Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

















HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 1995



Fifty-sixth General Assembly



Third Session



2:00 P.M.



SPEAKER



Hon. Paul MacEwan



DEPUTY SPEAKER



Mrs. Francene Cosman



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time and we will commence this afternoon's session. We will have introduction of guests first.



The honourable Minister of Education.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, in a few moments I am going to be introducing legislation to create Nova Scotia's first arts council but first I would like to introduce Susan Gibson-Garvey, Peggy Walt, Barbara Richmond, Andrew Terris, and Van Penick and acknowledge their contribution to this bill. This past summer, the Premier appointed a 15 member steering committee to recommend legislation, policies and programs related to the arts council. Under the direction of Ms. Gibson-Garvey, the committee has done an excellent job in charting the future and direction of the arts council in Nova Scotia's arts community. I would like the House to recognize the contribution made by Ms. Gibson-Garvey and the other members of the steering committee present in the gallery and I would ask them to stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable members for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I recall, in 1947 or 1948, my parents taking me to the docks in west Saint John to look at a vessel which had been sailed across the Atlantic. The name of that boat was the Atlantica. She was a 60 foot sailboat. She had been purchased by a group of refugees from the Republic of Estonia who were fleeing the heavy yoke of communism that had descended on that country shortly after the Nazis were driven out at the end of the Second World War. That boat, I think, probably had 50 or 60 men, women and children on board and those people have since become citizens of Canada and they, and their children, and indeed their children's children have made tremendous contributions to this country of ours, never at the same time forgetting the country which they had to flee in those days after the end of hostilities after the Second World War.



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That was then and now is now and I am delighted, Mr. Speaker, that we have in your gallery and seated with our Auditor General, Mr. Roy Salmon, the Deputy Auditor General for the Republic of Estonia. He is here on a six week program as part of the Baltic Economic Management Training Program that Dalhousie is putting on in cooperation with the now free republics of the Baltic. He has spent a couple of weeks in Ottawa and is here in Halifax for his final two weeks. I would invite all members of the House to pay a very warm welcome to the Deputy Auditor General of Estonia, Mr. Rein Söörd, who is now here participating on behalf of his government, a free and democratic government, in a way in which those people who I visited those many years ago were not able to do in their homeland. So, I would ask him to stand and be welcomed by the House. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further introductions of guests? If not, we will commence the daily routine.



PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS



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



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of a number of Nova Scotians who are opposed to the Savage Government's mandatory Pharmacare Program.



MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS



GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.



RESOLUTION NO. 471



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



Whereas Nova Scotians watched with concern as the referendum campaign in Quebec progressed, and openly expressed their desire to contribute to the efforts to keep Canada united; and



Whereas representatives from all sectors of the corporate community responded without hesitation and with great enthusiasm to a call for their assistance in supporting Canadian unity events, both in Nova Scotia and in Montreal; and



Whereas the outpouring of affection for Quebec by Nova Scotians and thousands of their fellow Canadians at these events - which urged Quebec voters to remain in the Canadian family - clearly contributed to the positive result we witnessed Monday night;



Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its appreciation to all those Nova Scotians who participated in the rallies and heartily commend the organizers and corporate sponsors who made it possible for people from all walks of life to have a voice in the future of the country that they love.



Mr. Speaker, I request 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.



INTRODUCTION OF BILLS



Bill No. 36 - Entitled an Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Arts Council. (Hon. John MacEachern)



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



NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



RESOLUTION NO. 472



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



Whereas smoking is an addiction that causes a wide range of health problems that place a significant drain on limited health care resources; and



Whereas Health Minister Ron Stewart has endeavoured to draw attention to the ill effects and dangers of cigarette smoke, making the reduction and elimination of smoking one of his primary objectives as Minister of Health; and



Whereas gambling is also addictive, resulting in a wide range of health and social problems that also have significant attendant costs;



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health show the same resolve in attacking the problem of casino gambling as he has in addressing the smoking issue by banning all advertising by ITT Sheraton.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.





RESOLUTION NO. 473



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



Whereas tomorrow, the Black Cultural Centre, in partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, begin Operation Show and Tell; and



Whereas this event recognizes the service of the black members of the RCMP and illustrates the ideals of community-based policing, based on the mutual interests of the community and the police force; and



Whereas during this event, the Black Cultural Centre will unveil a Dedication Wall including a plaque honouring the life and contributions of Constable Jonathan Skeete of Cape Breton;



Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates both the Black Cultural Centre and the RCMP for the partnership made evident by Operation Show and Tell and joins in honouring the memory of Constable Skeete.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable to the House to waive notice?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried. (Applause)



I might just mention that the late Constable Skeete was one of my former students when I taught school in Sydney.



The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis on an introduction.



MR. JOSEPH CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask permission to introduce a group of students in the east gallery. This is the Middleton Regional High School, Grade 12 Political Science Class and the leader is Mr. Bill Hines. I wonder if the members of the House would give their usual warm welcome. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.



RESOLUTION NO. 474



MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:



Whereas for over 400 years, people have used natural trees to celebrate a very special birthday; and



Whereas Lunenburg County began their tree export tradition in the 1900's with the balsam fir tree chosen for its quality, sweet fragrance and a tradition that brings the joys and happiness of Christmas close to the heart; and



Whereas Lunenburg County today produces the best and most popular balsam fir Christmas trees and has earned our county the title, Balsam Fir Christmas Tree Capital of the World;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly extend congratulations to the hard-working, dedicated members of the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Association for their significant role in the production and distribution of Christmas trees throughout the world.



Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.



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 Minister of Community Services.



RESOLUTION NO. 475



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



Whereas November 1995 has been designated as National Adoption Awareness Month; and



Whereas all children need and deserve the love, support and nurturing of a caring family; and



Whereas there are many children waiting for a loving family to adopt them, especially children with special needs and sibling groups;



Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize November 1995 as National Adoption Awareness Month, that we focus attention on the needs of children waiting to be adopted and that we pay special tribute to adoptive parents throughout the province.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?



It is agreed.



[2:15 p.m.]



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Eastern Shore.



RESOLUTION NO. 476



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 year marks the 60th Anniversary of the foundation and formation of the Sheet Harbour Board of Trade; and



Whereas the establishment of the Sheet Harbour Board of Trade in 1935 by a group of 31 concerned entrepreneurs was an historic venture which has promoted the economic growth of the Eastern Shore; and



Whereas the Sheet Harbour Board of Trade under the leadership of President, Reg Dooks, is committed to promoting business and tourism development on the Eastern Shore through a 17 point business plan, with the goal of improving the standard of living for all citizens on the Eastern Shore;



Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the members of the Sheet Harbour Board of Trade on the occasion of its 60th Anniversary and encourage it to continue to promote the economic development of the Eastern Shore.



Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



RESOLUTION NO. 477



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



Whereas with the exception of an extremely small segment on McNabs, land on McNabs and Lawlor Islands is owned by the federal and provincial governments; and



Whereas there is a lingering controversy over what to do with this land, develop it or leave it as is; and



Whereas various plans have been discussed as to what type of development should take place on McNabs and Lawlor Islands;



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources show some leadership with respect to working with the partners involved to develop a solution that will enhance the attractiveness of both McNabs and Lawlor Islands.



MR. SPEAKER: Are you requesting waiver on that?



MR. TAYLOR: Yes I am, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 478



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 House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries is today holding a video hearing with Nova Scotians and other Atlantic Canadians about Bill C-98; and



Whereas this bill would grant sweeping new powers for the federal government to impose fees and charges on Nova Scotia fishers, without consultation or regard for the consequences; and



Whereas this House and the provincial minister have joined the campaign to stop the ruinous charges that the federal government is already trying to impose with its existing, more limited authority;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the House of Commons to suspend any legislation giving the Fisheries Department new or stronger power to impose fees and charges on Atlantic fishers and communities without first consulting thoroughly and publicly identifying the consequences.



Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice on this motion.



MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Yarmouth.



RESOLUTION NO. 479



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



Whereas education is the backbone of a prosperous and united country; and



Whereas immersion teachers throughout Canada have provided for a greater understanding of languages for Canadians from coast to coast; and



Whereas on November 2nd through to November 4th, the 19th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers will be held at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax;



Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly of the Province of Nova Scotia welcome the 19th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers to Nova Scotia and applaud them for their important work over the last 19 years.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable 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.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 480



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 nuclear bomb tests now being conducted by France in the South Pacific have aroused world-wide concern about both the environmental impact and the betrayal of efforts to complete a permanent nuclear test ban; and



Whereas Nova Scotian have as great a stake as any other people in common global security and a reduced threat of nuclear proliferation; and



Whereas many individual Nova Scotians have sought a means to register their support for a nuclear test ban and the dismantling of nuclear arsenals;



Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage all Nova Scotians to boycott French wines and all other French products until France agrees to suspend its current nuclear test program, voluntarily banning future tests and joins those countries seeking a permanent test ban treaty.



Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.



MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Lunenburg.



RESOLUTION NO. 481



MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:



Whereas October 18, 1995, saw the 10th Anniversary of the Veterans' Unit at the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg; and



Whereas in honour of the Veterans' Unit's 10th Anniversary, the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable James Kinley, addressed the veterans and guests in attendance for a garden dedication ceremony; and



Whereas the Veterans' Garden was created to provide a place for the veterans to go for activities outside of the unit, to be with their families and friends;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly congratulate the members of the Geriatric Trust Committee, Zone 13 Royal Canadian Legions, the Canadian Corps of Commissioners and the families and friends of the Veterans' Unit for their generous donations and assistance in the successful establishment of the beautiful Veterans' Garden.



Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.



RESOLUTION NO. 482



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



Whereas November is Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation Month, a national campaign to encourage people to learn how to prevent heart disease and related deaths; and



Whereas all Members of the Legislative Assembly and support staff were invited to attend a CPR course at Province House yesterday; and



Whereas the CPR course was very capably taught by many of the experts in the field of life-saving skills;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the participants for their enthusiasm to learn life-saving skills and thank the many experts from the Red Cross, the Halifax Police Department, Saint John Ambulance, the Metro and District Ambulance Service and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



Are there any additional Notices of Motion? If not, that concludes the daily routine. There has not been any submission this afternoon for the Adjournment motion. We will go directly to the Oral Question Period, which today last for 90 minutes, so from 2:23 p.m. we will go until 3:53 p.m. That will be the duration of the Oral Question Period.



ORDERS OF THE DAY



ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



FIN. - CASINOS: AGREEMENT (ITT SHERATON) - EXTENSION



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Gaming Control Commission. Yesterday, the member for Halifax Citadel asked the minister if he, the minister, was contemplating granting the Sheraton Casino an extension of the agreement respecting the timeframe of the opening of the new casino north of Purdy's Wharf. In fact the Minister said he had recommended the extension of the timeframe to the company. This extension will result in a $10,000 penalty per day for the delayed opening of the new casino and that penalty would be forfeited by the province.



Bearing in mind that the government saw fit to have the penalty clause put in the original contract, my specific question to the minister is, what was the matter of fact that caused the minister to suggest to ITT Sheraton a delay in construction and completion and forfeit a $10,000 penalty per day, payable to the people of the province?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the honourable Leader of the Opposition. It is clear that we should point out at the outset that no obligation contained in that agreement from ITT Sheraton to us, as a province, has been waived, in substance. What we are talking about here is a question of timing. For reasons of business judgment in the matter, it was felt that for discussions between the two partners, that is the Province of Nova Scotia through the Gaming Corporation and the senior officials of ITT, that with respect to the commencement date of the construction, we would mutually agree to a delay.



DR. HAMM: I believe that the minister ways saying it was a business decision and, as a result of that business decision, the minister has granted a significant benefit to ITT Sheraton, that is that they not be penalized if, in fact, the opening of the new casino falls later than, I believe the date was March in 1998. The forfeiture will cost $10,000 per day. My specific question then, by way of first supplementary, is what benefit to the province was the minister able to obtain from the Sheraton Casino for his concession?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me say, you couldn't very well contemplate offering an extension on the commencement date without offering an extension on the penalty at the other end. I mean that would be silly. I know that is not what the honourable Leader of the Opposition was suggesting.



Both partners looked at it from a business point of view. Both of us, by the way, share in the profits of the casino. As a matter of fact, we share in a substantially larger portion of the profits than does our partner, so it is in the interest of the people of Nova Scotia that we act in a sound business-like way and, in fact, that was what the judgment was. The construction of the casino will involve substantial capital investment and we just want to observe the operation of the casino for a few more months before we throw the switches.



DR. HAMM: By way of second supplementary, when one grants a benefit, certainly in business, you usually expect to get something in return. Has the minister already advised the Sheraton Casino of a significant concession or will he today agree to collect all revenue due to the province from this day on and will he assure all Nova Scotians that the Sheraton Casino will be obliged to fulfil all its obligations to the province?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the Sheraton Casino is under all of the obligations contained in the agreement we signed with them. We have made a business decision, as partners, that we will have this six month delay. Now, if that confers a benefit, I suppose it was to the mutual advantage of both partners. We certainly felt that it was sensible from the province's point of view and ITT Sheraton agreed. We continue, as I said, to receive the revenue that has been guaranteed, as a matter of fact we have it in the bank, it is being used now. We continue to receive the money that comes from the casino operation to fund a program of prevention and treatment. As a matter of fact, we have already received in excess of $330 million from the casino operation thus far this year for that purpose, which I remind the honourable member was more than the former government budgeted, I believe, in any year that they were in office.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



FIN.: LOTTERIES - TICKET SALES (EX-PROV.)



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation. The minister and his staff will have known since at least last March that one or more companies in Nova Scotia have been selling Atlantic 6/49 tickets outside the province and outside the country for as much as 10 times their face value. When it became too hot for those operators to operate in other provinces, they came to Nova Scotia where they obviously thought they had found a safe haven.



My question to the minister is why have you taken absolutely no action to shut down operations like those of Hendrickson Holding Corporation and the Bev's East-West Variety in Dartmouth, that is clearly in breach of the lottery regulations and in all likelihood is illegal?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: I am familiar with the situation that the honourable member refers to. Unfortunately, I believe that the honourable member has seen fit, having been in possession of certain information that he believed was accurate that the honourable member has indicated that he has laid a criminal charge or at least commenced at his instance a criminal investigation. In that instance, I am very reluctant to comment any further on this . . .



THE PREMIER: You have written to the police.



MR. BOUDREAU: . . . until that has been resolved. I will say, however, that I am familiar with the particular instance he is referring to but I don't want to comment much further on that at this stage.



[2:30 p.m.]



MR. HOLM: Well, the minister is correct . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I have not recognized the honourable Leader yet.



I am reluctant to allow this line of questioning because specific firms are named and this is not a court of law. We cannot try cases here before the House.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, bearing that in mind.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, this is not in a court of law and what I have filed is a complaint with the RCMP and I do not know if there is any investigation. I have had no word back from them whatsoever.



Mr. Speaker, if I may continue. I have spoken with people, however, who have told me that this company is selling millions of dollars of 6/49 tickets outside of the province and that they are being resold outside of the country to places like Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United States, et cetera. And, this minister prides himself that he knows what is going on with gambling around the country. The minister will therefore know that in other jurisdictions, especially B.C., that they have shut down these reselling operations. (Interruptions)



My question to the minister is quite simply this, why is it that this minister has decided to try to turn Nova Scotia into the old-style Havana gambling centre of the north? (Interruptions)



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, let me repeat the difficulty I have with addressing this particular issue. The honourable member says he made some sort of contact. I think, in fact, and I quote from a letter which I will send him a copy of, his letter, he must have it. He says, "I am writing to lay a complaint.". That letter was directed to the RCMP. He says he has not received a reply to that. He does not know what is going on. I will send him another copy from the RCMP to him, dated October 30th which acknowledges the letter when he (Interruption) Haven't received it. Well, I will send you over a copy. The mails must be worse to the honourable member than they are to me. (Interruptions)



In any event, if the honourable member believes he has a serious instance here, he has likely taken the correct action. He has contacted the RCMP. He says he wants to lay a criminal complaint. The RCMP have responded to him. So in that matter, we will see, let the criminal system unfold. The RCMP will investigate and if they believe there is a basis for his complaint, they will obviously lay charges. When the charges are laid, there will be a trial. There will either be a guilty verdict or a not guilty verdict but I think I will wait for the court and the RCMP to act on this and in the meantime I do not feel comfortable commenting on it.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that the minister has known about this since at least last March and he did absolutely nothing to start an investigation and to look into what is going on.



My final question then, since this minister is not prepared to answer anything, I am going to go to the minister who is responsible for the Gaming Control Commission who, according to the Act, has the responsibility to ensure that the operations are operating the way that are in the public interest and in accordance with the principles of honesty and integrity. Mr. Speaker, I have even heard that some of those large winning tickets have been picked up to be distributed to the purchasers and owners of those tickets in places like the United States and Turkey.



My question to the minister is, why have you and your department not followed through on your commitments as laid down in the Act?



HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member opposite knows that this issue has been under review and study in many jurisdictions right across North America. It is not just a regional issue, it is a national issue and I know that the honesty and integrity of the gaming issues here in the Province of Nova Scotia are closely controlled by the Gaming Control Commission and I will work to ensure that is exactly what happens in all aspects of gaming in the province.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



FIN. - CASINOS: ITT SHERATON - LAS VEGAS TRIP



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Gaming Control Commission. It is my understanding that the minister went to Las Vegas not so long ago to meet with the Sheraton Casino people and I ask the minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, if the minister will tell us the length of that trip, the cost of the trip and whether or not it was paid for by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia or by the Sheraton Corporation?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the length of the trip was two full days in Las Vegas. Las Vegas happens to be the head office of the ITT Sheraton. We had two days of discussions with seniors officials there. My expenses on the trip will be paid by the Province of Nova Scotia, as part of my responsibilities for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and, in fact, they will appear in due course with all my other expenses, as is the habit.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if in relation to that trip the minister would be good enough to tell this House just what was the purpose of the trip, the time that he spent with the Sheraton officials and who, if anyone from the Gaming Corporation, accompanied him on that trip?



MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I was accompanied by the Chairman of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, Mr. Ralph Fiske. There were only two of us who travelled on the trip. It was our first opportunity actually since the casino has opened and after we had some experience with the operation and the results to discuss matters of general business interest, one of which has already been the subject of some interest in the House.



MR. DONAHOE: I wonder if the minister would confirm relative to that same trip if it was on that trip that it occurred to him that he should, as he reported here in this House yesterday, make the offer to ITT Sheraton, the Sheraton Casino people, that there be the extension? It is our understanding and his words that that was his idea and not the Sheraton's idea. Could he tell us whether or not it was on that trip and during those meetings in Las Vegas which he conveyed that message to the Sheraton Casino people?



MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I set the agenda for those meetings with the Sheraton people. I included that item on the agenda and I raised it.



MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



FIN. - CASINOS: AGREEMENT (ITT SHERATON) - EXTENSION



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to understand and, quite candidly, I have had as a result of the exchange here yesterday, a considerable number of contacts from Nova Scotia taxpayers who find it exceedingly difficult to understand why it is (Interruption) No, the Premier and the Minister of Transportation and Communications they probably wouldn't be concerned enough to make inquiry of their colleague as to why. (Interruptions)



MR. SPEAKER: Let's get to the question now, come on.



MR. DONAHOE: We should get to the question. The question to the minister is this, Mr. Speaker, could he please explain to me and to Nova Scotian taxpayers what economic studies, what analysis was undertaken by himself which prompted him to conclude that he, the minister, should make this proposition for delay of certain provisions of the agreement with Sheraton Casinos, what was it and what documentation and what studies did he look at that prompted him to make that offer?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, we reviewed the performance of the casino to date and indicated that, indeed, after discussions with the Sheraton people locally that the casino operation would require what they refer to as a period of ramp up, expanding operation, until they reached their projected capacity of business. We made a simple business decision with them. We are partners. Aside from us taking our 20 per cent off the top in a win tax, we also participate in the profit. The taxpayers of Nova Scotia, without investing a cent, will not only have that 20 per cent but we will participate in 65 per cent of the net profit. So we have an interest in it and this seemed like a reasonably sensible business decision. What we are talking about is a six month delay.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister. The minister said in this House yesterday that the relief which he is providing to the Sheraton Casinos from this penalty clause was, his request ". . . on behalf of government . . .". and he went on to say and he is quoted in Hansard in these words, "This extension will come into effect and it will be agreed to by both parties.". I have a little bit of a problem with that answer and the circumstances here because as you will know, Mr. Speaker, and the minister certainly does, neither the minister nor the Government of Nova Scotia are signatories to the agreement with Sheraton Casinos. The agreement, a copy of which I have here at my place, indicates that the signatories thereto are ITT Sheraton Canada Limited, Purdy's Wharf Development Limited, Metropolitan Entertainment Group, Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and Sheraton International Incorporated. This minister is not a signatory and the Province of Nova Scotia is not a signatory. I ask this minister if he could explain to this House on what authority is it that he has made the offer to ITT Sheraton Casinos?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder then in that capacity if the minister would tell this House whether or not there is a resolution or a minute of the Board of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation authorizing the minister to make the offer to ITT Sheraton Casinos which he did make?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I think I cannot say that for sure but the matter was raised by me after discussion with the board.



MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize another questioner, I would like to recognize the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis on an introduction.



MR. JOSEPH CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to have permission to introduce a class of Grade 12 political science students from Middleton. I would hope that the members of the House would give them their warm welcome. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



FIN. - CASINOS: AGREEMENT (ITT SHERATON) - EXTENSION



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I take it that the minister is telling us that he is not sure whether or not there was a decision taken by the Board of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation authorizing the minister to make the offer of delay that he did, in fact, make to ITT Sheraton, is that what he is saying?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am saying that the matter was discussed, I felt empowered to make such an offer and before any such offer is finally documented, I am sure all of the necessary steps will be taken.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I thought, as I am sure you did and certainly all Nova Scotians did, on the bases of the rhetoric from this minister and the Premier and others that the way in which this ill-fated casino was established in the first instance, there was great fanfare about the fact that there would be a Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and it would be at arm's length from government and that it would make decisions relative to the way in which this casino and the Sydney casino would and would not operate, it, the Gaming Corporation and not a minister or a Premier would call the shots as to whether or not the contractual arrangements between the Gaming Corporation, not the province, not the minister, but the Gaming Corporation and ITT Sheraton, would be honoured.



I ask the minister again if he, in fact, has made a commitment or has purported to on behalf of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, relative to this agreement with ITT Sheraton and the casino, without having a resolution of a minute passed by the Board at the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and if such a minute has been passed, will he table it here this afternoon?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the commitment that was very clearly given after much discussion and much amendment here in the arm's length operation of the gaming regime, had to do with the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission. The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation is an agent of government. The sole shareholder in that corporation is the government and the people of Nova Scotia.



Mr. Speaker, discussions were had with both the Board of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and with the Premier respecting this possibility. The item was placed on the agenda by myself, at a meeting which was held over two days, along with very many other items. I indicated to them that would be my recommendation and that I felt confident that that recommendation would be followed; I remain confident that that recommendation will be followed. The appropriate minute will be passed and the appropriate correspondence directed in due course. I don't know whether that has been done, as yet.



[2:45 p.m.]



MR. DONAHOE: So it is becoming increasingly clear that this minister made a decision which he then imposed upon the Gaming Corporation. (Interruption) Well, shake your head Premier if you like but that is in fact. Well, maybe my question by way of supplementary is to the Premier. Will the Premier tell the people of Nova Scotia as to whether or not he approved personally or at a Cabinet meeting the decision which was undertaken and the action undertaken by the Minister of Finance to make the concession which the Minister of Finance has made to ITT Sheraton Casino? Did he approve it or was it approved at Cabinet with the Premier present?



THE PREMIER: Which one would you like answered?



MR. DONAHOE: Oh, get smart. Answer.



SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh-h-h.



MR. SPEAKER: I must caution the honourable member for Halifax Citadel, that get smart remark is just a little bit much.



THE PREMIER: Oh, Mr. Speaker. My answer (Interruption) May I answer? (Interruption)



I have absolute confidence in the Minister of Finance who was the minister in charge of this. I knew of it and it has the backing of the government.



MR. DONAHOE: So I take it, then, we are now having the Premier of Nova Scotia (Interruptions) evade my question. Apparently he skirts the question as to whether or not it was discussed at Cabinet. He pats his Minister of Finance on the back and says the minister has his full support and that the decision which the minister took has his full support. I take it, Mr. Speaker, the Premier is endorsing the giving away, by his Minister of Finance, of $1.8 million of money rightfully belonging to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia by giving this delay to ITT Sheraton. I ask by way of final supplementary to the Minister of Finance, is the Minister of Finance able to provide documentation that guarantees that the $1.8 million which would be lost if this six month delay is in fact given under the terms of the current agreement, will not be lost to the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I have to say this is the silliest bit of political chicanery yet to come from that member.



AN HON. MEMBER: Hear! Hear!



MR. BOUDREAU: The issue, if you want to address the issue, is whether or not, under the circumstances, we should have agreed or allowed or discussed a six month extension to the construction start of the large casino. (Interruptions)



Mr. Speaker, let's address that question because that is the real issue. On the basis, we believe, of sound business judgment in discussions with our partner, we decided that it was to the advantage of both partners, not just ITT Sheraton, but to the people of Nova Scotia, to delay the construction start for six months. Now, we'll accept the responsibility for that judgment. (Interruption) The people will decide whether that was a sound judgment or not and to what extent they should consider it, but this type of political chicanery that we have heard over the last few minutes, I think, just avoids the central issue. The central issue is that we exercised what we believed is good business judgment in this case. It is to the advantage of both partners and we will stand by that judgment. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: A new question, the honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



FIN. - CASINOS: AGREEMENT (ITT SHERATON) - EXTENSION



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Minister of Finance suggested my line of questioning is chicanery. My line of questioning relates to the potential that the right of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia to demand $1.8 million from ITT Sheraton Casinos by way of delay penalty is in jeopardy unless and until steps are taken by the Minister of Finance to ensure that that does not happen.



Well, he shakes his head, but that is exactly what the problem is and that is the concern. I ask this Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, if he will give this undertaking to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, having agreed now with ITT Sheraton that there will be at least a six month delay and that six month delay, under the terms of the contract that he is agreeing to amend, is worth $1.8 million, is the Minister of Finance prepared to undertake today that any newly arranged agreement with ITT Sheraton casinos will ensure that that $1.8 million is not lost to the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, in any type of contract which involves construction of facilities that government or the private sector enters, the one with the responsibility for conducting that construction has an obligation as to a date of completion. It is common practice to attach to that obligation for a date of completion a penalty. That is what was in this contract and it was put there by us, at our insistence, to ensure that completion would be on that date.



In this instance, in our judgment, and we accept responsibility for that judgment, we don't seek to avoid that for a moment, it made good sense that that date should be moved six months. We had discussions with our partners and we made that judgment together with them.



The commitment to build is still there, the penalty provisions are still there, they will commence six months later. We think this is a sensible approach, a sensible decision and it is quite common in the business community.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary is to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. I wonder if the minister will indicate to me and to Nova Scotians today as to whether or not the same philosophy now applies in the Department of Economic Renewal as apparently applies with the Minister of Finance; namely, if any Nova Scotia individual or corporation is indebted to any of the lending agencies controlled by the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and those Nova Scotia business persons come to his department and say that there have been deep, difficult, recessionary times, I do not have the resources to meet my obligations on the loan or the default provisions of agreements and contracts with those lending agencies, will this minister indicate to those Nova Scotia men and women who are running businesses and who are having difficulty that the same kind of forgiveness is available to them as the Minister of Finance has made available to one of the largest corporations on the face of the earth?





HON. ROBERT HARRISON: This line of questioning, in terms of its essence, is, in fact, quite misleading and quite mischievous. I thought there was a commitment previously to cheap political shots. What I would like to say in response is that the Nova Scotia Government is committed to Nova Scotia business and that the loans and the ability of this government to provide support to that business has not been found wanting. In fact, it is appreciated by many businesses throughout this province.



So, if the question is, does the Government of Nova Scotia, does the Economic Renewal Agency support Nova Scotia business, does it make loans to businesses in aquaculture, in farming, in timber and in general business practice, the answer is yes, we are proud to do so, proud to support Nova Scotia jobs, proud to support Nova Scotia businesses.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am sure all Nova Scotians appreciate the high school cheerleader response which we have gotten from the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.



My final supplementary is to the Minister of Finance, in his capacity as minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. Will the Minister of Finance indicate to us today whether or not he has communicated with the City of Halifax to give an undertaking to the City of Halifax that no tax revenue will be lost to the City of Halifax as a consequence of any arrangement he either has already made or will make with ITT Sheraton Casino?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I will give the undertaking that to the best of my ability, in conjunction with some of my associates here, that we will discharge the public interest in our dealings with ITT Sheraton and that operation; that is the commitment I give and that is the judgment I will stand. I can tell this honourable member that unlike some of the adventures that he was involved in, such as Nova Scotia Resources Limited, for example, this won't cost the province one cent. It will bring us $100 million minimum over the next four years; it will create currently probably close to 850 jobs. No money at risk. Does anyone notice the difference between that and some of the adventures of the former government?



He stands in his place and worries that we may have postponed construction for six months. Look at the context of this and how can you believe that that member could be serious. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



ERA - MISS NOVA SCOTIA: BEAUTY PAGEANT - EXPENDITURE



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct a question through you to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. This government has been telling and continues to tell people throughout Nova Scotia that it has no money, that they need to expect less in terms of health care, education, job training, Pharmacare Program and so on. I would like to ask the minister if he could explain how he can justify the expenditure of $2,400, plus two round-trip tickets to Vancouver, for a Nova Scotian to enter and participate in a beauty pageant in Vancouver?



HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to this question. The question is whether or not we support Nova Scotians who are provincial champions competing at a national championship level. The answer is yes. When it has a tourism component, the answer is yes, again. The fact that that person went on to win national recognition at that contest is simply something for which Nova Scotians should be justly proud. (Applause)



MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think we all in this House support Nova Scotians, but let's be clear that this is a beauty pageant - the Government of Nova Scotia has withdrawn funding here for beauty pageants; we have withdrawn funding here in this province for that type of issue - that only two provinces participated in. It is a pageant that received no press report, whatsoever, in the City of Vancouver. I would just like an explanation from the minister as to how anybody in his department could have justified this kind of expenditure on the basis of anything, let alone its tourism value?



MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, quite simply, we had a request from Miss Nova Scotia to participate in a national competition, a component of which was tourism; that was the component of this particular competition. The fact that she won, that we were able to support her, I think is something that I am proud of. This is not simply a beauty pageant, in the terms of the member opposite, this had to do with other attributes of the kind of character that young people in this province demonstrate. The fact that she represents this province as Miss Nova Scotia, I think it a critical factor in the decision to support her. (Applause)



MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me say, once again, that this is a beauty pageant that took place in Vancouver, that two provinces participated in, that received absolutely no press reports, and let's put aside the fact that this individual, undoubtedly, is a wonderful person and it is terrific that the minister decided she should be supported. But we are talking about priorities here and how money is spent.



I would like the minister to give this House an indication and, perhaps, table an explanation as to why it was that officials within his department decided to allocate what may have been up to $5,000 - it may not seem like a lot to some members of the Treasury benches, but it is a lot to a lot of Nova Scotians - why it was that that money was expended and what was the tourism value that he expects to get out of it?



MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, let me restate that we have someone titled Miss Nova Scotia in the Province of Nova Scotia - a young woman whom I have not met personally, but I am sure is of fine character - who writes to ask for assistance in order to compete nationally in a contest that some would attribute as the replacement of the Miss Canada Pageant. The component of tourism was critical in the decision-making, I believe that it is appropriate that someone who carries the title of Miss Nova Scotia should be supported by the province that she represents, in particular in a tourism pageant in Vancouver or wherever in Canada that contest took place. Hence, the decision to support her.



[3:00 p.m.]



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



MUN. AFFS.: C.B. REG. MUN. - DEFICIT



MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Yesterday, the minister, in answering my question about the $4-plus million deficit in Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said she had no idea what happened because she had not met with council. The minister later said that she will ask council about construction projects and about severance packages that were approved before amalgamation. Can the minister confirm that she now knows that the $4.3 million in deficit is due to construction and severance packages?



HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer the question as I was pleased to answer the questions yesterday. As I have stated, and as the question has been asked, I have a meeting scheduled with the mayor of the area as well as some of the councillors and I am going to sit down and go through those numbers and those issues. I think it is very important, when you look at the press clippings, which I am sure is what the honourable member is looking at, that there is a question of the money and the debt that has been accumulated prior to the August 1st date of the amalgamation and I think there are a number of issues that we have to look at here, both the expenditures from August 1st, which are after the date, and the expenditures or the debt load that is being brought into the new regional government from each of the eight councils that were in place prior to the amalgamation.



MR. MACLEOD: Again, my question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Municipal Affairs Minister knows full well that severance packages were supposed to be accounted for before amalgamation by her department and the amalgamation coordinator. If the minister now says that the $4.3 million deficit is due to the severance packages, which is what I am wondering, can she explain to the taxpayers of Cape Breton why the severance costs were not calculated beforehand and included in the minister's promises of a $6.5 million saving?



MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think, as I stated clearly yesterday, that there are some costs that you look at as start-up costs for a new amalgamation. We very clearly said in the initial statements I made two years ago when we even announced the amalgamation, that there would be some downsizing in the number of staff that would be required in a new, amalgamated municipality. Certainly those were part and parcel of a consideration on what the costs would be. As the honourable member knows, in the process of setting up the new regional government, there has been discussion. They have had to deal with labour relations, they have had to deal with severance and they have had to deal with any number of things of which they have generated some of the early retirement packages, in which they have generated some of the severance pays and some of the layoff notices. Those have all been part and parcel of the discussion with the municipality and how they structured the new regional government.



MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the minister says it is the council's business as to how they run their business. That is not the song she was singing when she imposed amalgamation on the people of Cape Breton. (Interruptions) What steps is this minister prepared to take to ensure that the taxpayers will not have to cough up $4.3 million to make up for this miscalculation by the minister?



MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back a little bit to the beginning in a sense that when we have had debate on the bill last night, of the new general amalgamation bill, and these people opposite want it both ways. They tell me yesterday that they don't support amalgamation, that they don't support the new general bill on one hand and they don't support (Interruptions) Well, they are not moving it on to second reading. They don't support, in Cape Breton, the amalgamation when we looked at the financial impact to six of those units. Then on the other hand, they want me to go in there with the hammer and tell these municipal governments exactly how to spend their money, exactly how to run their systems, when they have a level of government.



Mr. Speaker, they can't have it both ways. We have a level of government that is very responsible and I know will do a good job for the taxpayers in their area.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



HEALTH - PHARMACARE: SENIORS - REFORMS



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Health, when the minister was announcing his Pharmacare reform working group in September 1993, he issued a release, "This government will not ask seniors to pay any more towards this plan," being the Pharmacare seniors, "while there exists in the program inefficiencies and elements that do not contribute to their health.". I will table that document, Mr. Speaker.



Will the minister tell Nova Scotia senior citizens that when he introduced the new premium in April of this year, he was totally satisfied that all the necessary reforms with respect to the Pharmacare Program had, in fact, been carried out and that the program was running at peak efficiency?



HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question by the honourable Leader of the Opposition, so that we can open up some of the issues that have been discussed. We will be doing so later on in the session this afternoon. Suffice it to say that the first issue of business in Pharmacare in 1993 was the fact that we faced a $20 million shortfall. That is number one.



Number two was the fact that no information or very little information was being collected by the Ministry of Health, even in terms of the number of beneficiaries of this program.



Number three, we faced the issue of the prescribing and dispensing practices and, as a result, the honourable gentleman draws our attention to the decision to form a Pharmacare reform working group. That Pharmacare reform working group worked throughout that year and came up with a very viable and a good program which is now being put in place. I believe they have done their job very well and that significant improvement has occurred in terms of efficiency in this program, sufficient to be able to introduce a new program that, in fact, saves money for 70 per cent of the seniors of this province.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Health. In his answer the Minister of Health used "shortfall, information, prescribing practices, significant improvement," words that do not appear in the statement that I tabled just moments ago. The minister is saying by inference that many of the reforms recommended by the Pharmacare reform working group have not been fully implemented and there are still efficiencies to be achieved.



Therefore, will the minister acknowledge that he failed in his commitment to the seniors when he said that he would not ask his government to pay more towards their plan while there exists "inefficiencies and elements that do not contribute to their health"?



DR. STEWART: If I might suggest, Mr. Speaker, perhaps the honourable gentleman means that we would not commit the seniors to pay more towards the program, rather than the government to pay more towards the program. (Interruption) Yes, that is correct, I think it was misread.



In any event, the fact is that our chief and absolutely unaltered commitment to the seniors of this province was to ensure a program not only that would continue into the future but a program which would seek efficiencies that would benefit each of the seniors of this province. We made that commitment in 1994, we carried forward reforms which continue to be put in place and we remain committed to the fact that this program will remain as a future program viable, sustainable and flexible. Those are the issues to which we committed in our release and to which we committed when we put forward the Pharmacare reform working group, and I might say that the beneficiary of those actions have, indeed, been the seniors of the province.



DR. HAMM: Will the Minister of Health tell the House what the estimated savings are from implementing the recommendation of the Pharmacare reform working group? What is the dollar value we can save once those recommendations are implemented? Will he table in the House a timetable for their implementation?



DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the honourable gentleman opposite is asking me to speculate entirely on the future of the program, in terms of its cost specifically and to micro-manage the system. The system is now in the hands of a very competent and wonderful board of directors which will guide it into the future very solidly, I might suggest.



To answer specifically the honourable gentleman's question, would require me, for example, to predict what is the effect of Bill No. 91, the Tory bill, guaranteeing the pharmaceutical companies on a federal level, patent protection. This will account for about $17 million in our Pharmacare Program in the province. We are just indeed facing that. We also have to look at the expanding number of drugs, the expanding cost of drugs and the honourable gentleman opposite, the Leader of the Opposition, will understand full well that to speculate on these things would be folly in the extreme.



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



HEALTH - PHARMACARE: SENIORS - TIMEFRAME



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday during an exchange in this House with the Minister of Health, the Minister of Health said that the co-pay and the premium occupy the same timeframe in this new program and we were talking about the seniors Pharmacare Program.



I had an opportunity to talk with several communication officers in the minister's department. I have talked with three pharmacists in different areas of the province and a number of seniors. The seniors tell me, quite to the contrary, that the co-pay expires at the end of this calendar year and the premium, that five month Pharmacare Program, expires at the end of March 1996.



Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder that the seniors see this program as a bumble-jumble of bewilderment. Will the minister please confirm that the programs are not in the same timeframe?



HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I confirmed yesterday that in the new program begun on April 1st, the co-pay will expire in March 31, 1996, consistent with the program. I stated that, I said it will do that. I confirm that this afternoon.



MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go to the Chairman of the Priorities and Planning Committee. I wonder if the Chairman would perhaps advise this House and Nova Scotians which plan is in place, whether or not in fact the co-pay expires during the end of the calendar year and that, in fact, the premium expires at the end of March? Because that is what the seniors are hearing. There are two different plans in place and that is what the communication officers for the Department of Health are telling us. I think it is important that the Chairman of the Priorities and Planning Committee would respond.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, if the honourable minister wishes to.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Well, Mr. Speaker, personally, I am prepared to accept the undertaking of the Minister of Health, but perhaps I might refer this question to him. He is in charge of the program.



DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the apparent persistence. I am not sure what I must do to convince the honourable gentleman opposite of the fact that we are adjusting this program just as he suggests. If seniors have received any other information, we will correct that promptly. We will be able to do that, I am sure.



The fact is that the program began on April 1, 1995. The honourable gentleman opposite was well aware of that and made his voice known quite clearly in this House, although somewhat indecisively at times and confusing at others, but nonetheless, he was here, he recognized this. We were quite able to demonstrate in the budget that we had a new program for the seniors that would guarantee into the future the Pharmacare Program. That was April 1, 1995.



Now, the program had existed and, in fact, from January 1, 1995, in the old program, it is absolutely true that the co-pay existed on a calendar year, that was pointed out yesterday. I readily said, absolutely. But we said, in our flexibility, that we have built into this program, we said, well, let's carry the seniors over for 15 months instead of 12 months. Let's have the program go on until April 1st, with a co-pay. They have a little bonus. Everything we can do, flexibility, absolutely. That is what has been stated. If seniors have other information, we will correct it. There may be certainly things that they can call the 1-800 line if the honourable gentleman opposite would stay off those lines, we could get through perhaps and they would be able to do that.



MR. TAYLOR: Well, Mr. Speaker, obviously, the seniors are not informed, that is what is important. It is not about the communication officers, it is not about the Minister of Health, the seniors are very confused.



[3:15 p.m.]



Another surprising aspect of the program and again, something that should have been made very clear to participating seniors is the option for making premium payments in instalments. Now many seniors are on a fixed income and it doesn't matter whether they are required to pay $215, or as a married couple responsible for a $430 premium. But it appears that the department has gone out of its way to keep this a secret.



AN HON. MEMBER: That is nonsense.





MR. TAYLOR: Well, it is not nonsense. But somebody in the minister's department has seen the good sense of the value of making it possible for the seniors to pay by instalment. So my question is simply to the minister, will the minister instruct any one of his many new communication officers that he has brought onstream lately, to take immediate steps to ensure that both the details with respect to the next billing date and the assessment notices and the instalment payment options are immediately communicated to the seniors, somebody has got to tell the seniors what is going on here?



DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the ability to try and enlighten the honourable gentleman opposite because we have been communicating with seniors for months now. We have had 1-800 lines in place, we have had mail-outs - at least three of them. Contrast that with what happened several years ago with the 1-800 swallow it line that you probably put in place, the honourable gentleman opposite, that was part of that, at least part of the Party that did it. It is time that we set the record straight in regard to this honourable gentleman opposite.



The fact is, he talks about communications officers being added - I have got one added - as per our budgetary requirements and so on. If he is talking the operators who answer the 1-800 lines, he can't have it both ways. He can't say tell the seniors and then not have people answer the telephone lines to tell the seniors, please, let's have a bit of fairness in this regard. The fact is that seniors have been informed, will be informed, the honourable gentleman opposite knows full well that the board of directors has been very flexible and has said payment will be communicated in terms of the ability to pay over a period of time. The board of directors has done this, they remain flexible. They have said that the date of today is not going to be hard and fast but we are going to contact each senior directly and speak to them, those 170 of them or whatever that we have to date, who said they decline coverage, we are going to talk to them. If we have to send someone into speak to them we will do that.



We are going to be discussing this, we have done so for several months and I am sure the honourable gentleman opposite will be very much in favour of that.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.



HEALTH - EMERGENCY SERV.: AMBULANCE DESIGN - REQUIREMENTS



MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health as well. As the minister is no doubt aware, one of the operators who got one of the new ambulances complained about the state of the art ambulance. I will table this for the minister's benefit, in case he does not have the article but I can quote from the article, "It's a nice vehicle, but it doesn't meet our standards for a rural area, especially in life-threatening situations. It's too cramped and the interior is poorly designed,". The ambulance operator went on to say, " . . . in this ambulance there is no room for the ambulance attendant to work on a patient,". Another attendant said, "It's really cramped inside the new ambulance and we can only work on one side of the patient.". My question to the minister is, did his department work with the ambulance operators before ordering the vehicles to see what their requirements were for ambulances in Nova Scotia?



HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the honourable gentleman's question is relevant and I appreciate it very much simply to bring to the House's attention, to the honourable members here, the fact that there were years of design gone into the ambulances. Tri-Star Industries as well, is known internationally for the design and the manufacture of ambulances in this very province, that has been certainly recognized.



These ambulances are designed around international standards for the first time ever in the history of the province. We have international standards which are now on the roads and benefitting the citizens of Nova Scotia. I know full well the cited reference. I am sure the honourable gentleman can question the individual involved in the letter. I am sure that he has an opinion. I would certainly dispute that opinion having been in this business for 22 years and I fully inspected the ambulances as well as those who were, in fact, involved in the design.



MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that answer. It is not me who is questioning the ambulance. I don't know the details of an ambulance; I am going from what I hear from a number of ambulance operators.



Your department had passed the Act in June 1994 in regard to the Emergency Health Services Act. That is about 16 months ago. I said that I am told that these ambulances are not completely satisfactory. I am sure there are a lot of great things about them but they are not completely satisfactory; for use in rural Nova Scotia. Will the minister or will his staff talk to the ambulance operators and see if there are any changes that should be made before he orders - I understand there are 150 to come, I don't know for sure how many are out - will he have a look and see if there should be some changes in the ones that aren't built yet? I think that is a reasonable request.



DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I assume the honourable gentleman is referring to comments being made by a particular individual - he may have others, I would like to know and I would appreciate knowing - regarding one particular design of ambulance. There are three types of ambulances that are going to be provided. There is one with multiple patient facility, there is one that would be used as a mobile intensive care and then there is the van ambulance that is being provided at the moment.



The honourable gentleman refers to a communication. Let me just refer to a communication in response to that, if I might just cite this, and I will table this, Mr. Speaker. It is a letter that was sent in response to a letter that the honourable gentleman opposite has tabled. It says: "We, as ambulance attendants with more than 32 years combined experience in both rural and urban services, take great exception to the statement as reported." - in the letter quoted by the honourable gentleman opposite - "The new Tri Star ambulances meet stringent design specifications. We are confident of our safety and the safety of those in our care while in the new units.".



It was further reported that one employee complained about the cramped space which he says will make CPR difficult. "Recently, we responded to a full cardiac arrest. With the ambulance attendant, two Halifax firefighters assisting in CPR and equipment, there was still adequate room in the patient compartment to do our job well enough that the victim was resuscitated and will soon be discharged from hospital.".



In addition to this, he says, "As front line pre-hospital care providers, we believe " - this gentleman -" has done the Emergency Health Services an injustice by crying sour grapes because he was not personally involved in the decisions . . .". I don't know the motive behind the particular reference cited by the honourable gentleman opposite, but I will tell you that there was much consultation with people on the line and we are receiving daily complimentary reports by those who are working very hard to save lives in the system.





MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I read that letter in the paper as we were putting this question together, last week actually, and I understand there are always two sides to every story; I am sure the minister does, as well. But I do think - I don't want to name anybody else - this man was quoted in the paper as saying that maybe some changes should be made. All I am saying to the minister is that perhaps he should look at some of the rural ambulance operators and say - not him, but some of his staff - see if there are some changes that could be made to make the ambulances as safe and practical as possible for the people of Nova Scotia. That is all I am trying to say, sir, that if they are not built yet and there could be some modifications made to them, let's do it.



DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, yes, I very much appreciate the admonition of the honourable member opposite and we are indeed willing and very welcoming of his suggestions and those of other people in the field or in this House.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



FIN.: GROWTH DIVIDEND FUND - CONTINUATION



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. In 1994, the Minister of Finance announced the establishment of a growth dividend fund. This fund would be established to lower taxes for all Nova Scotians.



In 1995-96, as a result of that growth dividend fund, I understand, in fact I know from the budgetary address in 1995-96, that the minister reduced taxes by some $30 million.



Mr. Speaker, at the time the minister announced the growth dividend fund he estimated there would be approximately $300 million in accumulated tax savings for the people of Nova Scotia over the four year period.



My first question to the minister is, is it still his intention to carry forward with the growth dividend fund? Secondly, does he still expect to achieve something in the order of $300 million in tax savings for the people of Nova Scotia?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the growth dividend, as the honourable member refers to it, was a principle established with the beginning of the expenditure control plan. In contrast to other provinces in the country, the Government of Nova Scotia had a twofold, parallel objective; while trying to bring the raging deficit under control and, indeed, engage in a period of fiscal austerity, we were also at the same time going to reduce taxes.



I think the statement I made when we introduced the expenditure control plan was that we would be reducing taxes in all of the budgets which were involved with the expenditure control plan and, indeed, we have. There have been only two because we are only two years into the plan but in each case we introduced a budget that controlled expenditures very substantially and, at the same time, offered Nova Scotians tax reductions.



Now granted, they were targeted tax reductions. There were not too many right across the board, most of them were focused, but they were focused to generate economic activity.



We have done that for two years and that is a principle that we hope we can carry right through, perhaps as long as we are government.



MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think I could applaud that statement from the minister, providing that he carries through on that particular promise. If we remember his first budget, rather than reducing taxes he increased taxes by some $75 million. In his second budget he decreased taxes by $30 million. So we are still in the hole insofar as a minus figure for taxation by this crowd across the way, to the extent of $45 million.



The point I want to make and my question to the minister relates to the fact that the growth dividend fund is geared to the increase in revenues in any given fiscal year. In the year 1994-95 the Minister of Finance, courtesy of the federal government and other provinces across this country that were doing so much better than Nova Scotia, had a whopping $307 million increase in revenues, which would equate to about a $61.5 million reduction in taxes which should have accrued to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia in 1995-96.



Is it his intention that he will make up for that in his 1996-97 budget, plus as well another $20 million on the increase in revenues for 1995-96 of approximately $100 million? In other words, he owes the taxpayers of this province in 1996-97, $81.5 million. (Interruptions)



MR. BOUDREAU: It is interesting, Mr. Speaker, when the Opposition talks about tax reductions. Just a couple of things that occur to me when I hear that from the Opposition; if this Party across the way had simply paid their way in the good years, in the fat years, we could stand up here and introduce a tax measure which would eliminate provincial sales tax altogether (Applause) and we would still have a surplus. We could have eliminated provincial income tax, personal income tax altogether and still have run a surplus.



Now these are the gentlemen who are now so concerned about tax relief. It is correct, the first budget that we introduced as a government contained tax increases. I like to regard it really as your budget, since it was about nine months into the fiscal year, a budget that you should have had in the spring. (Applause)



Once we were able to deal with a complete fiscal year, that is when we introduced our own budget which consistently has involved strict expenditure control, tremendous progress on deficit reduction and tax relief in every single year.



Mr. Speaker, I would say that in the past two years, on a per capita basis, there is not a province in this country that can match Nova Scotia's record on deficit reduction. (Applause)



[3:30 p.m.]



MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that he says there is not a province across this country that can match the fiscal performance of the Province of Nova Scotia. Let's not forget how these budgetary deductions are coming about. They are coming about because this province is doing such a lousy job and other provinces are doing so well. We received $307 million in additional revenue in 1995-96. It is not difficult to balance a budget when you pick up $305 million. Where did the majority of that come from? It came from the federal government in hand-outs to this province. (Interruptions) It is federal welfare, exactly.



My question, again to the minister, does he admit that at the present time he owes the people of Nova Scotia in tax deductions, by his own statement, approximately $30 million for fiscal 1995-96?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I make no such admission. We will as a government continue to offer sound fiscal management. Believe me, we need it, because no one had a bigger hole to climb out of than the people of Nova Scotia after that group left.



It is true, Mr. Speaker - the honourable member mentions it and I fully admit it, I have admitted it in every public statement I have made - that a lot of the progress we have demonstrated has come because our revenues have increased, and those revenues from the federal government. When the former government was in office, they had years of huge growth, far greater than we have experienced, and they blew it. Every year you blew it.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



EDUC. - SCHOOL CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION: REPORT - RELEASE



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you, sir, to the Minister of Education. The minister, of course, will know, as many people across this province do, that many students are having to endure very poor conditions in the classroom because of the age and condition of the buildings. As a result of that, there is a school capital construction committee that is supposed to be looking at and priorizing the projects that they will recommend for construction and/or major renovation in the province. The school capital construction committee released a report to the minister in June 1994, and the minister's department apparently has sat on that list, which outlines the recommendations for 1997-87. My question to the minister, quite simply, is, why have you not shared this document with the school boards in this province?



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken often in this House about the school capital construction process, which I am very pleased with. It basically advises us on how to spend capital that we have to build schools. As the honourable member has spoken, it did report to me and I reported to Cabinet. Cabinet, because of the changes of federal government, has basically a hold on all capital construction, so no decisions have been made on any capital since that time. So, these recommendations are still sitting with other recommendations for capital and when Cabinet makes decisions on them, then I can share them.



One of the things we refuse to do, which is not something that the previous government ever hesitated in doing, is making announcements you can't pay for. I am not going to make public announcements about a list of schools, Mr. Speaker, that might be built some time when we get money. When we get the money to build them, we will announce them and we will accept the queue as recommended by the capital construction committee. We will do that.



MR. HOLM: I would be happy to table a copy of the report, because I know a number of the boards, where there are recommendations covering the schools in those districts recommended for 1997-98. They certainly were unaware that they were even being recommended by this process. My next question to the minister is quite simply this - because the schools are supposed to be selected on the basis of objective measurable criteria not politics - is that still the process that is to be followed?



MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, yes I will even go further than that. We inherited promises by the previous government of $60 million in schools which we are accepting because that process was there. The only exception to that - and I am going to speak to two exceptions because they are there - was the Isle Madame High School because it was declared sick by the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment and Horton School which was likewise declared to be unhealthy in terms of air quality and in no way could we remediate it. So that basically was brought forward, Mr. Speaker, based on the recommendation of the health of the students that are there.



So, given those two exceptions, yes we follow it very carefully and the only exceptions there are, are when one school steps ahead of the other because of the health interests of the students who attend that school.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, there are, of course, on this list two schools recommended for Halifax County/Bedford; one for Kings County that being the Horton School; one for Cape Breton; one in Pictou; and one in Shelburne County. Is it correct to say that the only one of the schools then, on this list that are recommended for 1997-98 so far, is the one Horton District School that has been announced to go ahead, the only one located in one of the minister's ridings?



MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, the implication being made by the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party is offensive to the people who have been involved in this process. I am going to say it to the honourable member because I answered the question before he stood up because I knew the tone that he was going to bring to this.



The recommendation of the community in the area of Wolfville and New Minas of the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment, that there were air quality problems in that school that could not be remediated in the long run and that is why it came forth. I presented it to the school capital construction committee and asked them very carefully, Mr. Speaker, if in fact in their judgment this could proceed and they gave me that, Mr. Speaker, that it could proceed.



The suggestion that the honourable member is making would suggest, in fact, I was down in Queens and turned the sod for a school in the County of Queens. That is a recommendation that they made on the list, Mr. Speaker, and it was done. I could go further and make some others that were done, but what the honourable member is implying about this committee is offensive to the process. If that were the case we would have been skipping the schools that the previous government accepted. Instead we accepted them exactly as given in respect for the process. The two exceptions are the two that have been declared not healthy and we are going to fix those to protect the students no matter what that member says.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



ENVIRON. - GASOLINE AND FUEL OIL LICENSING: REGS. - STATUS



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. On January 1, 1995, the new Environment Act came into force. An Act said it was intended to replace where at that very same moment, repealed. One of the Acts which thus became defunct was the Gasoline and Fuel Oil Licensing Act. There were regulations pursuant to that Act, that is, the Gasoline and Fuel Oil Licensing Act and I wonder if the minister could tell us what the status of those regulations is at this moment?



HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. At the very present time, I cannot give him an accurate position as to where that is, but I can get it for him tomorrow or maybe later today.



MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the minister might take a look at the Cabinet minutes because I believe they were rolled over by Cabinet under the new Act. My first supplementary, the regulations pursuant to the Gasoline and Fuel Oil Licensing Act provided a very important, indeed an absolutely critical, level of protection to retail gasoline dealers in Nova Scotia, the small business people who serve our communities. The regulation in Section 14 ensures that the cost of promotions will be borne by the wholesaler, not by the retailer, and Section 63 extends to retailers the right to pay off and discharge a security document for up to five years after its execution. I ask the minister if today, the first of November, 1995, this protection is available to gasoline retail dealers in Nova Scotia?



MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the member opposite that I did receive correspondence this week, and last week as well, in terms of the local retailers who had some concerns. I will undertake to tell the member in this House today that I do plan to discuss it with my staff this week and perhaps at least have a response in very short order because I do recognize what the retailers are expressing their concerns over. Having been in the business some years ago, I recognize that they are looking at some pretty striking margins and I respect that.



MR. LEEFE: New regulations, called the motive fuel oil approval regulations, I understand are currently either before either P and P, which is a committee of Cabinet, or before Cabinet and I understand that Cabinet is of two views as to whether or not these levels of protection will be in the new set of regulations or if, in fact, they will be deleted. In the interest of protecting small Nova Scotia businesses, rather than the large and often foreign multinational wholesalers, will the minister unequivocally state in the House that he supports continuing retail dealer protection in the new regulatory regime, as was done in the old regulatory regime, under Sections 14 and 63?



MR. ADAMS: The question is, do I support the roll-over? Actually, Mr. Speaker, it is very low and I am having a hard time hearing all the details.



MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, does the minister support continuing that level of protection when the new regulations are put into effect? Yes or no?



MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, my answer is yes. It would be only responsible to try to protect the public as best we can.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.



FIN.: DEPARTMENTAL PROGRAM REVIEW - COMPLETION DATE



MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. Several months ago the minister said he was going to be conducting a program-by-program review across each department. I believe that was an excellent suggestion and I have no problem with that. Could the minister tell me if that program-by-program review is completed? If not, when it will be completed?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, first of all the program review is not complete at the moment. As to when it will be complete, that is a real question. I suspect that some level of program review is almost going to be a continuous operation of government indefinitely into the future.



One of the features of government in the 1990's, indeed one of the features of society in the 1990's, is change. Program review is an attempt to deal with that change at the governmental level. However, I think the bulk of the initial review, I would hope, would be completed sometime perhaps within the next six months.



MR. MCINNES: My supplementary, Mr. Speaker. If I may, I would like to go to the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Can the minister indicate what recommendations she has made to the Minister of Finance regarding the future of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women?



HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Finance has stated, there is an ongoing review within government of all the programs and services of government. No decisions have been made to date. We are concerned about the delivery of service; we are also concerned about taxpayers' dollars. I say again that no decisions have been made on any aspect of that review.



MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister responsible for the Status of Women. The minister knows that the Advisory Council on the Status of Women operates at arm's length from government and the Women's Directorate does not. Can the minister say which organization best serves the women of Nova Scotia?



[3:45 p.m.]



MRS. NORRIE: The Advisory Council on the Status of Women, of course, is representative of Nova Scotians right across the province. The Women's Directorate is an intergovernmental entity that represents the concerns of women within government. I want to say at this point that women's concerns will always be met and always well-represented within this government.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



FIN. - CASINOS: AGREEMENT (ITT SHERATON) - TABLE



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: My question is to the Premier. The Premier will be aware, as will you, Mr. Speaker, that Chapter 4 of the Statues of Nova Scotia, 1994-95, An Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission contain a number of very important provisions relative to the Gaming Corporation. Among them they contain provisions which establish a Gaming Corporation, a provision which prohibits the membership on the board of that corporation of any member of this Legislature or any member of the Executive Council. It provides a number of powers to that corporation. For ease of reference I would refer the Premier to Section 25 which to summarize says, ". . . the Corporation has all of the capacity, rights, powers and privileges . . .", and so on; and, "(b) with the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into an agreement with a person to operate a casino or other lottery scheme on behalf of the Corporation upon such terms and conditions as the Governor in Council determines.".



So my first question to the Premier is will he table here in this place tomorrow the Order in Council passed by his Cabinet which authorized the execution by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation of the contract with ITT Sheraton Casino which has been the subject of discussion here between myself and the Minister of Finance these last few days; will he table that Order in Council tomorrow?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, these references to Section 24 and 25 are indeed a little complex. I don't have them so I am going to refer it to that very competent minister, the Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am happy to see that the honourable member opposite is getting up to speed with his efforts in the legal profession in his post-leadership period.



AN HON. MEMBER: He will need employment.



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I will assure the honourable member that when all of the documentation required, as we are instructed, is complete, he will certainly get a copy of all of it.



MR. DONAHOE: Well, when all of the documentation as is required is gathered or some such phrase, is what the minister said.



The legislation introduced by that minister and passed in this place requires that the Gaming Corporation of the Province of Nova Scotia in order to execute an agreement with anybody to authorize them to run a casino, must be done by the Gaming Corporation with the approval of the Governor in Council. That, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the Minister of Finance, requires that there be an Order in Council authorizing the Gaming Corporation to execute such an agreement. My very simple and straightforward question, will this Minister of Finance, since the Premier is not interested, will the Minister of Finance give me and all members a commitment here today that he will secure a copy for me of the Order in Council authorizing the execution of the existing agreement with ITT Sheraton relative to the casino and table that Order in Council here tomorrow?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I have been too long in the House to respond directly to that. Let me say, as I have indicated in the past, and I have just indicated I think in response to the first answer, I will certainly provide all of the legal documentation required in due course to the honourable member.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Minister of Finance by way of final supplementary, if I may, that whereas it is under the legislation required that the Gaming Corporation in order to execute an agreement with anybody to operate a casino, it is required, as well, that if there is an amendment to any such agreement relative to the operation of a casino - such as an amendment of very dramatic import that the minister and I have been discussing here today - that that, too, is only able to be done by the Gaming Corporation with the approval of the Governor in Council.



My question to the Minister of Finance is, can he tell this House whether or not an Order in Council was, indeed, passed to authorize him to make the commitment of the extension, or the amendment of the agreement, with the Sheraton Casino people before he made that commitment to them?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I might take issue with the honourable member's description of the change we were talking about earlier. In fact, as I said earlier, this was a business decision made by two partners involved in this operation and we think it was based on sound business judgment.



MR. DONAHOE: Without legal authority.



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I indicated, also, that I would provide to the honourable member, who seems terribly worried about the legalities now that he is about to re-enter the legal profession, that I will provide to him all of the documentation when it is available, and I am sure he will get it in due course.



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



ERA - CFS DEBERT: CLOSURE - CONSULTATIONS (CAN.-N.S. GOV'TS.)



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. CFS Debert is being closed and a number of people have expressed their concern to me as a member of the Nova Scotia Legislature. I am sure there have also been concerns expressed to the other two members for Colchester County.



My question for the Premier is, did you or the minister you assigned to address defence-related issues with the federal government - and I believe that was the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency - have any discussions with the Prime Minister or the Minister of National Defence prior to the announcement of the closure? Or was it simply just another one of those, oh, this looks like a good place to shut down; let's tell the people, after we have done it, without consultation?



THE PREMIER: I am not sure of the tone of that last bit of the question since it was a statement. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that we had consultation with the Minister of National Defence and, indeed, with the Prime Minister, prior to the recent round of federal decisions, in which the federal government, after eight years of Tory misrule - federally, now - is attempting to cut their budget and live within their means. None of us are prepared to be happy about the cuts that we as a province have to take, and we have conveyed by both telephone and indeed by my presence in Ottawa our concern about these cuts.



We are concerned about the major issue, which is that the federal government has to look after its own affairs and has to get its house in order. We cannot grumble totally when they are taking many of the measures that we have done in two and one-half years. These are tough times, and it is important for us to extend to the people of Debert, as indeed people in my own riding who have suffered as a result of changes in Shearwater and many other places - it is perfectly obvious, too, that we have attempted, and the federal government has provided assistance for some of these.



Let us not be naive about some of these closures. We share the concern of all Parties that people lose their jobs and that the income generated in places like Debert would be lost. But the reality of the situation, Mr. Speaker, is that cuts and changes have to be made at the federal level in those areas, particularly relating to the Department of National Defence.



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



The honourable Minister of Agriculture, to make a presentation of guests.



L'honorable le ministre de l'agriculture et la commercialization pour faire une présentation.





HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you, I am pleased to introduce to all members of the House, sitting in the east gallery, the President of the Clare Golf and Country Club, Roland Deveau, and his brother, Dale Deveau, a director of the club as well. I would ask the House to please give them a warm welcome. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: We will advance to Opposition Members' Business, today being Opposition Day.



OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS



MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 157.



Res. No. 157, re Educ. - Reform: Dartmouth School Bd. - Warning Heed - notice given April 20/95 - (Mr. T. Donahoe)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to rise and address remarks to Resolution No. 157. You will note, as will I am sure the minister, that this resolution was tabled here in this place by myself back in April 1995. As I think I will be able to point out to you and to all members, the issues and concerns raised in this resolution are as real and as threatening today as they were in April 1995.



The operative clause of the resolution to which I would hope to address my remarks reads as follows, "Therefore be it resolved that this Minister of Education, who has confused and disarmed our school boards and educators in his drive for reform, heed the warnings of the Dartmouth board whose members can only wish that they could hold to the minister's promise that his cutbacks will not affect our classrooms.".



You will know, Mr. Speaker, and I am delighted if I may to welcome you to the Chair for the first time in this session, you will know that the Minister of Education has travelled hither and yon across this province and at every turn has made remarks to anybody who was prepared to listen to him that none of the reforms which he was undertaking would, " . . . adversely affect any teacher or student in the classroom.".



I have come to the conclusion and more to the point, the men and women who are our teachers and our administrators in the public school enterprise in this province and even more important than that, the young people who are our students in the classrooms of the Province of Nova Scotia, have clearly come to the conclusion and to the understanding and are living the reality that there just simply is no semblance of truth at all or reality at all to the rhetoric which has been forthcoming from the Minister of Education.



May I, simply to illustrate the point of the education debate today, by listing a few headlines from the news of the last few months. I am going to make a brief recitation only of some headlines which have appeared in press across the province over those last few months. "The Annapolis District School Board will have to eliminate 11.7 teaching positions to balance its budget.". Well, I ask all members to imagine that reality against the rhetoric from the Minister of Education. "The Annapolis District School Board will eliminate 11.7 teaching positions to balance its budget.". I find it difficult, frankly, I find it impossible to make the link between the minister's remarks and this headline and come to the conclusion that there will be no adverse consequence for the children of the classrooms of the Annapolis District School Board.



Halifax approved school budget for 1996-97, including cuts of $3 million, a loss of 35 teaching positions, larger classes and line-ups for extra help programs. Dartmouth District School Board faces similar losses. Larger classes, that isn't an impact on the children of our province and the experience they will have in the classrooms? Line-ups for extra help programs. There are hundreds and thousands of young people in our province's schools who either by reason of very real need, in some cases, or who by reason of the fact that they want to even perfect very capable and able set of skills, engage in and avail themselves of extra help programs. That will not be possible for many hundreds of them, as a consequence of the cuts which are to be made and will be made and are now being made in the public school enterprise.



[4:00 p.m.]



A further headline, "Grade Primary students in the West Hants District will have their school week shortened . . . to just three days a week.". Well, square that against the comments from the Minister of Education to the effect that none of his reforms will have any adverse consequences or impact upon the classroom and upon the children in the classrooms. Grade Primary students, West Hants District, will have their school week shortened to just three days a week.



I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and I suggest to any rational observer of that reality in West Hants that there is a very real and a direct and serious adverse consequence for the Grade Primary students in the West Hants District.



There is a further headline that indicates parents in Cumberland stage a rally in response to losses, especially to a 40 per cent reduction at the Grade Primary level, which has resulted in Primary students attending school for only 15 hours a week. Square that, Mr. Speaker, against the rhetoric from the Minister of Education to the effect that none of his reforms will have any impact on the classrooms and the students in those classrooms in the Province of Nova Scotia.



The Northside-Victoria Board sends the Department of Education a bill for $350,000, to help pay for the special early retirement plan for teachers. The board can't afford to pay up to $700,000 this year and up to the $1 million which would be required of them next year, to meet obligations relative to the early retirement program. The superintendent of schools offered a view or a comment in relation to the circumstances which he faced in that reality. His words were, and I quote him, "It's killing us and I'm sure it's killing 99 per cent of the boards,". I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to square that reality in Northside-Victoria against the minister's rhetoric to the effect that none of his reforms will adversely affect what happens to our young people in the classrooms of the Province of Nova Scotia.



Surely it is clear, and it is clear, because the teachers are calling us and I am sure, I know they are calling and writing to the Minister of Education because they are copying us with the correspondence. The parents are writing and the administrators and teachers are writing. Indeed, many of the young people, the students, are writing.



Headline, students and staff in Kingston face overcrowding, 732 students in a school designed for 650. I suggest to you that without question, jamming that many young people into a class and into a building not designed to accommodate that many is, of necessity, going to have very serious implications for many of the young people, particularly, Mr. Speaker, as I am sure you are aware as a teacher yourself, particularly will it be the fate of those young men and women and young boys and girls in our public school system who have difficulty learning who will be most seriously and adversely affected by that kind of a situation. I ask you to square that against the minister's rhetoric that none of his reforms and the cuts and changes will have any adverse consequence for the young people in our public school classroom.



Headline, Mr. Speaker, The Clare-Argyle District School Board cuts 11.5 teaching positions, to balance their budget. It also cancelled its music program and physical education in elementary schools will be taught by classroom teachers. Six buses were to be taken off the road and 6.5 bus driving jobs eliminated. It cancelled the music program, it cut 11.5 teaching positions in the Clare-Argyle District Board and yet the Minister of Education says there won't be any adverse consequence for the young people in the classrooms of our province.



I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that his rhetoric just simply does not jibe with the unfortunate reality being experienced by thousands and thousands of young people in the classrooms of our schools.



Headline, Mr. Speaker, Halifax County-Bedford predicted in June, some months before the school year began, that with a $2.31 million cut, 53 teaching positions would be lost, along with the Grade 6 instrumental music program. There will be no adverse consequences for the children of the province in the classroom. How simply foolish can that possibly be? The Antigonish District School Board has cut its art program due to budget restraint. There will be no consequences that are adverse to the best interests of the children in the schools.



Mr. Speaker, as I indicated when I began, the resolution for debate was introduced here in this place by myself in April of this year. But I suggest to you that it still rings true for our schools and our teachers and our boards and our students several months later, several months now into the school year some six months later.



I have heard the minister make speeches in which, if I understand him correctly, he seems to be suggesting that the school boards of the province are somehow to blame for these cuts having been made. The minister is still blaming the previous government for the cuts being made. I ask this minister, when does he suggest to the people of Nova Scotia and to the young people of Nova Scotia in the classrooms of our province, when does this minister suggest that any of the responsibility for what is going on in the classroom rests on his shoulders and the shoulders of the government in which he is a senior member?



Mr. Speaker, in his first couple of years or so as Minister of the Department of Education, this minister said - and he said repeatedly and he continues to say and he has said it in recent days - that his budget cuts would not hurt the classroom, in other words the level of education received by the children. But then after a while, using that kind of a line, he shifted gears a little bit and his rhetoric came to be, what I might call, he adopted a somewhat more minimalist approach because he changed his tune somewhat.





After saying none of the cuts would have any impact in the classrooms at all, he moved towards an approach that went something like, savings, the minister said, can be made with minimal impact on the classroom, without cuts in programs like music and French and physical education. Well, the fact of the matter is - and the minister knows and the teachers know it and the parents and students of this province know it - there have, in fact, been cuts in music, French and physical education, and the number of young people in the classrooms of the province, in many hundreds of cases around the Province of Nova Scotia, have increased and increased dramatically.



I repeat again, it is almost invariably, in my experience - and my experience, I acknowledge, is limited - the young Nova Scotian who comes to school with a difficulty in learning, or having difficulty to learn, who is most seriously and adversely affected by the kinds of cuts we are talking about here. Because the larger the classroom - and I could get off on a tangent about the whole issue of pupil/teacher ratios and so on - in my experience, it is the troubled learner who almost invariably has the most difficulty in situations where the classes are growing in size, and that is exactly what the reforms this minister is perpetrating are having.



Now the minister appears to suggest to the people of Nova Scotia and the boards and the administrators and the teachers and the parents and the students, and certainly to us here in this place, that he is now banking on dumping the problems of 22 boards into the office of 7 super-boards to resolve the impact of the cut. With this, the minister hopes to pump some dollars. He keeps quoting and his White Paper document talks about $11 million into the classrooms of Nova Scotia. Well, the fact of the matter is - and he knows it and the people who are running the public school system of this province know it - that that $11 million isn't there to get into the classrooms of the Province of Nova Scotia. The only problem with the plan and the rhetoric and the $11 million that the minister continues to talk about - I have one minute?



MR. SPEAKER: I think so according to the schedule.



MR. DONAHOE: Boy, oh boy. Time flies. Well, the problem with the minister's plan is that he is using outdated numbers and they just simply are no longer valid at all. When asked in May by a television reporter. When will the boards reach the bone? This is the minister being asked in terms of cuts to any existing fat. Is it this year or is it next year? The minister replied. This is back in May, Mr. Speaker, many months ago. The minister replied that the boards had probably already reached that point. I think that says a lot and I have already listed a sampling of this year's cuts across the province and so I ask what will happen next.



The hard cold reality in the context of the resolution which I have attempted to address briefly here today, Mr. Speaker, the hard cold reality is that the minister has confused and disarmed the school boards and the educators in his drive for reform. He has been totally off the mark when he suggests that there will be no adverse consequences to our young people in the classrooms. He has failed to heed the warnings of all of the school boards of the Province of Nova Scotia whose members have urged him and pleaded and cajoled the minister to please come to his senses and not rip and destroy the fabric of what is happening to the young people in the classrooms of our province.



I, therefore, fervently hope that the minister will slow down the reform to the point where he comes to the realization that very serious harm is being done to the young people of the Province of Nova Scotia. I would hope that he would be held to his promise that cutbacks will not affect our classrooms and that he indicate that, board by board across this province to ensure that the young people in our province are not further disadvantaged than they already have been by the hasty reforms undertaken by this minister.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for bringing this issue forward because it will give us a few moments to address the education situation in Nova Scotia.



First of all the new Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party has stated on Saturday that there will be no more political cheap shots and they will be focused. So I am going to assume that the honourable member was in fact sincere in what he said, and I will try to address his corporate amnesia, Mr. Speaker, if I could.



Just before the last election in 1993, the previous government made the following education announcements. I am going to list them in order. First of all $12 million for computers for schools, but Mr. Speaker, no money. Three per cent increase for school boards, but no money provided. Announcements are easy because the previous government lived, not by the hard cold reality, but by virtual reality. Fifty million dollars for Teachers' Pension Fund that they screwed up. They allocated $50 million with a great announcement. I remember the announcement, no money in the budget. We are doing pretty well so far. Sixty million dollars announced for new schools, no money in the budget. Just before the last election, and I do not mean to imply a bit of cynicism here, Madam Speaker, $125 million promised new dollars, not a dollar in the budget.



How they used to work it, and I will give you some examples, I dug into the finance books of the previous government just for fun, 1984-85. This budget has demonstrated a major theme, deficit reduction, but a budget is more than a cutting tool. It is also a mechanism which allows the government to direct and provide key services to people. Deficit reduction, good, well said.



They continue it when the honourable member was in fact involved with the mis-management board, 1988-89 with the following statement. Listen to this. This is 1989, Madam Speaker: The net operating deficit has been cut in half in only two years and we are well on the way to achieving a balanced operational budget. Right on. Now you talk about virtual reality. We can go on because they claimed it again the next year. The way they did it is that they have just changed the numbers. They overestimated revenues, they underestimated costs. What they did, Madam Speaker, is they basically cooked the books, year after year until we arrived.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand that the term, cook the books, is unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable minister to withdraw that remark.



MR. MACEACHERN: I will withdraw the phrase, but history seems to indicate that they did not take budgeting very seriously and if we will accept that.



If I might, Madam Speaker, because it continued. Just to show all members of the House the size of it, in 1978 when they came in they were paying deficit costs of about $10 million. It was less than that but it was in that order. The budget for Education was about $350 million - $10 million, $350 million. When we came in they increased the amount of money for education by doubling it twice, about $722 million, so it is about doubled.



[4:15 p.m.]



In fact, Madam Speaker, the cost to service the deficit without paying anything on the debt was $802 million. I want to show you what that means. We could double the budget for Education if they had not done what they did - doubled it, dollar for dollar. So we could have done thousands of things. As the Minister of Finance said, we could wipe out the sales tax and still have a surplus if they had not messed it up.



When we talked about this, we haven't been blaming the previous guys in terms of the inability to do things, we basically, with less money when we came in, did the following things. I will give them in order. First of all, we took the $50 million they promised without money (Interruptions) No, we took $50 million out of our Education budget to live up to a commitment that they made with no dollars; $50 million to save the pension - by the way, when they used to negotiate they would arrange pension benefits without paying for them. They wonder why we have the unfunded liability. That is mismanagement of the worst kind, because then it arrived. Madam Speaker, $50 million is less than the total reductions for the Department of Education. If we had that $50 million we could have continued exactly, but we had to use new dollars to do that.



Madam Speaker, the $60 million for schools that they committed, we are paying for, we are doing it with $60 million more. We didn't say these guys mislead you and said, promised you the schools, we are doing it. We are building schools and inventing new ways of doing it.



Continuing, we provided $3 million for computers. They promised $12 million but they had no money. We provided $3 million worth of computers, all paid for, with the help of the federal government because we negotiated a new kind of deal; $2.9 million for School to Work, new money, paid for, not promised, operating, done; $600,000 for a wide area network, paid for. This is not a promised thing, this came out of our budget.



You see, the difference between us and the previous group, I can't go to Cabinet and ask for approval of something until I show them where the money is. The honourable members opposite would promise it and then go scratching away for the money and, more often than not, they borrowed it.



Continuing, Madam Speaker, we also have added new costs to ourselves by efficiencies: computer software and systems for school boards, student admin. systems for public schools, student modules, all paid for by the way; $250,000 reading recovery, paid for; $2.2 million for entrepreneurship, paid for, every bit of it. We can't do what they did before because they have made it impossible. This Cabinet will not allow anything to proceed until the money is in place.



The way they used to do it, they lived in kind of a fantasy land. They said, well if we promise it, it will come. The strangest sort of thing, it is almost as if they were in a dream world and they had this sense that somehow and the way they did it, by the way, was to borrow it from their children and our children, that is what they did. We are paying the bills for it, Madam Speaker. Then the honourable member gets up and talks as if we are doing something very bad that we can do otherwise. In fact, what we are trying to do is make up for the mess they put there.



Also, Madam Speaker, we have gone in with the other provincial governments, the other provincial ministries and the Atlantic ministries, to develop core curricula on the regional level and also on a national level. We basically have taken the dollars to lever more dollars. What we are doing, we don't owe any of that money, we are paying that money as we go. We are developing national standards and national indicators of success because we want to test what we are doing.



We have also and I am going to speak to this about the boards, we are very fortunate in Nova Scotia with the elected board members that we have that, in fact, they are doing the job. I have met with each board at least twice and most of them about five times to talk about education, over the past 2.5 years. The quality of people sitting on our school boards in this province is of the first order and each of us, when we get an opportunity, should thank each one of them because all they ever do is get in trouble, that is when they get noticed. When they are not in trouble, people ignore them. They work on this because they care for kids and it is because of that we can get by difficult times and we should all thank them and I thank them every time I get an opportunity, but each of us should do it personally.



The member suggested just a moment ago that education is falling apart in Nova Scotia and I want to suggest first of all with some evidence that that is not so and then I am going to give credit before I do that.



The quality of the educators in Nova Scotia is first rate. The teachers in this province, not only in the last two years but in the last 50 years and the last 70 years, are what has made the difference, not the Minister of Education, not the school boards but the relationship between teachers and students. Those teachers have done the job despite the difficulties that we are living under and I am just going to give a few examples, if I may.



In national testing arranged by the Ministers of Education across the country, the 16 year olds in Nova Scotia are among the best student writers in the country; 83.5 per cent of 16 year olds in Nova Scotia, compared to 79.6 per cent and that is significant of Canadian students perform at level three or above. In other words, they are doing the job in the schools and the job is getting done, contrary to what the honourable member seems to be implying. Secondly, when we did the math and we are not satisfied with either of these because we are going to get better and better, we are as good or equal to everybody in Canada except one province. So we have to get better but the teachers know that and they are working at it.



Some more data, just to show the honourable Leader of the Opposition that his claim is, in fact, not correct. Over the last 10 years and this is continuing now, graduation rates have continued to improve. From 60.3 per cent in 1984-85 - and I suggest the former Leader of the Opposition was the minister at the time - to 75.3 per cent now, graduating rates. We can show you university and community college rates as well and they likewise are improving. Also, the retention rates, a lot of people are talking about people dropping out of school because the system is under such stress that they are not staying there. The retention rates are calculated as the number of students in Grade 12, divided by the number of students in Grade 9. So we compare it with Grades 9 and 12. They increased from 79 per cent, and this is going to sound strange as a number, to over 100 per cent. The reason for that is people are coming back to school to improve themselves. So this idea that we have a 30 per cent drop-out rate in high school because the system is coming apart is, in fact, not true.



I am not suggesting for a moment that we are not living in difficult times. The schools are under stress, the community colleges, the universities, the fishery business is under stress, the Province of Nova Scotia is under stress, there is no question about that. But the quality of the teachers, the board people working out there, has kept the performance of our students at top rate and improving. They are not relying just on the old methods, they are looking for new ways of doing business.



One method I think of offhand involved the Guysborough school, the Canso school plus some other schools across the province in which they have connected themselves, one to the other, so that if they are missing a teacher of a particular subject, they are able to get it from other schools. What we are doing is we are recognizing the difficult times and we are working because quality is what we are all about.



The pessimism of the honourable member as he speaks about what is happening out there in the classroom is failing to recognize that why we are in business is so that students can perform better. What we have to focus on to gauge that is to see if the students are doing better. We are testing that year after year and we are allowing every school to see how they are doing so that we can improve. It is not a question of the quantity of education that we have, it is the quality. When we look at the graduation outcomes, what we are looking for are determinants of that, and we find that we are not improving, we are going to work on that to improve. When I say we, that is the partners. The partners are: the department for the government, the school boards, and the schools. In the schools we are working with the teachers, we are working with the parents and we are working to make the community schools stronger. The studies of all quality schools and quality classrooms have certain characteristics that must be brought into this. The parents have to be involved and secondly, Madam Speaker, we have to start acknowledging the professional quality of our teachers. Our teachers are as good as anybody, any place, and that's what has held the system together and will continue to do so.



I am going to suggest one other thing to add to the mix, Madam Speaker. This past two years, about 800 new, young teachers have entered the system. Those are new people with energy and that energy is making a difference in each and every school where they are added. The honourable member for Halifax Citadel is suggesting somehow that this early retirement has hurt education. In fact, I am going to suggest to him it is not true because these young people have made a huge difference and, if you would like, I would ask him to indicate what other industry in the Province of Nova Scotia has hired 800 people over the last two years with high-paying jobs that are secure. I will be waiting for the answer to that. (Applause)



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. JOHN HOLM: I heard so much applause when I was getting up, Madam Speaker, I couldn't even hear you calling my name. I thank all the members of the government benches for that warm round. I make light as I start but, obviously, the topic that is before us isn't one that we take lightly. As I listened to the remarks being made by the former Minister of Education in the Conservative Government and now listen to the Minister of Education in the current government, it seems to be more of who said what and who did what and accusations flowing back and forth against each other.



Madam Speaker, there is some truth in what the minister, himself, said, that in many ways the former government, some might correctly say are living in a bit of a fantasy land and that they made a lot of promises that were not necessarily carried out. That obviously is something that this minister and this government have in common with the former government because this government has made all kinds of comments, all kinds of commitments that when you evaluate, when you look at the light of day, when you look at what is happening to the education system in the Province of Nova Scotia, some - and I would suggest that those who are very close to the system, those who are working in it, those who have children in it - would say to the Minister of Education that he and his government are in that same fantasy land that he accused the former government of being in.



Madam Speaker, all we hear from this government is about fiscal restraint debt cutting. They have one vision, one preoccupation and that one preoccupation is to drive down what they perceive is a debt by cutting and slashing while totally ignoring what they promised to do when they took office, and that was to grow this province's economy, to grow us out of debt by putting people back to work so that the essential programs that children need, whether they happen to live in the community of Sackville, Mahone Bay, Digby, Sydney . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: Don't worry about Sydney.



MR. HOLM: Somebody says not to worry about Sydney, the member for Cape Breton South. I am sure that the people in Sydney are very satisfied with his leadership and his efforts to maintain the quality of education in that area.



[4:30 p.m.]



Madam Speaker, when you talk to those involved in education, it should come as no

surprise to members of this House, it doesn't matter where you go, what we are hearing is that there is another major deficit being run up. That is a deficit in the education system, and the children are the ones who are paying. Go around this province, don't take my word, talk to school boards. Find out how class sizes have increased; find out how many of the boards have had to eliminate or greatly reduce the number of specialists who are there and whose job it is to intervene in the early stages to identify children who have learning difficulties - whether it be because of some innate learning difficulty, possibly because of some social condition - but those whose job it is to identify and try to solve and help those children in the beginning, they are disappearing. This government's view of education reform is standardization at the lowest common denominator.



We heard the minister brag, and one of the reasons why, I might add, more students are staying in school and returning to school is because the job prospects that used to be there aren't there anymore. Those in communities who used to, for example, at an early age, drop out of school to take part in industries like the fishery, there is no work in the fishery for them to be going in the way they used to.



Madam Speaker, this government which brags about that, puts school boards in the situation where those adults over the age of 21, who want to return to school to upgrade their education, now have to pay a fee of about $1,000 per year or a semester. And, I would suggest - and I am waiting for the response from the minister when they finally gather that information, but my information so far, not by a formal survey of all the boards and all the schools in this province - that those numbers have declined and declined because many of those who were returning to school to try to upgrade their education, to complete a high school diploma, are those who are on a very low or fixed income, often on social assistance, and social services doesn't provide them with money to go to school.



You know, it is the same attitude, and over here some members might see this as a very funny debate, some of them might not consider that this topic is something worthy, like the member for Cape Breton South who wants to become known as the minister of comedy; he wants an appointment. Madam Speaker, this is not a laughing matter; it is not a matter to joke about for our children. Our province's future is going to depend on what quality of education and training our children receive. Children are not like widgets that you produce in a factory, that you throw all the raw material into the machine and it stamps them and they all come out the same and if one happened to have a little flaw, you chuck it aside. That may be the view of this government for education.



I and my caucus value each and every one of those children entering the school and we believe - I don't care where it happens to be, whether it is in Sydney or in Yarmouth or any point in between - that each and every one of those children deserve to receive the best possible quality education that money can buy. That doesn't mean wasting money either; the two are not the same.



Madam Speaker, children who are having learning difficulties and need a speech therapist; I have talked to parents whose children used to receive that service in public school but not anymore because boards had to cut that service, due to lack of funding from the Liberal Government. But you know it might save a few dollars on their budget.



Now, of course, they have money to send somebody to Vancouver to enter a beauty pageant because that might promote tourism, or the minister to Las Vegas. There is money to forgo penalties to the Sheraton. (Interruption) But you know, Madam Speaker, when it comes to providing some money so that a child who has a learning disability, money to ensure that that child has a resource person - not a computer in Halifax that somebody can mode him into, supposedly to help this child. You need individual, close attention for those children.



I can also tell you from the experience of working in a classroom myself that as the class sizes go up to 35 and more, the amount of time that the individual teacher has for those children goes down. As the sizes go up, so, too, do the disruptions often in those classrooms and it makes it more difficult for those dedicated, hardworking teachers who only get platitudes from this government, it makes it harder for them to do that which they want to do, to help the children before them, to prepare them so that they will be able to go forward and be productive, successful and have a high self-esteem and to contribute to the society of Nova Scotia.



I firmly believe that the minister is right in one thing, that the teachers in this province deserve one heck of a lot of credit for making sure that we, in this province, have the high quality of education that we have because they certainly have not been getting much help or support from this government. All they have been getting are kicks and slashes and accused, anytime there is a problem it is because obviously they are not very efficient. That is the message they are receiving. Parents, ever increasingly, are beginning to recognize where the real culprit lies.



Madam Speaker, certainly what I am saying is not new and it hasn't or shouldn't come as a bolt of lightening or a shock to this government that there are concerns. I have before me a copy of a press release, and I was very happy to attend a public rally which attracted several hundred people, in the Town of Amherst where people in the Cumberland District School Board came together, travelled from all over as a result of the Cumberland County Home and School Association's request and holding of a public meeting, to express their concerns about what was happening to education, about the cuts in Grade Primary and so on. But, of course, the government will tell us, as they do, that there is no evidence that if you reduce Grade Primary, as they did in Halifax County, cutting it off in the afternoon, not providing afternoon Grade Primary, supposedly that is not going to hurt the childrens' education. So they are not going to be disadvantaged from the children compared to, or I should say to the children in other boards, where they are able to provide that on a full day basis. Well, Madam Speaker, I would suggest that this government will say almost anything.



Madam Speaker, I see you are indicating that my time is running out.



MADAM SPEAKER: You have about one and one-half minutes left.



MR. HOLM: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I could go through a whole series of press releases and talk about the cuts made in this board and that board and the other board. Of course the minister talks about how this early retirement program is supposedly saving, and the one positive thing, and I agree, is that new young teachers are coming in. That is important because we need a mixture of blood, of ages and so on.



But you know, for every four teachers going out, at best three come back. Sizes of classrooms go up, experience is gone. Add to that, Madam Speaker, that those people are retiring through the year so children are having to make adjustments as they get new teachers through the year, because of the way it was negotiated. One could take a look at the excellent analysis and survey results released by the school boards association, the Home and School Association, et cetera, over a year ago. I would suggest that if that is updated, as I am sure it will be, what we are going to find this school year is that the major harm being done is compounded upon that which they did last year. Thank you.



MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you.



The honourable Opposition House Leader.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 450.



Res. No. 450, re Health - Pharmacare Reform Working Group: Recommendations -Implement - notice given Oct. 30/95 - (Mr. G. Moody)



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, this resolution was submitted by the honourable member for Kings West, who is not in the House at the present time and I will be debating that particular resolution.



Madam Speaker, about a week ago, last Thursday to be exact, when this House opened, I presented to the House a petition signed by approximately 1,000 seniors of this province who were upset with the Department of Health and the Minister of Health with regard to Pharmacare. Seniors, generally speaking, I think, are outraged with the arbitrary changes made to the Pharmacare Program. Seniors have been exasperated by the ever-changing rules that come along, it seems every two weeks, changing the program. That has happened over the past six months. Seniors are particularly upset with their inability to be able to obtain answers to the questions they may have. That is the reason why this resolution was introduced into the House yesterday.



I would like to read that resolution if I may, it is a short resolution.



"Whereas in April, the government announced a new seniors' Pharmacare Program that resulted in a flood of questions and complaints from angry seniors who were understandably confused by a complicated and ill-conceived program; and



Whereas six months later, seniors are still angry and frustrated as they try in vain to get some straight answers to some very legitimate and basic questions; and



Whereas many are just recently discovering some unpleasant and hidden surprises such as their first year's premium covers only a five month period;



Therefore be it resolved that instead of implementing an ill-conceived program designed to transfer costs from the government to seniors, the Savage Government actually get on with the job of reforming Pharmacare by implementing the recommendations of the Nova Scotia Pharmacare Reform Working Group."



Now, Madam Speaker, I don't think there is a senior and I don't think there is a Nova Scotian who does not believe that the Pharmacare Program needed reform. It is a very important part of the social fabric of this province since we all are, in fact some of us already have reached that magic number of 65 and we become eligible for the Pharmacare Program. It is an important part of the requirement plans for everybody in this province. I think that is evidenced by the number of Nova Scotians who are reasonably well off and yet when they travel to southern climes, perhaps for the winter months, are very concerned about the fact that they could be eligible to lose their Pharmacare coverage if they stayed away more than the six month period. So, Madam Speaker, it is an important program and it applies not only to those who are aged 65, it is still important to those who will some day reach the age of 65.



[4:45 p.m.]



The program was announced by the Minister of Health in April of this year, Madam Speaker, and now we are six months into that program and there are still a mass of questions out there that people either don't understand the answers to or have not as yet been provided the answers to. As I said when I started out, this is an important program and everybody believes that it needed reform because they understand the fundamental fact that if the system wasn't reformed it would disappear. There isn't a senior and I would suggest there isn't anybody else out in the general population that wants to see the program disappear. We all have seniors who are parents or grandparents or else, as I say, we are there ourselves and are part of the program. I think we can understand that there are a lot of seniors out there that still do not understand the program. In fact, by the minister's own admission, he has received up to, I believe, 1,000 phone calls per day. Or is that per week? (Interruption) Sometimes 1,000 phone calls per day from seniors in this province who either do not understand the program or else are getting responses to their questions that they are unable to interpret.



When we addressed the Pharmacare Program in the spring of this year, Madam Speaker, one of the things that we suggested to the minister was, number one, to extend the period of implementation. At that time, I think it was August 1st - maybe I am mistaken - or June 1st, I forget which, and then it was extended to November 1st. I know I was one of many, I suppose, who suggested to the minister that actually the implementation should take place on January 1, 1996. That suggestion was made for several reasons. Because it provided seniors with an adequate timeframe in which to look at what existing coverage they had outside the Pharmacare Program in this province. Secondly, and probably quite importantly, the program would start at a date definite, which was the start of a new calendar year. One of the problems, just as a for instance, that I personally have had a number of calls on and I am sure the minister's 1-800 number has had a number of calls on is how does this program operate? By November 1st, I have to make a decision as to whether I am in or out of the program, however, if I am in the program, I have to backdate my payment, my premium due date, to April 1, 1995, and five months or six months, in fact, seven months have already passed in that period and here I am paying a full year's premium for only five months of coverage. That is number one.



Secondly, Madam Speaker, the fact of the matter is, while the premium period is from April 1st to March 31, 1996, the actual co-pay program which is part of the same Pharmacare Program goes from January 1, 1995, until December 31, 1995. Now the minister says you are all wrong, you have it all wrong. Well, maybe I have got it all wrong, maybe I am confused. Maybe thousands of Nova Scotians are confused. I will tell the minister why I am confused. Because he made a response to a question in the House yesterday which was exactly that. This morning I, too, tied up one of his 1-800 lines and asked that basic question and I got an entirely different answer. You can tell me. I am here, I can ask you a question. I am very fortunate because I am in this House and I have the guy who runs the program right opposite me and I can ask him a question and I can get an answer from the minister, very important, but poor Mrs. Mary Smith out there in the boondocks somewhere who has that same problem, she phones up on a 1-800 line and she receives an answer then she reads in the newspaper or she reads somewhere else or is told by one of the members, no you got it all wrong so she is confused.



One of the things that the minister prides himself on is consultation and whether or not he does that adequately, I am not prepared to answer. I can tell you in this particular case there has been no shortage of material flowing out to seniors. There have been letters, there have been advertisements on the radio, advertisements on television, and I think even advertisements on billboards and public meetings. There has been a vast amount of information put out to seniors, but unfortunately, number one the minister has responded to some of those concerns that seniors have which I think is great. That is super, that is what he should be doing. However, every time he does that the ground rules change.



Some seniors may be aware of the changes and some are not so they have a piece of paper here that says okay by August 1st you have to make up your mind whether or not you are in the program. They believe that until they get another piece of paper that says, no the date is now November 1st during which period of time you have to make up your mind.



They were told when the minister first introduced the program that there was no choice, you were in the program, period. Then we came along and were offered the option to opt out and to those seniors, Madam Speaker, who had an alternate medical plan that put another monkey in the monkey wrench because they had to determine from their own private insurance plan whether or not there would be an impact on that private insurance plan if they opted out of the $215 premium to the Nova Scotia Pharmacare Program.



I am also one of those, Madam Speaker, who happens to have coverage under the federal program, the Public Service Health Care Program. I had a senior, very early in the game, back in I think it was May or June who phoned me and said, Ron, look I am insured under the federal health care scheme, I am a retired veteran. Do I have to pay the $215? I said, yes, because at that time the minister had said that everybody was in the program.



About two weeks later he phones me up and says, you got it all wrong, Ron Russell, the minister has just said that if I have alternate insurance I can opt out. I said that is right. I said he has made a change, and I think it is a good change, but I said before you opt out I think you should phone through to the Mutual Insurance of Canada in Ottawa which handles the federal Public Service program and find out what the impact would be if you said goodbye to your provincial Pharmacare Program. I said, everything else is not dependent on a co-pay, but the Pharmacare Program in the Province of Nova Scotia is.



He phoned through to Mutual and Mutual said, we have not made a decision yet. They had not made a decision. So he phoned me back again and by this time we were rolling along into whatever it was, I guess it was August 1st. I said, I will phone and see if I can get an answer for you so I phoned because I also had a vested interest in finding the answer to that question. I phoned up and they said that their board was going to meet to examine the situation in Nova Scotia because of the fact that we were going into a premium based system.



I said to the person who answered the phone, whatever his name was, I have it written down somewhere, I said, but I do not have much time. I have to make a decision by a certain date because if I do not make my decision by that date and I make a late application, number one I may have to undergo a medical to get into the system or secondly I may have to pay an increased premium to get into the system unless I come in with the block.



It became imperative for the minister to change the admission date, and he did so, to November 1st, but there are still seniors who in their own minds, and perhaps incorrectly, believe they don't need the Nova Scotia Pharmacare Program. They believe that their prescription costs are going to be absorbed by their own private insurance company. Quite honestly, I don't quite believe it, but however they assure me that it is so. I have asked them to get it in writing, and I don't think they will have it in writing by November 1st.



Before I sit down, I would like the minister, during his remarks, if he could please address this subject about the time scale. If you haven't made a decision by November 1st, is there going to be - that is today, for Heaven's sakes - a penalty that is now going to be inveighed upon these people who have not made that decision? I thank the minister and thank you, Madam Speaker.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.



HON. RONALD STEWART: Madam Speaker, I, too, appreciate the introduction of this resolution by the honourable Opposition and have appreciated the comments of the honourable gentleman opposite, who in a cogent and very forceful way has represented some of the apprehensions and some of the difficulties that have attended the introduction of this program. It begs the question.



He has begged many questions, particularly some specific ones which I will answer as best I can as we go through here - but the larger question that we face, really, is the obligation of government in terms of essential programs. We have declared this, as the previous administration has done, to be an essential program to the welfare of seniors in this province. But I would like to take you through a bit of history in the first few minutes of our discussion and talk about what a health care program really must be like; what are the foundations of the program.



I think we would all agree that a health care program must serve the interest of its citizens, first and foremost. We have to be innovative, we have to be imaginative, we have to certainly be aware of the needs of our citizens in the province, but as well a program has to be fiscally sustainable; it has to be solid enough to assure that, in the future, citizens can avail themselves of the programs. In addition, a program or health system must be responsive to the needs and opinions of the citizenry and, in fact, one might say even responsive, I should hope, to the well-articulated and reasonable suggestions of Opposition and of those who would sit on the opposite side of the aisle. I take that quite in good faith.



We as politicians, we of this place - privileged as we are - need also to be responsible, to be informed of programs and the needs of our citizens and to be responsible in our criticism. We must be very careful, as has been suggested, not to be light in our comments and certainly not to be ill-informed. I hope by the end of my discussion and the end of our debate - and I attend the comments of the Third Party - that we will, perhaps, be a little more informed and supportive of a program that I believe has done much to save an essential program in this province.



The program, begun in 1974, of course, was altered irrevocably in 1990 with a user pay system being introduced. That user pay system said, if you use this program, you will pay a co-pay of $3.00 a prescription to a maximum of $150. This was an essential change from our Medicare philosophy, which said that accessibility and financial accessibility and equality of access was an essential element of all of our health care programs. That was changed irrevocably by the introduction of a co-pay. It said that those who use the program, the user fee concept was introduced. We did not do that; that was introduced by the previous government. The program, in fact, was received with alarm and was received with anxiety and an outpouring of seniors' anger, because this essential program now had a surcharge, a user fee. The change was a significant one, and voices from across the province were very strident in denouncing the government of the day.



In addition to that, one year later, this was increased. The increase was significant for seniors not receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The co-pay was more than doubled, from $150 to $400, again the user fee being the preferred way of apparently controlling the expenditures or at least controlling the program in that regard. It was done in a budget speech, there was no consultation; I can find no evidence of consultation within the Department of Health. I want to contrast that with what we have tried to do in this program in announcing in 1995 the significant changes in the Pharmacare Program, putting it on an insurance basis which will guarantee it for the future. In fact, I might suggest that there has never been as much consultation or, in fact, acceptability of government to change its program in concert with the wishes of the constituents, of the people of the province and, indeed, the reasonable suggestions of the members opposite.



[5:00 p.m.]



In 1993, when this government took office, we faced in the Pharmacare Program the same pressures that had been faced by the previous government and there is no one in this place who would not recognize that they acted in good faith to try to answer some of the problems. We took a different tack. We knew that we were $20 million in deficit of this program; we found major problems in terms of little information on the recipients, on how the program would be governed; and we had a situation in which seniors had absolutely no say in how this program was governed or, in fact, funded.



Then we faced Bill No. 91, a bill of the federal government which in that time gave patent protection to pharmaceuticals, such that we faced in this province an estimated $17 million extra charge and this, of course, was opposed significantly and I think vigorously by the Third Party and also by the Party then in Opposition, which made presentations to the House of Commons Committee.



The program was not in any way tied to beneficiaries and, lo and behold, we also found that the seniors of this province and the government and taxpayers of this province were in essence subsidizing the private insurance companies to the tune of $6.3 million by the fact that this program paid for the cost of the medications assumed to be insured by the private plans. In other words, the private premiums paid by seniors in this province ensured only 80 per cent of the co-pay. It paid for no drugs, we were billed for the drugs, the Pharmacare Program. The taxpayers subsidized private insurance companies and this was the kind of program that was in place. What kind of a program was that? No control by the beneficiaries and yet they were required to pay and required to subsidize by them paying private insurance premiums - the 12,000 to 15,000 of them or more who were doing so - they were subsidizing almost to the tune of $7 million in this province. This, of course, was not acceptable to us.



We did consult seniors. We went to the Senior Citizens Secretariat, representatives of the seniors across the province and we said, help us do something with us. Here are some ideas. We would like you to take these, discuss them with us. For the moment let us try to do so in the group that we have but we will be back to demonstrate to you that we will take your advice. They said that they wanted a flexible, fair, universal program into which everyone contributes so that we can have a program for the future and we made this a priority.



Consultation was continued by major groups around the province and also by the Senior Citizens Secretariat. Then we set up public meetings and 1-800 lines over the past several months. The fact is that we made, in this program, the essential change which was we put in a board of directors and we were able to attract to those board of directors, competent seniors who were in the majority and who would control the policy, advise the minister and guard that program. No longer would government be able to merely dictate; it would have to, in fact, consult, it would have to, in fact, defend itself for any policy decisions that in any way affected the program. This was an essential change that I personally am very proud of and I am sure all all of the members of this place would subscribe to.



Well, we have heard, Madam Speaker, of the demand of the Opposition early on in April when it was announced that this be delayed. In fact, in making that request, to delay the program until January 1st, they would be denying seniors in the province the opportunity to save money on their medications. It would mean that we could not come in and provide for seniors the $300 of premium protection that we laid aside for each person who was receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement. We would not be able to have the co-pay from $400 to $200 for those seniors who were fortunate enough to be higher earners. We could not do that if we delayed. Of course we wanted to begin it as quickly as possible. Of course we wanted to put it in on April 1st and the pharmacies and the people around the province got immediate relief, both from the co-pay by the reduction by half from $400 to $200 and by a credit that we were giving to seniors who actually would now pay less. Seventy per cent or more of seniors would have been paid less. Had we delayed it, we would have said to those seniors, no, we are going to continue in the old program. You are going to pay more for your drugs, just as under the old program, we said no, we want to save you money and we did so as soon as we could.



We now have a superb board of directors, one of the members being one of the most respected geriatricians in this province. Some of the seniors sitting around the table, in addition, are some of the community leaders who have been, in fact, at the forefront of protecting seniors' programs. We now have a sound financial footing on which to build. This program, the bottom line is very clear. Seventy-three per cent of seniors will pay less for their medications under this plan and the higher earner seniors, the rest of the seniors, will have their co-pay halved from $400 to $200.





Well, whence comes the confusion as described by the honourable gentleman opposite? Very simply, we have had confusion because of the Opposition who stated in this House, the member for Kings West, was reassuring seniors and saying the private companies in fact were paying your drugs, people had coverage and so on. We said from day one that there was not one senior covered for the cost of their medication by private insurance companies. We stood by that and I read out as early as late April the fact that we wanted them to check with their companies as has been stated by the honourable gentleman opposite.



We have, in this program, a major, sound, fiscally responsible program that will be to seniors what the honourable member opposite suggests, an essential program into the future. It is important that we recall that seniors on this program who are lower earning seniors, lower income seniors, will pay less. They will pay up to $85 less for their medications and higher income seniors will have their co-pay halved from $400 to $200. Contrast it with New Brunswick in which only GIS recipients are covered by the program and the premium for those not receiving the GIS is $534 or so and in addition, they must pay a cost for their prescription at $7 per prescription.



In essence, the board of directors has made good decisions and, in fact, has softened the date of November 1st. They said that they are going to contact by phone or by personal interview all of those seniors who have further questions and who have not registered. This is a program, Madam Speaker, that will, indeed, I believe, show the way for other programs in its fiscal sustainability and its hope for the future for seniors in this province. Thank you.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I very much welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate this afternoon. Madam Speaker, as I do, I have to share some of the sentiments that have been expressed, certainly by those who are less than congratulatory to the government in terms of how they have handled this process from the very beginning because way back on April 7th when the whole premium things were announced. Every Nova Scotian senior was told, supposedly, that they will receive a letter telling them how the new plan affects them personally. They were also told that premiums would start to be collected over the summer and that that would begin in mid-June. Of course, then in September the government first announces that seniors will now have a choice about participating in the program. In the next few weeks seniors will receive a mail-out from Pharmacare. Included with this mail-out will be an assessment form.



We have spoken with some seniors and one called the office just the other day saying how on October 26th he received the mail-out which was dated October 14th which told him that the premiums would have to be paid within 30 days but of course, they have to be paid by the end of the month. So, some how between October 26th and the 30th, he is supposed to have 30 days to decide if he is to pay it and also, to come up with the monies to do it.



From the very beginning, I can understand where the minister was coming from and what the minister was trying to do was save money and to save a program. I mean the two were there, he has told us that the monies were tight, they had to find ways to reduce costs and therefore they had to come up with a new program. Of course, it was obvious, it didn't take very long to understand that they announced that there was going to be this program but that they had not yet thought through the process of how that is all going to be done.





We have heard discussions about the amount of the premiums and the co-pay. Of course, the amount of the premiums has been determined for this year at $215. But what seniors have not heard is that what was actually passed was an Order in Council which says, the board which the minister referred to shall recommend annually to the minister premiums and co-pay rates sufficient to pay one half the total cost of the program. In this year, that is forecast to be $215.



The minister can stand up and correct me if I am wrong, but it is my understanding that drug costs last year went up by 18 per cent. Therefore, if drug costs go up again this year by 18 per cent, then the board would have to recommend premiums and co-pay fees sufficient to pay half the cost, therefore both government and seniors would be expected to increase by 18 per cent if it is equal and 18 per cent of $215 would bring that rate next year, if they increase this year the same as last year, to $253 per senior.



That information is also not being provided and seniors therefore expect that that $215 is a premium, that is the premium that they are being asked to pay until April 1, 1996. They will be assessed new premium on April 1, 1996 and heaven only knows what that is going to be. In addition . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe less.



MR. HOLM: . . . the minister says maybe less. Yes, it may be and I hope that this minister will have influence on his federal cousins, the government in Ottawa, and persuade them to rescind the Mulroney drug patent legislation. I will applaud him if he does that because that is one of the major things that is driving up drug costs. One of the major ways to drive down those drug costs would be for this federal government which has a vast majority, has the ability to do it and would help seniors and all others from one end of this country to the other to rescind that legislation.



Madam Speaker, I attended a public forum in Truro that was sponsored by the Truro and District Labour Council talking about Pharmacare. I asked the member for that area who was sitting in for the minister and one would not expect that she would have all the information at her fingertips, but you know, I was struck by one of the slides that they were showing. I asked a question at the end and I never got an answer other than, I wondered that too. I never got the answer, but on the slide it was showing that the Pharmacare costs were $78 million. Now I understand from some of the other displays that they have even shown that as high as $80 million.



I took a look at the budget for the Pharmacare Program and it actually - forecasts of what we passed in the House last year - cost $61 million and they are estimating $36 million for this year. I do not know where that $78 million came from, unless that included the portion that seniors were already paying themselves as part of the co-pay which is not of course government money, Madam Speaker. It is taxpayers' money, yes indeed, but the implication and what was the clear message that was trying to be given was that this is what taxpayers through the Government of Nova Scotia are contributing to that fund. The truth is, that is not and that was intentionally misleading because those seniors' costs are not going down.



The true figures to compare it to were not the $78 million or $80 million as were and are being shown to seniors in these public information sessions. The true figure to show are the actual costs as appear in our budget and we should not be misleading the seniors in this province as is being done in those public forums.



MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I would just like to remind you that an intentional misleading or an intentional deceit is not parliamentary language and I would ask you to tone it and perhaps withdraw those words from the record.



MR. HOLM: Thank you, Madam Speaker, it would be wrong for me to say that members of this House are intentionally misleading, but I did not know that would cover making those suggestions in what might be being done in public forums outside of this House. But anyway, I withdraw that. I will say that the information was misleading and that misleading information should not be permitted by this minister or by this government, but the actual facts, the actual costs, not adding something on which is pretending that this is how much the government costs have gone up, when in fact that is including about $17 million of funds that seniors are already taking out of their pockets.



Madam Speaker, we have here a decision by this government, and I appreciate the need and that there are a lot of things that can be done and need to be done to reduce drug costs. One of the things, the minister knows this very well, is that in Nova Scotia we have a horrible record of prescribing, over-prescribing. In fact, I believe that Nova Scotia has the highest prescription rate in the country.



Madam Speaker, one of the sure ways to reduce drug costs to the province and to seniors is to get that prescribing practice in order; get a handle on it and ensure the physicians are being accountable and being responsible and stop over-prescribing, because the over-prescribing of drugs has not resulted in Nova Scotian seniors being declared the healthiest members of society across this country.



Madam Speaker, too, in March 1994, maybe there wasn't time to follow through on most of these recommendations, and yes, some things are being done, but in this report, the Nova Scotia Pharmacare Reform Working Committee, there are many recommendations that are proposed and are putting forward ways to reduce the costs of Pharmacare for citizens of this province. It would appear, and I don't wish to be overly unkind, but it certainly would appear that what really happened - and I am not questioning the minister's own personal commitments to the seniors or to the program - and Hallowe'en was last night, but I am not trying to paint the minister as personally some kind of an evil being or one of the ghosts and goblins or bad folks of Hallowe'en, because I think the minister as an individual is a very decent and a very fine person. (Applause) I say that without hesitation.



Madam Speaker, I think what is also happening here is that the minister and his department are being driven by a fiscal drive from others in his bunker squad, the Cabinet downstairs, and before, as they know, it would take some time to bring in effective, efficient reforms that would reduce the Pharmacare Program, using this model which came out in March, they said, oh, we haven't got time to do that. We've got to slash it by $61 million, which was forecast for last year, down to $36 million this year; $25 million. We haven't got time to do that so what we will do is institute this program and, of course, we will make sure that we are protected, we are going to cut it, we are going to charge that co-pay.



Madam Speaker, the full facts need to be put on the table in terms of what it is going to cost. Also, to suggest that seniors, unless they have very deep pockets, have a choice about whether or not to go into this program, I would suggest even to leave that thought out there is a little bit stretching, as well. The minister is absolutely right and we have done checking and research and we have yet to find a single, private company. Not a one. But that information wasn't given. What should have been done, they said to check it, but what should have been said to seniors clearly and simply, if you opt out, you should realize that we have done our research and there isn't a single, solitary private company providing insurance that does not pass those bills on to the province. If you opt out, you will have to pay the full costs. That kind of information needed to be given clearly.



I would suggest, Madam Speaker, that seniors have not been well-served by the way this whole process has been followed. It was not well planned through and the way that it is set out, I would suggest, that seniors may want to hold on to their hats because unless the kind of recommendations that are followed here, unless this minister and his colleagues can persuade the federal Liberal Minister of Health to rescind the Mulroney drug patent legislation, drug costs are going to continue to go through the roof and that is going to mean that that co-pay portion that seniors are being required to pay is also going to go through the roof. So, obviously concrete action on that plan is needed and I would suggest some leadership from the Chretien Government to rescind the Mulroney Bill is also essentially needed. Thank you.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, there are two House Orders on the order paper and I don't intend to call either but I do have to ask a question. The first one, House Order No. 22 is adjourned debate and that is fine but House Order No. 32, it is my understanding that that House Order has been issued and I understand the Clerk was going to check into it.



THE CLERK: It has not.



MR. RUSSELL: It has not been issued. Well, I could call House Order No. 32 on behalf of the member for Pictou East but the appropriate minister is not in the House.



[H.O. 32, re ERA - Tourism: KLM Agreement - Benefits Study Table - notice given May 18/95 - (Mr. D. McInnes)]



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on behalf of the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, he and I did have an opportunity to discuss the contents of this House Order. He indicated he didn't think he had a problem with agreeing to table it, however, I know he had to attend a meeting and he didn't get back to confirm it.



I can tell that the intent is probably favourable but I would ask that it be stood for one week and let the minister respond to it directly himself.



[House Order No. 32 stands.]



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, I have no quarrel with that. We do have a number of House Orders from the spring session. We have about 20, I believe, that have been issued and have not as yet been returned and I would ask the minister if he could converse with his fellow ministers, perhaps, and get some of those back to the people who put them on the order paper.



So, with those remarks regarding House Orders, the business of the Opposition is finished for the day.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, with regard to the previous statement, perhaps if he has a list of the numbers and wanted to provide them to me I could follow up on his behalf. Also, I would ask him if maybe at the start of business tomorrow, he could provide us with an updated list of the shadow Cabinet? I know there have been new Critic responsibilities assigned since the weekend and if we could get that it would be helpful.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, if I may respond to that, I checked with the Leader of the Opposition today and he has still not finalized the list. I understand that it will not be available until Monday of next week, at which time it will be available. At the present time, the existing Critic areas remain as they were.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, we have no difficulty with that, it is just that it sometimes gets a little confusing, for example, one day last week I think seven or eight members asked questions, one after the other to the minister. It is hard to determine from that for the Minister of Education exactly who the Critic was. Similarly with Health today. So, we have no difficulty and I assume that won't cause many problems.



Madam Speaker, we will be sitting tomorrow from the hours of 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m. The order of business following the daily routine and Question Period will be Public Bills for Second Reading and we will resume debate of Bill No. 28. I would advise members of the House that there have been a number of questions asked about the status of the House on November 13th and it is certainly the intention that the Remembrance Day holiday would be celebrated on that day and the House would not sit.



With that, Madam Speaker, I move we adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.



MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is carried.



We stand adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.



[The House rose at 5:29 p.m.]