MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to call the House to order at this time.
We have in our midst a guest of considerable renown, the retired Sergeant-at-Arms of this House, Major Harold Long, who is just making his way now into the Speaker's Gallery and I would like to express best wishes to Harold on behalf of all members of the House. (Applause)
Are there any other guests in the gallery that members wish to introduce before we commence the daily routine?
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Supply and Services.
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by some 50 persons from St. Joseph's-Alexander McKay School. The preamble to the petition is rather lengthy but has to do with Bill No. 39 that is respecting Education.
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Nova Scotians will not know the text of the government's proposed Education Act until Monday afternoon; and
Whereas members of the public and of the Law Amendments Committee deserve an opportunity to read and consider the text of the revised Education Act before hearings on it are held; and
Whereas, right now, other presenters are scheduled to start right after the Education Minister outlines the revised Act;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Committee on Law Amendments to schedule only the presentation by the Minister of Education for its Monday, November 20th hearing on Bill No. 39.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the former Progressive Conservative Government announced plans to sell Nova Scotia's major resort hotels because of the belief the private sector could operate them more efficiently; and
Whereas after becoming the government in 1993, the Liberals cancelled the sale of the resort hotels insisting money could be made by government; and
Whereas two years later, Nova Scotia's Auditor General refuses to hazard a guess on the profitability of the resorts because of the lack of clarity in bookkeeping procedures in place at the resort hotels;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency immediately correct his government's approach to bookkeeping at the resort hotels and make crystal clear to all Nova Scotians the financial position of Nova Scotia's government-owned resort hotels.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Lunenburg.
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 P'Lovers, an environmental store in Halifax, Wolfville, and now in Mahone Bay, has found success in helping the earth by offering people alternatives that help them live more sensibly with the earth; and
Whereas Ann Caverzan and her partner, Liz Crocker, owners of P'Lovers, were recently recognized as Atlantic regional finalists in the emerging entrepreneur category of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, while being named as regional finalists in the Canada Women Entrepreneur of the Year Awards; and
Whereas on Tuesday, November 14th, Liz Crocker and Ann Caverzan were honoured at the 6th Annual Halifax-Cornwallis Progress Women of Excellence Awards in the category of Entrepreneur-Innovator;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly extend congratulations to Liz Crocker and Ann Caverzan for excelling in their profession and serving as worthy role models for young women in our society.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas a group of concerned citizens from the Annapolis Valley have recently grouped together to form a local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also known as MADD; and
Whereas the volunteers and workers of MADD Canada strive to remind Canadians of the thousands who are needlessly killed in alcohol-related crashes on our country's highways each year; and
Whereas the new Annapolis Valley chapter will kick off its involvement in this worthwhile international program by promoting MADD's annual Project Red Ribbon campaign next week;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the initiative of these local citizens for carrying on the work of MADD in the Annapolis Valley and help promote awareness of the program by tying a red ribbon to their automobile to remind others and themselves of the importance of being safe and sober drivers.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I also have some ribbons to be distributed to each member to attach to their car.
MR. SPEAKER: The ribbons are tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Cape Breton coal miners have watched billions of dollars invested in the Hibernia oil project, while their industry is denied any support despite an equally desperate lack of secure jobs; and
Whereas 700 jobs at the Phalen Colliery are newly endangered, while the Donkin Mine lies idle, although 700 more could work there as part of a viable three mine operation; and
Whereas a commitment to Donkin would acknowledge the hard work of miners and other Devco workers to keep Phalen and Prince going;
Therefore be it resolved that this House affirms its support for the opening of the Donkin Mine and urges the federal government to make this initiative one of the highest priority.
Mr. Speaker, I would 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 Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Health claims he personally consulted with a number of senior groups on several occasions at the time his department was bringing together the elements of the seniors Pharmacare Program; and
Whereas the Senior Citizens Secretariat, the agency the minister referred the Opposition to when looking for details on the so-called consultations, have advised that two meetings were held with key individuals representing approximately 8 to 10 senior groups just days before the program was publicly released - one attended by the Minister of Finance and the second attended by the Minister of Health; and that these meetings were intended more to share program details than to actively consult seniors on key elements of the program; and
Whereas this point was also brought home at a recent meeting with the Minister responsible for the Senior Citizens Secretariat when one senior who participated in these meetings corrected the minister when he referred to them as consultations;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health and this Liberal Government recognize that there is a vast difference between sharing the details of a program with the affected parties at the very last minute and actively consulting them on the overall value and key elements of the program.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Nova Scotians have every reason to expect their hard-earned tax dollars will be wisely spent respecting public education; and
Whereas curriculum guides issued by the Department of Education make it crystal clear that Grade 12 may mean only completion of Grade 8 outcomes, Grade 9 completion of Grade 5 outcomes and Grade 6 completion of Grade 2 outcomes; and
Whereas the Minister of Education has the direct responsibility to ensure taxpayers' investment in education is reflected in effective grade completion standards;
Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government immediately take steps to create a multi-partite process which will result in assessment of current education standards in Nova Scotia's public school system and make specific recommendations to government respecting adoption of appropriate public school education standards.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Eastern Shore.
MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the 4th Annual Watt Section Potato Contest was held recently to raise badly needed funds for the community activities of the Brookside Hall; and
Whereas the Annual Potato Contest has grown over the past four years to become a very popular fun event for everyone, to see the results of the potato harvest; and
Whereas numerous community events such as this all along the Eastern Shore reflect the health, vitality and sense of pride which the people of the Eastern Shore have in their heritage, culture and traditions;
Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the organizers of the Annual Watt Section Potato Contest for their dedication to fostering healthy and strong communities along the Eastern Shore.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.
MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Ms. Amanda Joy Sullivan of Port Hawkesbury is the 1995 winner of the prestigious Dr. P. Anthony Johnstone Entrance Scholarship, presented by the Premier of Nova Scotia in a ceremony held earlier this fall in the Red Room of the Nova Scotia Legislature; and
Whereas the Dr. P. Anthony Johnstone Entrance Scholarship, valued at $5,000, was established in 1991 to honour the life and the work of the late Dr. Johnstone, who at that time was the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission in Nova Scotia; and
Whereas Ms. Sullivan has been an excellent student during her high school years at the Strait Area Education and Recreation Centre and has been very committed to furthering her education;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Amanda Joy Sullivan on receiving the 1995 Dr. P. Anthony Johnstone Entrance Scholarship and wish her every success in her studies at Mount Allison University.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?
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.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Judge David Cole demonstrated intolerance and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation when he ordered that a convicted child molester could have contact with children "when accompanied by a heterosexual adult"; and
Whereas the judge's bigotry endangers children by ignoring the fact that the majority of child molesters are heterosexual; and
Whereas in other cases the Provincial Judicial Council emphasized the need for "fair, unbiased, impartial and evenhanded" justice;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Justice Minister to demonstrate leadership and support for judicial integrity and impartiality by convening the Provincial Judicial Council to consider Judge Cole's discriminatory order and the risks it created.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Yarmouth.
MR. RICHARD HUBBARD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas many Nova Scotians were saddened by the recent passing of Mrs. Denise LeBlanc Squires of Eastern Passage; and
Whereas for the past 10 years Mrs. LeBlanc Squires was Secretary-Treasurer and Registrar of the Baseball Umpires Association of Nova Scotia; and
Whereas Denise LeBlanc Squires has devoted a great deal of time and effort in the promotion of organ donation throughout Nova Scotia;
Therefore be it resolved that this Assembly, in honour of the late Denise LeBlanc Squires, encourage all Nova Scotians to sign their organ donor cards and inform their loved ones of their decision so that should the unthinkable happen, we may give the ultimate gift of life.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas taxpayers in the new Regional Municipality of Cape Breton face huge tax increases, lost services or a combination of the two, as a result of recent revelations of a $15 million deficit; and
Whereas the Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who were the architects of municipal amalgamation in Cape Breton and who certainly have had no hesitation in intruding in municipal matters in the past, are now trying desperately to distance themselves from the issue by refusing to answer questions in the Legislature; and
Whereas the Minister of Municipal Affairs' stock answer to every question she has been asked in recent days, no matter what the question, is check with the local mayor or council or somebody in my department;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier save Nova Scotia's weary taxpayer the salary and expenses of the Minister of Municipal Affairs by dismissing the minister who these days maintains she is responsible for nothing.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Fisheries Loan Board has testified that the proposed abrupt increase in federal fishery license fees would make it difficult or impossible for some Nova Scotia fishers to make payments on their boat loans; and
Whereas quadrupling a license fee income while slashing DFO services and increasing user fees is putting a tremendous strain on the Atlantic fishery and coastal communities; and
Whereas there has not been an equivalent move towards true co-management or self-management by those who will be paying for much of the DFO operation;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to phase in any necessary increases in license fees and other income from the industry and do it as part of a well-grounded move towards co-management.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable that notice be waived on that particular notice?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
There has been a submission for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 o'clock this afternoon. The draw today is won by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic and he submits the motion for discussion reading as follows:
Therefore be it resolved that this House affirms its support for the opening of the Donkin Mine and urges the federal government to make this initiative one of its highest priorities.
So we will hear on that matter at 6:00 o'clock this afternoon.
The time now being 12:22 p.m., the Oral Question Period today will run for one hour, that is to 1:22 p.m.
I wish to move on now to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you, is for the Minister of Health. Time and time again I have heard from Nova Scotians who are exposed to our health care system who say they are appalled with the current staffing levels. Many have indicated, and there have been media reports, I think, to this as well, that nursing levels are dangerously low. To give the minister an example, I had a call last week and this week from Mrs. Geraldine Parsons whose husband is in the Halifax Infirmary and this lady is very upset. Her husband has been moved nine times in eight days because of bed shortages in ICU and she has to go there many hours a day because of staff shortages. Staff are wonderful but there is not enough of them. I think her quote, to make it hit home, was, Mr. Moody, my husband went to the hospital, yes, because he needed medical attention. But, I believe the system may end up killing him. That is an awful feeling.
I would ask the minister if he believes there is any merit to what these people are saying? Does he agree that eliminating a further 2,500 jobs, almost 20 per cent of the health care workers, what will that mean to patient care, will it erode and patients will suffer because of these cuts?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, it is always distressing that a person, a citizen of Nova Scotia, should be dissatisfied, if it is truly reflected by the honourable gentleman's comments opposite but we have in the past several years improved our service in a good way in this Province of Nova Scotia. We are going to continue to do that. I would welcome an investigation if the honourable gentleman wishes to give me specifics and I would bring it to the attention of the hospital authorities, as I am sure he would want me to do.
MR. MOODY: Well, I can't feel as secure about the system so wonderful, which he portrays for the people of Nova Scotia, when I get calls on a continual basis about the system. I would ask the minister, can he indicate how many of the 2,500 jobs that are going to be cut, are going to be nurses? How many of those 2,500 jobs that he is eliminating, which is more jobs than the pulp and paper industry employ in this province, how many of those jobs will be in the nursing profession?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the honourable gentleman opposite knows full well that to engage in speculation by what he is saying does a disservice to the people who are in the system now, does a disservice to the reform effort that is now underway in the province, that has been underway for some time and we must reiterate that patient care and service to citizens will be the focus of change. We have stated that time and again. It will continue to be and I am sure that the honourable gentleman opposite would agree with that focus.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I agree it should be that the patient care is so important, no question, but I am hearing that is not the case. I didn't put the 2,500 figure out there; the minister put the figure out there. I would ask the minister, how many beds will be eliminated with these 2,500 positions that are going to be eliminated in the next year or so in health care? How many beds from now also will be eliminated amongst those 2,500 jobs?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the honourable gentleman opposite continues to speak in antiquated language of beds and so on. We are looking at service to the people and if you look at the number of procedures we have performed in facilities, if we look at the 900-plus people we now take into home care on a monthly basis, if you look at the number of people we are serving in terms of emergency health services, all of those have increased; all of those services have increased. We will continue to do this and do it with a compassionate and an extremely close attention to the human element in this regard. I would stand proud here in this House to say that we will do this on a gradual basis with managed change as we have promised in the past. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Health. There will be 800 to 1,000 layoffs in metro, 2,500 across the province, and people in this province want to know what kind of impact that is going to have on our health care system, a health care system that is already under serious attack. I would like to ask the minister, will he table his plan which shows how services currently being delivered in the hospitals will be delivered in the community? I am asking the minister on behalf of many concerned Nova Scotians, not for a sermon, but for specifics here in terms of the number of services, the availability of existing spaces in community clinics, home care, respite palliative care? We are looking for specifics here, what is the minister's plan?
DR. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the gentleman opposite asks for specifics. We have given specifics as we have gone along in this process. He has asked in the past for specifics and has declared that, for example, there is no home care available in the province, no new changes for a whole year. He did this. I can't appear to convince him otherwise. To provide specifics, we have done so in a reasoned way with reports that we have presented, with the statements that I have made. We know what is happening; there is a fundamental change in the provision of health services in this province, which is ongoing in a gradual and managed way, to pick up speculative reports and speculative numbers and to waft them about in such a way does a disservice to the very constituents that he claims to represent.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, you will notice how many specifics that I got in relation to my question about the minister's plan.
AN HON. MEMBER: None.
MR. CHISHOLM: It is the same kind of detail that I have been getting for the past number of months in terms of health care reform. The minister has bench-marks for the reduction of acute care services in hospitals. None of those bench-marks state that the community-based services must be there to replace acute care services; there is absolutely no relation in terms of the bench-marks with respect to what has to be there to replace them. I want to ask the minister, will he guarantee that there will be no more layoffs, no more reduction in hospital services until he actually shows Nova Scotians a specific plan of how and where replacement services are going to be provided?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, we have in fact and I have stated here in the House many times that services are going to be in place and have been in place and are currently in place when changes in specific communities occur. This occurred back in late 1993, early 1994 and with the beginning of Home Care Nova Scotia in June of this year, now well above the figure of 12,000 people being served in the province. This is 60 per cent above this, this is community service we are speaking of and I am sure that the honourable gentleman opposite in all fairness would agree that this is progress in terms of shifting care appropriately to the community in this province and in this health system.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let's talk about progress. The minister has told us, in information that he has provided us, that in fact by 1993-94 they have already reduced the number of in-patient procedures to the level that this department deems advisable, deems desirable to ensure adequate health care. My question is, if, in fact, that goal was reached by 1993-94, how can he expect anyone to believe that further massive reductions in hospital services are not, in fact, putting people in this province at serious risk?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am at a loss to understand specifically about in-patient procedures. I am not certain what the honourable gentleman is referring to. Is the honourable gentleman opposite referring to surgical procedures in hospital? Is he referring to same day surgical procedures? There are many aspects and I would be happy to do that. We have not set targets for in-patient surgical procedures or procedures in the hospital. We have set targeted patient care days per 1,000 which we have delivered and we are delivering. If you look at primary care surgical procedures, selected ones that we monitor to see access, there is an increase in these procedures over the last three years.
If you look at hip replacements or if you take elective colocystectomy or gall bladder surgery, all of those procedures are increased. How have they increased over the last three years when we have reduced the number of beds available? It is because the surgeons and the hard workers in the system are using the beds more appropriately, more efficiently and we are producing better results in terms of efficiency. That is the way it is done, that is the way it has to be done. We still, in this province, have a supply of beds that fully can accommodate the acute care needs of the people, providing, as the honourable gentleman opposite states, that services are in place in the community to accommodate appropriately care that could be delivered in the community.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is, as well, for the Minister of Health. May I say by way of editorial comment as I put my question that with the greatest respect, it is the Minister of Health who does the disservice and not those of us who question his statement to (Interruption) The Premier has a question?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would just like to interject here for a minute. Interestingly, editorial comment is allowable in posing the initial question. It is in the supplementary questions that they are supposed to be short snappers but a brief preamble is certainly permissible in opening a question.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The disservice to the people of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Health, is perpetrated by the Minister of Health and not by those of us who ask on behalf of frightened Nova Scotians what this 2,500 employee reduction in the health care system is all about. I say that because we now have the spectre of virtually everybody working in the public health system concerned, is it my job? Am I the one who is on the line? Am I the one who is going to be left out and lose my job? So, when the minister suggests that it is our disservice, I reject that out of hand.
My question to the Minister of Health is this, in April of this year, this minister indicated that he hoped that he would have a labour adjustment agreement in place within three months of that time, back from April, that would deal with many of the very sensitive labour issues arising from the merger of the four institutions into the QE II complex. My question to the minister today is now, some seven months later, will the minister tell us whether in fact there is a labour adjustment agreement in place and, if so, would he be prepared to provide a document and table the document here which provides the outline and the elements of that agreement?
HON. RONALD STEWART: I would, in fact, use this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to remind the gentleman opposite, the honourable gentleman who has asked the question, that in fact in both years 1993-94 and 1994-95 there were specific monies set aside for labour adjustment strategies, which we agreed to and which we carried out, $46 million in one year alone, in terms of early retirement and employee assistance programs.
In addition to that, we have said, as has the Blueprint Report recommended, that a task force would be established to continue to look at ways of adjusting to change on the part of workers. We are most sensitive to this. We continue to work with our partners, the labour and management representatives, as well as the Minister of Human Resources, to plan very gradual changes. Mr. Speaker, we have not taken the way of Alberta or Ontario or Quebec, we have taken a very measured and gradual approach to the changes which must and should occur. The honourable gentleman opposite has spoken on this, as have his colleagues and particularly his Leader, who agrees with the direction in which we are going.
MR. DONAHOE: By way of supplementary, again to the Minister of Health, in the estimates debates here in this place last year the minister referred to the Industry Adjustments Program. That was a federal-provincial program he was describing at that time designed to help workers with positions that the provincial government has eliminated. This program expired as of the end of March. Again, on April 18 of last year, the minister said his government was negotiating for a continuation of that program and that he expected at that time that an agreement would be reached very shortly.
I ask the minister today if he will indicate if an extended agreement has, in fact, been reached for the continuation of this program and, if so, will he table the details of that extended agreement in this House today?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, in regard to that specific program, there was not an extension. We have expanded the work of the group put in place to study alternatives, in terms of what can be done further to our changes. That group is working very hard and cooperatively in this regard.
MR. DONAHOE: My constituency is home, as the minister will know and you will know, to an overwhelmingly large percentage of the health care delivery system, here in metro particularly but province-wide, with the Victoria General Hospital and the Halifax Infirmary and the Abbie J. Lane Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth II and the Grace Maternity Hospital and the I.W. Killam Hospital and on it goes. Health care is vitally important to thousands of people who live and work in that system in my community.
I ask this minister is he will tell us today, of the 2,500 jobs to be eliminated, which he says is his number, over the course of the next (Interruption) Well, the minister acknowledged publicly that a number like 2,500 is correct, perhaps he will tell me in response to this question that maybe it is another number. I would be pleased to have him do that.
I ask this minister if will tell me and tell all Nova Scotians whether or not the 2,500 jobs to be eliminated over the course of the next two or three years, in regard to those positions and those people and the lives of Nova Scotians affected by those jobs, can he tell us today whether an assessment has been done and, if so, can he, and I acknowledge he couldn't perhaps be precise to the final number but could he give us ballpark figures even, as to how many of those jobs to be eliminated, which now exist, will be absorbed into the new Home Care Program?
DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would say in response to the honourable gentleman opposite who has demonstrated in his speaking and in his past record a concern for the health care workers in this constituency, as I believe we have done on this side as well, I will not be drawn into speculation on numbers because we must be very careful, in terms of planning out this gradual process of change in the health care system.
Certainly we have made it clear that the merger of four institutions into one institution, and the clinicians at that institution will tell you this, will provide better service. We will concentrate on the service to clients, to patients in both the constituency of the honourable gentleman opposite, as well as the constituency of the Province of Nova Scotia.
In response to his initial comments in terms of the disservice, I would say the greatest disservice done to this province is leaving the Ministry of Health with a $190 million deficit that we had approached in 1993. That is disservice, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: My question is for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health talks about the deficit. The government I belonged to, in 15 years we accumulated a $5 million deficit, you have done in two years over $2 billion, so don't talk about deficits.
My question, Mr. Speaker, is for the Minister of Health. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, order, please. Please be seated.
The comments the honourable member for Kings West just made were out of order because they were not addressed to the Chair, they were addressed across the way and that is out of order.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, gee.
MR. SPEAKER: Oh gee, yes.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, and my question through you is to the Minister of Health. I am sorry I didn't go through you, they were correct, they were out of order but they are still correct.
My question to the Minister of Health, I heard the Minister of Health get up today and say, we are shifting health care. That is the direction we are going in. Now, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Please put your question.
MR. MOODY: Well, I am trying, Mr. Speaker, but it is very difficult. I had a person call, from Berwick, who went to the Kentville Hospital to have a very serious cancer operation, an elderly lady. The idea is to get the person in and get them out quickly because they need the beds, they're short of beds, there are other people to come in. This person was sent home and then somebody from home care, an assessor, was to come. This lady couldn't even go to the bathroom. The neighbours found her on the floor. I want to know from the Minister of Health, will he stop the reductions in health care until this alternative program is in place so that people who need the alternative program get it from the start?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable gentleman opposite has specific cases he wishes to be brought to the attention of my staff, I would happy to relay them on. But if we look at the record, the honourable gentleman opposite claims some record, so let's look at the record. Until 1994 when we developed Home Care Nova Scotia, there was not, in fact, services in place in the community to handle the reduction of beds which began in 1991, under the watch of the honourable gentleman who just asked the question.
Now, in 1995, we begin to build in addition to the services that were in place in the community around the province, we begin to build so that as of October we are serving 60 per cent more people in home care services. These are facts that can be gleaned. A new home hospital program serving people without costs, an extension of the hospital, this is not new, this is not re-inventing the wheel. This has been and had been done over a 15 year period in every jurisdiction in this land, say one other.
I suggest that this is the direction that I have heard the honourable gentleman and his Leader say, this is the direction in which we should go and we are going in that direction. If in some cases there has been a failure of a service then the honourable gentleman should bring it to the attention of those providing the service. I am sure that the good people who are working in the system will assist him and will assist others in correcting any deficiencies.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, a question through you to the Minister of Health. I can tell the Minister of Health that a lot of these good people have tried to contact him through his office but have not gotten a reply. I would ask the Minister of Health if he has indicated to me that it is so important that these people, when they leave hospital on early discharge, why it was that the VG, where they had a coordinator for when people left, the follow-up by the VON was done for home care, why is it this position has now disappeared and there is none in any of the hospitals? I would ask the minister why isn't there someone in the hospitals to follow these people up on early discharge?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised the honourable gentleman will ask that question when he knows that the Home Care Program, in every other jurisdiction and in Nova Scotia, operates with home care assessors or care coordinators that enter into the hospital. So instead of having one accessible to the Victoria General, there are several. So that is an improvement in terms of numbers. That is the way home care operates. The assessor goes in and, in fact, assesses either in the Emergency Department, in the hospital itself or at home, anywhere that the patient needs to be assessed and will be assessed. So there are more services being provided in terms of assessment and I am sure with the honourable gentleman it may have slipped his mind, but that is the way the system is supposed to work.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Health. I am not sure what is slipping my mind, all I know is that people don't know how to access the system. We had an indication from the Minister of Education who had to intervene because someone didn't know how to access the system. Obviously, they didn't get access to the hospital. I would ask the Minister of Health, would he assure this House today and all Nova Scotians that nobody will be sent home early from hospital without proper follow-up and proper care so that their health will not be at risk?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the honourable gentleman opposite is suggesting that clinicians involved in the health care system are making inadequate decisions. That is not the case and should not be the case. This member opposite is suggesting that in order to access care you call the minister' office. Now that may have been how it was done but it is not done that way anymore. There are good people out there that are working to provide services and if there is any need to advertise those services, we certainly have done so, we will continue to do so and we will make sure hospitals do the same. To suggest in any way that clinical decisions are being made that are inadequate or jeopardizing health care or jeopardizing particular persons in the health care system, I would say that that was approaching the line that I do not wish to tread on. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you I would like to ask a question to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. We have heard a great deal of talk in recent months about private/public partnering between government and small business throughout Nova Scotia. Your government has purchased, in the past 15 months, 15 new backhoes to operate around the province. There are private/owner operators in the province who purchased their own backhoes but are now no longer being called to come in to go to work. Could the Minister of Transportation and Communications please tell me why his government has decided to spend in access of $1.5 million to undermine the private owner/operator, small businessmen in rural Nova Scotia because $1.5 million is a great deal of money to spend for backhoes?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, yes, the Department of Transportation utilizes private equipment at times and it utilizes its own equipment at times. Where the cost of utilizing our own equipment is shown to be more productive then we do that. That would be the reason why we have purchased backhoes. We have always had backhoes, we probably always will have backhoes because we need them and the cost-effectiveness is there in using our own equipment at times.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary would go to the Minister of Health.
MR. SPEAKER: Health and backhoes?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Could the Minister of Health explain to me how his government can afford to be running around the province spending over $1.5 on backhoes and they cannot provide adequate health care for Nova Scotians? Could you explain that to me, please?
MR. SPEAKER: I would rule the question out of order; it doesn't follow from the first one.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Health. In light of the confirmation that the minister gave Nova Scotians that there would be substantial layoff of health care providers in the Province of Nova Scotia, upwards of 2,500, I want to ask the minister the bench-marks for funding acute care services which he says are to improve services make no reference at all to waiting lists. Yet, what Nova Scotians are experiencing is that the chances are getting greater and greater that you are going to spend a longer time on waiting lists and that that means that your health is in jeopardy. I would like to ask the minister, when will his bench-marks that talk about improving services, when will his bench-marks have some meaning by, in fact, setting a maximum waiting period for medical procedures?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question from the honourable gentleman opposite, I welcome it because it is presented with thoughtful care, I am sure. The issue of waiting lists is a major issue. Let me inform the honourable gentleman opposite that up until 1994 when we, in the Ministry of Health, elected to put in a new computer system and began to collect information, there was no information collected in terms of macro trends or data collected to involve waiting lists. I want to make it clear, however, that the issue of waiting lists is complex and I would like, perhaps, to beg the indulgence of the honourable member opposite to clarify what he means by waiting lists. Does he mean the waiting list in terms of a particular procedure? Might he want to know of the waiting list from time to consultation with specialists? Might he want to know the waiting list in terms of specialty to specials consult to operative procedure? Would he want to know waiting lists for elective or urgent procedure or emergency? So they are very complicated.
Let me say one thing, that we now have information over the year. We are monitoring it as one of our bench-marks. We have many bench-marks but this is one of them. One specialty, particularly, is very good at producing valid and reproducible data on waiting lists and we are very grateful for the cardiovascular surgical program which has national bench-marks. There are no equivalents in other specialties. So I would beg the indulgence of the member opposite, suffice it to say that our waiting lists are being monitored now since 1994 and I would certainly table results of those if he wishes.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, when it comes to cutting services, when it comes to cutting hospital beds, when it comes to laying off health care personnel, this minister and his government are incredibly clear minded when it comes to those issues. When it comes to dealing with the concerns about the level of health care . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Now come on, question.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . in our communities, concerns that Nova Scotians have . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . he does not seem to be able to answer specific questions.
Mr. Speaker, let's talk about hospital beds.
MR. SPEAKER: Let's ask questions.
MR. CHISHOLM: The minister has cut one-quarter of the hospital beds in this province by 1995-96. I would like to ask the minister what, in fact, it now means with this further reduction of health care personnel in the Province of Nova Scotia, what does it do to our system's ability to provide quality health care throughout our communities, throughout this province, to Nova Scotians who desperately deserve it and need it, Mr. Speaker?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am slightly confused by the honourable gentleman opposite who, at the one time, in fact committed himself in his Party's policy toward the transition that is recommended by the Blueprint Report towards community care, towards health care in the home and so on. Now he is concentrating on specific areas that I welcome. One would think that with the reduction of the number of beds, we would have a problem with access. The fact is that if you look at what has happened in the number of procedures that are targeted as indicators, we have increased the number by up to 12 per cent of the number of surgical procedures - take hip replacement, take bunion repair, take inguinal hernia repair, whatever you want, in terms of a bench-mark. If you want to know, in terms of the numbers, that is fine. If you wish to look at waiting lists, specifically for procedures and, by the way, specifically at different surgeons who have different wait lists, varying in this province from four weeks to 10 months. So we must be very specific and careful and we are doing that now.
I am happy to tell the honourable gentleman opposite that these bench-marks will be a function of the mechanism we use for the identification of change as the change progresses over the next three years so that we can now identify, we can now say that with the change in the certain number of hospital beds, we must not have any change in terms of access. I am pleased to report that in fact the access, when judged by number of procedures, is increasing whereas the number of actual beds is decreasing but the utilization of the beds that remain has become much more efficient.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, yes, our caucus did support the Blueprint on Health Care Reform in Nova Scotia and for the last 18 months we have demanded that this minister give us some information to prove that he is even following that blueprint.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that the final supplementary question?
MR. CHISHOLM: He failed repeatedly to do that because he is not following the blueprint and that is why . . .
MR. SPEAKER: That is not a supplementary question.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . we are getting into specifics here. I want to ask the minister, because he will not respond properly to our freedom of information request . . .
MR. SPEAKER: An accusation is not a question.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . will he give us the specifics, as we have requested on a number of occasion, will he provide us with the specifics of exactly where, with respect to the blueprint recommendations he, in fact, has done something and I mean providing services . . .
MR. SPEAKER: All right, thank you.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . in the community . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . to replace the services that are being cut and slashed in the hospitals?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Health has provided the report card on our progress and a timeframe, in fact, written by the very person who authored the Blueprint Report. I don't know how much clearer I can be. I keep telling the honourable member opposite, who appeared in the press saying there was no change in home care in this province and it stopped, there was no increase. He made this statement in the press and he either retracts that statement and recognizes the information that we have that 60 per cent more people are being served. I don't know how to explain it to him any clearer than that. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you, is for the Minister of Health. I want to say at the outset that I have nothing but the greatest admiration for health care professionals in this province, many of them stressed out, by the way, because of this minister's policies. I would ask the minister, with the further cuts coming, over $30 million in hospital cuts, and job cuts coming next year, will these reductions be made across the board? In other words, will there be hospital budget cuts from one end of this province to the other?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, that was the old way; just cut and slash. That is the Alberta way, the Ontario way, the Tory way. That is not this way, not the way that we have followed. We have targeted and we have been very cautious and careful in managing the change that must occur in this system which should, by the way, have occurred 10 years ago. It hasn't but it is coming along now. We have more information that can guide us, we have bench-marks that we can follow and I assure the honourable gentleman opposite that we will follow those.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, I can assure him they don't come across the board. They never came across the board for sure and I know that better than anyone because my hospital was cut. I know they come because of political reasons and not because of any rationale. I would ask this minister, where are the hospitals in this province that will receive no cuts?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the more pertinent question, I should think, was where are the communities that are going to benefit from the changes. I will say every one of them will. If we want to focus particularly on hospitals, well let's focus on hospitals and ask why are we doing more procedures in hospitals today than we did in 1992 and 1991? Why are we doing that? We are doing it because we are more efficiently managing the beds with the hard workers and the clinicians that are in those facilities that the honourable gentleman opposite so readily gives tribute to, and I would repeat the same.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is, I don't know who he is talking to. It is certainly not the hospital workers or the people using the system because they are not repeating what he is repeating. Last week I talked about the crisis in Yarmouth and the minister indicated he or his people would be meeting with the Yarmouth people because of the serious shortfall in funding and that staff are working beyond capacity. The minister gave us assurance that that situation would be dealt with and patient care would not suffer. Is the minister saying, is he committing today that this crisis that they have at Yarmouth and will have around the province is going to mean that he is going to ensure that they have adequate staff and not reductions to deal with the health care that is needed in those areas?
DR. STEWART: I have frequently, Mr. Speaker, given the undertaking to the gentleman opposite and also to all honourable members that indeed hospitals and health care in general in this province will have adequate resources and will, in fact, make the change necessary to provide the services. We are going to focus on service to the clients and to the people who need quality service in this province and I commit to that and I have no difficulty in doing so today.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East with an introduction.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the House, I would like to introduce to you senior high school students from Hants North Rural High in my district in Hants East. They are here with their leader, Lydia Shorfutton and I wonder if they would rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday the Minister of Health stated there were approximately 1.2 million health cards out to service a population of approximately 900,000 people in the Province of Nova Scotia and also that the system was being abused by people who are summer residents in this province. I wonder, in view of that, if the minister could advise the House what steps he is taking to stop this ripping off of the health care dollars by people who are not entitled to that care?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify what the honourable gentleman opposite has suggested. I was interviewed yesterday regarding the price of the health card. The honourable gentleman opposite drew our attention to a specific case and we are investigating and looking at that. I made the statement that in the old system with the paper cards there were 1.2 million cards in circulation - the paper cards, the old cards - and that the new health card had the number which was the same as the population of the province, about 900,000, and that we strongly suspected in the old cards there were more in circulation than needed because there was some misuse of those cards. I think that is relatively well accepted.
The extent to which this was done is, of course, not known but we have corrected that. In fact, the honourable gentleman opposite from Kings West initiated the change in the health card and his staff was very diligent and produced a new card that has many advantages to the system.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, okay, I am delighted to see that but I am wondering why, in view of that, the minister is still inferring that, indeed, there are still some transactions that take place within the system using health cards that need to be corrected. I was wondering why hasn't the minister given consideration to coming out with a photo ID card?
DR. STEWART: Again, Mr. Speaker, to clarify, I think the record would show that I said the new health card initiated in 1992-93 corrected the deficiencies of the old cards and that we did not have a problem with fraud as they did in New Brunswick. I would reiterate that today.
The question of a photo ID card has been raised. It was looked at, but the situation was that the system that was proposed was well advanced before 1993, when we came in, and we agreed to continue with that for at least the time being.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I was phoned by a gentleman this morning who operates a business manufacturing cards in the Halifax-Dartmouth area and he has stated he could provide for the Department of Health a photo ID card complete with magnetic strip and all the bells and whistles, for something less than $5 per copy. I was wondering, would the minister give any consideration to contacting that company and perhaps putting in place a photo ID card for the health care system?
DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, in due regard to the issue here, I might say that I wish he had come forward to the honourable gentleman when he was on this side of the House, in order that we avail ourselves of this potential $5 million purchase. We continued with the card as it had been designated in 1992-93, because of the cost of reversing the decision; we did not want to do that and we will rest on that for the moment.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: My question is for the Minister of Education. I notice, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, that as of this morning the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, in a press statement or a press media advisory, indicated that "contrary to some news reports today teachers in Nova Scotia will vote to strike Friday, November 15. As of Thursday, November 16, no settlement has been reached with government regarding issues in Bill No. 39.".
My question to the minister is whether or not he will tell this House whether arrangements have, in fact, been made to respond in any way, shape or form to questions and concerns put by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and if, by chance, the union is right and the attempts at negotiation should fall flat on its face, will this minister indicate here today what contingency plans he has devised to ensure that there would be no interruption of the teaching and learning process in our province's schools in the event that a strike might, unfortunately, actually face the public school system? What contingency plans are in place or being planned?
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question and I can report to him and to all members of the House that the dialogue is continuing. What the notice refers to is that the Executive of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is meeting on Saturday and it is their position that no agreement is reached until that executive meets and makes a final decision.
I can report to the honourable member that as we are working our way through issues, we have agreement between the lawyers and the staff that are involved on most issues that, in fact, we have language that first of all covers the intent that the bill speaks to and at the same time language that gives comfort to the Nova Scotia Teachers Union as of 11:00 a.m. this morning.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, the minister and I were engaged in discussion along the lines of the issue which I now want to raise with him and I would, with your indulgence, like to ask the Minister of Education again, I will preface it so he cannot be misunderstanding what it is that I would like to have access to and what I believe all members of this House have a right and an entitlement to have access to. I am not asking that the minister commit to provide to me or any member of this House the full text of whatever it is the minister will say to the Law Amendments Committee next Monday. But I am asking this minister if he will give a commitment to this House that he will provide to all members of this House, not later than the same time he provides them to the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the School Boards Association, Federation of Home and School Associations and the home schoolers and all of those organizations with whom he has made commitments to make legislative changes, will the minister commit here today that the specifics and detail of the changes which he will recommend to the Law Amendments Committee on Monday, relative to the concerns raised by those various issues, will be shared with each member of this Legislature simultaneous with them being delivered to the organizations and the individuals with whom the minister is dealing and to whom the minister is attempting to respond?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, the line of questioning of the honourable member has me a bit confused. I think the way it works is this, that Law Amendments Committee gives the public a chance to get involved in this debate, that is what in fact it does. Then we come back to this House and honourable members on that side and this side of the House actually discuss every item that is involved. The direction that this House gave me and very clearly in specific language, that I spend this week talking to those communities that are out there, finding their concerns and seeing if we can address those without changing the intent of the bill, that is my understanding.
If the intent of the bill were to change and the principles were to change we would have to bring it back to second reading, that is my understanding. The commitment I gave to the honourable member yesterday was that I would give him a report of what we have heard and the things we are responding to and we will make sure that we have that. Whether that member will be satisfied will be his decision but he will get every opportunity from the due process to speak to each and every proposal and the conclusions of the Law Amendments Committee, that is how it works.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, the minister stands and says that is how it works. Well, I take it what he is saying is that the process, as he believes it works, is that it is completely appropriate and legitimate for a minister to introduce a piece of legislation here, engage in second reading debate with all of us members of the Opposition on the principle of the bill, attempting to address concerns about the principle of the bill. Following that process, this minister then goes off and has behind closed door discussions with organizations who are not represented on the floor of this House, as are all of us as legislators. This minister is prepared, apparently, to share specific language and detail as to the amendments he proposes to make to the Law Amendments Committee with these other individuals and organizations and I here am saying that he is not prepared to share those with us simultaneous with him providing them to the other organizations. (Interruption) Well, I hear, so what. The point, obviously, is that an organization not represented here on the floor of the Legislature has advance knowledge and, indeed, perhaps even veto power or acceptance power of proposals which this minister will make. Those of us who are elected by the people of Nova Scotia to attempt to understand and respond and produce the best piece of legislation we can, frankly, are playing catch-up.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that the final supplementary? Because you can take a new question if you wish to pursue this.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, therefore, ask this minister, when is it that he will provide all members of this Legislature with whatever package of materials he proposes to make available to us, relative to the timing of his presentation to the Law Amendments Committee?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to all members of the House, through you, I was on the Law Amendments Committee for five years. I remember, in fact, bills that came across; I remember one in particular in which at the beginning of it the deputy minister arrived with so many amendments that it basically changed the bill. I think the honourable member was part of the Law Amendments Committee at that time and they did that.
I don't ever, in my five years in Opposition, remember them sharing anything with us at any time; nothing. In fact, we would go to the Law Amendments Committee to be surprised by amendments, and then we would be in Committee of the Whole House on Bills and they would arrive with a raft of amendments that we had never seen before. They weren't presented to the Law Amendments Committee for consideration, they arrived here underlined, and most of our time was spent trying to discover what it was they had done between there and here.
Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the honourable member is speaking out of both sides of his mouth here. This House has asked me to go to the people who are very concerned about the bill. My intention and the direction this House gave me was to make this bill as strong as possible by listening to those who have great concerns. I will continue to do that. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. As he well knows, at the Public Accounts Committee last week there was quite a discussion on resort hotels and there were a lot of questions asked. You attempted to tell the media, sir, that the three resort hotels had made a profit of, roughly, I think, $498,000 during the past year. The Auditor General went on to say that the present bookkeeping system being used, he didn't even want to hazard a guess as to whether there was a profit or loss being incurred.
On CBC last week, you stated that you were prepared to do whatever you could to make the ledgers much clearer. Can the minister inform Nova Scotians today what steps he has taken since that last meeting to tell us how to improve the financial situation at the resort hotels?
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. The final statement was, what have I done to make the financial situation better? I would just restate that we have 450 employees and three resorts under, what I would consider, high-quality management, doing a great service for the tourists to this province, who have by either accounting procedure turned what was a non-profit operation into a profit-making operation.
The reason I can say that with confidence, and would stand behind the statements, made in the press, to which he referred, is simply because if you use the industry standard, then you depreciate capital costs over a period of time. What we are obligated to do by this Legislature is account for the public expenditures as if the operations of a corporate entity -those hotels - were a government department. In such an auditing process, we are unable to account or depreciate capital costs.
As the member opposite will full well know, capital cost depreciation over a 10 year period only improves the position that was stated at the meeting last week. We have, specifically, been in touch with the Auditor General to ask him by what process he would like us to account for these numbers, in an annex or a Supplement to the Public Accounts, by what process and procedure he would like us to bring together numbers under one roof, to his satisfaction. We are pleased and prepared to do that, and as soon as that is complete in Public Accounts - where we will be returning, I understand, to indicate capital costs for the past 10 years - we will be pleased to report it both the way we were instructed to do it now under Finance and under the present rules of auditing in this province and also using industry standards.
MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am not questioning the benefits of the three resort hotels in the province. Under former Premier Cameron we had suggested we would sell them, you people made the decision to keep them, that's fine. But let's get them on a business-like basis. I don't think there is any great trouble, there are all kinds of auditors across this province who are quite capable of auditing those books, or any other books as far as that goes. Supply and Services spent $34,000 in maintenance and $294,000 on The Pines golf course. That is not even included. When will the minister have better information available for us and improve the situation?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member opposite was at Public Accounts, so I can't comment on whether the information provided was provided directly to him. Let's talk about a business-like basis. Let's look at the record of the Opposition in terms of their business-like (Interruptions) And we hear first from the member for Kings North, the former Chairman of the Management Board who would heckle on the action of this government in regard to business-like basis. Let's take a look first of all at the management strategy of these hotels. We have three superb managers, we have 450 people who are turning a profit, either by industry standard accounting or, in fact, by the way public accounting is done in this province.
I will not presume to know why our department is forced to account for a business operation in the manner in which it does. The instructions have been clear, we will bring all expenditures under one roof. We will ask the Auditor General by what standard he would like us to report, as an annex to the Public Accounts or directly to him for that matter. We will take great pleasure, in my opinion, in reporting to Public Accounts, as we have been asked to do, the profit and loss statement of the hotels in 1995 and we will stack them up against the Opposition's business-like approach to those three resorts over the last 10 years, Mr. Speaker.
MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the minister is going to be able to report to the Public Accounts Committee and to show us that they made a profit. I will be the first fellow to congratulate you if they do. They are very important tourist attractions in this province. I think it is important that - maybe if I can make a suggestion, Mr. Speaker, to the minister - that this government has consultants on various things that they have been doing, the Department of Transportation and whatever and whatever, perhaps the minister should consider taking some consultants in there and looking at the operations to see if there are ways they can streamline and do a better job. They are beautiful resources. Would the minister consider that?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, in a business-like manner, we have already considered that. In fact, in The Pines alone, the food and beverage statistics were such that we brought in the finest consultants in Canada to help improve the profit margin of the food and beverage portion of The Pines. Dollars well spent, money well spent and, in fact, the improvements are showing up in the bottom line.
The industry standard, roughly speaking this year, by receipts to date is about 7 per cent. All three resorts exceed the industry standard for growth in the province. All three managers visit one another's location to look at the opportunity for bringing in consultants to further refine the process.
I challenge the members opposite and I understand that this member opposite is probably reading from some prepared question, but clearly if what we are going to be judged by are business standards, whether it is in Finance in terms of the operations of the books of this province, in Education in terms of dealing with federal transfer cuts to community colleges, whether it is in any department of government, (Interruptions) In Health in terms of focusing on health results and measuring the investment of taxpayers' dollars in health results, then I would put this government's performance on business standards up against that government's performance any day of the week. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, that minister missed his calling, he should be on the Vision Channel. (Laughter)
Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation. Two days ago, a potentially dangerous situation arose between Digby Neck and the Islands with respect to, apparently, a power failure on the ferry, Joe Casey. I wonder if the minister could advise the House and through the House advise the people in that part of Nova Scotia more precisely what the source of the problem was and what steps he has taken to resolve that problem?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, yes, we had a very serious situation two days ago, one that the department has taken very seriously. We had a new ferry in the Digby area several months ago and since the ferry has been put in we have experienced several problems with it and we have been dealing with them.
The original problems, of course, dealt with the steering thrusters and the fact that they would stall at periods of low revolutions, particularly when docking. Working with the designers and the manufacturers we think we have identified the solution to that problem with a modulating clutch solution, which would allow the clutch to slip at times of low revolution.
What happened two days ago, there was an electrical power surge which, in fact, did not trip the engines, as was previously reported but, in fact, once again caused a failure in the electronic steering thrusters.
The ferry has been taken out of service, we are working again with the manufacturer's people. This is under warranty and they are responsible for it, to find the source of the problem, the reasons for that, and to identify a solution. They are already working to develop a power surge protector for both high and low voltage and will continue to work. We have made a commitment that the boat will not go back in the water until there is a high level of satisfaction that the safety concerns have been addressed. Safety is the number one issue with this.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister would arrange for a high level member of his staff to go to that area to meet with concerned citizens to relay this important message to them directly?
MR. MANN: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member, the MLA for Digby-Annapolis, has met with me, I believe, on three occasions since Tuesday to address some of his concerns and other concerns in the community that have been brought forward. I have already met with my senior staff this morning to pass on some of those concerns and to insist and to ensure that the boat will not go back until we are satisfied that we have back-up systems in place, that we will not have failures that will knock out important equipment.
I do want to say that the captain of the vessel acted very professionally and competently. There were anchors and sufficient cable on board which could have been deployed, if necessary. He contacted the Coast Guard immediately, which was in sight and saw this problem.
I will have senior staff meet with people in the area and if it is agreeable to the member opposite and to the member for Digby-Annapolis, perhaps we can arrange such a meeting through the honourable MLA for Digby-Annapolis.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired. Is there an introduction?
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I was going to do it when I started the debate on the bill, but I would be happy to do it now.
We have in our gallery today, approximately 30 students who are students at the Scotia Career Academy which is located in Sackville. They are enrolled in the paralegal program at the school. They are accompanied by their instructor, Shawn Scott. They are here to not only do the tour and take in part of Question Period, but also to follow some of the other proceedings going on in the Legislature this afternoon. So I would like to ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of all members of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Now we are moving on to the order of business, Government Business.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 33.
Bill No. 33 - Internal Trade Agreement Implementation Act.
MR. SPEAKER: Now the debate on this matter had been adjourned by the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party who has up to 45 minutes remaining on second reading.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to make a few more remarks on the bill this afternoon. I am not sure that I will use the whole 45 minutes but, you know me, sometimes as I get wrapped up in a few of the issues I tend to wax on.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the legislation we have before us is, in many regards, a sleeper. People don't realize exactly what the implications are of this particular piece of legislation. They don't understand, unfortunately, nor are they given the details. For example, when people are trying to find out what legislation is before this House, and if they had asked for a copy of Bill No. 33, an Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, they would have received this bill with 26 clauses, four pages in length, with very little or in fact, nothing in the way of explanatory notes, but what they would not have received is - yes, you are holding it up, Mr. Speaker - the huge agreement that this actually puts in place.
That is the meat and the substance. Over 200 pages, over 1,800 clauses that will have major implications for business and for Nova Scotians and Canadians as a whole. When people go to the Law Amendments Committee down the hall, to discuss the bill, and propose changes, all, Mr. Speaker, they will be able to talk about is that very thin piece of legislation. They will have absolutely no opportunity to suggest and to try to receive changes in the agreement that this piece of legislation will have the effect of ratifying.
When the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency introduced this bill in the House, one would have believed that it was the best invention and the best thing that happened since sliced bread. This is the salvation, the saviour, for Canadian business, for Nova Scotia, that is going to be opening up the opportunities by removing all of the trade barriers. What the minister didn't talk about, what he doesn't mention, is that Nova Scotia is the first and the only province, by legislation, to actually ratify this agreement. All other jurisdictions that have dealt with this agreement have not ratified that agreement in their legislation which is a clear indication that the other jurisdictions have difficulties with that agreement.
Nobody is opposed, Mr. Speaker, to liberalizing trade. Nobody in this House, on any side, have I heard say that they are opposed to opening up trade between provinces, opening up the exchange and making it easier for people, for goods and services and trade to go across the country. Nobody certainly is opposed to economic opportunities coming to Nova Scotia that can create jobs, but other provinces have concerns with that agreement and are seeking some changes, as we in Nova Scotia should as well.
Other provinces, Mr. Speaker, are not prepared, and in fact, New Brunswick, that this government likes to model itself after and always holds up as the example, has said that they don't even need to introduce legislation to put into effect that agreement, nor do we. Other provinces have not made, as this government has, consequential amendments to other pieces of legislation that are going to remove from their provincial Legislatures the opportunities to have policies that favour their constituents, their people in their province.
Nova Scotia is prepared. The Liberal Government, here in Nova Scotia, probably because the federal red team, the Liberal Party in Ottawa, gave them the marching orders and therefore here in Nova Scotia since the federal Liberals gave them the marching orders, the local Liberals down here in government decide that we have to jump on board and we have to do what we are told. (Interruptions) The member for Colchester North wants me to speak up. Sometimes when I speak up too loudly, Speakers tell me to sit down so that they can advise me that I should calm down and tone down. When I get like that maybe what they should do is turn the microphone on across the floor so that you are not getting the full blast from mine right in front of me.
However, the reality is here in Nova Scotia what is happening is that the provincial government is abdicating its responsibility, it is giving up control to the federal government. Other jurisdictions have laid out very specific procedures as is the case with even right-wing Alberta, even Klein's Government in Alberta, laid out very specific procedures for those who want to appeal and have problems and feel that they have a complaint with the way that this is working - for the Ombudsman and the procedures that are to be followed. Nova Scotia's bill does not do that. It says there will be an Ombudsman but as in keeping with the Liberal way here in Nova Scotia, all of those details we members of this House don't have to concern ourselves with because, of course, the government can do all of that by Order in Council, by regulations. Just like in the Education Act all of the powers go to somebody else rather than having those being debated in a public forum.
When one takes a look at this bill that is before us, serious questions are being raised as to what kind of impact that will have even upon the interpretation of our Constitution. Clause 92 of the Canadian Constitution, our Constitution, gives provinces the right and the control over trade and commerce within their boundaries. With this legislation, we are abdicating that, we are giving that to the federal government and we are giving the federal government the ability to retaliate against Nova Scotia and to assess costs against Nova Scotia if they deem that we are violating their agreement.
There are times when you need to have policies. The Minister of Supply and Services should know this as well, that there are times when decisions are made by government for very specific economic reasons and that the lowest cost is not always the best and only reason to make decisions. For example, I think the Minister of Supply and Services may be wanting to stand and ask a question in a moment and if he does, I will welcome it.
MADAM SPEAKER: If he is, I will recognize him.
MR. HOLM: I just wanted to be helpful as I am getting some vibes from across the floor.
I am going to deal with a few specific industries first. There is a great deal of concern right now for thousands of jobs in the Province of Nova Scotia, not jobs here in the metro area but jobs because people who are working and bringing in good pay cheques benefit all Nova Scotians. I am referring to the coal industry in Cape Breton.
Nova Scotia right now has the ability, this government has the ability to instruct Nova Scotia Power that they have to purchase their fuel supplies from Nova Scotia, they have that ability, and they can even have a mechanism through the Utility and Review Board to ensure that price structure is a fair price structure.
Thousands of people depend directly and indirectly upon those jobs, not only the miners, not only the miners' families, those who are involved in the transport of the coal, the washing of the coal, the administrative side, but also the other businesses in the communities where those miners and their families and all of those who are involved and related directly to the mining industry spend their hard-earned money. So, those who work in stores in those communities, those who are in the construction trades, even the municipalities benefit because those people are employed and are able to pay their taxes. That is a major economic benefit to the Province of Nova Scotia.
If this legislation and this agreement go through, there are questions whether Nova Scotia will still have the ability to make those kinds of edicts. There are very serious questions whether or not, now, some other company could argue, we can supply product cheaper, we are being discriminated against and according to the agreement you cannot do that and, therefore, those resources can be brought in from off-shore, or another part of the country.
Madam Speaker, there are also major concerns, if this goes through, how does that then impact with NAFTA, with the free trade agreement, with the world trade organization agreements? And there are very real concerns being raised that we will lose our ability to have our standards, to set our environmental and our health and safety standards because these other companies can argue, if the standards here are higher than they are in some other countries, who could have a branch office here in Canada, that that is placing unfair restrictions in their way. It is very unclear, according to this legislation and this agreement, that we will still have control and be able to have that kind of control.
Health care, is that seen as an unfair advantage, a cost advantage? Can this be used as one more assault on universal Medicare? If one takes a look at the legislation, under the Consequential Amendments, if you take a look at the Acts that are being revised, the Civil Service Act, where preferential treatments could have been given, now they are removing the section by striking out, reside in the province. Now it has changed to all of Canada.
If one takes a look at the Gas Utilities Act, sections of that Act are being removed and new provisions added that take away the ability of the Nova Scotia Legislature - that is you and I, Madam Speaker, and all of our colleagues in this House - to try to set policies that are in the best interests of Nova Scotians. You know, that is who I was elected to represent. I wasn't elected to represent the interests of British Columbia or Alberta or Ontario, I was elected to represent the interests of Nova Scotians. Madam Speaker, that is not saying that in any way I want to try to inflict pain or hardship or to put roadblocks in the way for the trading of goods and services and people to any of those provinces. But I would suggest, and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities have some concerns even with the Minister of Supply and Services' procurement policies and the amounts.
Well, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is on top of everything, says, what does it have to do with this bill? Well, Madam Speaker, maybe once you take a look at the letters from the UNSM and take a look at the amounts and those amounts and the municipalities, the hospitals, the universities and all those public facilities in the Province of Nova Scotia will be covered. Although they were never consulted by this agreement, they will be covered by it. That will mean that municipalities across the Province of Nova Scotia can find themselves in a situation where, if there is a struggling small business in their community that is providing jobs in that community, with a little bit of help by directing business in that way, they may be able to maintain those jobs, whether it be in Canso, Dartmouth, Yarmouth, Glace Bay or you name it, this agreement may be able to be used to prevent that from happening because they will be covered by that.
I know that meetings were held with the Minister of Supply and Services and I know that the Minister of Municipal Affairs also attended. I am sure she gave them the great answers that she normally does. In the letter of June 16th they wrote, and this is from the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, "The UNSM is also concerned with current Federal/Provincial negotiations on removing inter-provincial trade barriers. These negotiations will have a major impact on municipal governments and yet municipal government in Nova Scotia has not been included in any discussions. Our Association is the only municipal body across Canada not to be consulted by Provincial representatives.". Those are not my words, Madam Speaker, those are the words of the former President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities in her letter to one Honourable Gerald J. O'Malley, Minister, Department of Supply and Services, dated June 16, 1995.
It also went on to say, Madam Speaker, "This is totally unacceptable.". Of course it is the Liberal Government's way because this government has not been providing advance consultation on virtually anything that it has been trying to do with municipalities or the UNSM prior to the edict already happening.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Supply and Services.
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Madam Speaker, the bill under debate on the floor of the House at this point in time is Bill No. 33. I think the honourable member has made reference to Bill C-88, a bill before the House of Commons. The honourable member is very much aware, or at least he should be, or he could be if he bothered to be, he could make himself aware of the fact that Bill C-88 is addressable by the FCM, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. They are the body who have addressed themselves to Bill C-88 in the House of Commons. So I think he has his bills mixed up and his information mixed up.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. I would just comment that that is an opinion but it is not a point of order.
MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I have to tell you that the minister's opinion is partly correct. The part that is correct is that Bill C-88 was a federal bill. I was talking here, as the President of the UNSM was, in the letter, if the minister cared to listen and read his correspondence, it was about the negotiations about the removal of the inter-provincial trade barriers.
What we have before us is Bill No. 33, not Bill C-88. This is the bill that was introduced in this House, the Legislature of Nova Scotia, by his seatmate: An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade. Madam Speaker, as I am sure you are aware, if the minister is not, that bill is planning to ratify the agreement, the negotiations between the federal and provincial governments on internal trade for which there was absolutely zero consultation between the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and the provincial government before the province adopted that, as said in this letter, which according to them is totally unacceptable. It says, "The current proposals will establish tendering thresholds and report responsibilities. The benefits of these proposals are unclear to the UNSM. At the recent Conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), it was agreed by resolution that municipal governments oppose the thresholds and the reporting responsibilities.". (Interruption)
Oh, I very much understand, Madam Speaker, that there were discussions at the federal level with the federal bill, but I also understand - to Mr. Heckle over here - that the president of the union said in the letter - and if the minister disagrees with this, maybe the minister would like to take it up and challenge the former President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities - she has pointed out in that letter that, "Our Association . . .", that is the UNSM, ". . . is the only municipal body across Canada not to be consulted by Provincial representatives.".
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I would like to direct you back to the bill because you are getting repetitive. Please carry on.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I shouldn't be repetitive, that is true. However, I am sure that you can understand how I was drawn offside by some incorrect information that was being heckled across the floor. But I will go back to the bill before I get myself into more trouble.
Madam Speaker, when one takes a look at decisions and policies that governments take, I know it is hard for this bunch to understand but the bottom line for their corporate friends is not the only consideration. Governments have responsibilities to ensure that economic policies also benefit, and primarily benefit I might add, the citizens, not just the shareholders, like those of Nova Scotia Power, the majority of whom are in the States and elsewhere. . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I hesitate to interrupt you but you are imputing motives now that this bill is designed to help a certain group of friends of government and I don't think that is a correct utilization of your privileges in this House to cast that aspersion on other honourable members in the House.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I understand what you are saying, but I have been listening attentively to my honourable colleague's remarks and I believe it is correct that he was not imputing motive to any member of this House but perhaps to some who are outside this place and who may be friends of some in this House and I think that is a distinction with a difference.
MADAM SPEAKER: Well, there may be a distinction with a difference but just for the edification of all of us, Beauchesne does very clearly state that it will not be permitted by a speaker to indulge in reflections on the House itself as a political institution or to impute to any member or members unworthy motives for their actions in a particular case. I am just trying to draw the debate back now to the principle of the bill. I thank you for your point, it isn't a point of order.
MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I am not quite sure if I was rebuked or if I wasn't rebuked.
MADAM SPEAKER: But it was done nicely.
MR. HOLM: I will try to live up to the spirit of your ruling or the advice that you gave me. I wasn't trying to say any members of the particular government benches, what I am trying to get across is that we have major pressures in this country. We have major pressures in the country to be making assaults on basic social programs, whether that be health, education or the social safety net. The pressures to do that are coming from not the citizens and people of the country who value Medicare, who value a high education system but those pressures are coming from certain selective business groups, like the Manufacturers Association, the major banks, the same groups that the minister quoted and talked about supporting this agreement and this bill.
If one takes a look at the costs of running government now, versus a little over 30 years ago, let's go back 35 years ago and how the monies were raised to do that. In 1960 individuals and small business paid about 50 per cent of the cost of providing government services. Industry and business on their tax base paid approximately the same. Now those figures have switched. It is now 92 per cent for individuals and 8 per cent for those major corporations. When you hear those same ones who have benefitted so much with major increased profits being the ones who are pushing this, one has to just step back a little bit, I think it is only reasonable to step back and say, what is the motivation and who is going to benefit from that?
There are major concerns that the federal bill could have an effect on Canada's international obligations and that the standards would likely become the standards of treatment required under the NAFTA that they be given to nationals of other NAFTA parties. I have to ask do we as Canadians and do we as Nova Scotians want, unless we understand all of the implications - and to the best of my knowledge no cost-benefit analysis for Nova Scotia has been done on this agreement - do we want to compromise our ability to control the standards for health and safety in the Province of Nova Scotia and leave ourselves in a position where some company can file a complaint against Nova Scotia through the federal government and where the federal government may feel compelled to use their powers to order the deal? Is that what we want?
Here we are at a time when this government and provincial Premiers across this country, unfortunately, are pushing for decentralization. They want more powers for their provincial Legislatures; they want the federal government to give them increased control over where the dollars that are transferred are going to be spent. So, Madam Speaker, no longer will the dollars that come from health care be tied to health care or for post-secondary education or for social safety programs. Instead, the provinces are going to get that in a lump sum, so the provinces can decide that if they want, health care dollars can be used for transportation because they are not tied. We can pave a road before an election if that means more votes. Standards can be compromised.
At the time that the provinces are looking for increased power, here Nova Scotia is saying they want to give up to a federal government that isn't treating Canadians all that well, thank you very much, in terms of trying to maintain proper standards across the country, they want to give up that power to that. We have a federal minister who, I think it is next week or next month, I can't remember the exact dates but I did hear that the federal minister on trade is going to be leading a delegation to try to get international standards and to make it so that no government can refuse investments from any country or any company from around the world. So we can lose, if the federal government gets their way, our ability as Nova Scotians and Canadians, to say thank you very much, Mr. Company, your record on health and safety, your record on the environment, your record on human rights is so deplorable, the way you treat your workers, that we will not permit you in the country. The federal government wants that power, that ability, done away with.
Madam Speaker, I believe very strongly that obviously what we need to have is a great deal more time to evaluate the consequences of this legislation. We need more time to see what the ramifications are for Nova Scotians. We need an opportunity to find out what it is going to actually mean for Nova Scotians under the consequential agreements, for example. One of the things that we talk about all the time, of course, has to do with tourism. According to this bill now obviously you will be able to be a tour guide in Nova Scotia if you registered anywhere in the country. That ability is going to be there.
How is that going to affect the tourists and the tourist industry and also the guiding industry here in the Province of Nova Scotia? Will that mean now that there are going to be jobs lost? There are going to be changes to the Pipelines Act, Madam Speaker, by striking out references to Nova Scotians and simply inserting residents of Canada. So if, in fact, some gas comes onshore, the only benefits we could have said we could be sure of would be that there would have been some jobs in that construction phase for Nova Scotians.
Now, Madam Speaker, this government is prepared to say they are willing to give us that assurance to give preferential treatment to Nova Scotians. We are also giving up, according to this, Madam Speaker, under the Mineral Resources Act, which deals with sections about processing, to change after the "Province", "to any place outside of Canada". Major jobs are created in the secondary processing of our resources. It would appear that we need to have time and Nova Scotians need to have time to be able to evaluate.
I can remember this government, when they were over on this side, being very critical of the former government over gypsum, and about all of the jobs that could have been created here in Nova Scotia if the gypsum we were exporting from our ports, from manufacturing elsewhere, if that was being done here in Nova Scotia. Madam Speaker, it would appear from this bill that this government is, again, prepared to give up its ability to have control over where and how the resources that belong to the people of Nova Scotia can be processed to create wealth here in the Province of Nova Scotia so that the people can pay taxes, pay funds into the coffers of the Government of Nova Scotia so that we can maintain our programs and services, rather than simply eliminating, cutting and slashing, burning without plans.
The attitude of this government is, quite obviously, whether it is in Education or Health or you name it, they will do their planning and their plan is that after crises develop in communities, then you put in place some kind of a bandage to resolve that issue. That isn't good planning, that isn't good for the people of Nova Scotia. I believe this bill, or as importantly the agreement that goes with it, deserves the detailed evaluation and assessment by the people of this province and, therefore, I am going to have a great deal of difficulty supporting this bill at this stage.
I know I have a few minutes left, Madam Speaker. I won't trespass upon the good auspices and graces of the Speaker by being repetitious and going over and recapping some of the points I have made already. Suffice it to say, I think this whole matter - because of the major implications for the economy and the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, as we had also no social or economic benefit analysis done by this government or presented by this government - I don't believe this legislation deserves to be supported at this time. Thank you very much.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.
MR. CHARLES MACARTHUR: Madam Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention today, and to the attention of all the members in the House, seated in your gallery is my very capable constituency assistant, Daria Beddow. She is accompanied by her husband and her son, Justin. I would ask the House to give them a warm hand. (Applause)
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, free trade and its antithesis, protectionism, have been debated, I suppose, ever since governments were first constituted by humankind. We should not find it surprising that there would be varieties of opinion within this Chamber in our time, respecting those two phenomena, which are certainly incompatible with each other. I think we should remind ourselves that protectionism, not infrequently, has resulted in not only conflict with respect to trade, but indeed, from time to time, has extended itself into armed conflict as well.
Just by way of a small history lesson, we might all remind ourselves that one of the intolerable acts which was listed by the 13 colonies in 1776 was the Navigation Acts. Of course the Navigation Acts were designed by Great Britain to restrict trade and to throw a level of protectionism around the British Empire which had the effect, at least in part, of causing the colonies in this case, most particularly the New England colonies, not to have their economies grow as rapidly as they potentially could. So while the 17th Century and the 18th Century were periods of growing protectionism, it was consequent to the Napoleonic Wars that protectionism began to be viewed as being contrary to the public interest. The result of that debate was the repeal, in 1846, by Sir Robert Peel's Government of the corn laws and the opening up of free trade within the British Empire.
That free trade decision, because of the tremendous economic and industrial strength of Great Britain at that time and of her colonies, including, of course, her colonies in British North America, they were able to force trade barriers down in other parts of the world and thereby free up world trade. In fact, free trade became to be seen to be of such great importance that in 1854 Canada and the United States entered into the first free trade agreement, the Reciprocity Treaty which was passed that year; the Reciprocity Treaty which was up for renewal in the 1860's and, unfortunately, faltered on the bad feelings that resulted from certain relationships between Canada and Great Britain and the United States, consequent to the American Civil War.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I am finding the history lesson very intriguing, but I am sorry, I have to rein you in to debate the principle of the bill.
MR. LEEFE: Well that is exactly where I am headed, Madam Speaker. One must have a framework . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Well I think that 100 years of heading is probably not appropriate to the principle.
MR. LEEFE: Well I knew you were not old enough to remember, but I thought some others in this Chamber might be able to . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: You may want to withdraw your impolite remark.
MR. LEEFE: At any rate, Madam Speaker, in our time we have moved to free up trade through the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs; through the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which is referenced by the minister in his remarks; through the North American Free Trade Agreement, which may well be expanded between Canada and the United States and Mexico and to other Latin American countries in the Western Hemisphere; and as recently as yesterday, through APEC, the Asia-Pacific economic cooperative group which seeks to establish a free trade zone within the Pacific Rim nations by 2010 for developed nations, and in 2020 for those that are deemed to be developing nations. That all flows out of Canada's responsibility as a partner, indeed a member, of the worldwide trade organization.
Now that sets the tone for this legislation. This legislation is very clearly intended to complement, within the bounds of our country of Canada, the initiatives that we have taken as a nation - I might say principally under a Progressive Conservative national government -to work towards the freeing up of free trade to ensure that the world economy grows, and to ensure that Canadians have ample and fair opportunity to participate in world economic growth.
It is absolutely essential for us to understand that when we talk about free trade, we must also ensure that we are simultaneously and at least implicitly, if not explicitly, meaning fair trade. Free trade and fair trade must be one in the same. We have before us a relatively innocuous looking little piece of legislation: 4 pages, 26 clauses. The minister spoke very briefly to the legislation. He outlined what he saw as the purpose of the legislation, which certainly catches up the principle of it.
Unfortunately, in his rather brief introductory remarks, the minister did not give us any indication as to upon what bases he has determined that this legislation will in fact do what he purports it will do and what its framers purport it will do. It seems to me in reviewing his words in Hansard, he is asking us to smile and be happy, to sit back and relax, that we can be assured that this legislation is good for Nova Scotia. I hope he is right because I assume that amended or not amended, this legislation will eventually pass this House in third reading. Even though some of us may be afraid that he is not entirely correct in his assessment, we must all hope that he is right and we are wrong for indeed if we are right and he is wrong, then all Nova Scotians will suffer as a result.
This legislation, the minister tells us, is complementary legislation, it complements legislation which will be passed by the other nine provinces, by the two territories and by the Government of Canada. I wonder - and the minister has not addressed this, at least I don't see it addressed in his remarks in the Chamber - if the minister has determined if in order to ensure that the same laws are passed with respect to internal trade in all of the ten provinces, the two territories and by the federal government, that the legislation must simply be complementary and must be compatible with, of course, the legislation of the other jurisdictions.
In other words, is it sufficient that the legislation conforms with the other jurisdictions? I don't know the answer to this question and I am hoping that the minister will respond to it when he closes debate. Or is it essential in order to ensure that the law is clear and is equally and fairly applied to all jurisdictions, that the legislation be uniform, saving and excepting those sections which require each of the provinces and the two territories and the federal government to repeal and/or amend certain legislation which is in their respective Statutes. I think it is a fairly simple question and I would hope that the minister would be able to respond to it. I suspect that the answer may be rather more complex than the simple question itself would suggest.
We know, Madam Speaker, that this legislation is intended to ensure that we develop a greater economic partnership between each other with the breaking down of inter-provincial trade barriers. Certainly my view and the view of my constituents, I believe, certainly the view of my caucus colleagues, is that that is a goal which is in the public interest to pursue. But I think it is also absolutely essential to say that it is in the public interest to pursue that goal only if it will assure us beyond any reasonable doubt that it will result in us being full partners in the national economy and that it will not relegate us to a position where we are the hewers of wood and drawers of water within the national economy. The minister must assure us as Nova Scotians, all Nova Scotians, that this legislation will result in greater economic opportunity for them as residents of this province as well as citizens of Canada.
I mentioned a moment ago, Madam Speaker, that this relatively innocuous bill is only four pages in length. At first blush, one, upon looking at it, would assume that its brevity belies its content but in fact, its brevity does not in any way belie the content of the bill. For in order to understand the bill one must turn to a 220 page document, the Agreement on Internal Trade. To read this document provides only a brief glimpse into what it is intended the document do. In order to understand the intent of this document, one must turn to this very comprehensive, often complex, Agreement on Internal Trade.
For those in the Chamber or indeed for those outside who take an interest in economic matters and I think that is most Nova Scotians, I would urge you to acquire a copy of the agreement and at least peruse it if not read it from beginning to end. For example, this legislation will have a far-reaching impact not only on the general economy of Nova Scotia but on the economies of each and every city, town, village and rural community in this province for it applies, among other things, to procurement. Procurement by governments, not just the Government of Nova Scotia but by governments, the municipal governments being the creatures of the provincial government and therefore being bound by any agreement which the province signs respecting government procurement.
It deals with the entire matter of investment. Investment is absolutely critical if we are going to cause our economy to expand and to grow into the 21st Century. What we want to make sure is that in signing this agreement, we advantage Nova Scotians with respect to investment and that we do not inadvertently disadvantage them.
Labour mobility is a fact of life in the modern global economy and it is essential that Nova Scotians have the opportunity to participate in the degree of mobility allowed in the contemporary economy but it is also essential that Nova Scotians not be displaced or be disadvantaged as a result of mobility allowed others into our economy. Again, it must not only be free trade it must be fair trade.
The whole area of agricultural and food groups causes some considerable difficulty with respect to negotiations. I suppose one need only look, for example, at the European Economic Community to see how vexatious the whole matter of protectionism with respect to agricultural and food groups has been there to understand why it is difficult for those who have drafted this agreement and who have signed it and who now put forward the legislation in their respective Parliaments, have found it to come to grips with this particular aspect of free trade between the provinces and territories of Canada.
Alcoholic beverages is another area and we have seen how the reduction in trade barriers can dramatically impact the industrial side of the alcoholic beverage industry. I don't need to go into that in any detail because we are all familiar with it.
Natural resources continue to be the backbone of our economy and this free trade agreement has the very real potential to impact significantly on our natural resource base. Here I can speak very much from my own experience in my constituency and on behalf of my constituents because the natural resource sector is so vitally important to our local economy. Pulp, paper, Christmas trees, fish both processed and unprocessed and on and on it goes.
What happens to the resource economy will happen to our economy because our economy is inextricably intertwined with the well-being and the future of the resource economy. I want to be assured on behalf of my constituents and I want to be able to go to them and tell them that this government is doing the right thing, in joining with all of these other governments in Canada, in passing legislation which will have impact on the natural resource sector of the economy. I want to be able to tell them, without equivocation, without fear of contradiction, that what is in this bill will positively impact on them, that it will not negatively affect them as they strive to earn livelihoods which put roofs over their heads, clothing on their backs and the food on their families' tables.
I note that energy is another area which is impacted by this legislation. Energy is critical and energy production is critical to our region. Is the minister telling us that as a result of the passage of this legislation here and the passage of the complementary legislation in the other Parliaments in Canada, the production of energy is going to be affected? If it is going to be affected, will it be affected adversely or will there be a benefit for Nova Scotians with the implementation of this bill? Will this bill result in a prospect of lower cost energy and, if so, how will that occur?
How will it impact, for example, on the mining sector here? Coal, as we know, is a very important aspect of energy production in Nova Scotia. We now have Mobil and Western Pipelines very actively involved in researching a proposed project to tap Sable gas. I wonder if the minister can advise us if this bill will have any impact there? Well, we know to an extent it will, and that is with respect to the clauses at the end of the bill which require certain amendments to provincial legislation, and I will be speaking to those towards the end of my remarks.
Environmental protection. We, as citizens of the world, have every reason to be concerned about environmental protection. I must say that my view of the impact of free trade legislation on environmental protection is not nearly so nihilistic as is that of my friend and colleague who spoke immediately in advance of me. In fact, it is my belief that free trade properly implemented can enhance environmental protection and create environmental protection law which, in fact, advantages a wider global community. We understand that all environmental concerns eventually are global concerns, so I think there may well be an opportunity of that nature available to us.
I would like the minister, who is, of course, a former Minister of the Environment of this province, to address this matter and allay the fears of my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, and any other Nova Scotians who may have fears with respect to this, and indeed to support the views of those of us who believe that free trade can enhance environmental protection.
There are institutional provisions in here which are absolutely essential to the operation of this free trade agreement between the provinces once it is in place. One of the areas that has been of great debate with respect to the Canada-U.S. Trade Agreement - more recently to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement - is dispute mechanisms. We know that the dispute mechanisms which have been put in place with respect to Canada-U.S. and NAFTA, have been put to work and have been seen to work, and almost invariably to date have resulted, I am pleased to say, in benefit accruing to Canada as a result of that dispute settlement mechanism.
The dispute settlement mechanism in that agreement is relatively straightforward and relatively easy to understand. I contrast with the very complex, very detailed, very difficult to understand and I think at times, highly convoluted Agreement on Internal Trade which establishes the dispute resolution mechanism under this inter-provincial trade agreement. Section 1700 through Section 1718.3, 21 pages, 10 per cent of this entire document, deals with the matter of dispute resolution. I defy any member in this Chamber, and indeed any Nova Scotian who is not an expert on trade agreements, to read the section which lays out the dispute resolution mechanism and come away from it understanding with any degree of precision, how it is intended that it work. It is absolutely essential that we think out how the dispute resolution mechanism works to ensure that to the best of our ability we design a mechanism which will work and we have two models, one superseding the other, which appear to do that, so that when disputes arise as a result of the implementation of this legislation, we will be able to deal with them in a fair, equitable, just and speedy manner.
I have no sense of comfort whatsoever as a generalist, I hasten to add, not as a specialist, that the dispute resolution mechanism encompassed within this agreement will work, let alone will work well. Madam Speaker, you and all of us know the old admonition of applying the KISS principle to cause an initiative to be effective and the KISS principle is simply KISS, keep it simple stupid. I think it is absolutely essential that the KISS principle, insofar as it can, be applied to the creation of the proper dispute resolution mechanism. This does not fall into that category.
I am afraid that we might have a piece of legislation which perhaps amended might have the prospect of breaking down tariff barriers, and non-tariff barriers across Canada but which in the clumsiness of its dispute resolution mechanism may, in fact, fail the people of Canada. Of course, we are most concerned with respect to the future of Nova Scotians and we do not want a dispute mechanism which is so convoluted, so complex, so cumbersome, so unworkable, that it fails the people of this province. This legislation, once passed, is going to be very difficult to unravel. I think it was Lord Hailsham who once referred to certain types of legislation as representing what he called the ratchet effect. You move it one click forward but you can never go back. You ratchet ahead, but you can't go back and I anticipate that this is that very kind of legislation, an understanding that even if we could go back it would be absolutely so complex and so difficult to go back, that it might not be possible. We must make absolutely sure that we get it right the first time because the first time may well be our only time, our only opportunity.
Madam Speaker, there is a clause towards the end of the bill that the minister has introduced called Consequential Amendments. My assumption, although the minister has not given us any indication of this, is that each and every jurisdiction which is a party to this agreement, 10 provinces, two territories and the Government of Canada, are all passing consequential amendments such that, at the end of the day, each of these agreements will cause us all to be playing on the same playing field, that the goal posts will be in the same place for all of us, the lines will all be in the same place.
One of those consequential amendments deals with the Civil Service Act. There is a section in our Civil Service Act which is kind of an affirmative action section for Nova Scotians. It simply says that in the event of the appointment of a deputy minister, if two people are equal in ability and one of those persons is a resident of Nova Scotia or was born in Nova Scotia, that that person should be given the advantage. I don't think that there is anything wrong with that whatsoever. It does not say that a person is given an advantage because they are Nova Scotian and irrespective of being the less well qualified candidate, for in order for this section to trigger, the person who was born or lives in Nova Scotia must be of equal competence to any other applicants. Yet, we now have an amendment proposed which will cause us no longer to have that Affirmative Action Program for Nova Scotians but which now provides equal opportunity to all Canadians, an opportunity which I believe we should discuss at some length before we initiate it.
There are also significant amendments to the Gas Utilities Act. Those amendments refer to employment opportunities made available to Nova Scotians as a result of legislation passed in this House, legislation which I believe when it passed, at least with respect to this section, had all-Party support, Liberal, New Democratic and Progressive Conservative. It provides an opportunity for Nova Scotians, if government so chooses through regulatory authority respecting the nature and the extent of employment of Nova Scotians by gas utilities and others performing work authorized by gas utilities in this province and also respecting the nature and the extent of the supply of goods and services by Nova Scotians to gas utilities and others requiring goods and services pursuant to the worker operations authorized by a gas utility. This is germane to the situation in which we currently find ourselves.
Indeed, if Mobil and Western Pipelines do proceed with the initiatives that they have undertaken respecting Sable gas, then there is the prospect and one would hope there is the probability, if not the assuredness, that a gas utility will be established here in Nova Scotia which will make natural gas available to Nova Scotians as an energy source. We all know that if that is the case, then there will be one or more gas plants which require skilled workers and labour. We want to make sure that somehow or other Nova Scotians are not disadvantaged as a result of the amendments that are put forward respecting the Gas Utilities Act.
There also is an amendment to the Pipeline Act. I mention it, although that is not in the sequence as it appears in the bill, because it raises the same kind of question. In fact, the sections of the Pipeline Act respecting employment mirror the sections in the Gas Utilities Act and so there is no need for me to read them again. Already it would appear that we have blown an opportunity, through the failure of the Minister of Natural Resources to understand the agreements for which he is responsible and then to act appropriately, to market a back-in provision that we had with respect to gas pipelines. It is not that I am recommending that the Nova Scotian taxpayers own a pipeline but good Heavens, having that back-in provision and being able to market it, that is sell it, to a company which would like to acquire the rights which we under law have, the failure to accomplish that may well have cost the taxpayers of this province many millions of dollars, let alone other economic advantage.
There is a curious reference in here to the Lightening Rod Act. Why it is necessary to make an amendment to the Lightening Rod Act, I don't really know. I would anticipate that the section in the Lightening Rod Act, as is the case with the section in the Real Estate Licensing Act, they are sections that make reference to consumer protection. If that is so, I look forward to this minister, or perhaps the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs, explaining why these amendments are in this bill. If they were intended under the Acts which we are going to be leaving if this bill passes as it stands before the House today and adopting the amendments as proposed, what is going to happen under the new Act that did not happen under the old Act? Or, conversely, what is not going to happen under the new Act which did happen under the old Act? Are consumers going to be advantaged or disadvantaged as the result of these amendments? I am sure Nova Scotians would like to know that.
There also is an amendment to the Mineral Resources Act, Madam Speaker. That goes to the heart of all those industries which fall within that sector, not the least, of course, would be the coal mining industry. I wonder if we might hear from the Minister of Natural Resources respecting the amendment that is proposed there?
One of the amendments which falls under the purview of the Minister of Natural Resources is the Mineral Act. There is another one which references the Wildlife Act; and that is one that I find a little perplexing because the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, whose bill this is and who is the minister who is also responsible for tourism, has not addressed the impact of the amendments to the Wildlife Act which may have some cause and effect respecting the delivery of guiding services here in Nova Scotia. Indeed, I wonder if the amendment as proposed in this bill respecting guiding may, in some way, have the potential of impacting negatively on safety with respect to guiding activities here in Nova Scotia.
It would appear that with the amendment passed, anyone who is a resident of Canada, simply by virtue of making application and passing a written test, can be a guide and be licensed as a guide in this province. It strikes me that the men and women who provide guiding services in Nova Scotia are people intimately knowledgeable of their communities, of the wildlife involved within their guiding businesses and this is knowledge which very often, indeed frequently, is generational in nature. I simply don't see how the interests of the consumer, in this case the tourist consumer, are going to be enhanced as a result of this amendment. It is a curious amendment and I would hope that either the Minister of Natural Resources and/or the minister whose bill this is will help us to understand better just why that amendment has been proposed.
Madam Speaker, we live in a world where we can no longer take, on the basis of faith alone, assurances that legislation will do what it purports to do, particularly where questions of economic concern are raised. In this case these are matters of great, indeed, abiding interest because they will impact on the economy of Nova Scotia and on the economy of all the partners in Canada, including the national government in Ottawa.
I did not hear the minister say during the course of his remarks, nor do I find it in Hansard, nor have I heard him definitively say anywhere else, nor have I read it in the paper, seen it on television nor heard it on the radio that a cost-benefit analysis has been done by government with respect to this legislation.
If we are going to enter into an economic agreement with all of the provinces of Canada, the two territories and the Government of Canada respecting the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers to increase free trade between all of those jurisdictions, surely somebody at some time must have developed an economic model against which this legislation, this agreement has been applied, in order to measure the potential impacts of this agreement once they have begun to be effected, so we can understand what the costs will be associated with the implementation of this Agreement on Internal Trade and what the benefits will be with respect to the implementation of this Agreement on Internal Trade. I don't think there would be a single person in Nova Scotia - and I hope this includes all of my friends and colleagues on the government bench - who would not say that that would be a reasonable thing to do.
If it has been done - and I have no choice other than to assume that it has been done -then I ask the minister to provide this House and, indeed, all interested Nova Scotians with that cost-benefit analysis so that we can understand what we have to give up in order to effect this agreement - and there is always something to be lost - and what we have to benefit as a result of the implementation of this agreement, so we can be assured in the implementation of this agreement that the net benefit for Nova Scotians is a net benefit which will accrue to all of the people of this province, that it will cause us to be able to play a much more effective role with respect to being full partners in the Canadian economy.
If that cost-benefit analysis has not been done, then I think the minister owes it to Nova Scotians to say so. It has to be a simple yes or no; yes, we have done a cost-benefit analysis; or, no, we have not. If the answer is, yes, we have, then he brings it forward, lays it on the table, we all have the opportunity to read it, all Nova Scotians have the opportunity to read it and to understand what the impacts of this legislation will be once it becomes law. If that has not been done, then it seems to me that it behooves the government, it behooves all of those who sit on the government side of the House but not on the Treasury benches, all of those who sit in Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and the Third Party, to put on the brakes, to stop and to allow that cost-benefit analysis to occur.
For example, I wonder, Madam Speaker, with respect to perhaps even a soft study - let alone a hard and complex study which would be wrapped up in a formal cost-benefit analysis - if this agreement has been thoroughly vetted by the trade and marketing section of Voluntary Planning, I wonder if any of the other sections of Voluntary Planning have had the opportunity to vet this agreement and to make their views known to the minister. We do not know that; the minister has not indicated that in the House nor, to my understanding, outside the House.
Madam Speaker, we entered into a free trade agreement with the United States in 1988. There was wide national debate on that agreement. There is not a person in any nook or cranny of this vast and wonderful nation who is not aware that that debate was raging on. In fact, that debate was deemed and that question was deemed to be of such significance that a national election was fought on that issue as the principle issue of public national debate. That agreement was debated in the public forum through a long, sometimes difficult, sometimes arduous process but it was nationally debated and put to the people at the end of the day. The people made their choice.
What we have here though, Madam Speaker, in a free trade Agreement on Internal Trade is the minister coming in and slipping an innocuous little four page bill into the House, standing up and making a 15 minute or 20 minute speech and telling us, don't worry, boys and girls, everything is going to be just fine, take my words of comfort as your comfort, let's get this bill passed and let's get on with the task at hand.
Madam Speaker, that simply is not enough. It is not enough unless the minister can answer those questions publicly, in this forum and in other fora, to us and to all Nova Scotians, respecting the likely impacts of this legislation on Nova Scotians and the Nova Scotia economy through the provision of a cost-benefit analysis, through the provision of advice from Voluntary Planning and other such councils that are available to government from the non-governmental sector, through listening to Nova Scotians from Cape Forchu to Cape North, from Chebucto Bay to the New Brunswick border.
We know for example, Madam Speaker, that this bill is not moving post-haste through the other Parliaments of this nation. In fact, as we understand it, it has been introduced in, I think, only three Parliaments, including the Parliament of Canada. There is no fire burning under this legislation that says that it must be passed and passed immediately. There is every reason to move forward judiciously, to move forward only after this legislation has been thoroughly vetted, not just by the minister, not just by the Priorities and Planning Committee of government, a committee which does not report to this House but reports to only the Cabinet, an agreement which has been vetted only by a few people in the minister's department and not by the public at large and not by all of those among the public who have special expertise that they could bring to bear on the public debate respecting this bill.
Madam Speaker, I very strongly believe in free trade if it is fair trade. I very strongly believe that the public must be given the opportunity to participate in the debate before the decision is taken. I believe very strongly that government must look to all of its non-governmental partners, such as Voluntary Planning, in order to ensure that the laws that are proposed to us in this place are the laws that are in the best interests of all of Canada and are in the best interests of Nova Scotians for the immediate, the medium and the long-term future.
Madam Speaker, I have no satisfaction that that has occurred to date and as a result, I am going to move an amendment. I move that the words after "that" be deleted and that the following be substituted: The subject matter of Bill No. 33, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. Is the amendment now being circulated to the members? Have all members had an opportunity to look at the amendment? Not yet?
This amendment is very well worded. It is a refreshing change and I rule it is in order.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, the amendment to which I am now required by the rules to speak on provides that the subject matter of Bill No. 33, an Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
My opening remarks are to indicate that as I know you know, Madam Speaker, of all of the standing committees of our Legislature, the Standing Committee on Economic Development attempts in its work to address the very issue which is described in its title, the economic development of our province. Nothing is more important or more significant than the economic welfare and the economic development of our province because as I know the Minister of Health would agree and the Minister of Education would agree, the more fragile our economic circumstances in the Province of Nova Scotia, the even greater difficulties he and the Minister of Education and other colleague ministers have to be able to dedicate those essential resources to ensure that a quality, world-class health care system is provided and a quality education system and so on.
I start these remarks relative to Bill No. 33, the Agreement on Internal Trade, or the legislation which purports to ratify that Agreement on Internal Trade, by assuring you, Madam Speaker, having found that the amendment itself is in order, that those colleagues of ours who are the members of the Committee on Economic Development have as their role, function and their mandate the issues which do impact on economic circumstances in the province. That is what this bill is all about.
This bill purports, as I know you know, Madam Speaker, from having listened to very significant and may I say enlightened debate from a number of people along the way, you are well aware that this particular piece of legislation, when you read the bill introduced it looks pretty innocuous and you don't get much sense of the overall and long-term impact. (Interruption) It was sort of on a par with registered mail. I am intrigued that the Minister of Transportation and Communications would suggest that this bill is on a par with one introduced in this place some years ago that had to do with registered mail because that says to me that the Minister of Transportation and Communications perhaps doesn't put a whole lot of stock himself in Bill No. 33 because he seemed to be pretty scornful of the bill to which he just made reference having to do with registered mail. If he is equally scornful of this, it makes one wonder just what kind of discussion and debate went on in the Cabinet Room as to what Bill No. 33 was all about.
My guess is, and it is a guess, that what happened here is that when the sponsoring minister indicated that he had this bill to come forward, an Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, he simply indicated to his colleagues and perhaps even to yourself in caucus - I don't know your Party processes in terms of legislative review - but my guess is that he indicated, listen, this is a pretty simple and straightforward piece of business. The provinces, the territories and the federal government signed an agreement back in June. It is supposed to reduce trade barriers and the purpose of the bill that I am going to introduce is simply to implement, enshrine, endorse and ratify the agreement which I signed - or more to the point, which Minister Bragg, as he then was, signed - on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia. So there is really nothing here except some housekeeping stuff.
Well, the truth of the matter is, as I know you have now come to understand as a result of the debate on this legislation, Madam Speaker, that the characterization of this legislation as nothing but housekeeping legislation could not be further from the truth. So the question that I know you ask those of us who will address remarks to the amendment before us, the question you will rightly put to me and the test you will apply to remarks I make now relative to this amendment, will be to ensure and satisfy yourself that I offer some opinion and advice and comment as to why I believe, in support of this amendment, that there is value and importance to have this bill referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
Well, I say it for a very simple reason and I will try to expand with references and remarks and point out some terms and provisions of other pieces of legislation which I believe support without question the need that this particular piece of legislation and the agreement it purports to ratify are, in fact, referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
At first blush, at first reading, this bill perhaps appears to be a pretty innocuous piece of business. It is, in fact, if I may say so, in my opinion - for what it is worth and others may not share it but I offer it as my opinion - this particular piece of legislation is one of the most significant which has come forward in this session of the Nova Scotia Legislature because it deals with the fabric of the way in which this government and business and commerce and industry in this province do business with every other province, all the territories and the Government of Canada coast to coast. It has, as its basic principle, the removal and the destruction and the obliteration of trade barriers and sanctions which have, over the years, if you read all the commentators, many of them will tell you - men and women who write for places and organizations of stature such as the Fraser Institute or the C.D. Howe Institute or many other places - that their analysis indicates that we experience in this country something in the order of a minimum of 500 trade barriers as between the provinces and the territories and the Government of Canada.
Surely as residents and legislators in a country which, a few years ago, executed a North American Free Trade Agreement which has as its underpinnings the fundamental philosophy that we as a nation - the Nation of Canada - will reduce and eliminate and obliterate trade barriers as between the signatories to the North American Free Trade Agreement, other countries, then surely it is important, it is vital, it is absolutely fundamental and crucial that we find a way among ourselves - province to province, province to territory, territory to territory, Government of Canada to the provinces and the like - to remove the trade barriers that we can.
So, this bill purports to implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, which was executed by those governments and territories. This bill, when it references, as it does, the agreement, cannot, I submit to you, Madam Speaker, be considered or discussed or debated and should not be voted upon by any member in this Legislature unless and until each and every member of this Legislature has had an opportunity to make reference to and undertake some review and study and analysis of the agreement which this bill purports to ratify.
As you know, from earlier remarks which I had an opportunity to make, I said on an earlier occasion and I say it again because I think it underscores the value and the validity of a reference to the Standing Committee on Economic Development, this document - I am a lawyer of modest abilities, but I will tell you that this - is one of the most complex and difficult documents that I have ever tried to wade my way through, to try to come to an understanding of what it really means to my province if my province passes legislation which says, this is now the bible in terms of inter-provincial trade.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable members, there are many conversations going on simultaneously and I would ask you to go outside the Chamber with them if you are going to continue. The level of background noise is getting very difficult to deal with. Thank you.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I don't propose to be overly long with my remarks, but I do appreciate your attempt to tone down. I see the member for Cape Breton South is pleased to hear me say that. But it does help if all members are able to make their contribution in debate on this bill, and now on this motion, in an environment where they can even hear themselves think, as to whether or not they are making any impact on others who may hear their words.
This Agreement on Internal Trade, Madam Speaker, which in essence is the substance of the bill which we debate, we don't debate Bill No. 33, we debate Bill No. 33 in the context of it, meaning that this Agreement on Internal Trade, which has some 1,814 articles and several annexes, and so on, this agreement, as a result of Bill No. 33, is what becomes the law of the land here in the Province of Nova Scotia. So, it cannot, with respect, in my opinion, it is not good enough and it is not safe enough and it is not professional enough for us as legislators in the Province of Nova Scotia to pass the bill in its present form without the legislators here -and as many of the leaders of business and industry and commerce in the Province of Nova Scotia - understanding the implications of the agreement itself.
I don't know how many sessions the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency had with the leaders of the business and industrial and commercial communities of our province. My understanding, from conversation with quite a number of those men and women, is that the discussion and dialogue with them, led by the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency or, indeed, the Premier or any other minister, was limited to say the least - and limited is being generous - so I don't really believe there is anything more than the tiniest percentage of business and industry and commerce in Nova Scotia which understands and has a working knowledge of the implications for them and the running of their business in the event that this Agreement on Internal Trade is made the law of the Province of Nova Scotia and, of course, Bill No. 33 would have that effect.
I have had an opportunity, Madam Speaker, and I have made reference to this in earlier stages in the debate on Bill No. 33, to have a look at legislation which has been presented in other provinces relative to their proposing to ratify the Agreement on Internal Trade. Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland have considered the matter in their Legislatures. Alberta and Manitoba put forward the measure that provides firms and individuals and other levels of government a remedy before the Court of Queen's Bench in order to impose a fine or some other kind of judicial sanction under the Agreement on Internal Trade. That is a fine and sanctioned provision in other jurisdictions. I note with interest that I don't see that kind of resolution result in Bill No. 33 that we now debate. I think it is important for us to ask whether or not such a provision was even considered here and, if it was not, why was it considered not necessary?
It is important in the context of affording us an opportunity to review this at the Standing Committee on Economic Development, that the remedies of the agreement, or which flow from the agreement are as important as the agreements which are purported to be made. You and I, Madam Speaker, can agree to do all kinds of things and we can engage in contractual relationships and we can engage in principal agent relationships and we can engage in adventure of a common purpose, but if we do not understand as between ourselves what the legal implications are if the joint effort or the contract goes awry, then, frankly, we have not done ourselves, either of us, any kind of a service.
If you look - and I think we should look and I think we should look in the context of the reference to the committee - at legislation passed in other provincial jurisdictions which, again I repeat, purport to ratify this tremendously voluminous Agreement on Internal Trade, we are going to find out in some of those other jurisdictions, Madam Speaker, that as but one example, the Province of Alberta appoints their Ombudsman as a screener, under Article 1713 of the Agreement, and I won't go through all the document, but that is a process whereby the Government of Alberta could appoint their Ombudsman to have certain approval processes available to him or her under this particular agreement.
Well, interestingly enough, our Bill No. 33 makes reference to our Ombudsman, and I think it is perhaps Clause 12, our bill establishes the principle that we can appoint our provincial Ombudsman to be a screener for the purpose of that same clause. However, there is a very significant difference which is a distinction, and it is a distinction with a difference and it is important to be aware of it.
The Alberta legislation spells out the process the Ombudsman must carry out if there is a conflict. I can't believe that under an agreement of this size and this importance and, dealing as it does with the business and commercial and industrial relationships between the Canadian provinces and the Government of Canada and the territories, I can't believe there is not going to be dispute after dispute. Those disputes, as you will know as a distinguished and leading member of the Bar, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, are going to require that there be resolution processes in the event of conflict.
Well, my understanding, and I think he said it - and I say this with caution because I do not want to put words into the sponsoring minister's mouth which, in fact, he did not utter - it is my recollection, and my recollection may fail me, that what he was intending to do here was introduce mirror image legislation to that which would exist and be passed in other jurisdictions. I am looking at the press release issued by the minister on October 31, 1995, and in fact, I do not see, unless I am reading over it or through it, the reference to mirror image. The release from the minister certainly does say that all provinces are being asked to ratify the agreement which will lead to a national recognition of its principles and rules. Well, principles are one thing and rules are a very different thing.
Believe me, I am not going to get off on a tangent but we have had a great deal of rhetoric in this House the last couple of weeks coming from the Minister of Education, talking about rhetoric, talking about principles and visions and so on. Many other people are talking about rules because the language which we pass in the legislation here in this Legislature has legal impact. By the same token, the language we pass here in Bill No. 33 has legal impact. It says in Clause 6 that, "The Agreement is hereby ratified.". In the definition section, the agreement which would be ratified if this bill passes is, Clause 3(a), "`Agreement' means the Agreement on Internal Trade between the Government of Canada and the governments of all the provinces and territories of Canada signed in 1994;". In other words, if we pass this legislation it means this document . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The member should understand that he is discussing whether we passed the legislation or not. What we are dealing with here is an amendment to refer to the Standing Committee on Economic Development. All of the arguments you are making are arguments that should be put on the debate in second reading, not on the amendment.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I thank the Speaker for that admonition. I think if the Speaker had borne me out just another moment or two I would come to the point that we are not and I am not debating Bill No. 33 or the principles of Bill No. 33. What I am saying to this House is, Bill No. 33 isn't all you get. As the old saying goes, what you see is what you get. Well, when you look at Bill No. 33 what you see ain't all what you get, because if, as and when this Legislature passes Bill No. 33, what you get is 219 pages and 1,800 and some articles . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Once again to the member. I recall the member making that very same argument when he spoke to the bill at second reading, the exact same argument, he even held up the document. Now we are discussing whether this (Interruption) But we are not debating the bill, sir. What we are debating now is whether this bill should be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development. It is not an opportunity to debate the same thing that was debated on the principles at second reading. You must restrict yourself only to reasons why the matter should be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development. Anything else is not relevant.
MR. DONAHOE: I thank the Speaker for those helpful remarks. Again, anticipating what I was about to say, the Speaker had he given me a moment or two would have heard me say, that because Bill No. 33, in effect, represents this document, then it is this document, as much as the words of Bill No. 33, which have to be understood and have to be assessed and have to be acceptable to the legislators and the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia.
The reason and the value of the reference of this bill, which carries with it the internal agreement, to the Standing Committee on Economic Development, is that then affords us as legislators and business and industry and commerce in the Province of Nova Scotia to come into that committee and walk their way through a number of concerns which have been raised relative to the agreement. That is the opportunity that we have which we don't realistically have (Interruption) If the honourable member for Cumberland North wants to get up and engage in the debate, he is welcome to do that. In the course of other remarks I will make, I am sure he will find reference to many more than two concerns. It is for that reason, Mr. Speaker, that the reference to the Standing Committee on Economic Development is important.
It is not my place to ask my colleagues, by show of hand or any other means, whether they have ever seen the Agreement on Internal Trade; supplementary question, have they read the Agreement on Internal Trade. That is not my role or my function. But I would be prepared to bet you dollars to donuts, Mr. Speaker, that if that question was put to all 52 of us in this place and honestly answered, that the percentage of our legislative colleagues who said (a) I have ever seen it; and (b) I have read it, would be in the single digit percentages. Then I think, with respect, if we then asked the further question, having seen it and having read it, what percentage of the 52 of us in here understand its implications for Nova Scotia business, industry and commerce, those who answer truthfully would be in 0.0-something percentage range.
The point and value of having this bill with its companion piece and its centrepiece, the agreement itself, going to the Standing Committee on Economic Development, is that it then makes it possible for that committee to invite the men and women who run business and industry and commerce in this province to come to that committee and offer their opinions on the propriety of the agreement, the efficacy of the agreement, the value and positives of the agreement and, indeed, as I believe there are, some of the shortcomings of this particular agreement. That opportunity can, by this mechanism and by passage of this amendment, this mechanism can and, I believe, should be made available to them.
Other speakers have made some fairly considerable reference to the fact - and I concur with their assessment or their approach - that relative to what we are doing with Bill No. 33, we cannot address that issue here as legislators, Mr. Speaker, without having an understanding of the existence of another piece of legislation which is at play in this country, and that is Bill C-88 which is in front of the Parliament of Canada.
The Parliament of Canada is a signatory to the agreement which Bill No. 33 purports to ratify. It, the Parliament of Canada - as our Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency is saying to us and to this Legislature through Bill No. 33 - as a signatory made an undertaking that it would introduce legislation in its Parliament of competence - namely, the Parliament of Canada - to confirm and ratify this Agreement on Internal Trade. Well, boy, have they ever done that, and they have introduced legislation. I will bet you dollars to donuts again, Mr. Speaker, that there are not a lot of Nova Scotians, and frankly, with respect, I have heard nothing from the Minister for the ERA here in the Province of Nova Scotia which in any way, shape or form allays any of my concerns. The concerns are these: when one looks as I have at Bill C-88 which is before the Parliament of Canada, one finds language there which makes it very realistic and very likely that in the event of dispute to which Nova Scotia might be a party . . .
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: I wonder if the honourable member would entertain a question, Mr. Speaker. On Tuesday in debate, the honourable member opposite, the former Leader of the Opposition, referred to correspondence that he had with certain offices in government and the fact that he had not had a response. If it would please the honourable member, I would be pleased to table letters that refer directly. I can't explain the absence of response but what I can do is provide two letters to the honourable member that would clarify the concerns, to a certain extent at least, or perhaps indicate other concerns, but would offer a response to the substantive nature of his question, and that is, (a) what are we as a province doing; (b) what is the nation doing provincially in response to wording in C-88 that caused concern for a number of provinces, and the response from the minister's office. If he would welcome that, I would be pleased to table the two letters which may help him to understand those concerns.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Halifax Citadel like those letters tabled?
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to have them tabled and I will share them with other members. I mean this sincerely, I appreciate the minister making those available, my correspondence to which I referred. I wrote to the Premier as far back as June and I got nothing more than an acknowledgment from a secretary in his office that my mail was there. I wrote four more times. I copied the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and I copied the Minister of Supply and Services. Isn't it interesting that it takes this debate for me to generate some activity somewhere that results in my mail being answered? It says to me that maybe there is some merit in having some significant and perhaps extensive debate on this legislation.
AN HON. MEMBER: The only way you can get information.
MR. DONAHOE: I have not seen the paper, Mr. Speaker.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, just so that it is clear as to whether anybody has been doing anything since the honourable member's letter, the fact is, there are at least three departments involved in the response to the member's letter because he raises issues that transcend simply the Department of the ERA or even the Premier's Office and to say that work hasn't been done by the public servants and the functionaries he likes to praise so often is not correct, but, in fact, work is ongoing. Again, by way of a point of order, I would simply offer the honourable member a copy of a letter from Minister Manley's office.
MR. SPEAKER: I think that might be considered clarification but I would have to rule it is not a point of order.
MR. DONAHOE: I still don't have the document and I would love at this point, to assist me with my remarks, to have those documents. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: Those letters have to be copied. Assuming that you have other points to make, maybe you should continue with those. (Interruption)
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you. While those letters which are kindly offered and tabled now by the minister are being copied, I would make, with your indulgence, a couple of other remarks relative to the bill and the agreement itself. Perhaps just before I do that, may I, Mr. Speaker, through you, with the help of the Minister for the ERA, perhaps have a sense from him whether the documents that he has just tabled, which I will see here momentarily, relate to the questions in regard to the Atlantic Procurement?
MR. SPEAKER: Would the minister care to answer that question? You are under no obligation to.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the answer I am providing to yet another province but for the member's edification responds directly to the concern that Bill C-88 and the language in Section 9 in particular are of concern to provinces or to him or to the Opposition or to the business community in Nova Scotia. It does not address the Atlantic procurement issue, which is a subject of another letter, another response. Suffice it to say that the Atlantic procurement issue is either in total fidelity with the agreement or supersedes the agreement, in terms of being even more small "l" liberal in terms of inter-provincial trade.
MR. SPEAKER: I would just point out again that while this is information, the member must relate the information to the amendment as to why it should be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that and I appreciate the obviously well-intended effort and remarks from the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.
The letter which the minister has just tabled and for which I thank him - I will make sure the Clerk gets a copy. This letter is on the letterhead of the Minister of Industry of the Government of Canada, the Honourable John Manley, P.C.. It is dated September 18, 1995, and it is addressed to the Minister of Economic Development of the Government of Saskatchewan. If I may, in the context of what I think is needed to be done here in Nova Scotia, I would indicate to you and to colleagues that this letter from the federal Minister of Industry says; "As I have indicated in other correspondence (which has been copied to you), it is my intention to introduce amendments to Bill C-88 to make the government's intentions clear - even though I consider the concerns expressed to be unwarranted. I expect those changes will address your concerns regarding Section 9.
With regard to Section 6, as you correctly note, Parliament cannot, through Bill C-88 or any other legislation, arrogate to itself jurisdiction beyond its constitutional powers. That is a clear principle of law and obviates any reason for altering the legislation now before Parliament.".
Well, there is some modicum of comfort provided in that letter but what we do have is an acknowledgement, as current as September 18, 1995, that the Government of Canada is still in the process of trying to figure out how to amend their legislation. It is my information, and I may be wrong, that that legislation has not yet passed all the stages of legislative passage process in the Parliament of Canada, which raises another issue which I believe, in the context of the amendment which we address here this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, continues to be relevant. Why is it essential for the Province of Nova Scotia to be among the forerunners of those provinces in the country who rush headlong, as I think we are doing, into a ratification of an agreement which, to my knowledge, has never really been the subject of discussion, certainly not in this Legislature and I do not believe has been the subject of discussion in the business and commercial and industrial community of the Province of Nova Scotia.
I believe that one of the things that would be possible, by way of reference to the Committee on Economic Development, would be that the chairman of that committee could immediately advertise widely across this province that this Agreement on Internal Trade has been signed by the Province of Nova Scotia. It is not of force and effect unless and until ratified by legislation passed here in this place, along with legislation passed elsewhere, and an invitation could then be extended to the men and women who run the business and the commercial and the industrial fabric of our province to come to that committee to offer views which, frankly, is a process which I do not believe has been followed to this point. The minister, I do not believe - unless I missed him on his opening as he moved second reading -indicated that there was a province-wide analysis process where the terms and provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade were shared with the business community of the Province of Nova Scotia, and I do not think they have.
Upon closing debate here, on second reading, he may have other views or opinions on that score, but to this point I do not know that that has happened. I have some concerns and a few businesses have made contact with me and colleagues of mine in our caucus, Mr. Speaker, in which they have expressed some concerns as well.
We know, and the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency has just alluded to the fact that the letter which he was kind enough to send over to me which I will now give to the Clerk for tabling if he would be good enough - you now have it? Okay - the response to the letter back from the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency does not address one of the other exceedingly fundamental issues which was also included in the mail which I sent to the Premier and to this minister and to the Minister of Supply and Services starting back in June.
I said in that letter, and it is only about four or five lines, but it is relevant and it relates to why I think the reference to the committee is important. I said to the Premier and to Ministers Harrison and O'Malley back on June 8, 1995, Mr. Speaker, "On April 21, 1995, your Supply and Services Minister Gerald O'Malley introduced `Fairness in Government Procurement - A White Paper for Discussion'. The White Paper stipulates that Nova Scotia manufacturers and suppliers are to be shown preference. This may be deemed contrary to both of the principles of the Internal Trade Agreement noted above. Would you kindly advise me what commitments the Government of Nova Scotia secured from the other parties to the agreement which represent approval by those other parties that Nova Scotia manufacturers and suppliers may be shown preference. I look forward to your response. Yours truly".
I signed it in my incarnation of the day as Leader of the Opposition, sent it off to the Premier and the other ministers and, as I said, I got no response despite letters in September and October, until the minister kindly tabled not a response to my letter, but rather he tabled a letter from the Minister of Industry to the Minister of Economic Development in Saskatchewan.
So I guess without beating it to death, it is fair to say and it is indeed completely accurate to say that as I stand here in your House, Mr. Speaker, on November 16, 1995, I still have not gotten an answer to the letter which I wrote to the Premier back on June 8, 1995. The point I make and the value of the reference to the Standing Committee on Economic Development is that that Atlantic Procurement Agreement was discussed and pronounced and promoted with great fanfare by the Minister of Supply and Services and, frankly, I think as a Nova Scotian there are some elements in that agreement which are very interesting and potentially very important to Nova Scotia business and industry.
However, I cannot get the Premier of Nova Scotia, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency or the Minister of Supply and Services in the Province of Nova Scotia to tell me whether or not the passage of Bill No. 33 which ratifies the national Agreement on Internal Trade will, in fact, impose itself and vitiate the terms and provisions of the Atlantic Agreement on Procurement signed by the four Atlantic governments. That doesn't strike me as being a very difficult question but, frankly, it is the kind of issue that can and should be addressed in appropriate hearings held by the Standing Committee on Economic Development. That, again, is an example of the kind of situation which I believe is completely suited to a discussion in the committee.
There are consequent amendments made in Bill No. 33. By that I mean and I know you understand, Mr. Speaker, there are amendments proposed to certain other existing pieces of legislation set out in Bill No. 33. They apply and they relate to such things as the Civil Service Act, the Gas Utilities Act, the Lightening Rod Act, the Mineral Resources Act, the Pipeline Act, the Real Estate Brokers Licensing Act and the Wildlife Act.
We have had some contact from people who are in industries affected by those pieces of legislation to which I have just now made reference and they are saying to us, PC caucus people, we don't understand what the impacts of these consequential amendments actually are. Do you know why they say that? They say that because they have never seen the Agreement on Internal Trade. I have no hesitation at all in suggesting that it would be possible for those men and women affected by those consequential changes in this legislation in the context of the national Agreement on Internal Trade to be able to come before the Standing Committee on Economic Development and to offer their views and express their concerns and understand just what their fate is, if, as and when this particular piece of legislation were to pass.
The question can and, I think, should be asked as to whether or not this province has to be or should be one of the first to ratify the Agreement on Internal Trade. There are only a couple of other provinces who have thus far even introduced legislation and very few who have passed any legislation. The real frustration which we experience, I think, is that we do not believe that business, industry and commerce in Nova Scotia really understand the implications for them and for the running of their business of this particular Agreement on Internal Trade.
In Chapter 17 of the agreement there is one of the most complex and convoluted and difficult provisions.
MR. SPEAKER: I don't think it would be appropriate to refer to specific sections in the agreement that is affixed in Bill No. 33, only on the reference to the standing committee. I don't think it is appropriate to refer to specific sections in the agreement. Actually, I wouldn't allow reference to certain sections in that agreement on the principle either, let alone the amendment to the principle, and that is what I have ruled.
MR. DONAHOE: I respect your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but the point I try to make is that Nova Scotia business and industry and commerce, if Bill No. 33 passes, are going to be conducting their business forever and a day under the confines and the constraints of this national Agreement on Internal Trade. And if Bill No. 33 passes, you can't just read the words that are on the three or four pages of the bill itself, you have to read this agreement. I am attempting to suggest to you, by reference to the agreement itself, and if you will bear with me just 30 seconds, I am saying to you that there is a dispute resolution mechanism set out in this agreement which could and, undoubtedly, in the course of commercial events, will sweep up some Nova Scotia . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I am not prepared to accept debate on specific clauses or sections in the agreement. That is what I have ruled.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to, I don't want to debate . . .
MR. SPEAKER: You have referenced it twice and I am suggesting that if you reference it again, I will ask you to take your seat.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can't continue in the debate to make the point which I think is a legitimate point if . . .
MR. SPEAKER: But I have ruled it wasn't.
MR. DONAHOE: If you are not prepared to allow me to say that there is a dispute resolution mechanism in this document which will impact and affect every Nova Scotia business and commercial enterprise and industry, about which they know nothing, as far as we know from the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency or the Premier or . . .
MR. SPEAKER: That is what I have ruled.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, what is the point, then, of passing this law which will . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Will the member be seated for a moment. The point is that you are debating whether this bill should be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development. It is not a debate on whether certain sections in the agreement to the bill are appropriate or inappropriate. I am not going to go through it again. If you can't move on, then you should sit down.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am going to say what I am going to say and if I offend your ruling, I apologize and you sit me down.
MR. SPEAKER: I will.
MR. DONAHOE: I am trying to say to you, as precisely as I possibly can, that the value, the reason, and in support of the amendment to refer this legislation to the Standing Committee on Economic Development, is that there is in this agreement, the Internal Trade Agreement, a convoluted, complex, dispute resolution procedure which has potential . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I am going to ask the member to be seated. The member will be seated.
MR. DONAHOE: You won't give me the right to give you the next sentence, that the . . .
MR. SPEAKER: No, you will be seated, sir. Be seated!
Are there any other intervenors on the amendment?
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am just trying to seek some clarification on your ruling with respect to the previous speaker. We have an amendment here before us.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, if you are going to seek clarification, I will clarify it. I am not going to listen to an argument on my ruling and I have made the . . .
MR. CHISHOLM: Excuse me, I am up here on a point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: And I have heard it.
MR. CHISHOLM: No, you haven't, I haven't said anything yet.
MR. SPEAKER: Oh, you haven't? My ears work, sir. You want clarification on my ruling. That is what you said.
MR. CHISHOLM: If I am given the chance, for Heaven's sake, I am going to explain why it is that I have a concern.
MR. SPEAKER: I don't care, I will give you a clarification. It doesn't matter to me that you have a concern.
MR. CHISHOLM: Why would I rise on a point of order, then?
MR. SPEAKER: You asked for clarification. I am not going to debate this with you either.
MR. CHISHOLM: You are not going to allow me to rise on a point of order and state what my point of order is?
MR. SPEAKER: I have already recognized you on a . . .
MR. CHISHOLM: How can you rule on my point of order?
MR. SPEAKER: Be seated, mister. Member for Halifax Atlantic, be seated.
The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know, I am going to try but I don't know about democracy any more. I have real concern. This is why this bill has to go to a committee, so that we can have democracy and we can have debates that people can listen to and understand and not shut people off. That is what this is all about and that is why we have to get this bill on to a standing committee where the chairman does not stop people from saying what they need to say and what needs to be said. The chairman of the committee and the committee will listen to what people have to say and not be muzzled by someone in the chair, or government, so that nobody understands what it is that we are trying to pass. That is the reason why we have to go to the committee.
This Legislature has demonstrated to me today, more than ever before, that we need an opportunity, an avenue for people to be able to express themselves and have people understand what rules and laws are being passed that actually affect them. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that Bill C-88, which is now in Ottawa, has a direct effect on this bill that we have before us today. That bill in Ottawa has not even been passed and, as I understand it, there are some amendments that are going to be put into Bill C-88, and those amendments will have an impact on Bill No. 33.
Bill No. 33 which talks about trade, as does Bill C-88, internal trade, this Standing Committee on Economic Development would give us time in this province to know the effects of the amendments of Bill C-88 in Ottawa. If those amendments are going to have an effect on this bill, then we should know that prior to us passing this bill.
Internal trade is so important to us all. Internal trade has an effect on our economy. Internal trade has an effect on the kind of social, health and educational programs we have, and if we went to this committee, we could understand how this bill is going to affect internal trade in this province, how it is going to affect all professions in this province, besides the ones that are listed here, and then the standing committee would be able to make an analysis on whether or not this bill needs to be changed or whether it can go forward in its present form. That is why we have made this amendment, to try to get some clarification, to try to allow citizens of this province to have input into a document that is going affect each and every one of them.
Internal trade, whether we like it or not, has an effect on jobs. It has an effect on the kinds of programs we run. It could have an effect on a lot of communities from one end of this province to another, no matter where you live in this province. Internal trade has a great effect on the lives of all Nova Scotians. It also has an effect on the ability of this government to raise money for its programs.
What we are asking is for this Legislature to refer this bill to this committee to allow an impact study to be done, to allow people representing all of those communities and all those various industries to come to government and indicate whether or not they feel this legislation is in the best interests of this province. I was hoping that if it went to committee, we could actually find out why we are the first province in Canada to put in this legislation that supposedly mirrors legislation in Ottawa, Bill C-88 that is not even passed and may have some amendments, and we could actually find out from the government, why the rush? Why aren't other provinces doing this as we are doing it in this province? Why is it that New Brunswick feels that they do not need this legislation to deal with the Internal Trade Agreement and Bill C-88?
I guess the main purpose behind this amendment is to try to get answers that we have not been able to get; also, to try to get a better piece of legislation. I am not going to get into the bill and I will stick strictly to the rationale of sending it on. It also gives members of this Legislature and that committee - and I do not think they understand this bill in its fullest - an opportunity to understand this bill and the ramifications of this bill and how Bill C-88 affects this bill. It would allow members on that committee to have a better understanding and it would allow people to draw in people for resources that we can't do in a setting like the Legislature. We have no opportunity to draw in resources, no opportunity to ask questions and no opportunity to better understand why it is we are doing some of these things. So, Mr. Speaker, I am supporting this amendment. I hope all members give their support to this amendment because whether they know it or not, internal trade is pretty important to our economy and pretty important to this province.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important bill and it is a real good amendment. I believe that our committee should have an opportunity to work with the legislators of this House. So often we hear that committees aren't used to their - Mr. Speaker, I can hardly hear myself talk, I guess you can't either - I can wait. I don't know how you can hear a thing in this Chamber.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, would the member opposite entertain a question?
MR. ARCHIBALD: I can't think of anything more joyful.
MR. HARRISON: Said with such sincerity. Mr. Speaker, I simply ask this question, the agreement was signed on July 18, 1994. Press releases were issued at that time and I am sure that the gentleman opposite and their caucus received notification of the signing of the agreement. Almost a year later, the Leader of the Opposition writes on a legitimate question concerning the impact on the Atlantic Procurement Agreement and the potential impact of Bill C-88. I simply ask the members opposite who clearly in this amendment are arguing for additional time, if they would mind tabling those interventions that they made from July 18, 1994 to the present so that we can know exactly what the Conservative Party of Nova Scotia felt was wrong with the agreement, a public document available to them at that time, and why they consider that their caucus needs more time, notwithstanding the fact that in summation we will be talking about the interventions by business and labour during that interval, as well? I wonder if the member opposite would be prepared to table the interventions by his caucus other than the letter from the Leader of the Opposition in an interval dating back to July 18, 1994.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I can't believe it. The honourable minister stands up and says he wants interventions when he hasn't even replied to the letters in over a year. I mean, let's get serious about this. This bill is entertained in this Chamber and the minister is critical that we want a little bit of time to discuss it. The first province in this whole Dominion, the first minister who says I have to have this bill and I have to have it now. Very little explanation from the minister. He anticipated a 10 minute or 15 minute debate in the House, no question, no trouble. There are more questions than there are answers. We just want the answers. Is there a problem with giving answers? Certainly the minister had an opportunity to write to another Cabinet Minister in Saskatchewan giving him information. Now perhaps if we got a Cabinet Minister from New Brunswick to write for us, on our behalf, perhaps we could get a response, too. But just to write to the lowly Leader of the Opposition, that takes a long time. So I guess we should funnel all our letters through some Cabinet Minister we could find somewhere else.
This amendment is going to be helpful because we need the opportunity to get an understanding of the total ramifications of the substance of this bill. This bill is just a couple of pages long but the substance it is actually referring to, are thousands of clauses and a couple of hundred pages. We are buying with this bill something that we don't know very many details about. I don't think it is too much to ask this minister to tell us, to give us the information. Before the 1988 election, everybody was concerned with trade. There was a committee of this Legislature struck to travel about the province to discuss with business leaders, small-business people, home owners, anybody else who was interested. We were not afraid to meet with people. We weren't afraid to have their views heard and we weren't afraid to listen and explain. What is Voluntary Planning? What is their role in this bill? They could appear before the Economic Development Committee meeting.
The Economic Development Committee meeting has the time. I sit on that committee and they have been talking about the information highway for a about a year and one-half now. It is all great stuff, but it sure keeps the controversy down. When I tried to get Ultramar brought before the committee, that did not go in there, but maybe that committee could handle this because it is not controversial. It is more informative and information gathering than anything else and the committee has time. There is not an agenda before the committee now, they could hear from Nova Scotians, both in Halifax and down the old-fashioned paved highway. That is the one that most people are familiar with in this province.
Other provinces have not seen the need, the rush and the hurry to get into this, and I know that the Minister for the Economic Renewal has a lot of things on his plate. Why this one came to the top, I am not sure. Let us find out what they are doing in New Brunswick, let us find out what they are doing in the rest of Canada. What is the rush? What are the options that we have? Who knows?
What about internal trade and agriculture? We have, in Nova Scotia, the finest Federation of Agriculture in all of Canada. The farmers that are members of the Federation of Agriculture have a great deal of expertise in trade. We should be hearing from them and learning from them. We have farmers in this province that are trading in every corner of North America. They have more concern about trade than what the people of this Legislature may realize, and if you get into the narrow field of agriculture into supply management, we better talk to the supply managed poultry producers.
Over $100 million a year, that is big business in the poultry industry. The farmers and the professionals that are working for the poultry sector would certainly enjoy the opportunity to appear before the committee of the House and explain their thoughts on internal trade because the rules are changing. There are pressures, both external and internal, on poultry supply management. Is our committee up-to-date? Are our legislators up-to-date? We do not grow all the chicken that we eat in this province. There are poultry producers in other provinces in Canada that are supplying poultry to Nova Scotia. There are poultry producers that want to supply a lot more poultry to Nova Scotia from outside our boundaries.
In the egg industry, there are producers that would love to have our market. Let us hear from them and let us make sure before we adopt this legislation willy-nilly that, in fact, there is protection and they are not adversely affected. Are there members in the House that have been told by the supply management poultry producers that this legislation is just what they wanted or are there some cautions and flags that we should be thinking about?
The milk industry, the dairy industry is over $100 million a year in this province. That is big business. There are not many other industries that are as large as agriculture, but have we talked to them? What would be wrong with the committee meeting with the supply management milk producers?
AN HON. MEMBER: That is kind of a chicken and egg situation.
MR. ARCHIBALD: We have fluid milk producers producing fluid milk and that is pretty near 100 per cent produced in this province. When you get into the manufacturing sector, which is the growth area of milk production at the present time, we are looking at yogurt, 15 years ago you could not get anybody to eat yogurt if you were giving it away, but suddenly there is a market for yogurt. Peninsula Farms down in the South Shore have found a market, they built a reputation nationally. They grew with the industry. Nobody was eating yogurt 15 years ago except a few but that is a growth industry.
The cheese manufacturers, we have heard and I have raised the question in this House and this bears directly with this amendment, we have one manufacturer in Nova Scotia of feta cheese. That one manufacturer of feta cheese, internal trade between Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec. You can't get much more internal trade in Canada than that. Do you know the problem they are having with internal trade and it has not yet been resolved, in the Province of Alberta there is an organization and a manufacturer in Alberta that is making feta cheese and they are not purchasing milk that is part of the Canadian supply management system.
MR. SPEAKER: I am afraid the member and I realize that he is speaking on matters of trade but I would ask the member to remember it is an amendment, why it should be referred to the committee. Perhaps you could tie that in.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I will. The committee perhaps could do something that our Minister of Agriculture has been unable thus far to do and that is to either put the Alberta feta cheese manufacturer out of business or make him play by the same rules that the Nova Scotia producer is using. That is internal trade, it is trade within Canada, it is trade within provinces and, for some reason, it isn't fair and it is a real problem. Sure, it is not a problem that is going to bother a lot of Nova Scotians but the people directly affected, the people who are producing the 40,000 litres of milk per week and the 15 to 20 that are working in Aylesford, feel that this is an infringement of trade.
What is our minister able to do about it? Shouldn't we make sure that everybody is playing by the same rules before we adopt the legislation? What better place to make sure than to put it before the Standing Committee on Economic Development? There is a real problem and it is not my imagination, it is a genuine problem because there isn't anybody else manufacturing that type of cheese and there isn't anybody else that can make better cheese at a better price, provided the playing field is level. That is all we are asking for, is a level playing field so that we are all treated the same way.
Is there any plan, is there anything in this legislation that is going to stop activities in one province from adversely affecting another when they are not playing by the same rules? I haven't seen it. We have to solve that problem and I am sure there are many others that I haven't even heard about but I know firsthand of the problem that the cheese producers are having in Nova Scotia at the present time with unfair competition from another province. Why isn't that addressed? Wouldn't that have a higher priority with this minister and this government? We could give the minister an opportunity to solve that problem. At the same time, we could be learning and teaching more about trade through the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
What are the rules all going to be from Truro?
We have a member who wants to make an introduction so, Mr. Speaker, if I can sit down he will stand up.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria with an introduction.
MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for giving me the floor to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker, seated in the east gallery is Mrs. Mabel MacEachern, who is the CAO from that great County of Victoria. She is accompanied by Mr. Louis Digout from the lesser beautiful County of Richmond. So I would ask you to give them a warm hand. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Transportation and Communications.
HON. RICHARD MANN: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel requested a rebuttal, we will call it a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Digout is from the beautiful area of River Bourgeois, where my mother resides, home of the member for Halifax Citadel's grandfather and many of his relatives still reside there. Mr. Digout is a former teammate of mine on baseball teams in Richmond County, a former workmate at Stora Forest Industries and a good friend. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I am very happy to welcome Mr. Digout here today.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: I simply rise to support and underscore the comments made by the Minister of Transportation and Communications relative to the beauty and the importance and the history and the heritage of Richmond County. It is the land of my forbearers and I know Mr. Digout and I know many people, particularly around the River Bourgeois-St. Peters area.
The difficulty I have, Mr. Speaker, is unfortunately I mark them all doubtful when it comes time to engage in provincial election activities but in the very best sense of adding a little note of levity to this very important period of debate in our House, I, too, would like to welcome our visitors and extol the virtues of beautiful Richmond County. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: I am sure we all join in extolling the virtues of that great county.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Is that it? You know I have relatives who used to live in Richmond County. Unfortunately, they are not here today. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Actually I believe there is a family of MacEwans in St. Peters. I don't know if that is relative to the amendment.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well I don't know either but I think it is nice to know that.
AN HON. MEMBER: It is good to have friends and family.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, friends and family are important, especially the ones who will still speak to you.
Mr. Speaker, what are the rules under this agreement going to be that are coming to us from Ottawa? That is a question and it should be answered.
MR. SPEAKER: I know it is a question but it is not the amendment. The amendment is that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
MR. ARCHIBALD: With that committee, Mr. Speaker, we would have an opportunity to find out the ramifications between Ottawa and Nova Scotia. If I could refer you back 30 seconds ago, when I was speaking about the manufacturers in Aylesford of feta cheese and the difficulty they are having with the Alberta company, the Alberta company has been appealed to by the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association and by the Nova Scotia Dairy Commission in appeal to the Alberta Dairy Commission. They have appealed to the federal Minister of Agriculture, they have appealed to the federal Minister of Trade.
What is the difficulty? This has been going on now for about six or eight months and there has been absolutely no resolution. This is the very basis of internal trade. So we need the action of our committee in Nova Scotia to find out, is this legislation going to be followed any more carefully than dairy commission legislation, both provincial and national? What is the penalty if you don't follow the rules? There are jobs in Nova Scotia at stake because an outfit in Alberta is not following the rules that have been set down by the Canadian federal government and the provincial governments in two provinces.
This is fundamental; nobody has been able to assist our Nova Scotia producers yet. They have appealed to the ministers in Nova Scotia, Ottawa and Alberta. Maybe our Economic Development Committee could get to the bottom of it and say, listen, here is the problem, it isn't the problem in Nova Scotia, Ottawa, it is in Alberta, or maybe the problem is directly in Ottawa. We need to get to the bottom of that and I would think our minister would want to get to the bottom of it before he hops willy-nilly into another agreement that maybe nobody is going to pay any attention to except Nova Scotia either. We are following the rules in cheese manufacturing and we are getting pounded. Our markets are disappearing because of undercutting prices, undercutting quality control. It is not fair and it is not right, but it is happening under the current rules. What faith do we have that the rules are going to be adhered to any differently in the future?
The Standing Committee on Economic Development will give us a little time to find that out because I am curious. If you put in a set of rules and you follow them if you feel like it, or you do not follow them if you do not feel like it, what is the point of having the rules? I think this is fundamental and I think before the minister went any farther with this bill, he would want to take the bull by the horns and settle the dispute. Not blindly hop into another national program that dear knows who is going to follow and dear knows what all the rules are going to be because everybody has not adopted it yet. In principle they have, but we are the first people with any legislation. Legislation is not just like a walk in the park, legislation means business and you have to abide by the rules.
MR. SPEAKER: . . . rules on amendments. The debate has to be completely related to the amendment. This point has already been made by the Chair earlier in this debate. The only matter that is on the floor is to refer the subject matter of Bill No. 33 to the Standing Committee on Economic Development and that is it.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you. This committee could move around the province and I would like very much for the Economic Development Committee to make a stop in Aylesford. That would be the first stop. Pardon me?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, maybe they could make a stop in Whitney Pier, too . . .
MR. ARCHIBALD: Okay that is two stops.
MR. SPEAKER: . . . or maybe South Bar, New Victoria right through to New Waterford . . .
MR. ARCHIBALD: We cannot stop at every small community, but if we would just stop at a few . . .
MR. SPEAKER: . . . but if we were to proceed along that line it would clearly be an abuse of the process of the House. So let us keep it to the amendment.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Okay. My point is, and I guess I have made it because you certainly got it, we have a duty as legislators to make sure Nova Scotians know what is in the bill. This Economic Development Committee has a duty and has an opportunity to make sure that people in the province have an opportunity to be heard and the province has the same reciprocal opportunity.
You know, we have heard about gas pipelines lately, but to most people it is a big question mark. The Economic Development Committee would have an opportunity to explain and to hear briefs and alleviate many fears that are out there regarding the pipelines that are referred to because we are going to be talking about the selling of gas.
Trade is vital to Nova Scotia's future. The committee could do a great deal to get a better understanding of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade because life in the trade world is not always fair. We should be warned because the old saying, forewarned is forearmed. The committee should do some study on some of the artificial trade barriers that different provinces, countries have put to prevent Nova Scotia products from entering their market.
If you remember about five years ago now, they started saying Nova Scotia lumber could no longer go to Europe. Why did they do that? The committee should understand trade better than what we do normally. You have to understand that it always is not the level playing field. You have to be warned. The Europeans started talking about a nematode, a little bug that has been tearing around - you can't see it without a microscope - it has been here forever. That is what they use to keep Nova Scotia lumber out of their countries so that they can bring lumber down from the Scandinavian countries and some of the Russian satellites. They just felt it was easier and more beneficial to trade north and south rather than across the Atlantic Ocean. We were the scapegoat and the nematode was their method. Ever since 400 years or 500 years, lumber has been going to Europe from here, with and without nematodes, and all of a sudden it is a problem. That is an example of an artificial trade barrier that our committee should understand because other provinces could and will adopt the same method to use against Nova Scotia.
If you look at the growth in business from the Windsor and Hantsport and Truro to Sydney rail line in lumber, you know that Nova Scotia is a lumber-producing province. We better be forewarned. Pulp and paper are huge employers in Nova Scotia and they aren't printing the paper in Nova Scotia that they are using. Trade is why we have three pulp and paper plants here.
We better make sure our committee understands the way and the method of trade because a lot of the time it isn't fair and a lot of the time the fields aren't level in trade. Just in agricultural products alone, the United States Government was spending $45 billion a year in artificial subsidies. The Europeans weren't far behind at $42 billion a year, and the same thing, a lot of them were unmarked, unnamed, hard to find. But we could find them because it was cheaper for a Nova Scotian to buy grain in Holland than it was to buy grain in Halifax, except the federal government wouldn't let you bring it in. This is trade. I am not sure that all Nova Scotians have as full and thorough an understanding as what they could receive after spending some time at the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
We have a duty, Mr. Speaker, as members of this Legislature, to bring in legislation that is understandable by the people and, particularly, understandable by the people most affected by it. The Minister of Health learned that when he brought in that Medicare change in his health cards for senior citizens. At first he didn't explain it and they didn't like it, but then after a while he went around the province and tried his best to explain it and had his people try their best to explain it. You see, that is an example of a committee going to work after the fact. It doesn't work very well. It makes for a lot of hard feelings. We, on the other hand, have an opportunity today to do it the right way. Let's explain first and then answer the questions. The government doesn't want to do that and I don't understand why. We are giving the government a perfectly good opportunity to meet with the chairman and the members of the committee to talk about trade.
One of the things that the provinces of Atlantic Canada have done is that they have decided - I guess we are part of it, we started the program - we brought in a Maritime-wide purchasing agreement. Well, what happens now? One of the things that we didn't expect was going to happen, when you purchase Maritime-wide, you are buying in such a large quantity that it isn't the local supplier who puts in a bid, it is the manufacturer, competing with the local supplier. What we have done is we put some local distributors out of business in favour of the manufacturer. That was not the intent of the cooperative agreement but that was the result. If we had gone a little further, we would have found that out.
We have seen, too, under school board purchasing, school boards do their bulk purchasing in Halifax. That sounds great because the school boards can now order 500 colour copiers and enough paper to last for a whole year. Well, the manufacturer hops into the arrangement, or the Ontario distributor for Canada gets into it, and he puts down a price and he sells all the copiers. The fellow in Kentville is excluded.
MR. SPEAKER: I want to be the quintessence of charity but the honourable member is really very irrelevant when it comes to the narrow parameters of debate that are permissible on amendments. On second reading of bills, I have no difficultly if members want to skate all around the rink, as long as they talk about trade and don't get into tractors or - well, I suppose tractors could be traded. That would be in order on second reading of the bill but we are not on second reading. We are on an amendment, a very specific, narrow amendment, referring the bill to the Standing Committee on Economic Development. The honourable member has now gone on for approximately one-half hour in a very vague, general discussion of matters that might relate to the bill, perhaps, or to the topic of the bill but not specific arguments as to why it should be referred to that committee.
So I admonish the honourable member. I am not asking him to take his seat - except while I speak - but I admonish the honourable member to please stay on track and not get distracted with irrelevance.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You know you mentioned tractors and I was talking to a fellow the other day who is in the tractor business and, you know, one of the interesting - and this will only take a second - I guess I had better not.
MR. SPEAKER: Good.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity for people to understand trade and understand the ramifications of this arrangement and if we fail to do our proper educating job beforehand, we are going to wind up in the same situation we did with the Atlantic Procurement Agreement. It looks like a good idea until you hop in and then you find out that there are ramifications that were uncounted on. How many surprises is this legislation, that the province has agreed to and the minister is trying to get down, how many ramifications unknown to Nova Scotians and if the committee had a look, perhaps we could figure it out beforehand and save some problems.
We are the first province in Canada to holus bolus take this on and it is not right. We are rushing and what is the reason? If we were the last province and everybody was saying, come on, hurry up, but we are the first province and nobody is saying hurry up. Nobody is even interested.
AN HON. MEMBER: Except us.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Except us and we are doing everything we possibly can, Mr. Speaker, to give Nova Scotians the opportunity to take part in democracy. The minister said, well, where are all your briefs? I want to see them. Where is his response to the letters? Everybody would like to see them.
Well, we have a problem with this legislation. We have tried to explain ways that this legislation could be helped, could be solved. This amendment would be one of them. Mr. Speaker, if the government chooses not to heed our advice, so be it. It is their pitfall. It is not too late for the minister to say, look, I would like some more advice, I do not have enough. I do not understand the legislation, I want some clarification because this legislation is based on an agreement that I guarantee you, if there are five people in this House who have even seen it, I would be surprised. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to rise for a few moments to speak on the amendment, which I will be supporting, which refers the subject matter of Bill No. 33, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, to the Standing Committee on Economic Development. I think it is a well considered amendment because this is an issue here, the subject matter contained in this bill is a fairly serious matter for the Province of Nova Scotia with respect to the economy, trade and commerce.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: I wonder if my honourable colleague from the Third Party would entertain a question, Mr. Speaker. The Internal Trade Agreement was signed and agreed to by the provinces, the Premiers and the Prime Minister of this country on July 18, 1994. There was full press coverage. Could I ask the honourable member to, perhaps, undertake to table, before this House the submissions made, letters, requests for information or any and all comments made on the Internal Trade Agreement, which he had available to him, on July 19, 1994, from then until now, as we argue the question of a six months' hoist. Would he be prepared to table any and all submissions made by his Party in that intervening time?
MR. CHISHOLM: I am quite happy to respond to that intervention and I would like to make a couple of different comments on it. First of all, I indicated when I first intervened in debate on this bill that for, whatever reason, I did not make note of the signing of that particular agreement. With that having been said, that is still a political document. It was a document that basically says that the signatories to it will endeavour to, in other words, they will attempt to live up to the standards and so on that are contained within the agreement and that is that. It is when it comes to an actual piece of legislation, a piece of law that is tabled in this House that it is incumbent upon me, as a legislator, as an MLA, with responsibility to vote yea or nay on legislation here, to stand up and take notice because that legislation actually binds us to many of the conditions that are set out in that political agreement.
As I have said before, for whatever reason, I did not make significant note of that agreement and its implications when it came down. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, catch everything that comes down the pipe, unfortunately. I wish I was sharper than that, I wish I had more resources at my disposal in order to be able to ascertain the true implications of a lot of the things that this government does. I do the best I can, though, and I certainly have recognized Bill No. 33 for what it is and that is why I am on my feet today and have been for the last number of days. I am trying to raise concerns that I have and that a number of people have that this bill and the passage of this bill has serious implications on the ability of this province to maintain its historical jurisdiction on matters of trade and commerce in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think that is a matter of some concern.
Let me say before I leave that question, because I think it was a good one, it was one I wanted to address because it was raised with the Official Opposition and it was one I wanted to get to because I think it misses a whole number of points. In a letter from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, for example, in June 1995, a letter to the Minister of Supply and Services where they raised concerns about the minister's White Paper on Procurement, they raised concern about the federal/provincial negotiations on removing inter-provincial trade barriers. They raised some very specific concerns with the minister on the fact that they had not been consulted, that this is the only jurisdiction in this country where the organization representing municipalities, municipal governments, that will be greatly affected by the provisions under the Agreement on Internal Trade, were not consulted. They were not alerted, they were not apprised of, their intervention, their research, their perspective was not considered important by this government.
This organization raised concerns with the minister about that subsequently. So, yes, I agree, I missed it when the agreement was originally signed but I say that, first of all, it was a political agreement and it appears that I am not the only one and maybe that speaks to the fact that surely the minister should have some responsibility to bring matters of such importance to the Province of Nova Scotia to the attention of the public. Surely he has some responsibility, I think, on his shoulders to bring matters of such significance to this province to the attention of the population.
All that having been said, we are dealing with Bill No. 33, a bill which was tabled in this Legislature.
MR. SPEAKER: We are dealing with this amendment to the bill.
MR. CHISHOLM: That's right. But the amendment deals with referring the subject matter of Bill No. 33 to the Standing Committee on Economic Development. This bill was tabled in the House two weeks ago and the subject matter of that bill is a document, as we have discussed, with 1,817 articles, Mr. Speaker. That's the subject matter that Bill No. 33 relates to. This document, I think, should be referred the Standing Committee on Economic Development in order that everyone have the opportunity for serious review and consideration of the implications of not only this agreement, because this agreement forms part of the subject matter of the bill, but also a number of the other provisions in this bill that aren't dealt with by any other jurisdiction that has gone to the point of drafting and introducing legislation in their jurisdiction.
I think those are important questions that have to be considered. It would seem relevant to me, and that is why I support this amendment that that subject matter be dealt with by a standing committee of this House that could, if need be, either entertain presentations from a number of different organizations that are going to be affected and/or do the kind of public hearing process that has been undertaken by other standing committees when they have been dealing with matters of such import.
We have talked about the historic significance of provincial jurisdictions having the authority over matters within their boundaries, over matters of trade and commerce, Mr. Speaker. That has been an important authority under our constitution, for provinces to set policies and to make decisions on the basis of the conditions within their region, whether that be in matters of procurement, in order that a provincial government may use its purchasing power, in order to help develop a local industry in efforts to develop different parts of the province, of the jurisdiction, whether that be to increase employment and to reduce unemployment in regions where employment is so badly lacking.
That is why some of the provisions in this bill should be, I think - we should have representation or there should be an opportunity for discussion and debate by representatives of the building trades, for example, and a number of their member unions, to talk about the impact, for example, that the changes in the Pipeline Act will have on the potential of members of their unions and others having access to jobs if, in fact, a pipeline to ship natural gas from the wells offshore to the United States is a project that this government is going to undertake. I think that they (Interruptions)
Well, no, that is not necessarily the issue here, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Finance has said that we only want them to work to the border. I mean, trivialize my intervention if you will, but don't misrepresent it. All we are saying is that we agree that there needs to be a certain amount of freedom and we need to reduce and remove any barriers that exist to the free movement of goods and services, within, though, and without restricting the authority of each jurisdiction to set policies that address specific problems in those areas and in those jurisdictions. Because that is something we have always done and that is something we should be allowed to continue to do.
We now have tradespeople who move out of province and operate on projects in different parts of the country as we now have companies that come to Nova Scotia and workers that come into this province to engage in work, but at the same time . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Do these migratory movements relate directly to this amendment?
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, I think the question of whether or not we want that to happen is relevant and I think we need to have that discussion. The minister responsible for this bill may be all-knowing and may comprehend all of the implications of this, but I do not know that all members of this House do, and I do not know that the workers in this province completely understand what is going on or that the companies - different small, medium and large companies - in this province necessarily understand all of the implications. I think that we would benefit greatly by having their intervention in the debate on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: And they could, no doubt, appear before the Standing Committee on Economic Development. I take it that is the direction in which you are heading because, if you are not heading in that direction, you should not be speaking.
MR. CHISHOLM: It is a forum as opposed to the Law Amendments Committee, for example, which is extremely technical and where the representation time is fairly limited, fairly specific. It is a forum where we can engage in some level of debate and have an exchange between committee members as we do and, Mr. Speaker, you will know this from your experience sitting on those standing committees, that there is an opportunity to question, to have presentations but also to question, and to get some sort of exchange in order that committee members are provided an opportunity to learn about the subject in order to be able to make recommendations back to the government. I think that is a forum that would be very important and would serve an important function here in us trying to deal with this matter.
You know the minister has said, well, first of all he said, if you were upset about it, you should have raised it a year ago. I think we have tried to address that as best we could, and the bill to bind us to the Agreement on Internal Trade was not presented in this House until two weeks ago, so we could not speak about the bill itself, which we now are doing, Mr. Speaker.
The other thing is that only one other jurisdiction has passed legislation, legislation which, by the way, is not at all similar to this piece of legislation, but only one other jurisdiction has; two other jurisdictions are entertaining legislation at the present time in their Legislatures; and there are several other jurisdictions who have no intentions in the immediate future for introducing this or other legislation to enable or to provide for the acceptance and the enactment of the Agreement on Internal Trade.
So the situation is that if everybody is not into it, if everybody is not part of it, then what kind of effect does it have? If that is the case then what is the rush, what is the hurry here? Why do we have to see this legislation which deals with such an important matter with respect to trade and commerce in the Province of Nova Scotia and the ability of the provincial government to have some effect on decisions that will make a difference to our communities and to socio-economic factors in our communities? Why is it that we have to accept, as legislators, that that bill is going to get dropped here on the table one week and then a month later be passed through when it has such a significant impact on this province? I think that is a question that has to be asked, what is the rush, what is the panic on behalf of the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency in order to get this legislation through?
I think it would be an extremely responsible procedure given the concerns that have been raised by many, not just myself, to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Economic Development and provide a reasonable length of time, be that three months, six months or whatever, in order to deal with it and bring the legislation forward again in the spring session. We would deal with it then, we would have a lot more information. I would suggest to you that there are members in this House who probably haven't had the opportunity to review the Agreement on Internal Trade who may then have had the opportunity to and through their participation on the committee would have learned a considerable amount about whether, in fact, the concerns that are raised are legitimate and need to be addressed. I think that is the way to go. I think it is the only way to go.
Surely legislators here, but surely Nova Scotians, should have the right as well as the opportunity to debate a matter that changes the relationship or that portends to change the relationship between the provincial government and the federal government with respect to matters of trade and commerce within the Province of Nova Scotia. There is some suggestion that that is what the bill and the subject matter of the bill or the agreement will, in fact, do. If that is not the case then we will learn that over the period of hearings held by the standing committee. Then we can come back to this House in the spring, call Bill No. 33 forward. Then I and other members of the Opposition who have tried to represent the concerns expressed by others can then take the opportunity to say, well, these concerns were brought to our attention, they appeared legitimate and they undoubtedly were but because for this reason, that reason and the next reason, these concerns are being addressed or these concerns aren't going to come to play.
It is incumbent upon us to err on the side of caution. Especially given the fact that there is only one other jurisdiction that has passed legislation. Surely it is advantageous for all of us in such an important matter as trade and commerce to err on the side of caution and ensure that we know all the implications. Once the bill goes through, once these changes are made to the legislation, once the preferences for Nova Scotians and for Nova Scotia goods and services are ripped out of the Civil Service Act, the Pipeline Act, the Gas and Utilities Act, the Wildlife Act, once that is done I would suggest it is going to be sometime down the road before we are going to be in a position to rectify the problems that creates. Surely that is not in the interests of Nova Scotia, that is not an indication of sound and wise public policy-making, Mr. Speaker.
So in conclusion of my debate on this amendment, let me say that I am extremely dismayed at the response of the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, that these concerns that I take extremely seriously and that members of the Opposition who have raised them and brought them to his attention and to the attention of other members take very seriously, would be dismissed out of hand, as they have been by the minister, by his standing and challenging us by saying, well, if you have concerns, why didn't you raise them a year ago? I find that somewhat disheartening and significantly disrespectful, Mr. Speaker.
Again I just urge all members that if you haven't had the opportunity to talk about this issue and this bill, to talk about the Agreement on Internal Trade with your constituents and with others who are going to be affected by this in the Province of Nova Scotia, then I suggest you have an obligation to do that. I suggest that the amendment we are facing here today to refer the subject matter on to the Standing Committee on Economic Development is an opportunity to do that very thing, Mr. Speaker. I think it is the responsible thing to do and I would urge all members to vote in support of this amendment. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity this afternoon, as I won't be able to be here for part of this evening anyway, to make my remarks now. But I don't know that if after I have spoken now I would have the opportunity to speak again. Of course with unanimous consent, and I see that the member for Cape Breton South was pleased when I got to my feet and he applauded, maybe he could get unanimous consent from his colleagues so that I could speak twice on the amendment. But that is getting off the topic so I will try to get back to the important matter before us.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to commend and congratulate - if that is not repeating myself, I guess it is as I get my thoughts together here, but I want to congratulate - the member for Queens for having brought forward what I think is a very reasonable, responsible (Interruption) and, as the member for Hants East says, timely amendment.
I think it is very timely; it is timely because the timeframes for the agreements and so on have not yet kicked in. It is also timely because we are now, in the province, trying to grapple with how it is we are going to be able to combat the deficit situation existing in this province without having to cut and slash essential programs that Nova Scotians so desperately need and deserve. So it is timely to look at this agreement in a detailed fashion and to give Nova Scotians the opportunity to look in a detailed fashion at what kinds of implications this will have for economic development, or one might say for economic undevelopment within the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't know that there is such a word as undevelopment, Mr. Speaker . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Well, there is underdevelopment.
MR. HOLM: Well there is underdevelopment but I am not trying to say that it is underdeveloped, I am trying to put forward the notion that maybe some of the development and advantages that we do have could actually end up being taken away or destroyed.
So as I say, Mr. Speaker, and I hope I am not creating a problem for those in Hansard, they can record my word even though it doesn't appear in any dictionary but I think that the meaning of what I am trying to get at will be clear.
Now, Mr. Speaker, of course the Standing Committee on Economic Development is a standing committee of this House and that committee would have the opportunity to hold public forums, public hearings and to make available to the people of the province the information that is contained within this bill and within this agreement, as well, to call before it expert witnesses, experts who can look at what is happening in terms of trends and globalization, look at trends in terms of what is happening as a country as a result of deregulation and the removal of barriers.
This Agreement on Internal Trade is a form of deregulation. That is not necessarily bad, depending on how it is done and what is actually being done. It could be very good for certain segments, Mr. Speaker, it may be very good for certain parts of this country. It may be, also, very good for certain companies from other areas of the world, but that does not in itself mean that it is going to be good for Nova Scotians. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that Nova Scotia businesses and workers not be adversely affected as a result of this agreement. We have to have, we must have the opportunities within the province, not only to maintain employment levels that we currently have, but to enhance those and to enhance economic activity within the province.
We should not only be looking at the export of our young people from Nova Scotia after they have gone through our excellent school system, where they get the excellent education and training from a very dedicated staff of professionals who provide that education. We should not only be looking at how we can export those people to other parts of the country, where they would have to go in order to find employment. We should be looking at ways to create the employment here in the Province of Nova Scotia, so that our young people can stay at home, so that they can contribute in a meaningful way here in the Province of Nova Scotia and then pay taxes here in the Province of Nova Scotia and, therefore, their tax dollars would be able to be reinvested back into Nova Scotia, back into maintaining essential programs like our health care system, like our education system, from which they benefitted. So the implications of this agreement are very far-reaching.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have yet to hear from this government, and maybe there are some good reasons why it is, in the Province of Nova Scotia, we feel, or the minister and his colleagues on the front benches at least feel it is necessary to have the legislation to implement this agreement when other provincial jurisdictions across this country have not ratified that agreement . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Now, before you get into that one, we have heard this from several previous speakers and I do not think that is new ground that you are covering. It is repetitious.
MR. HOLM: It may be repetitious to you, Mr. Speaker, and to members of this House who have maybe heard those comments from other speakers, but I am speaking for my very first time on this bill.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, but Erskine May makes it clear that you cannot repeat the arguments that have been made by previous speakers in the debate. You cannot do that. We have heard that only one other jurisdiction has adopted this particular schedule umpteen times now. We know that. We do not need to hear it again.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly am not going to go over, umpteen times, what other jurisdictions are going to say, all I am going to do is stand in my place, however, to certainly assert my right as a member to speak for myself and to put on the record my views. With the greatest amount of respect, sometimes I even agree with some things that members of the government benches say. I would welcome the opportunity, when those rare occasions happen, to be able to stand and say the same points that that member might also have . . .
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if, in the interests of helping the Speaker's admonition to sink in, the honourable member opposite would entertain a question?
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to entertain a question from the minister, but as I do, I have to tell him that I was having no difficulty having the admonition sink in. I was simply discussing that admonishment.
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this brief interlude to ask, as the speaker indicates, it is his first time on his feet with this amendment which argues for a six months' hoist of this bill to provide time for input, (Interruption) Oh, I am sorry.
AN HON. MEMBER: You've got the wrong amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: The amendment is that the matter of the bill be referred to the Economic Development Committee.
MR. HARRISON: That is exactly right, that it be referred in the interests of time and further clarification to the committee. I would ask this member, as I have asked his colleague, if he would please table any and all submissions that have been made on a public document, on a bill agreed to by all of the provinces and the federal government, of July 18, 1994, if he would please table in this House any and all submissions made by him or his Party or, in the absence of the previous Leader, any of his Third Party members who might have made submissions to the government, to the department on any of the issues. Would he please table that?
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't want to be repetitious in responding to the minister because then I might get my wrists slapped. First of all, I am pleased that you did correct and point out to the minister that, in fact, the resolution we are debating is not what the minister thought we were debating. We are not debating a six months' hoist, because that is something that, in effect, really kills the bill. What we are debating is referring the subject matter of the bill to the Standing Committee on Economic Development. That was the point that I started to talk about in the first place. I know I would be repetitious if I went back and explained some of the advantages of doing that, even though the minister didn't hear.
He also, obviously, didn't hear the response, or else he didn't accept the response that my colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic, gave about this being a political agreement that has no force and effect at the present time. I don't know if it would be appropriate to be repetitious and give the minister exactly the same answer that he got before. But let me just say that maybe the minister should read Hansard tomorrow and then he will have the written word and he will know then what resolution we are debating and he will know the answer to the question that he has asked a couple of times. In the interests of time, of course, I will suggest that the minister may want to do that.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things happening and I want just to touch on, in the short time that I plan to speak this afternoon, a couple of aspects. One of the things that this government has been doing and that can result in the loss of jobs here in the Province of Nova Scotia, and I am thinking of the privatization of government services. We are told time and time again how the government is trying to save money, and so it is going to enter into these public/private partnerships so that the private sector can bid on providing services, services that are currently being provided by public sector workers in the province, supposedly at a lower cost and more efficiently. You know, Campbell's Soup could put on one more production line in an evening and supply all of Canada's needs from a major plant in the States.
MR. SPEAKER: I have heard that one before.
MR. HOLM: Now, Mr. Speaker, we have here a potential in this agreement and I think that we have to look at what the possible implications of doing this, what they can mean for Nova Scotians. If, for example, the Department of Finance decides that they are going to contract out a section of the work that is currently being done, or maybe the Department of Municipal Affairs or any other department; could have something to do with computers, it could have something to do with a number of things.
Jobs that are currently being done by government sector workers here in Nova Scotia and where those paycheques are being spent in the Province of Nova Scotia, where that money then is being recirculated in those communities where those workers live, where those workers pay taxes here in Nova Scotia, where those businesses where they are spending the money pay taxes here in Nova Scotia, where employees are making a living indirectly, those monies go back to fund our essential programs, health, education and so on.
Now, the government says when they privatize some of these, they talk about how that is going to help local business here in Nova Scotia, how that is creating alternate employment and the government has the ability to show preference to Nova Scotia firms if they are going to go down that route. When this legislation goes forward, if it does, without proper scrutiny, if we cannot answer these questions, what happens if a company from Toronto, or a company from New York with a branch office somewhere in Canada, decides that they want to bid on that work and to take those jobs and have that work done in the City of New York in their large computers and equipment machines? That has a direct economic negative impact upon the economy of Nova Scotia.
The Economic Development Committee has a number of mandates. Of course, part of that mandate is to look at trying to find ways to foster and promote economic development within the Province of Nova Scotia, not the State of New York. Not that I have anything against the State of New York, but I want the jobs that are originating from Nova Scotia to be in Nova Scotia for Nova Scotians first, not people living in New York.
We talked about a whole variety of issues during the second reading debate and I am not going to go into all of those again here today.
MR. SPEAKER: You cannot, you would be out of order.
MR. HOLM: I know, that is what I mean, Mr. Speaker. I said I am not going to go into it. I did not give the reason for it, Mr. Speaker. I notice you are looking at the rule book, so I can assure you that I am appreciating the fact that you are going to try to keep me on track.
Under the Economic Development Committee, they have a mandate to look at a whole variety of things. They can look at matters dealing with economic development issues dealing with natural resources. They have the ability to bring before that committee representatives, for example, from the minister's own department, if they so wish, of Natural Resources. They could bring before that committee and they do bring before that committee, representatives from industry and business who are involved with economic activity within the Province of Nova Scotia; expert witnesses; they even have the ability to call before it and have hearings to bring workers from those various segments before that committee.
One has to wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether or not it would not be appropriate, for example, given the changes that are being made to the Pipeline Act in this legislation, to have the Economic Development Committee look at the implications for that change in that legislation and what kind of impact that will have on the development or, you might say, the non-development of resource-based industries dealing with the offshore here in Nova Scotia as a result of these changes.
Will the Government of Nova Scotia and is it in the interest of the people of Nova Scotia to be saying that we can no longer have any regulation or control over the export of our raw materials for development or for reprocessing and manufacturing? Because the majority of jobs from natural gas are going to be in the processing end, Mr. Speaker. Not just in the building of the pipelines. Those are short term. They may be very important jobs, but they can be very short-term jobs. In addition to that, what kind of impact would that have on the coal industry? Of course, the gas is scheduled to come onstream at the same time as the next coal contract comes up for discussion.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of these items that the Economic Development Committee can look at. What kind of impact will it have on the tourist industry? How many jobs are involved when it says in this legislation, when it strikes out resident of Nova Scotia or strikes out in the Province of Nova Scotia and says instead things like resident of Canada or in Canada? In other words, we no longer will have the ability to give preferences to Nova Scotia businesses.
How many business contracts does the province enter into for the purchase of goods and services where they are giving a preference on the basis of a very small margin? I think it is 5 per cent for here in Nova Scotia, that if Nova Scotia companies make a bid for business, I think it is within about 5 per cent. Then the government has the ability, even if it is not the lowest bid, to award that contract to the Nova Scotia company because they recognize that is going to have major social and economic benefits to the province that far outweigh that modest 5 per cent difference in price.
Mr. Speaker, under this agreement, companies from other areas can complain that is an unfair advantage. Now it is not likely that is going to be happening for a $25,000 contract, but it might for a $250,000 contract or a $2.5 million contract. The Province of Nova Scotia is giving up the ability, it would appear by this legislation, to be able to give that preference to the Nova Scotia firms. I think that Nova Scotians have a right to be involved in that discussion, in that decision-making process.
Municipalities do this as well. They are covered by this, Mr. Speaker. They will be covered, as will hospitals and universities, by this agreement. They use purchasing powers abilities to try to assist and to promote, and yes again, only with a very small modest amount in terms of differences of price because you cannot justify it on a large cost differential. For a very small differential, if that means that a municipality is able, for example, to maintain a few jobs in the Town of Canso where those jobs are desperately needed or in Victoria County or in another area, Mr. Speaker, wherever there may happen to be high unemployment, but where the elected representatives deem that the social benefits outweigh that modest cost differential, this agreement has the ability to call that in question.
Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go on much longer on this. For the love of me, I cannot understand why it is that this legislation is needed right away, especially when some provinces say that they do not need to introduce legislation at all to implement the principles and goals of the agreement. Secondly, I do not see why this government would be willing, and I am not sure that the people of this province, I may be wrong, want their government to give up to Ottawa control over commerce and trade within their boundaries, within Nova Scotia, as this legislation and agreement appears to be doing.
I believe that businesses and individuals within this province, workers and workers' representatives who are concerned about maintaining jobs and business opportunities here, should have a right to find out what is in this agreement and, secondly, once they find that out, to be able to have some kind of an input.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say, without any hesitation, that I will be supporting and that I do support the amendment that is before us for consideration this afternoon. I think that it would be the kind of thing that all members of the government benches surely, because remember, and I say to the members of the Red Team, you are the group who say that you want to listen to the people. You are the group that ran in an election saying that you want to consult. You were the ones who promised 30-60-90 and to be involved with economic development - jobs, jobs, jobs. You had a plan.
I don't know, Mr. Speaker, maybe this is the government plan. It could be that the government's plan is to turn it all over to Ottawa and let them make all the decisions and that Nova Scotians can go on down the road, as the saying goes. I think that Nova Scotians, if this is in fact - other than the casinos, that is - the government's economic strategy for the Province of Nova Scotia, I believe we have a responsibility. I am sure, I feel quite confident -I say with tongue in cheek - that the members of the Liberal benches will want to support, giving their constituents an opportunity to actually be involved in a meaningful way for a change, instead of imposing something on them from on high, instead of the traditional way that this government has followed the practice that they have followed to say that we are all knowing, we are all wise, we have all the answers so you will take our advice and you will do as we tell you. It might be a positive experience for members of the government to actually, occasionally, listen, consult.
This resolution provides the opportunity for that kind of consultation to take place and meaningful input into the economic development here in the Province of Nova Scotia. Heavens, Mr. Speaker, 30-60-90 sure did not work, maybe the Economic Development Committee will be able, through this process, to hear some good advice from the average Nova Scotian, advice on how we can actually get this province working rather then just simply following the Mulroney-Chretien model of cuts, slash and burn, but actually get on with trying to find ways to build. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to your admonishment all afternoon about saying strictly with regard to referring this bill to the Committee on Economic Development and I intend, as far as I can, to stay within that limitation.
Mr. Speaker, when the minister introduced this bill on Tuesday of this week, he devoted, I suppose, about five minutes total to the bill. The minister, as we all know, when he brings a bill in for second reading, does indeed introduce the principle of the bill and gives an overview of what the bill is about and some remarks perhaps to explain why, indeed, a particular piece of legislation is necessary. It is my belief that the minister did not do that. I believe that by referring this bill to a committee, and in this case, the Committee on Economic Development, which is the correct committee, it will indeed permit members of this House to know what this bill is about and furthermore, I believe it will give an opportunity for some of the myriad number of groups across this province who have a vested interest in this particular piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many members here, truthfully, and I am not trying to be sarcastic, but how many members of the government have actually read this legislation. I know in truth I didn't devote much time to reading this legislation until we got involved in the discussion about what the bill is about. This is very serious stuff. We are talking about changing the way in which we do business in this province, not only for one group, but for every group in this province. You will remember, I am sure, a few years ago, in the liquor stores, we used to sell western beer. Western beer used to come all the way from Quebec or from Ontario. It came from the west but not the west that we would imagine. That was western beer and when it came to the Province of Nova Scotia and went into our liquor stores, there was a premium you paid to drink western beer.
Now, think of how ridiculous this is. Within this country where we are manufacturing beer in every province and every brewery, I presume, has their own recipe, so that every beer is somewhat different from another beer, that if I want to drink a particular beer made from a particular recipe that is manufactured in Saskatchewan that I would have to pay a premium to drink that beer. I think rightfully so, in this province, we got rid of that. We said that was nonsense. Western beer is beer and beer should be able to travel between the provinces without hindrance. So we did that. But there was a difficulty when we did that, Mr. Speaker, as evidenced by the fact that a large percentage of our market was taken up by western beer, that is beer not manufactured in this province, by beer manufactured later on, after NAFTA went into effect, in the United States and as a result of that change, we did indeed lose one brewery entirely and another brewery was reduced to a smaller stage.
AN HON. MEMBER: Is it a beer bill or a bar bill?
MR. RUSSELL: This is not a beer bill, not a bar bill, but I can tell the honourable Minister of Transportation, that this stuff is important for the transportation industry, as well, in this province. It is important for every sector within this province but getting back to that one change, Mr. Speaker, that we made, that affected, for instance, inter-provincial trade in beer, it affected a large number of employees in this province. If this particular piece of legislation goes through, it says that the Province of Nova Scotia accepts this agreement, which everybody had held up at great length, or some 2,000-odd pages, I guess, and countless numbers of sections to it, that we accept that document in total. That is what it says.
MR. SPEAKER: Would you permit an introduction?
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, through you, I wish to introduce to the House in the Speaker's Gallery, two elected officials from the Municipality of the County of Pictou, Warden Hank Dunnewold and Councillor Mel MacLean. (Applause)
MR. RUSSELL: So this hefty thing that I have got in my hand, Mr. Speaker, is really what this little four page bill is that we have. This simply gives cause and effect to this piece of legislation. I am telling you there a lot of things in that legislation that should be looked at before we accept this piece of legislation.
I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if the minister himself even knows that this piece of legislation, at the present time, is undergoing amendment. We are accepting as gospel a document from Ottawa and saying, yes, we agree with that document when this is not even a document that is going to go through the House. There are amendments in process at the present time to the federal bill. The Province of Saskatchewan, whose politics I do not necessarily agree with but, however, have had the good sense to write their federal counterparts to ask for information as to what changes will be made to this bill before it is enacted. They have had the good sense to stand and say, we will not put in place our legislation until we get adequate explanation of the final bill that will be passed through the House. I would suggest that that is a route we should be following in this province.
If indeed, Mr. Speaker, the government are willing to put this bill into the Standing Committee on Economic Development, it will provide an opportunity for all those groups across the province to give their opinion of what the impact will be on their particular sector with the passage of this legislation. I do not want anybody to misunderstand what I am saying. It is not that I do not believe in inter-provincial trade. I think it is great. I think we would all applaud that but, however, there are some things that we have to remember that are presently being done in this province that, with inter-provincial trade, may no longer be done.
There was an example, for instance, a few years ago, Mr. Speaker, when we had a government in power, not this one, who decided that, yes, they would open up the Department of Transportation tenders for highway paint across this province. A company in Ontario promptly came along and made a very low bid. Now what would have happened in the short term is yes, indeed, Nova Scotia would have had a great benefit from that paint coming in from the Province of Ontario. But that advantage, that gain, would be strictly short-term, because once our own local paint manufacturer had gone out of business, we would become captive to out-of-province paint manufacturers.
So what I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is that if indeed, for instance, the paint manufacturers of this province, of which I think there is only one or maybe there are two now, had the opportunity to come before the Economic Development Committee, they could make the case why, perhaps, in their particular area, the implementation of this particular agreement should be slowed down. I am sure the agricultural industry does not want overnight milk and butter and cheese coming in from the Province of Quebec. That is the reason why, I note, actually, in the bill we exempt, for a period of time, some elements of the agricultural industry.
I just can't locate it offhand but it doesn't matter, it is in there anyway. (Interruption) Well, my friend, the Economic Development Committee will not only straighten it out for the Department of Agriculture, it will straighten it out for those involved in the fisheries, including the Ministry of Fisheries and as somebody has already mentioned today, Lands and Forests.
For instance, just think of this, under this present agreement somebody can come in here from let's say Timmons, come to Nova Scotia and because they are a guide in Timmons can start guiding in the Province of Nova Scotia. Now that is maybe a long bow to draw but nevertheless that will be possible under this particular piece of legislation because we have taken the residency requirements out of a number of Acts which I am sure you are aware of back at the end of this bill where we talk about Consequential Amendments, that is what I am saying. In fact, guiding is one of the ones of which they speak of and they also talk about the Civil Service Act, the Real Estate Brokers Licensing Act, et cetera, et cetera.
There are some things that we do in this province that I think do have to have a modicum of protection accorded to them. If we pass this bill, they will not and that is why I am saying that we should tread very carefully with this piece of legislation, we should take time and we should listen to what the various sectors in this province have had to say about the impact of this legislation. I would be willing to put dollars on the fact that you could go to some small industry in Nova Scotia and you could say, what would be the impact of internal free trade on your particular business and they wouldn't even know what you were talking about. There has been no publicity for this legislation, nobody knows. In fact, I don't think the media even understand what this bill does. I don't think they even know what the heck we are talking about.
We are not here to delay this bill forever. What we are simply saying is, it is right and proper that something that is going to affect this province dramatically for many years to come, does require some further explanation more than we got from the minister when he introduced this piece of legislation.
I have already said that this bill has not been passed as yet by the federal government. It hasn't even been passed, people around here have been talking about the Province of Alberta having passed this legislation but the Province of Alberta hasn't passed this legislation. All that they have put in place is some legislation to change some of their Acts to agree with some of the principles contained in this agreement. So, in effect, if we pass this legislation we will be number one but we don't want to be number one on this particular case, I would suggest to you because we do not want to lead the pack down an unknown road. We are not big enough number one, and number two, I think we should wait until we see what the finished piece of legislation is from the federal government before we say to them, we are going to adopt your legislation you can change it any way you want and we will put in place an Act to accept whatever it is that comes down the tubes in Ottawa. I don't think that that is what we should be doing.
To put this bill into the Economic Development Committee, I would suggest, is a simple process. The bill is just simply referred to them for study and it will provide them to call in sectors that they think are going to be affected by this legislation, as well as advertising to let people know, people in the manufacturing industry. For instance, I have in my constituency a business that manufactures funeral monuments, it is a very small industry. I am not sure what happens to that industry if indeed we again and I am not knocking Quebec but just because I happen to know that Quebec has a very large monument industry, whether or not this small industry could survive and prosper as it is presently doing in the Province of Nova Scotia. I am sure that there are dozens of other industries around the province in the same boat.
So it would give an opportunity if this bill was in committee for people to come and people to be contacted and the public to get a general awareness of what this legislation is about before it proceeds. Having done that, I believe that we can come out from here with a draft bill that will reflect the mores and the concerns of the people of Nova Scotia and then we don't pass that either but we hang on to it until we see what the final bill is like when it gets through the House of Commons.
Also, and these are my final remarks on this particular amendment, it will give us a chance to determine what is the cost of this legislation. I am absolutely convinced that there is a cost, particularly in jobs, with the enactment of this legislation. Maybe the minister has got all these facts and figures at his fingertips, but I somehow doubt that he has. I think there should be available, to the public of Nova Scotia, a very clear economic impact statement for this particular piece of legislation and I am sure that the minister could come up with that during the period of time that this bill is in the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will be voting for this amendment and I would hope and trust that the members of this Legislature just pick up this bill and read it - it is only four pages long -and get some idea in their own minds as to what the impact is of this piece of legislation. This is really important stuff. The impact on Nova Scotia, without any exaggeration, could be as great as our coming into Confederation in 1867, and we know what that did to industry in the Province of Nova Scotia. So I think it is very important stuff and one that is worthy of debate in this Legislature and one worthy of careful, considered and long-lasting debate in this Legislature. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make comment on the amendment to refer Bill No. 33, the subject matter, to the Committee on Economic Development. I was interested when this particular piece of legislation was introduced, bearing in mind that it is an extremely complex piece of legislation, in that it is a piece of legislation that, in fact, will ratify our participation with the federal government on the document, the Agreement on Internal Trade.
It is an extremely complex piece of legislation in terms of the implications it has for the country. In fact, in doing the research for this Bill No. 33, we were to find out that since the agreement was signed by the provinces, that books have been written on the agreement itself. When the minister introduced Bill No. 33 to the House, he did not go into any of the detail that is available in terms of the implications of this bill for Nova Scotia, all provinces of the country and for the federal government.
I was interested in terms of what some of our federal leaders had to say and I was particularly impressed with the remarks of the Honourable Jean Charest, over a week ago when he was speaking in London on this particular piece of legislation, when he made the statement that some 500 trade barriers between provinces would be eliminated by this agreement and the subsequent ratification by all of the provinces. It would be extremely useful if we were to be aware of exactly which trade barriers would be eliminated with this agreement.
It was perhaps a little disappointing when the minister introduced the bill that he made rather general remarks and did not, in fact, chronicle some of the key changes that would be made by accepting the Agreement on Internal Trade and would give some practical examples as to what would be changed. That is the kind of thing we have time to do and that is the kind of thing that could happen when this bill is referred to the Committee on Economic Development. We could look at what would be different, after this bill is passed, in terms of the economics of our province.
My colleague to the left, the member for Hants West, correctly outlined what would be the effect of this particular legislation on the monument works in the Windsor area, and in fact, it result in a loss of that industry?
We do not have the kind of information in front of us that would enable that kind of a determination to be made. So, while it is a thin piece of legislation, it has tremendous impact on every . . .
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: On a question, Madam Speaker. Through you, to the honourable Leader of the Opposition, we are debating the issue of referral to a committee that would take more time to examine the detail of this particular agreement as it might affect Nova Scotia and I appreciate that debate. I would be interested in hearing from the honourable Leader of the Opposition his Party's position, his Opposition position, his caucus position, on the issue of the fact that we have now easier trade movement between Mexico, United States and Canada than we do between the provinces of our great nation.
I am wondering if the honourable Leader of the Opposition and his caucus have taken a position on the elimination of trade barriers in Canada that makes us, a) a more competitive nation, b) a more competitive region so that we can at least, if not supersede, the free movement of goods, services and labour internationally, that we would be able to do so inter-provincially? Has their caucus taken a position on that? Perhaps in the answer on referral to the committee, he could elaborate on the position they might have taken on that issue.
DR. HAMM: Madam Speaker, I welcome the minister's involvement in the debate. I can assure him, absolutely, that this caucus is in favour of the elimination of inter-provincial trade barriers, absolutely. So that is not really what is at issue here in this particular amendment. What we are interested in determining is exactly what is the nature of the 500 barriers that will be eliminated. That has been referred to by those that have a keen, very detailed insight into this legislation. I am not absolutely sure that we in this Legislature have that particular insight into the legislation.
That is all we are asking, is for an opportunity to look at the "for instances" that this bill will provide us with as a province. We are not going to hold up the process. My understanding is that it has only recently passed second reading by the federal House of Commons. I understand that only one province has, in fact, passed the legislation. I understand, for example, that unless the legislation in all the provinces closely mirror each other that, in fact, it is going to be an unworkable situation anyway.
So it is not our intention to suggest, Madam Speaker, that we are not in favour of the philosophy of knocking down inter-provincial trade barriers, but it is an important subject. We are presented with a piece of legislation. We had not seen the draft and all of a sudden we are up debating it. We just want to be absolutely sure that, in fact, every piece of the agreement will be beneficial to Nova Scotians and we have time to determine that and we have time to determine it if, in fact, we have a more exhaustive analysis of what the whole thing means. That is really what this process is all about.
I cannot see, for instance, if we spent three or four months examining this, it would certainly give the Economic Development Committee, I think, something very substantial to do, worthwhile. We can come back in the fall and say, well look, this is the report of the committee. This is exactly what it does. These are the 500 situations that are being referred to by those who have a complete understanding of what is going on and we would be most happy, I think, to be a Party that would support the government initiative.
Again, the government, I think, is finding ways to make it difficult for the Opposition to agree with it because of the way that legislation is being introduced. It is being dropped on our lap and we are being asked to make horrendous decisions as to whether or not we are going to support the government on next to no information. That is really what we are talking about here tonight. We are not going to hold up the process. The minister, I am sure, has no more idea than I do, Madam Speaker, as to how long it is going to take for the other provinces to ratify this legislation and we have no idea how long it is going to take to wend its way through the federal House and the Senate. So, there is lots of time. Let's look at this, it is very important. For the minister to suggest that anything other than support of the concept of free trade within the provinces, that this Party is not supportive of that, is absolutely incorrect.
The minister did make reference when he had his opportunity to ask a question. He made reference to free trade due to NAFTA and he mentioned, of course, that it is now easier to trade with our partners to the south, the United States and Mexico, than it is to trade with many of our provincial partners. He is absolutely correct. But that is not the issue here tonight. The issue is whether or not each of us, before we agree to vote for this legislation, has a complete understanding of what it is we are being asked to support.
So, with those few words, Madam Speaker, I will be voting in favour of the amendment. We need more time. We need somebody to look at this in a more exhaustive process than has occurred to this point in this House and it will not serve to in any way disadvantage the country because it is going to be some time before this receives ratification by the other provinces. So let's just put on the brakes, let's refer it to the Economic Development Committee and then we will have another look at it in the next session. If nothing surprising happens, then we will certainly eventually be supporting the bill in principle. So I will be voting in favour of the amendment. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The question is called for.
A recorded vote is being called for.
Ring the bells, please.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, I was speaking with the Whips from the other Parties. We have agreed that we would break at 6:00 p.m. to have the late debate but that for the period of the consideration of the bell ringing for the one hour that that 30 minute period from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. would actually be considered that the bells are ringing and the one hour would elapse at approximately 6:45 p.m.
MADAM SPEAKER: So that would require unanimous consent of the House.
MR. MANN: Yes.
MADAM SPEAKER: Is there agreement on this?
MR. MANN: It is agreed.
MADAM SPEAKER: No one disagreed?
So you have unanimous consent to proceed in that manner.
MADAM SPEAKER: That now brings us to the Adjournment debate. With unanimous consent we are stopping the bells for 30 minutes and I recognize the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic who wishes to debate the matter:
Therefore be it resolved that this House affirms its support for the opening of the Donkin Mine and urges the federal government to make this initiative one of its highest priorities.
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and debate this evening the resolution that I introduced effectively earlier today, a resolution that you will recall received unanimous support of members of this House. If I may just quickly read that resolution it said:
"Whereas Cape Breton coal miners have watched billions of dollars invested in the Hibernia oil project, while their industry is denied any support despite an equally desperate lack of secure jobs; and
Whereas 700 jobs at the Phalen Colliery are newly endangered, while the Donkin Mine lies idle, although 700 more could work there as part of a viable three mine operation; and
Whereas a commitment to Donkin would acknowledge the hard work of miners and other Devco workers to keep Phalen and Prince going;
Therefore be it resolved that this House affirms its support for the opening of the Donkin Mine and urges the federal government to make this initiative one of the highest priority.".
Madam Speaker, we had a similar debate last year. In fact, if we go back to November 1994, when we debated in this House the whole issue of government support for the Cape Breton coal industry and, in fact, support for the efforts of the mine workers to pressure the federal government to develop the Donkin Mine.
The reason why I wanted to call this debate again today, Madam Speaker, is because of the fact that there continues to be problems at Phalen Mine, in terms of the ability of the miners to keep production going. There was another serious rock fall over the last few days; there are problems in terms of methane gas. There have been a few problems that have been going on for some number of months and, in fact, for years at Phalen. What the miners have been attempting to do is basically work their guts out in order to keep Phalen going, to keep it producing. What they believe is that the Phalen Mine and the quality of coal that it produces, that it needs to continue to produce and that the Prince Mine and the quality of coal produced at Prince Mine, the two of them need to be combined in order for there to be an effective operation at Devco.
The argument they have been making over the last number of years is that the Donkin Mine has been developed to a certain extent, it needs to be reopened, the development needs to be completed. There have been some suggestions that there are some extremely exorbitant costs in order to do that but the study has been conducted by the United Mine Workers that suggests that that mine can be put into production within a more reasonable cost than has been suggested. They believe that the answer for the future of the coal industry in Cape Breton is to get Donkin going and to have all three mines producing. By having Donkin Mine and when you have problems like this at Phalen Mine that may continue, but there are areas there that have to continue to be developed. But if you keep it going, then you will always have coal being produced at Devco and that, in fact, is in the best interests of not only Cape Breton, not only the miners, but of all Nova Scotia.
Now we brought a similar resolution to the floor of this House last year and we got unanimous support for that from members of this Legislature to take the interests of the mine workers forward, that the Donkin Mine be developed, that that message be passed on to the federal government and the minister responsible for Devco.
Subsequent to that, I raised questions in this House of not only the Minister of Natural Resources but also of the Premier, to ask them what they had done in order to take that message forward to the minister responsible, to try to assist the mine workers in pressuring the federal government to make a commitment to the development of the Donkin Mine. The issue that has been raised by the mine workers and others, is that the federal government is prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars in Hibernia. Right now we know that project is way over budget. What they are wondering is, why is the federal government prepared to incur that kind of expenditure? In an area where there is certainly a high unemployment level and the economy needs the effort and the development, there is no question about that and they do not begrudge that for Newfoundland and Labrador. But at the same time they are saying, we have serious problems here in Nova Scotia and in Cape Breton, we need that same kind of commitment on behalf of the federal government here in Nova Scotia to ensure that the coal industry in Nova Scotia does not go by the wayside through lack of attention, through lack of commitment on behalf of the government.
We talked about this, like I said, back in the fall of 1994, and we cited the fact that this government when they were running for election in 1993 made some very significant commitments to coal miners and Cape Bretoners and to the coal industry in Cape Breton in order to make sure that coal miners continue to work, they continue to produce coal and that that coal would be used by Nova Scotia Power in its power plants and there would be, under a Liberal Government, a long future for the coal industry in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, we have not seen evidence of any kind of commitment like that, on behalf of this government, since they were elected. Not only have they appeared not to be intervening particularly actively, if at all, in trying to get Donkin developed, but we are seeing other things happen in terms of the lack of commitment to further regulate Nova Scotia Power to ensure that if they are going to burn coal, which they are committed to do, they burn Nova Scotia coal. The government has failed to come forward with those kinds of commitments.
We are now beginning to hear rumours around that the government is beginning to look very seriously at the whole question of natural gas production off the coast of Nova Scotia, bringing that onshore. According to the government's own studies, the only way that could be done and be done in a viable manner is if they agreed to a preferential premium price on behalf of Nova Scotia Power and other major utilities in this province. In other words, they would pay a greater price than the world price for natural gas, if it was brought onshore. What we see happening there is that it is going to be the coal industry that will suffer and that is not in the interests of Nova Scotians, certainly, as far as I am concerned.
I wanted to raise this issue again today. We have unanimous consent in support of this resolution to get the government to do something about the opening of the Donkin Mine. I want to ask the minister and any other members from the government benches what they have done over the past year in order to see that has been done. What will they do in the future to put some action behind their words to indicate that they do support the opening of Donkin Mine and strengthening the future of the coal industry in Nova Scotia?
I see that my time is up. I would like to indicate that I thank you very much, I look forward to hearing from government members speaking on this resolution.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.
HON. DONALD DOWNE: I am pleased to rise to the late debate and in regards to the issues of Donkin Mine and Donkin Mine Development, and, of course, the whole issue of Phalen. I want to start off by saying that mining is extremely important to the economy of this province. The mining industry represents about $450 million of economic activity and employs about 7,000 people directly and indirectly.
The coal mining industry in Nova Scotia represents about $216 million of economic activity. So by the mere fact that, without saying any further, the mining industry and the coal mining industry are extremely important to the economic well-being of this province. I want to make it very clear that this minister, as well as this government, has been extremely supportive of the mining industry in this province and, of course, supportive of the coal mining industry which has played such a vital role in the economic stability of the province and the beautiful Island of Cape Breton.
I want to say, at the outset, that it is very regrettable that the problems that Devco is presently having with regard to the Phalen Mine. I am very happy to point out that, obviously, there has been no loss of life or injury because of the occurrence on Tuesday and what I understand has happened, that there were problems with the geological formation and some sandstone and the weight of the roof, it collapsed.
I think it is important for us not to jump to a hurried type of conclusion in regard to the issue of Phalen Mine and say that the Phalen Mine is dead, there is no future in the Phalen Mine. I would be remiss to say that I concur with that kind of a statement. I think it is important to state that the Phalen Mine, at this point in time, is going to be under review. The reports I have back are that Devco is evaluating the process, but in that particular face where it was being mined there is a number of other areas of the mine itself that has a large volume of coal. Preliminary work has been done and I understand that if the decision was to move to the other faces in regard to the Phalen Mine it would take about two months to gear up to that.
I would not want to say that Phalen is no longer in business. I want to wait until I hear the final reports from Devco. As you know it is a Crown Corporation, and I certainly want to wait to find out what the conclusions are with regard to their studies on the mishap that happened on Tuesday.
The other point I want to make is that naturally our government is extremely concerned about miners. Nova Scotia has a tremendous history of miners. Cape Breton coal miners are certainly some of the hardest working, very skilled, safety conscious people. I believe that our government certainly supports the concerns of the miners, certainly supports the tremendous history of mining, but also acknowledges the tremendous skilled labour that we have within the mining industry in Cape Breton, especially in coal mining. These miners deserve a lot of credit for the work that they do.
I know that in discussions with the Minister of Labour the Honourable Guy Brown, we have indicated that we would be more than prepared to meet with the UMW, which is the union representing the miners in that area, to meet with them at any time to talk about the issues relating to Devco. I think it is very important to point out that in my conversations with the minister, he has expressed to them that he is prepared to meet and express that we would arrange a meeting with them to discuss their concerns obviously with regard to the future of Devco.
I want to express that we have great faith in the people of Cape Breton. We have great faith in the mining community of Cape Breton. I want to give them, certainly, credit for the hard work and determination and the skilled labour and safety that they have had in their operations. I also have good faith in the capable hands of the President of Devco today, Joe Shannon. I believe Joe Shannon is an individual who is concerned about the future of the mine operations and has worked very hard to work with unions and with management to make sure that they can build a stronger more self-reliant operation within the mine operation.
Devco, as you know, Madam Speaker, is currently developing a new business plan for the future of Devco and, secondly, evaluating its existing operations with regard to how they can find opportunities to be more cost-effective and more productive in a time when I think every sector of the economy is doing the same thing.
I think we would be remiss if we did not wait until that process has been completed, the new business plan. So that they can truly evaluate, at the federal level, where their options are and what the potential benefits will be for their considerations in regard to planning a new business plan for the operation.
Devco has been very clear at the federal level. Devco needs to be self-sufficient, needs to be self-reliant. The issue of subsidies that was mentioned earlier today is an issue of not having any money. Now whether or not the federal government is changing their mind, and that is clearly a decision of the federal government, but I want to say that, obviously, as an MLA, as a member of this government, we are prepared to meet with the union at any time that they can coordinate with the Minister of Labour. We are prepared to listen to what their concerns are and, obviously, we would be very happy to bring their concerns forward.
In talking about coal mining, whether it is Russell MacNeil or Charlie MacArthur, or Kenny MacAskill or any other MLA from the beautiful Isle of Cape Breton, these individuals understand the importance of coal mining in that area. I know that the Leader of the Opposition realizes the importance of coal mining, even in his area of Pictou County. But the people of Cape Breton are very supportive of the concerns of the miners and of the company to make sure that they can build a stronger operation and continue to create jobs, which is so vitally important to that area of the Province of Nova Scotia.
So we will continue to strive to work, to listen to the people of Cape Breton. Certainly, this is obviously federal jurisdiction. There is no question about that. I know that Joe Shannon, the Chairman of Devco, is working very hard at developing new business plans that will allow Devco to hopefully be able to continue in a very positive way in regard to employment and economic benefit to the Province of Nova Scotia and to the rural community of Cape Breton.
Madam Speaker, I think it is clear that this province is prepared to listen, prepared to bring the concerns forward to the appropriate levels of government at the national level in regard to those specific concerns. As I have in the past and as the member opposite, who brought the resolution forward, I have discussed this issue with members of the board and others in regard to the Donkin Mine and will continue to represent this province and its peoples in regard to their concerns at the federal level, whatever the issue might be, at any time the issue is brought to our attention.
So I realize that I have about a minute or so left in my debate, but I want to compliment the member opposite for bringing the resolution forward. I think it is important to talk about the issue of Donkin, but I think it is also a little premature in talking about the Donkin Mine when, in fact, they are still doing evaluations in Phalen and we need to first find out really what the status of Phalen Mine is, where it is going in regard to the occurrence on Tuesday and, also, to take a look at some of the other business plans that they have lined up for that operation itself.
So leaving it at that, Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the government in regard to the resolution that was brought forward by the member opposite. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, I want to compliment and thank the honourable member for the New Democratic Party, Halifax Atlantic, our brother Rob over here, for bringing forth this topic for debate tonight. It is the second or third time we have debated Cape Breton coal mines in the last couple of years. Really and truly, I do not think there is anything more important for economic development in Cape Breton Island than the coal industry.
The issue that is raised tonight is to see whether there is any support from within the government benches for the Donkin Mine. The Minister of Natural Resources spoke and he talked and he is willing to meet and he is willing to sit down and I hope there is a genuine intention and a genuine interest in seeing if we can get the Donkin Mine going. It has been a popular subject for quite awhile, but little or nothing has been done by the federal government in recent years, except three studies.
Apparently, there is another study by Mr. John Boyd that is on the shelves and on its way to come now. There are already three on the table, what do we need another study for? I think it is time to get on with the Donkin Mine to see if perhaps what the coal miners, the gentlemen in the union, the people who have gone down underground, see if what they are telling us is true. I tend to believe them.
The Donkin coal is very good coal. Its recoverable reserves are huge, but it is going to take selective mining techniques to bring out this mine. At the present time there are several mines in North America already using selective mining techniques. In fact, there are 72 mines operating in the United States alone that are using a selective mining technique.
The United Mine Workers President, Steve Drake, has been fighting for the Devco mine, partly because of the low sulphur content of the coal. We have an agreement with all provinces, the federal government and Nova Scotia in the amount of sulphur we can spew into the atmosphere. Devco coal must be mixed, otherwise the sulphur content is so high that it puts us over the limit. That is one of the difficulties they are having in Pictou County now because they are using high sulphur coal in the generators there and it is causing some neighbourhood problems in that there have been occasions when there has been a big great cloud of dust from time to time.
This coal that we are talking about in Donkin is 2.5 per cent and it is highly sought after. The coal is easily washed but, really, at 2.5 per cent sulphur, you don't have to wash it anyway. The union has been pushing for a long time, in fact, the union has a scale plan of a mine that could be built at Donkin, not for the $400 million that the federal government said it would cost, but $60 million to $70 million, which is a lot of money for you and me but in terms of economic development, it isn't a great deal of money when you look at the projects that the federal government is engaged in.
For instance, each year the federal government spends $100 million in an icebreaking service in the St. Lawrence River. That is an annual cost. The $60 million to $70 million to start up a Donkin Mine is a one-shot effort and the Donkin Mine is the mine that the miners would be anxious to get working on because when they have work shutdowns - as they have now at Phalen, due to the roof falling in and it landed on all the equipment that usually excavates, so they have a real problem - the miners could be busy working and developing the Donkin Mine because the miners are mostly going to be paid anyway. So rather than shut down and just stand around and look at one another, hoping and praying that their work is going to come back, they could be actually doing a useful function in opening the Donkin Mine. Truly, the union has been at the forefront of trying to get interest in the Donkin Mine. Do you know, their plan looks so sensible, I think that we should follow it. For the investment, it could generate guaranteed employment for many years to come.
Now the coal mines in Cape Breton are employing over 2,200 people; 2,200 jobs are presently at Devco. That is a big employer on the Island but with the Phalen problem that we have now, none of the miners have any assurance of future employment. We absolutely must show the miners that we are committed to the future of coal in Cape Breton. We have to make sure that coal in Cape Breton is part of Nova Scotia's economic development.
They can produce a steady volume of 3.5 million tons to 4 million tons per year of coal out of Donkin and it would be at a better price than some of the coal that is being mined now because at Phalen it takes two hours to get to the work face. That is a two hour, one way trip and two hours to come home. That is a long time to be spending on one of those little underground trains. When you get to the bottom of it - I don't know how the men do it because it is wet, the water is dripping from the roof constantly, the water is up your sleeve and down your neck and in your boots - it is just real hard work. However, the coal miners in Cape Breton appreciate the opportunity to work and they like coal mining. They are expending efforts with their physical labour and they are also using the availability of planning and strategic plans to build the model for the Donkin pit. We certainly need it because the other mine operated by Devco, is high sulphur and it cannot be burned alone. It absolutely must be washed and mixed with coal so that it can be sold to the Power Corporation.
There is an opportunity, as well, for us to bring in dollars from offshore. Any time we can export and bring in foreign dollars, look, that just makes the economy boom because that is brand new money. Selling coal to the Nova Scotia Power Corporation is a good market and it creates work, but the dollars are Nova Scotia dollars, and when you have export sales, that is new money. A new dollar from offshore is worth more to the Cape Breton economy than circulating the dollars that we have from Nova Scotia. So we need another coal mine that can constantly feed the export market and Donkin can do that.
When you meet with the union and the miners and you talk to them, it is very reasonable conversation. I know that the last year has been very troubling for all Nova Scotians due to the dispute between the Nova Scotia Power Corporation and Devco on pricing for coal. One of the highlights of this year for me, and probably for most Nova Scotians, was to see Devco as a corporation and the miners working together; together the miners and Devco negotiated with Nova Scotia Power Corporation to give everybody some kind of a secure future.
The coal mines in Cape Breton have saved Nova Scotia taxpayers over $600 million in the past 15 years because when you compare the price of coal to the price of offshore oil, it has been a real money saver for Nova Scotians. So we have a lot to be thankful for that we do have people that want to go work in the mines.
Look at the asset another coal mine in Cape Breton would be. The Donkin project is one that has been sitting on the planning benches for long enough. The future of the Cape Breton coal industry depends on the Donkin solution. This Donkin solution is one put forth by the union and agreed to by most coal mining people. All it is going to take now is for Devco to say to the federal government that it is time, we have to have an alternative, we need the security factor, we absolutely have to have another good source of coal and with the union's plan of development, in times when they can't work in the other coal mines or at opportune times, what a great way to do it.
The miners and the union, when they needed extra coal this summer, the union said look fellows, we need extra work, who wants to give up their vacation? They had enough miners who gave up their two weeks in August to go and fill the extra orders. That shows a commitment and dedication to the province and to their jobs and to their families. I think, as Nova Scotians, we owe the same sort of dedication to tell the miners we are in favour of supporting them in their endeavour to get the Donkin Mine going.
There are a lot of people now concerned about offshore natural gas. Let's be truthful; let's be realistic. You bring offshore gas ashore, it is going to be attractive to some of the generating stations that the Nova Scotia Power Corporation has. It is going to be an attractive opportunity for many businesses throughout the province, maybe big users of electricity. It is going to mean that the demand for Cape Breton coal may be reduced. If it is reduced by the influx of natural gas, then we are duty-bound as Nova Scotians and, particularly, as members of the Legislature to make sure that as miners no longer can find work in the coal mines then we better have the economic base and we better have the jobs ready so that those coal miners aren't left out. We have to make sure that any gas that comes ashore in Nova Scotia provides jobs in Nova Scotia. The first people that apply for the jobs and receive them have got to be the displaced miners from the natural gas, if that happens. I really feel that we are looking at about 5 to 10 years before we see natural gas brought ashore in Nova Scotia.
I want to thank you, I have run out of time and I appreciate the opportunity that the member for Halifax Atlantic presented to us to lend our support for the coal industry in Cape Breton.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. I would like to thank all the members for the quality of this debate this evening. We will now revert to the ringing of the bells until 6:45 p.m. and the vote on the amendment.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MADAM SPEAKER: Is the New Democratic Party Whip satisfied? Are you ready for the question on the subject matter on Bill No. 33, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade being referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development?
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Donahoe Mrs. Norrie
Dr. Hamm Mr. Downe
Mr. Russell Dr. Smith
Mr. Chisholm Mr. Boudreau
Mr. Archibald Mr. Gillis
Mr. Leefe Dr. Stewart
Mr. McInnes Mr. MacEachern
Mr. M. MacDonald
Mr. W. MacDonald
THE CLERK: For, 7. Against, 23.
MADAM SPEAKER: I declare the amendment carried in the negative.
We are now back to debate on the second reading.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to carry on with debate and second reading of Bill No. 33, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade. There has been much said in recent days on this bill, yet one is left with the distinct impression that there is much more to be said. The agreement, which this Bill No. 33 ratifies, is a very extensive agreement on internal trade which was signed on behalf of the province in September 1994 by the honourable Ross Bragg, which indicated that our province, at that time, was very anxious to become a partner with the other provinces and the federal government in essentially a trade agreement that will allow the free movement of goods, services, persons and investments across the provincial boundaries.
The whole subject of free trade within our provinces, with the elimination of trade barriers, was an initiative really of the former government that was carried on by the present federal government. It was recognized as being the proper thing to do and they carried on with the negotiations and resulted in the signing of the agreement.
I made reference earlier to the remarks of the Honourable Jean Charest. A week ago Wednesday in London he made reference to this in a very positive way and, as well, made reference to the fact that it actually eliminates some 500 barriers to trade in the country. It is interesting to look at what Jean Charest says. I think he has demonstrated in recent weeks that he is, in fact, the federal Leader in this country who understands most completely the federacy on which this country has been founded. I look with some degree of respect at the conclusions that Mr. Charest has made and, obviously, he has come to the conclusion that we are going down the right road. The only question is, whether or not we are perhaps going down the road a little too quickly.
The debate that we are having today is almost keeping pace with the debate in Ottawa and the bill, I understand, received second reading on November 6th. We have joined Quebec, Alberta and one of the other provinces, perhaps Manitoba, in debating this particular piece of legislation. I understand that only one province, so far, has ratified it and already made some changes. One of the debatable points in this particular legislation is in disputes between the federal government and one of the provinces then, in fact, the dispute mechanism is entirely controlled by the federal government. That would seem to me, to perhaps fly in the face of an agreement which should be equally binding on all partners.
It is interesting that other provincial jurisdictions have been looking at that particular aspect of the legislation and it well may be that will be a stumbling block to all of the provinces ratifying the agreement on internal trade. It is certainly one of the reasons that we are anxious to study it a little bit further rather than just simply accept it at face value.
There was an opportunity for the minister when he introduced this bill to go into, in rather complete detail, an extremely important piece of legislation. It is not the kind of legislation that should be taken lightly because it will have a profound effect on the economies of the country and the economies of all the provinces individually. It is worthy of study, it is worthy of examination and it has not received the study and the examination nor has it received the kind of explanation that it would be normally due by the minister. I am hoping that when the minister does the summation that he will, in fact, give a little more detailed analysis of exactly what is going to happen once this whole procedure is up and running between the federal government and the provinces.
It is easy to sit here and look at this very thin bill and to look at the clauses and the sections and to say it does not seem to do any harm, but bearing in mind, it is going to profoundly affect all of the inter-provincial trade and commerce and labour movement that will occur in this country. It well may be that within the arrangements that this bill will result in that some of them may not necessarily be positive for the province. It was on that basis that we have been attempting to have the bill looked at in closer detail and in a more leisurely fashion by someone other than the legislators in this place, who are rather constrained by time allowed in debate and, certainly will be constrained again by the time allowed in committee due to the resolution and closure introduced at the last session by the government.
We are somewhat limited, I think, in doing what is our obligation here, and that is to protect the public interest. It is very difficult to protect the public interest when all of the information is not available here in this place and that has not been made available by the minister or his ministry.
I had made some remarks about the enforcement provision as it applied to disputes between a province and the federal government.
Now, the bill does make provision for an early dispute resolution mechanism involving the Ombudsman. You know, our Ombudsman's Act here in the province is one that in many cases results in a resolution but each of us in this place is aware that if, in fact, after the Ombudsman has made a report, if the parties involved do not choose to agree to the Ombudsman's report, then they are very simply able to ignore it. So one has to look and say to oneself, will this mechanism of dispute resolution work, bearing in mind that it will be entirely a voluntary situation, in terms of whether or not one accepts the ruling of the Ombudsman?
Now, we have been involved, in this province with the Atlantic Procurement Agreement. It establishes levels that are threshold levels which trigger this particular agreement. The threshold, if memory serves me right, for goods, is $25,000; for services, $50,000; and I believe, construction contracts, $100,000. The figures in the Agreement on Internal Trade set a level for services, I believe, again at $100,000. So it will require some adjustment of that particular agreement. Not that that is a monumental task but it will be a detail that will have to be looked after.
When one thinks of the Maritime Procurement Agreement, one has to look and see if it is in fact working the way it was intended to work. I was involved in a situation not too long ago when a Nova Scotia supplier was involved in bidding on a certain commodity. The Nova Scotia firm was an unsuccessful bidder and the contract actually went to another of our Atlantic Provinces. But in the course of looking at the situation, some interesting things were said. Bearing in mind, Mr. Speaker, they weren't documented, but I think there was reason to believe there was some truth in the matter. What was said was that in one of our Maritime Provinces that many goods were being put up to tender in less than $25,000 lots. So in other words, those particular tenders would not be subject to the Maritime Procurement Agreement.
That didn't seem to be a level playing field because our province at the time was calling for tenders on the same type of material for the province and they were lumping it all together and the tenders could be answered by other than Nova Scotian companies. The other interesting thing, in terms of this very same contract dispute or tender dispute I guess we would call it, is that one of our other provinces had chosen to call their tender lots to be supplied in a container that was available only in their province and, through a strange circumstance, there was a subsidiary of the company in another province in the United States that used a particular but very expensive kind of container. They made those containers available to their subsidiary in the other province.
The tenders were then called for the material to be delivered in that container and it absolutely eliminated tendering from any other than that one particular country residing in the province in which the tenders were called. So while it seemed to satisfy the letter of the agreement, it certainly was not satisfying the spirit of the agreement. So I think the dispute mechanism is extremely important because as long as that kind of approach to these inter-provincial agreements remains, then the dispute mechanism will be called into play perhaps more often than we would care to think about. So the dispute mechanism is extremely important, particularly if the rules are not going to be adhered to by all the players.
Now I had made reference on more than one occasion to the fact that we will be eliminating some 500 trade barriers, but there are some notable exclusions to the agreement. It well may be that the minister in his summation could give us some insight as to the rationale for the exclusions. I think it is important that we understand fully what is being included and what is being excluded.
Now the exclusions as I understand it, and I have briefly gone through the original agreement, some 219 pages, and it is a very complex document, but there are some notable exclusions. For example, cultural and financial service institutions are excluded. There is an exclusion of certain measures referring to aboriginal peoples and an exclusion of certain measures relating to taxation. Well, some of those are obvious.
There are some exclusions, as well, to certain agricultural quotas. There is an exclusion in terms of some aspects of energy production. So, again, some explanation should come forward by the minister and his department who, I am sure, have had a great deal of information on this particular legislation.
I had made mention earlier, but I will make mention again, of the fact that after this agreement was made, I believe in the summer of 1994 and then eventually signed in September 1994, there have in actuality been books written as people try to understand the complexity of the arrangement.
Now one of the things - and I think this again is a reflection that this will be a living process - is that the agreement does make provision for annual reviews. There will be, within 12 months after the date of entry into force of the agreement, a review to access whether or not the intent of the arrangement has been met and there may be actually a reassessment of the thresholds or, perhaps, a changing of the principles or a review of the opportunities for progress. So, in other words, there may be an extension of the services that, in fact, can be arranged under this agreement. So it will be a living kind of process, a living kind of an arrangement, but I think the fact that it will be under such frequent review again behooves us to look at it in great detail as we are one of the very first provinces that will have come forward with definitive legislation. The government seems to be absolutely determined that there will be not a great deal of further information made available before the bill is passed.
I would be interested to have some input into this particular debate by members on the government benches. We have already stated in clear terms that we are in favour of the principle that this bill represents and it would be interesting just to have some of the opinions of the members on the government side. It would be an ideal kind of debate for, I think, an all-Party participation in second reading, something that doesn't seem to occur all that often except on the occasional point of order. There are opportunities for all-Party debate in this place and it is rather too bad that we pass them by sometimes and don't make use of this place perhaps in a more productive way. It is very hard to be productive when the numbers are so imbalanced in the Legislature.
There is a portion of the agreement which our Bill No. 33 is intended to ratify. It is interesting that there are a lot of services that aren't covered, things like medical doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, veterinarians, engineers, land surveyors, architects, chartered accountants, lawyers, notaries. It excludes arrangements for transportation services by locally owned trucks hauling aggregate on highway construction projects. My understanding of that is, of course, we can't have trucks coming out of the province perhaps to haul aggregate on Highway No. 104 which the Minister of Transportation is indicating will be starting up very soon.
The agreement excludes services for sporting events and it excludes financial services respecting the management of government financial assets and liabilities, Treasury operations, well, that probably makes a lot of sense. It excludes health services and social services and advertising and public relations services. That exclusion, the advertising and public relations services, would be something that the minister might want to address. It perhaps is less obvious why that was excluded than a lot of the other exclusions in the original agreement which are covered in Annex 502.1(b). I notice the minister is paying close attention to the debate and perhaps he would make a note of that particular item. He may wish to make reference to it in his summation remarks.
One of the other things that would be interesting for the minister to explain is there are in the original agreement a number of exclusions of government entities, again, that is in Annex 502.2(a). For example, in Newfoundland there are four exclusions, in Prince Edward Island there are two, in New Brunswick there are six. For example, in New Brunswick it excludes the New Brunswick Liquor Commission and the Power Corporation, the forest protection but there are no exclusions for Nova Scotia. For example, the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission is not excluded and the minister may wish to make some comment as to why some provinces have a number of exclusions and Nova Scotia, in fact, has none.
In the Province of Quebec there are in excess of 20 exclusions and then you come to Ontario where there are none, Manitoba none, quite a number in Saskatchewan, quite an extensive list in Saskatchewan and British Columbia and even in the Territories. I notice under the exclusions, as well, in Canada and it is a matter on which we had some debate this evening and that was the Cape Breton Development Corporation which is an organization of the federal Government. The Cape Breton Development Corporation is excluded from this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of discussion in this bill. I think much of it generated by our attempt to slow the thing down a bit, to have a little more external examination, a little more exhaustive look at the legislation. Thus far, we have been unsuccessful in that endeavour.
In my closing remarks, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that I hope the minister has listened to what we have had to say, that he will provide some explanation in his summation and he will understand full well that our caucus is absolutely committed to what the intent of this bill is. The problem is that we are still uncertain if in fact the intent is fully carried out by the legislation and, if in fact, the legislation absolutely reflects what would be the most advantageous situation for this breakdown of trade barriers for Nova Scotia.
While the bill has a tremendous amount to recommend it, it does need some more examination. So with those few remarks, I will take my place to allow another speaker and again just to exhort the minister to bring forward a little more by way of explanation when he brings his summation before the House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and to have the opportunity to speak on the bill. I have had the opportunity to debate a couple of times on amendments to the bill, neither of which got very far, but however, as is obvious, I guess, at this late stage the bill will be proceeding on to the Law Amendments Committee.
I would like to state right at the beginning, Mr. Speaker, that I think it would be a travesty, quite truthfully, if this bill went to the Law Amendments Committee and it went through the Law Amendments Committee without the people of Nova Scotia knowing what this bill was about, without having an opportunity to be made aware of the contents of this bill and the impact of this bill so that they would have the opportunity, at least at that committee which this bill must go through, to voice their views, their objections and their advice to the minister and perhaps make known what changes should be made to the bill to make it palatable to their particular sector of the economy.
Mr. Speaker, it has been said many times, and I will say it again, this is a very important bill, no two ways about it. This bill can do irreparable harm to this province if it is passed at the present time in its present form. If anybody does not believe that, I challenge them to tell me where I am wrong.
The minister in his remarks, a little while ago, made a statement, Mr. Speaker, that I had read somewhere else before he made it, so I presume that somebody thinks it is true and that is that there is more trade restrictions between the provinces in this country than there is between Mexico and the United States and Canada and that is simply not true. There is not, unless the minister can show me the customs stations at the border of Quebec and New Brunswick and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia or Ontario and Quebec and Manitoba and straight across the country.
We do not have any customs booths across this country. There is nothing to stop you buying a product in the Province of Nova Scotia and mailing it out to somebody in British Columbia, but you cannot do that to Mexico. You cannot do that to the United States.
Mr. Speaker, there are impediments to trade in Canada, but let us not believe for one minute that the impediments to trade in Canada between provinces is anything, even remotely greater than that between Canada and the United States or Canada and Mexico. It is just not true. I do not know who dreamed that particular statement up, but whoever it was, was certainly dreaming in Technicolor.
My objections to this bill and, I think I am speaking for our caucus, are not with inter-provincial trade. Not for one moment, do we disagree that we should have freedom of inter-provincial trade in Canada. However, there are certain aspects of free trade which must be examined before legislation is put in place to open up the borders to that free trade. That is, we have to know what the effect of free inter-provincial trade is on the economy of Nova Scotia, how many businesses are affected adversely, how many businesses are affected positively, what is the impact in dollars and cents and what is the impact insofar as employment is concerned.
Mr. Speaker, I do not have to tell you, because I know that you are well aware that we have a number of businesses in the Province of Nova Scotia that operate in the Province of Nova Scotia primarily because they have a certain measure of protection at the present time. My fear is, if abruptly those protections that they have at the present time are taken away, those businesses will collapse. Now Heaven help us, we cannot afford to go on week after week being advised by the government that there are 1,000 jobs going here and 2,000 jobs going there. Somebody has to be working in this province to pay the taxes to support those who are still employed in the Public Service. We have to protect every job that we have. In fact, I would suggest to the minister over there that the most important job that he should be working on is retaining the jobs that we have. Secondly, getting local businesses to expand and then, thirdly, venturing off to whatever exotic spot he wants to tear off to, whether it be Korea or down to Cuba to try and get them to move some manufacturing or other industry to this province. In other words, let us protect what we have, let us expand what we have, let us foster and encourage what we have.
We have asked that the bill be given greater publicity and I do not know how you do that, to be quite honest. I think, if this bill had gone to one of the committees of the House, the Committee on Economic Development would have been the right one, I suppose, at least, the passing of that bill to that committee for examination would have afforded an opportunity for a certain amount of advertising to take place to give an opportunity for the committee to travel around this province and would certainly heighten the media's interest in this bill and let people know exactly what the impact of Bill No. 33 will be on their particular sector that they are involved with in the province.
The second thing and I do not want to beat another dead horse, but the comment has been made over and over again, why should we in the Province of Nova Scotia with only 900,00 people be trying to lead a charge towards free trade between provinces when the larger provinces, who have the most to gain from Bill No. 33, are not racing off on a white horse to enact legislation. They are sitting back to find out what the federal government is going to do before they move on it. There is not one reason, I am sure, that the minister can come up with me and say, this bill simply has to go through this session, if it does not go through, disaster is going to strike the province. That is absolute nonsense. This bill could sit here for another year, possibly even two years before enactment and nothing would change.
This is not down to the local pub, they are not sitting in a corner talking about Bill No. 33, that is probably the last thing on their agenda. They are talking about how they are going to keep their jobs. That is a number one item. Secondly, their item is probably dealing either with education or health. Where, if they get sick, are they going to get the medical attention that they require and are they going to be able to get that in the future. I know I am talking about the bill because I am talking about what is going on in this province and the same thing applies to the Minister of Education.
What I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is there is a host of other things of much greater importance to the public of Nova Scotia than this particular piece of legislation, so there is no need to rush this piece of legislation but there are 101, perhaps even 1,001 reasons why we should hold this bill for further examination.
What I would like to suggest to the minister is that okay, this bill will probably go through second reading tonight, I don't know if I am the last speaker or not, but whatever, it will probably go through tonight if it doesn't it will go through first thing tomorrow and go on to the Law Amendments Committee. He should let the bill just sit in the Law Amendments Committee, bring it back in the spring and I think after it has been sitting in the Law Amendments Committee until the House resumes in the spring, then in the spring he can come forward to the House with a new bill. I can assure him, if it has had a vetting by then by the people who are affected by this legislation, then it will go through this House in much quicker time than this bill has taken to get through this time. In fact, I would suggest it could almost go through without debate if, indeed, the people of Nova Scotia decide that this is what they want.
I am looking at the Minister of Finance over there and I was just thinking to myself, Mr. Speaker, I was reading his bill the other day. It has an awfully long title but it shortens up to the Revenue Act, which we will be dealing with possibly tomorrow or Monday. Now that is a bill that is going to have to be changed if this bill goes through. There is a clause in that bill that is going to have to be changed if this bill passes this House. And I would assume that there are dozens of bills actually, not only the ones that are listed in Clause 34 that are going to have to be changed if this legislation goes through. At the present time, as I say, we do have a modicum of protection in Nova Scotia.
I don't think that is hurting the Province of Ontario or the Province of Quebec, the fact that we in Nova Scotia, to some extent, are protecting some of our industries and, to some extent, are protecting some of our jobs.
For instance, Mr. Speaker, we have on our books the Liquor Control Act. This isn't mentioned in this as being exempt from the ramifications of this bill. The Liquor Control Act will have to be changed because one of the things the Liquor Control Act says is that to have a license to operate a bar in the Province of Nova Scotia you must be a resident of the Province of Nova Scotia. So there are 101 different items of different Acts, I am sure, that are presently in the Statutes of the Province of Nova Scotia which are going to have to be changed with the enactment of this bill.
The cost of this bill is not perhaps onerous. However, there are very real costs with the passage of this bill. With this bill we have to pay our ". . . portion of the annual budget of the Secretariat referred to in Article 1603 of the Agreement, and, in accordance with Annex 1603.3 of the Agreement, . . ." we have to pay our portion of the Secretariat. This is a federal Secretariat, of course, so we have to pay our share, as the Province of Nova Scotia. We are about one twenty-fifth or one twenty-sixth of the population of Canada. The cost of running this Secretariat with the army of bureaucrats that they will probably assemble up in Ottawa, is probably going to cost something like $25 million or $26 million to run that Secretariat, so we have to pick up a bill of $1 million per annum to put this animal in place.
Secondly, we have to pay "(b) any costs or assessments awarded against the Province in government-to-government disputes pursuant to Chapter 17 . . .", et cetera. Once again, another cost that may or not happen, depending on whether or not Nova Scotia is ever found to be wanting insofar as the provisions of this piece of legislation.
We have to appoint a ". . . person to a dispute resolution panel from names on a roster of panellists, approved by the Governor in Council . . .". Well, there are some good jobs for some good people of the right political stripe, I presume, so we have to pay them.
Then we have, "The Governor in Council may, by order, appoint the Ombudsman or another person to be a screener for the purpose of Article 1713 . . .". I am not too sure what a screener is but I presume it is something like an arbitrator or a person who examines the (Interruption) The Minister of Education says that he could do that. Well, he well may after the next election have to take up a job something like that. (Interruptions) So, Mr. Speaker, we have to pay for a screener. So, as I say, there are costs connected to this legislation, there are people we have to hire, there are boards we have to set up, and as I say, we have to pay our pound of flesh to the feds to pay our part of the bureaucracy.
Mr. Speaker, as you may be well aware, I find myself at odds with this bill. I like the fact that we are moving into free trade but I don't like the way we are moving into free trade between provinces. So, how do I vote on this bill? Quite frankly, I have not made up my mind yet. I am hoping that the minister, when he stands up, will say, look I have listened to what has gone on and if that is what the problem is, you want to have different sectors of production across Nova Scotia to have the opportunity to speak on this bill, well then I will hold it up at the Law Amendments Committee stage and permit adequate opportunities for the public of the Province of Nova Scotia to address this bill. At the same time, he would ensure that all those different sectors, whether they be in manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries or forestry, no matter what, would have the opportunity to come forward and say their piece and to have what they say considered by the minister when he is coming up with amendments to this bill.
AN HON. MEMBER: Keep rolling Ron, you have another half hour. (Laughter)
MR. RUSSELL: What great encouragement. No, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to do that.
I think I have said my piece, about three times over, and I just hope to heaven that people do realize what they are doing. As I said, if I just may, before I sit down, I can go back to my own riding again, as I like to do, and I can look at Windsor in 1867. We were one of the largest boat building areas in the Commonwealth. We built pianos in downtown Windsor. We built automobiles in downtown Windsor. In 1867 this country went into Confederation. We gave away a tremendous amount, Mr. Speaker, and I would suggest to you today, knowing what we know now, if we could go back to 1867, we would never have gone into Confederation under the terms that we did. I know it is dramatic to say that this is very similar to 1867 because perhaps to a lesser extent, but nevertheless, the same thing can occur with this agreement. Please believe me, this is heavy stuff. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.
The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We have had quite an array over the past two days of arguments from members of the Opposition, both Parties, on various aspects of this bill and I will try to deal with some of those issues, in probably not as much detail as they would like, but at least an attempt to address some of the concerns that have been issued, the challenges that have been put forward and to perhaps address some of those concerns here.
The first question has to do with the issue of ratification in the first place. What we have before us is an agreement signed so many months ago, July 18, 1994, by all of the Premiers, by all of the Internal Trade Ministers and by the Prime Minister of the country. It was, as somebody has pointed out, kind of a phoenix from the ashes of the Charlottetown Accord in the sense that there was general agreement that the federal government was going to provide the opportunity for the provinces to begin negotiations and to enter into agreements that would be binding on all provinces and territories for the movement of trade goods, services, investment and labour throughout the nation. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, it is the minister's words just now that cause me to raise this question with him. I wonder if he could indicate whether or not the present Government of Quebec, that is the Parti Québecois, which was not signatory to this agreement, has indicated that they are prepared to honour the ratification that was provided by the former Liberal Government of Quebec, that by Mr. Johnson?
MR. HARRISON: I will take the details of that question under advisement, but it is my understanding that, in fact, the Liberal Government enacted legislation or enabled legislation to be enacted and that there is a national consensus on this issue. Certainly, we have the signing of the agreement by the Premier.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: On a question, Mr. Speaker, can you assure me that the Province of Quebec has passed enabling legislation at the present time?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I cannot give the precise details of what Quebec has done. What I can do is indicate that they have signed, that the Liberal Government of Quebec did enact certain legislation. The members of the Opposition have talked about our leading the nation on ratification. I think it should be clear that there are provinces that have undertaken to commit to the implementation of the spirit of this legislation in a variety of ways. There was no attempt at the signing of the agreement to enact simultaneous mirror legislation throughout the nation.
Clearly this is a collaborative, cooperative effort by provinces that have signed on in good faith to undertake to implement the Article 1700, as the members opposite have mentioned, in good faith to implement what is a framework. I think the former Leader of the Opposition described it as a macro- rather than micro-document. This is a provincial commitment to enacting inter-provincial trade, in a sense in harmony with the federal government as opposed to being directed by them. There was an opportunity provided. The responsible parties, the provinces and territories, believed in that. I will be happy to provide the exact details of what the present Quebec Legislature or the House of Assembly in Quebec City has undertaken with regards to this legislation.
The clear issue here is, as a province, we have signed on in July of 1994 and agreed to implement. I will be pleased to table the roles of the Ombudsman, the people and departments assigned to the various implementation protocols, which is being dealt with by another Cabinet memo or document, the substance of which I will be happy to provide to the members of the Opposition.
The issue of whether we choose to ratify and whether we declare through legislation that we choose to ratify and, therefore, are stating our commitment in legislative terms to implement this agreement, I think is one that Nova Scotians should be proud of. We have an agreement. We signed on. The Premier has signed on with the Prime Minister and other Premiers from across this country, and it is our intention (Interruption)
I don't know what document you are looking at, but the last page of mine has the signatures of all the Premiers in the country and the Prime Minister. What I am suggesting, Mr. Speaker, to the members opposite, is that we have made a provincial commitment to internal trade in this nation and Nova Scotians will and are already honouring that commitment. When we draft the Atlantic Procurement Agreement, we are taking into account the procurement agreements embodied in this document. So the issue of ratification, different provinces are doing it in different ways, and it is the measure of a province as to how committed they are to this to the degree to which they are implementing this.
The question of relationship to the procurement policy, what I have indicated is that the Atlantic Procurement Policy, as has been declared by the Premiers and directions given to staff, will be more liberal - I suppose both small "l" and capital "L" liberal in terms of the Atlantic region - knowing full well that this region depends on its ability to export. There have been many comments about what the penalties are, what the disadvantages are of taking a softer position on this or of not ratifying this.
Many of the submissions made to my colleague, the Minister of Supply and Services, in reaction to the draft document which talked about 5 per cent rules and procurement advantages to Nova Scotia companies, there have been many submissions from firms in this province saying that they do not want to incur reciprocal trade penalties for being protective of Nova Scotia companies, that they are already doing more trade, more work, more exporting, outside the province than in. They are leading industries in this province. They are dedicated to world markets as well as Canadian inter-provincial markets and they do not want this province known as a place that attempts to protect its industries by building in cushions for unfair procurement, knowing full well that there will be reciprocal action taken by many of their trading partners.
I am sure that both Parties opposite would agree that our future is in our ability to export and that one of our targets has to be and one of our bench-marks is the establishment of head office companies; the precise measuring of our export capability both in the resource sector and in the service sector.
The fact that we have in the last year attracted $150 million of additional capital investment, that a prediction of some 2 per cent growth in capital investment has amounted to a 7.6 per cent growth, that the Premier is being complimented by the Investment Dealers Association when they visit, is exactly the kind of information that Nova Scotians need to know about, whether it is Michelin, or Volvo, or Minas Basin. Those three numbers alone add up to close to $90 million in capital investment committed to the Province of Nova Scotia just in the last few months. (Applause)
Despite the protestation by the former Chairman of the Management Board, the fact is that Nova Scotia is now a place considered a good and fertile place in which to make investments. The member opposite earlier indicated that we should be preserving the jobs we have, expanding the companies here at home and then going on the road and I couldn't agree more. The climate for investment in Nova Scotia is getting stronger by the day. It is attracting investment dollars. Those investment dollars maintain and improve our competitive advantage, they maintain jobs, they expand factories and they drive up exports, all of which are the tickets to our future success.
Despite the members of the Opposition who would contend that we should send some signal to the nation that we are going to wait and see what every single province is going to do, that we should be the 11th jurisdiction to come onside here, that we can't do selective proclamation on the issue of certain of the Acts that have been mentioned here until we work out the energy chapter, or that the MASH sector which, as they well know from reading the agreement, has not yet been settled, will not likely be settled by the date indicated, that the consultation with my colleague and the UNSM has already indicated that the procurement issues that the MASH sector have to deal with are being discussed by the two ministers, Supply and Services and Municipal Affairs, in relation to the Atlantic Agreement which is in full accord with the national Internal Trade Agreement, those are all things which have been mentioned in debate but seem to have been missed by the Opposition.
The question of conflict with the APA, we have talked about that. There was a question as to why there is a protection for cultural industries and clearly, as one debates the Constitution of this nation and enters into discussions on elements that Quebec feels are extremely important to them, the cultural industry sector is one that is critical. In attempting to build an internal trade agreement, certain areas have been exempt not to the detriment of Nova Scotia industry because we have a flourishing music and cultural enterprise industry in this province, but in fact permitting the free flow of goods, services and labour.
I have here letters from labour organizations who wrote on February 25, 1994, urging the government to implement this bill, the spirit of it, the Red Seal Program. So labour had time, despite the Opposition's opportunities, to have input. They have had time to have input on this bill and they are urging its acceptance. We have had comments from the Canadian Manufacturers' Association urging its acceptance; APEC, boards of trade, the business community and so on.
MR. SPEAKER: The member for Halifax Atlantic on a question.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I appreciate the information that the minister is finally providing to the House and I wonder, would he be kind enough to table those documents, the letters from the Atlantic chambers of commerce and the labour organizations that he talked about so that we would all have the opportunity to see that some other organizations have indicated some support for this legislation? That would be very helpful.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the minister be prepared to table those documents?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I would be very happy to. I think the important issue here is that leading economic groups and boards of trade and others have had a chance, as has labour, to take a look at the intent of this agreement, the detail of it and have indicated their support for the mobility of the Red Seal Program, for instance, which allows for certification to be transparent and move from one province to another. So I would be happy to table the letters and to . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the minister would allow an introduction?
MR. HARRISON: Sure.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention and to the members of the House the presence in the west gallery this evening of a distinguished Cape Bretoner and a former member of this place who is visiting Halifax, Mr. David Muise. (Applause)
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the issue of Bill C-88 the federal legislation and the concern expressed by the then Leader of the Opposition and the response that we provided is that this province did make representation as other provinces did. We did not initially see the problems in the wording that other provinces experienced believing that the federal government would not use excessive powers under Clause 9. However, having communicated through our own inter-governmental channels and then having other provinces communicate, I believe that the letter that Honourable Minister Manley sent to Saskatchewan is a concrete example of the commitment by the federal minister to ensure that the wording of Clause 9 is such that it does not provide for excessive powers.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a question. Would the minister confirm that the federal government has accepted the proposal that came forward from Saskatchewan?
MR. HARRISON: I am sorry. Would I confirm what, again?
MR. RUSSELL: Confirm that the amendment asked for by Saskatchewan has been responded to.
MR. HARRISON: I think that in the content of the letter is that the minister commits to amendment that is satisfactory to. I still do not understand the question.
MR. RUSSELL: I inferred from what you were saying that the federal government has accepted the amendment from Saskatchewan. Is that correct?
MR. HARRISON: To clarify the Saskatchewan Government did not introduce wording to Honourable Minister Manley. Honourable Minister Manley responded to the concern from Saskatchewan similar to the concern that the former Leader of the Opposition, our colleague, honourable Mr. Donahoe, indicated that there was some concern of the wording of the original draft. The bill has not been resubmitted to the House. The commitment from the minister is to find wording that will be acceptable to the provinces. More importantly, that the intent is in keeping with the representations made by all the provinces.
Are we questioning whether the minister will keep his word here or are we talking about, again, the spirit of an inter-provincial federal Agreement on Internal Trade to which all parties have committed and the results of which will be a more competitive nation, but more importantly how we get there? It is the first time in the history of the country that we have had such a macro-economic agreement to raise our competitiveness, to improve our ability to.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, on a question. Would the minister advise the House if this Honourable Mr. Manley, to whom he refers and who has made this promise, is a member of the same government which has promised to do away with the GST? (Laughter)
MR. HARRISON: You know, Mr. Speaker, (Interruption) Yes, exactly. I was going to say, that is the last chance for a question. The issue here, Mr. Speaker, as I see it, is quite clearly, Nova Scotians have given their word, through the signature of their minister and their Premier, that they will abide by a collaborative effort to raise the competitiveness of this nation and in so doing to raise the competitiveness of our region which is now a world trading partner.
We have done so with an agreement as somebody has already mentioned with 1700 clauses and sections yet to be worked out. The Ministers of Agriculture are committed by 1997 to deal with issues related to certain aspects of the agricultural industry in Canada. The Ministers of Energy have agreed to take Chapter 8 and to make sure that that agreement is binding and through selective proclamation we can ensure that the issues related to our offshore are dealt with in that negotiation.
The MASH sector will not meet its deadline in time, but through negotiations in Atlantic Canada and throughout the nation, will eventually meet its target of fairer procurement practices throughout the country, the very thing that the minister opposite was arguing today in terms of municipal procurement policies are articulated, nationally. We will get there, Mr. Speaker, and we will get there (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: The member for Halifax Atlantic on a question. Is the Minister of the Economic Renewal Agency prepared to entertain a question?
MR. HARRISON: I would like to finish the summation on this bill, if I might. I have the floor and I would be happy to complete it fairly quickly.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It is the first time the minister has been giving us any information. I am just looking for a little clarification, that is all.
MR. SPEAKER: The minister has answered that he is not prepared to entertain a question and he does have the floor.
MR. HARRISON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would remind all that the disks and the agreement itself have been available since July 18, 1994. Business community and labour leaders have been able to respond and so it is not really a surprise to anybody, the content of this agreement.
The important thing here from my point of view is that Nova Scotians are committing to make an agreement work not just for the benefit of Nova Scotia but for the benefit of Atlantic Canada and for the benefit of this nation.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I take some offence to this constant reference to the Opposition as suggesting that we have had since the summer of 1994 to deal with this when the legislation was tabled in this House two weeks ago. That is what we are dealing with, Mr. Speaker, and I take great offence at the minister's constant reference to that, as though we are shirking our responsibilities here. We are dealing with Bill No. 33. We are asking this minister to talk to Nova Scotians about it. That is the issue we are talking about here in this Legislature.
HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order, Mr Speaker, the honourable member opposite would have us suggest that he only wants to deal with the bill and not the information that was available since July. Yet when the bill was introduced, they asked that the debate on it be delayed until the information be made available to them, which it was. Now he is saying that had nothing to do with the debate, just the bill.
MR. SPEAKER: I consider that we have a dispute on a question of fact. A question of fact is not a point of order and I find there is no point of order.
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I don't really want to talk about information that was available in July 1994. The point here is not that the bill was available in July 1994. Clearly we have introduced a bill which is honouring our commitment to ratify an agreement that we believe in, that is something we want to do, and the bill confirms that. It states very clearly that Nova Scotia is prepared to implement an agreement that is national and inter-provincial in scope.
Since July 1994, all honourable members have had an opportunity to look this agreement over, as has the business community, as has labour. So far, in terms of what we are hearing, apart from the Opposition, is that they have had time to look at the agreement, to weigh the pros and cons of the agreement and are basically saying, would you please get on with it, which we are trying to do.
I will be happy to supply the following information, that is the protocol for the role of the Ombudsman. Somebody suggested extra costs, I think it is extra responsibility, not extra costs. There will be assignment of responsibility in this province to try to ensure that costs are kept to an absolute minimum. We will abide by this agreement. It is in the spirit of making a more competitive nation. It is nation-building in spirit by commerce, it is region-building and it is building the Province of Nova Scotia. I move this for second reading and to go to the Law Amendments Committee. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 33. Are we ready for the question? The question has been called.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried in the affirmative.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 34.
Bill No. 34 - Maintenance Enforcement Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice. (Applause)
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: I rise to speak on Bill No. 34 and, in so doing, I move second reading. What we are doing here is tidying up the bill, the quite extensive bill that we passed in the last session, the Maintenance Enforcement Act. When the staff of maintenance enforcement worked diligently over the summer to get the program ready for implementation on January 1, 1996, which is coming down upon us, there were a number of items that required some fine-tuning. What we have is, I think there are six or eight clauses here, in fact there are seven clauses which have some minor changes. One of them, like Clause 7, corrects a typographical error in Clause 39(2) and there are some other miscellaneous changes. I would commend these to the members of the House. The officials of maintenance enforcement have made their services available to the caucuses of the three Parties and I understand that the Third Party will have a visit from the caucus, maybe even tomorrow. I believe today the group visited with the Official Opposition.
They were coming to talk about the program, not about the amendments. It was general information of what the citizens and the people getting maintenance enforcement can expect once January 1st comes, so that when MLAs are contacted they will be able to give the factual answers. In fact, there is going to be a manual prepared for every member of the House which will be made available as soon as it is ready and there will be further briefing sessions, if necessary.
I just want to commend all honourable members. Time is running out this evening, but maybe I would simply commend this to you. In Law Amendments, if there is any further fine tuning we want to do, we will do it there and certainly I will be prepared to answer any questions as we go along.
With that, I move second reading.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 34, an Act to amend Chapter 6 of the Acts of 1994, the Maintenance Enforcement Act. As the minister said in his opening remarks, the Minister of Justice did, indeed, have a member of his staff who very kindly briefed the caucus this morning on maintenance enforcement and where we were going. I am not, obviously, the Justice Critic, so I move that we adjourn the debate on Bill No. 34 and we will come back to it tomorrow.
MR. SPEAKER: This motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 34.
The motion is carried.
The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury on an introduction.
MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, through you and to the member of the House, I would like to introduce three guests from Guysborough County, Angela MacKeen, an educator; Bruce MacKeen and Bill Innis, both business people from the Guysborough area. I would ask the members to extend a welcome to our guests. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:
Bill No. 32 - Insurance Act/Motor Vehicle Act.
and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.
The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:
Bill No. 35 - Business Electronic Filing Act.
and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Tomorrow we will be sitting from the hours of 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
The order of business following the daily routine will be Public Bills for Second Reading beginning with Bill No. 34.
I move that we adjourn until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.
MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved that the House adjourn until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.
The motion is carried.
[The House rose at 7:55 p.m.]
By: Mr. Terence Donahoe (Halifax Citadel)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Justice.
(1) All costs associated with the study into the privatization of the province's jail system; i.e., cost of trip by government representatives to the United States; costs attached to the province's contract with HHW Consultants, Halifax; and any other figures committed by the Department of Justice to the study.
By: Mr. George Archibald (Kings North)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing and the Nova Scotia Lottery Commission:
(1) A list of criteria that must be established prior to gaining approval for the establishment of harness racing teletheatres in Nova Scotia; and
(2) A schedule as to when all eight licensed establishments as approved by the province will be participating in a harness racing teletheatre network.
By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment:
(1) A detailed list of those on file at the Nova Scotia Emergency Measures Organization office of all municipal emergency measures organizations and their organizational structures.