many people are afraid to follow through the system and they drop the charges when the perpetrator should answer for what they are accused of.
We are going to ask the courts to give priority to these cases as best we can. We are going to try to move the cases through. We hope, Mr. Speaker, for example, to have summary offence courts which will free up time. In other words, we are going to get tough policy and we are taking a tough line.
As I said, we formed our committee as a collaborative effort in the spring. We worked through the summer and I want to thank people from various organizations, police forces, transition houses, women's groups and various government agencies and departments. The family violence program that I tabled, the action plan on family violence, the Framework for Action, is a work of all of these. I am proud of the help we got and we could only do it by the help of everybody.
As we go down the road, as we provide more support for victims, we hope that people will continue to work together including community organizations and that more will be accomplished and family violence will become as unacceptable as drinking and driving as become recently.
MR. JOHN HOLM: I have a question for the minister. Everything the minister said is great and I applaud that, but one of the things that came out at the meeting is that many of those who are involved in, for example, some of the victims of some of the most violent crimes, murder, it has been shown, by looking at the records, that they were involved, for example, in receiving care in emergency departments because of earlier violent attacks against them. My question really is, is there going to be an effort to expand the coalition, so to speak, to involve the Department of Health and others into the assault against family violence?
MR. SPEAKER: Your time has expired. A very brief, one word answer.
MR. GILLIS: In an effort to be cooperative, yes, we will expand. What we are doing is based on a couple of reports that were fairly wide-ranging, that were tabled in this calendar year and we will work with Health and all the other departments because it is a wide-ranging problem and we need the help from all the departments.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer a few comments in response to the resolution presented by the Leader of the New Democratic Party, "Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government's family violence prevention efforts become comprehensive and thereby truly effective". I applaud him for raising the issue and I extend kudos to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General for indicating to us, as he has here today, a number of the initiatives which he and his officials and they, in concert with officials in other departments, have been undertaking. I am aware from the release of April 4th of this year that the Justice Minister indicated on that date that Nova Scotia is, to use his words, ". . . failing victims of family violence . . .", and he outlined a Framework of Action Against Family Violence at that time and he tabled in the House of Assembly two significant reports. I think it is significant to note that the member at that time said, and I quote him again, "Victims of family violence in Nova Scotia are not getting the coordinated, comprehensive and effective help they desperately need, and we are going to fix that.".
Later in September, a little over a month and a half ago or so, the Premier issued a statement entitled Strategy to Prevent Family Violence and that was dated September 19, 1995 and the Premier in concert with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Community Services outlined a comprehensive strategy so-called, to prevent family violence. The minister here today has made reference to initiatives taken in that regard and he made mention of the fact that over the next 18 months, and that is from a September 19th jump-off point, that the Government of Nova Scotia would be committing $760,000 in funding to improve the justice system's response to incidents of family violence.
I want to compliment that initiative. At least what I want to do, I guess really, is be on record as supporting the principles which are enshrined in that document because it is based, as the minister has said here today, on a couple of fundamental principles, that it is pro-arrest, that it is pro-prosecution, that it is predicated on the understanding that peace bonds and restraining orders will be seriously and vigorously enforced. It is predicated on the understanding and on the attitude that perpetrators of family and child violence be arrested and removed from homes and the charges be laid. I noted with interest and was pleased to hear the minister say that the coordinator which is referenced in this September 19th release, that interviews are taking place this very day and I sincerely hope that a man or a woman of very real ability and commitment will be hired in very short order.
The minister has made reference here to attitudinal change and it is clear in my experience in regard to matters relative to family violence that the minister is absolutely right and that it is attitudinal change which is necessary. Some members here have heard me say before that in a previous incarnation when I was practising law, my law practice was almost exclusively family law. I practised law for about 12 years and in the last five years of that practice, my practice was even narrower than so-called family law. That last five years of my practice was almost exclusively child abuse work. I acted for Children's Aid Societies across the province and administrator of Family and Child Welfare and so on. That experience and that time in dealing with those circumstances have seared into my brain, such as my addle brain is, and certainly into my heart, that we simply cannot as a community allow any effort except a super-human effort to do those things which will respond to the incidence of family and child violence.
I vacillate, unfortunately, back and forth, Mr. Speaker, when I think about these issues, about the kind of treatment and approach we should be taking relative to the perpetrators. There are those occasions when I find myself feeling that any perpetrator, and in 99.99 per cent out of 100 cases they are males, found guilty of family or child violence, we should throw behind bars and throw away the keys. They are, in my opinion, despicable human beings who could allow themselves to perpetrate violence against women and children.
However, being the human creatures that we are, there is a legitimate concern, and rightly so, about the rehabilitation of those who do perpetrate these vicious and violent crimes.
MR. JOHN HOLM: We have to break the cycle.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes. My colleague the Leader of the New Democratic Party says that we have to break the cycle. So I guess that is why I said a moment ago that I find myself with a mixed opinion about the way in which the system should deal with the perpetrator and we really have to rehabilitate if we possible can.
Our first order of responsibility the minister has recognized, and the documents to which he has referred, one of which he has tabled here today, address it. Our first and foremost responsibility is to ensure the safety - physical, psychological, emotional - all elements of the safety of the victims of this kind of violence. I can tell you that there are some heinous crimes of this kind being committed and, indeed, being committed not many blocks from this very building.
I want to jump on one little thing that the minister says, not in a provocative way, but in a way to encourage action by the minister. It is on the same lines as the question which was put by the Leader of the New Democratic Party to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General. That is to plead with the Minister of Justice that as the efforts which are described in the Framework for Action Against Family Violence document, and when decisions are taken about selection and appointment of coordinators, and when decisions are taken relative to integrating the efforts of a number of other ministries and organizations and institutions and groups in the community, that there be a careful, precise and scrupulously detailed record keeping mechanism in place, and that that is matched with a process whereby this minister and future Ministers of Justice will come to this place and be in a position to report on the doings of the interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary attack which will be taken against family violence. Otherwise, we will simply not know whether the $0.75 million is well spent. We will not know whether the perpetrators are, in fact, being dealt with properly and, most important, we will not know whether the attitudinal change which is required, not only as it relates to the women and children who are victims, and not only the perpetrators but, as I am sure the Minister of Justice well recognizes, to the broader community, that there is attitudinal change there as well.
I am getting the high sign from the Speaker that my time is up and I understand that. I will close by simply saying that I wish the minister well as he continues on this current effort and look forward to a full and complete report of progress as the work of the committee and those involved unfolds over the coming months. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the hour of adjournment. The House now stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.
[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]