Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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HALIFAX, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 1995



Fifty-sixth General Assembly



Third Session



8:00 A.M.



SPEAKER



Hon. Paul MacEwan



DEPUTY SPEAKER



Mrs. Francene Cosman







MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time and commence the day's agenda. Introduction of guests? If none, we will move to the daily routine.



PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have a whole series of petitions here. For the convenience of the House, since they all have the same preamble, I will read the preamble and then I will go through each of the individual petitions to indicate the school that they are from.



The petition says, Mr. Speaker, "I, the undersigned, wish to convey to the Government of Nova Scotia and to the Minister of Education and Culture, the Honourable John MacEachern, my anger and outrage with the proposed Education Act (Bill 39). This Act deprofessionalizes me, it strips me of my contract rights, it unilaterally determines that one-tier bargaining will exist in Nova Scotia and it confers absolute power on the Minister. I ask the Minister to make substantive changes to this Act as requested by the NSTU or to withdraw this act.".











3131

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from Sackville Heights Junior High School, from Prospect Road Elementary, from Gaetz Brook Junior High, from Advocate District School, from East Pictou Rural High School, from Digby Elementary School, from Victoria Street Annex, from Rawdon District, from Sir Charles Tupper, from William King Memorial, from Tantallon Elementary, from QEH, from Herring Cove Junior High School, from George Bissett Elementary School, from Millwood High School, from Colby Village School, from Gertrude Parker School, from Smokey Drive School, from Sambro Elementary School, from Ash-Lee Consolidated School, from Nelson Whynder School, from Centennial School, from Rockingstone Heights School, from Central Spryfield School, from Gold River School, from CAMS, from Centre Consolidated School, from Mill Cove District School, from Park View Education Centre, another one from Park View Education Centre, from Petite Rivière Elementary School, from Centre School, from Riverport Elementary School, from Mahone Bay School, from BHS, from New Ross Consolidated, from Pentz Elementary, Blandford, Hebbville Elementary, Bridgewater Elementary, Bridgewater, Charles P. Allen. There are all separate ones, Mr. Speaker, so I just . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Nonetheless, we would not allow them to be all read separately. They are a group of petitions.



The petitions are tabled.



MR. HOLM: Yes, but I am introducing them separately, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: The Chair has indicated the petitions collectively are tabled.



MR. HOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, then are you ruling that I do not have the right to stand in my place and to introduce each individual petition, because each one is a separate petition from a separate schools.



MR. SPEAKER: They are all the same. You stated that they all read the same. I don't intend to have an argument on the matter. The petitions are tabled.



MR. HOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further petitions?



MR. HOLM: . . . I will table them. There are thousands of signatures on the petitions . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Very well, they are tabled.



MR. HOLM: . . . that I'm tabling and I have only read a fraction of the schools from which I've received them from across the province, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: It is not the custom in that House to read all the names of all the individuals submitters.



The petitions are tabled.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: First of all, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. You will remember that last year we had the opportunity to introduce petitions, on I believe it was Sunday shopping, that were broken up into different constituencies, and each MLA introduced those particular petitions because of the fact they were the same petitions. Nonetheless, they were introduced separately in order that the representatives who had signed those from each different district had the opportunity to be recognized. I am just wondering why, certainly my colleague, what he has attempted to do it to combine them all in terms of not reading each preamble, not introducing each petition individually . . .



MR. SPEAKER: He would be ruled out of order if he did so.



MR. CHISHOLM: . . . but I am wondering what the difference is between not being able to introduce them on basis of each school versus what was done before in terms of . . .



MR. SPEAKER: The petitions were tabled. They were not denied. They were all tabled.



MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to raise one point of order on the petitions as well. I would have been more than pleased to table petitions from schools in my district had I known of them, from Ash-Lee and Charles P. Allen High School. Unfortunately, I was not aware that the member had petitions from my school or I would have tabled them myself.



MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would like to also say that he has read off some schools in my area, and I have not been approached by any of those people from any of those schools to present petitions. I would like to know really how he got them and if they are originals, because I was not asked. (Interruptions) I was not asked. I don't know. I have not seen them, but I was not asked to present any petitions to this House.



MR. JOHN HOLM: On the points of order, Mr. Speaker. It is not my understanding that a member of this House cannot present petitions no matter where they happen to come from. I was presented with these petitions. They are all originals. I have signed them and I am doing as I was requested by signers of those petitions, presenting them on the floor of the House. Maybe, if the members on the government benches were prepared to show more support for their colleagues in their area, they might have been asked. That is my interpretation.



MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege. I resent that remark. I feel I represent the teachers in my area to the best of my ability and I resent that. I don't appreciate the smile either. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wish to rule on this matter. We have a section in our Rule Book dealing with petitions, and Erskine May and Beauchesne also treat on the matter of petitions. It is the right of any honourable member to introduce a petition here in this House and I have never questioned that. I do not believe it is the right of an honourable member to table a stack of petitions that all would read the same way and read each one individually, because that is obviously an abuse of the Rules of the House. But if there are a collection of petitions and they all read the same way and they are from a variety of individuals, the right of any honourable member to table those petitions collectively is not questioned or impeded in any way. It is only the wish of the Chair that this be done in an orderly and succinct and efficient way.



I would rule that the tabling of collective petitions that all read the same, but are from different individuals or groups, can be tabled collectively. That's all.



The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if you would elaborate a little further on that. If, for instance, there was a petition circulating among the various schools and they were handed in to each individual member but they all read exactly the same, would each individual member have the right to table those petitions?



MR. SPEAKER: I refuse to answer that question. It seems absolutely impertinent. I have already made my ruling and it should be crystal clear to any person of reasonable perspicacity.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was not meaning to be impertinent, I was simply asking you to expand your ruling so that people in the House are aware of what the rules of the day are.



MR. SPEAKER: The ruling has been made and is not subject to expansion.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic to table a petition.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a collection of petitions I have that have been presented to me and my colleague to be tabled in this House by people concerned about the issue that heads this petition. I will read, it says, "I, the undersigned, wish to convey to the Government of Nova Scotia and to the Minister of Education and Culture, the Honourable John MacEachern, my anger and outrage with the proposed Education Act (Bill 39). This Act deprofessionalizes me, it strips me of my contract rights, it unilaterally determines that one-tier bargaining will exist in Nova Scotia and it confers absolute power on the Minister.".



Mr. Speaker, I would just like to indicate that these are from a number of different schools, including Harrietsfield elementary in Halifax Atlantic; Herring Cove Junior High; Rockingstone Heights; as well as Salmon River; Pictou Academy; École Belleville; South Centennial; Bridgetown Regional; Inverness; Aldershot; Central Kings, which is my former alma mater; Windsor Regional; Berwick Cambridge & District.



Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people who signed these petitions and who obviously feel as concerned about this issue as they do, I have affixed my name to the top petition and I would like to so table this group on their behalf.



MR. SPEAKER: The petitions are tabled.



I note, too, that under Rule 63(5), Endorsement by Member, "Every Member presenting a Petition shall endorse his name thereon.". Now, with respect to the group of petitions that were tabled by the Leader of the New Democratic Party, only the top page is endorsed by that member and the others are not. Therefore, they do not conform to the Rules of House.



However, I have ruled that the petitions are tabled; I am going to permit them to be tabled. I hope we can move on to other business and not spend the whole day on this particular matter. It is a matter of form, honourable members are required to endorse each petition that they wish to table.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We are trying to clarify here what the Rules of the House are with respect to petitions. Initially you indicated to us that . . .



MR. SPEAKER: They are found at Page 66 and Page 67 of the Rule Book.



MR. CHISHOLM: If you will allow me, please. We have indicated here that what we were going to do is table them en bloc and, therefore, sign the top one. In other words, it is like - and what your ruling is suggesting - they are all one petition. So, we have done that and we have followed the rules by affixing our names to the top one. If, in fact, each . . .



MR. SPEAKER: The petitions are tabled.



MR. CHISHOLM: . . . individual petition is to be tabled separately, I would think, then, it would be up to me, as the tabler, to sign each individual petition. But, Mr. Speaker, you have ruled that we are not allowed to table . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I have not made any such ruling at all.



MR. CHISHOLM: . . . each individual petition.



AN HON. MEMBER: Table your petitions, Robert.



MR. SPEAKER: Table your petitions, please.



The petitions are tabled.



MR. CHISHOLM: So what is your ruling then? Are you ruling . . .



MR. SPEAKER: My ruling is that the petitions are tabled.



[8:15 a.m.]



The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from Liverpool Elementary School.



MR. SPEAKER: Very well.



MR. RUSSELL: Also from Westport Village School and from Annapolis-Granville School and they all read the same, "I, the undersigned, wish to convey to the Government of Nova Scotia and to the Minister of Education and Culture, the Honourable John MacEachern, my anger and outrage with the proposed Education Act (Bill 39). This Act deprofessionalizes me, it strips me of my contract rights, it unilaterally determines that one-tier bargaining will exist in Nova Scotia and it confers absolute power on the Minister. I ask the Minister to make substantive changes to this Act as requested by the NSTU or to withdraw this Act.". I have signed these petitions, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to table them.



MR. SPEAKER: Very well, the petitions are tabled.



The honourable member for Kings West.



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by teachers from Central Kings, in Kings County, and Coldbrook, Kingston and Aldershot in Kings County. The petition reads, "I, the undersigned, wish to convey to the Government of Nova Scotia and to the Minister of Education and Culture, the Honourable John MacEachern, my anger and outrage with the proposed Education Act (Bill 39). This Act deprofessionalizes me, it strips me of my contract rights, it unilaterally determines that one-tier bargaining will exist in Nova Scotia and it confers absolute power on the Minister. I ask the Minister to make substantive changes to this Act as requested by the NSTU or to withdraw this Act.".



MR. SPEAKER: The petitions are tabled.



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



TABLING OF REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS



GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.



RESOLUTION NO. 614



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



Whereas November 20, 1995 has been designated by the Government of Canada as National Child Day in recognition of the adoption of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child; and



Whereas the celebration of National Child Day allows us to recognize the special needs of children for protection and celebrate their unique potential as individuals; and



Whereas all Canadians, be they in government, in communities, in families, or as individuals have the obligation to improve the well-being of children;



Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize National Child Day and that all of us resolve to work together to ensure a better and brighter future for the children of this province.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.





INTRODUCTION OF BILLS



Bill No. 45 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 146 of the Acts of 1927. The Brookside Cemetery Corporation Act. (Mrs. Francene Cosman)



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



NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



RESOLUTION NO. 615



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



Whereas the Minister of Education has resorted at the eleventh hour to taking out $2,000 advertisements in the newspaper to sell his message that the Education Bill is really not so bad with a few changes; and



Whereas his offer appears to be too little, too late for the thousands of teachers in this province who are voting today on whether or not to strike and therefore for the students and parents who will be affected if there is an affirmative vote; and



Whereas instead of wasting taxpayers' dollars on this initiative it might have been wiser for the minister to have simply kept his promise to groups such as the school boards and the teachers to distribute a draft bill before it ever reached the floor of the Legislature;



Therefore be it resolved that this minister ensure that as our teachers do take a strike vote that he spend his time working to ensure that the amendments to his Education Bill satisfy the numerous worries he has imposed on the parents, teachers, students, boards and citizens, instead of picking fights with the very same people by insisting that he has been right all along, and the language of his bill having been merely misunderstood.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 616



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



Whereas the Minister of Education has point blank refused to meet advocates and parents of children with special needs to discuss their serious concerns about his legislative authority for segregated education; and



Whereas in the minister's widely circulated op-ed article defending his original legislation, he does not even mention the Home and School Federation as an organization with whom he is trying to resolve concerns; and



Whereas Dartmouth AVTC students got to see the minister only by coming to Province House in person;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges all education partners, whose concerns about Bill No. 39 have been turned away by the Education Minister, to come on down to Province House and get the minister into a corner where he must hear them and respond.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



I don't like the business about getting people into corners.



The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



RESOLUTION NO. 617



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



Whereas it has been reported that the Justice Minister is toying with the idea of pulling out of the Atlantic Police Academy in Summerside; and



Whereas it has also been stated in the media that our province's Justice Minister has not given any notice of Nova Scotia's intent to remove its support from the academy to the host province's Attorney General; and



Whereas it is perplexing that the Premier is, on the one hand, advocating the need for Maritime cooperation - perhaps even a union - while the Justice Minister is unilaterally taking steps to remove his department from an inter-provincial initiative;



Therefore be it resolved that the minister and Premier explain just what prompted the study into the move and where the province intends to train Nova Scotian police officers if and when it does pull out of the Atlantic initiative.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Eastern Shore.



RESOLUTION NO. 618



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



Whereas an Old Fashioned Seaside Christmas Open House will be held along the Eastern Shore on the weekend of November 17-19 giving visitors to the Eastern Shore a warm welcome; and



Whereas the Old Fashioned Seaside Christmas provides business with a unique opportunity to showcase their unique range of products and services as owners pull out all stops to decorate their stores, shops or place of business to herald the Christmas season; and





Whereas this event recalls a time when the Eastern Shore shop owners and customers knew each other by name and shops were also places for social gatherings, where visitors received traditional refreshments, listened to music and discussed local customs with shop owners;



Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate members of the Old Fashioned Seaside Christmas Committee and owners and operators of the businesses involved in this year's Old Fashioned Seaside Christmas Open House for hosting a very successful Eastern Shore event.



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 Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 619



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



Whereas at 11:15 a.m. this morning, walking tours will be leaving the Chateau Halifax to tour local banks, insurance companies and other corporate citizens of downtown Halifax; and



Whereas the tours will also be introduced to alternatives to the corporate domination of the Nova Scotian economic and political climate; and



Whereas the tours will conclude at a temporary noon hour soup kitchen in Granville Square;



Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the organizers of the Food for Thought downtown Halifax tours that will highlight Nova Scotians' fight for their communities and public services.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 620



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 were assured that the Westray Inquiry would explore all events surrounding the decision to develop the Westray Coal Mine and the causes of the tragedy which took 26 lives; and



Whereas Nova Scotians were then told that the cooperation of senior and middle management of Westray was not important to the inquiry; and



Whereas it has now become public that the inquiry was unsuccessful pursuing a means of compelling this evidence;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to ensure that the Westray Inquiry has every means necessary to obtain all of the evidence required to fully honour its terms of reference rather than pretending the kindness of strangers will be enough.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 621



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



Whereas Mr. Speaker's highest responsibility is to be impartial, he is to ensure decorum and he is to ensure that the language used here is temperate; and



Whereas Beauchesne notes that the word scurrilous has been considered unparliamentary for decades, yet on November 15th Mr. Speaker used that word to characterize an oral question raising a frequent concern about patronage considerations; and



Whereas Mr. Speaker, on November 9th, ruled out of order, as a spurious charge against the Education Minister, statements that the minister himself had made;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges Mr. Speaker to refrain from intemperate and unparliamentary interventions which create the appearance of partiality and undermine the respect for the Chair which is fundamental to decorum in the House.



MR. SPEAKER: I will ask the Clerk to read that motion and give me his opinion on it in due course.



The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.



MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have been going through the petitions looking for the petitions read into the record for the schools in Bedford-Fall River and in the petition mass over here is something entitled a Phone Track Contact with MLAs. It appears to be a phone tracking sheet and it just would make me question whether this is something that the NDP have been using to foment against the bill. It is tabled with the petitions. I am not sure what the phone track is doing in with the petitions but it is an interesting piece of paper and I do not believe it rightfully belongs as tabled, as a petition, but it should be rightfully tabled as an NDP phone tracking sheet.





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



MR. JOHN HOLM: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Quite obviously, there are some pieces of paper and I, quite honestly, don't even know what the particular piece of paper is that the member is referring to but I would be happy to see it. Obviously, that is not a part of a petition and if that one page was inserted in among the petitions then obviously that is not something that is included in it. I have no idea what the piece of paper is. It could have been on the table and I have no idea what it is but I would be happy to have the member provide it to me so I can look at it.



I assure the member that every petition that was tabled in this House is signed and everything that I tabled were petitions. Every petition that is signed was one that was provided to us as the authentic, original petition with the names of those persons from those schools involved.



AN HON. MEMBER: Selected by teachers.



MR. HOLM: Selected by teachers.



MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further interventions on this matter? I want to state this, not necessarily as a Speaker's ruling, but just as an observation from the Chair, that I was troubled last year with the rapid fire introduction of petitions that accompanied the lobbying against the casinos. That was a group of petitions that included documents that were signed by Elvis and signed by people from California and so on and so forth. When that unhappy experience took place, I reviewed the provisions of our rules about petitions and it is very clear from these rules, Section 63(4), Page 67, that, "Members presenting Petitions shall be answerable that they do not contain impertinent or improper matter.". Now the interpretation of what that means, of course, is up to the Chair, whoever is in the Chair, but when petitions are introduced in large quantity and on a very rapid fire basis, it is sometimes not possible for the Chair to examine these petitions. We simply rule that they are tabled and then, on examination, they are found to be signed by Elvis or by people from outside the province, it creates a problem. (Interruption) I have the right to speak and I am speaking. Now just be seated, please.



I feel that we must be very careful to realize that members are responsible and are answerable for the content of the material that they table under the tabling of petitions. If, on further examination, they are found to contain impertinent or improper matter, the rules state that the members who present those petitions shall be answerable for what they have tabled.



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, if I may on your ruling, if you will note or remember when I was introducing the petitions, I was trying to go through them each individual petition, one at a time. I was prevented from doing that and if it would be the wish, and to make it easier for you in your rulings, I would be very happy to take the petitions back and to stand and to read each individual petition and to present each individual petition one at a time on the floor of this House.



MR. SPEAKER: I am sure that you would be very happy to do that but the petitions have already been tabled.





The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted by your ruling regarding a Mr. Elvis is no longer entitled to sign petitions because I happen to have a Mr. Elvis who lives in my riding.



MR. SPEAKER: I believe the Elvis referred to is the late Mr. Presley.



Are there further matters to come before the House under the daily routine before we advance to Orders of the Day?



ORDERS OF THE DAY



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. 34.



Bill No. 34 - Maintenance Enforcement Act.



MR. SPEAKER: I am advised that the debate was adjourned by the honourable member for Hants West. I believe you have an hour remaining.



The honourable member for Hants West.



[8:30 a.m.]



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: An hour, yes, Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that I will not be an hour.



I would simply like to comment on this bill as follows, Mr. Speaker, in that I will be voting for the bill and I do support the intent of the bill and the bill that preceded it, that we dealt with, I think it was in the spring of 1995.



Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that there are, indeed, a lot of people at the present time, both male and female, quite predominantly male though, who are avoiding the court imposed judgments that they support their children. I think that anything that we can do, within reason, to have those people support their family obligations is a move that we should applaud.



So, Mr. Speaker, just simply to say that I support the minister and I support the amendments that he is making to the bill, which are primarily, as I understand it, housekeeping types of amendments and I trust that the system that he is setting in place will be as effective as we were told yesterday by a member of his staff. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition. (Interruption)



Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Fame is fleeting, Mr. Speaker. I rise to make a few brief remarks in relation to Bill No. 34. This is a piece of legislation or it is an element of life and law in our province with which in a previous incarnation I had considerable familiarity and dealings in my law practice days. This is an extremely important piece of legislation. I want to begin by complimenting the minister, as I did when we debated some months ago Bill No. 124, which this same minister introduced under the title, An Act to Provide for the Enforcement of Payment Under Maintenance Orders. You will recall at that time, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General introduced a very substantial and, I think, effective rewrite and consolidation of the laws and rules and the regulations pertaining to maintenance orders and their enforcement.



I don't know whether it is the function of difficult recessionary times or whether it is a function of a lack of values being instilled in our young people and those young people, over time coming to be older people, assume obligations to spouses and children and so on, and decide not to honour them and in some cases in a very vicious and mean-spirited way. As all the lawyers in the Legislature, I am sure, will agree, each of us who has had experience firsthand with the making of maintenance orders and the later attempts to enforce same, can be arguably one of the most debilitating experiences for spouses and children and anything which we can do to alleviate the difficulties experienced by those spouses and by those children is to be desired and is to be commended. I think the Minister of Justice has made a very good effort both in the earlier piece of legislation and in the legislation which he introduces here by way of Bill No. 34.



I do want to make particular note, if I may, Mr. Speaker, of a principle which is enshrined now in Bill No. 34 which, and I don't want to sound in any way, shape or form, like an I told you so, but the fact is, in debate on Bill No. 124 when it was before the House some months ago, I indicated at that time that I felt (Interruptions)



MR. SPEAKER: Order.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am having real difficulty.



MR. SPEAKER: I am having difficulty too. We have to have order in the House. Honourable members who wish to converse privately with their friends can do so outside.



The honourable member for Halifax Citadel has the floor.



MR. DONAHOE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When we debated Bill No. 124, I raised an issue and a concern which, at that time, I felt was important and significant and, for one reason or another, it was not possible for us, through the second reading and the Law Amendments Committee and third reading processes, through which we took Bill No. 124, to effect the change that I was urging upon the Minister of Justice at that time.



You will recall that in Bill No. 124 which is a bill which we amend here by way of Bill No. 34, before us this morning, we passed a section in that earlier legislation, Mr. Speaker, Section 28(1) which established the principle that the Director of Maintenance Enforcement could ". . . seize money in a deposit account of the payor to enforce an obligation to pay money . . ." under a matrimonial order. We also provided in Section 28(2) if that earlier legislation that, "Subject to subsection (3), where a deposit account in the name of the payor and one or more other persons is seized pursuant to subsection (1), the money to the credit of that account is deemed to be monies of the payor.".



That raised a concern with me and we debated it here, and the Attorney General will recall, and I suggested at that time that Clause 3 of the earlier bill which, at that time, read any person in whose name a deposit account is maintained, along with the name of the payor, may make application - and I suggested within 60 days of the seizure of the money - to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for an order declaring that some or all of the money in the said deposit account is, in fact, the property of that person and not the payor, and not subject to seizure by the Director.



I did that because, as I think the Minister of Justice upon reflection has come to realize, it is not going to happen frequently necessarily, but it will happen with sufficient frequency that it would be unfair, if by chance, it happened that the person who is indebted to the person attempting to enforce a maintenance order has, at a banking institution or a financial institution of one kind or another, a joint account in which, perhaps, that debtor's brother, mother and father, business associate, anybody else, might also have made a contribution to that joint account. I was urging at the earlier time that we try to find a way whereby there is some protection for the non-debtor contributor to the joint account that his or her money is not scooped up in order to meet the terms and provisions of the maintenance order which is being enforced.



We had debate on that issue last time and I am very pleased, and I want to sincerely express my compliments and my thanks to the Minister of Justice for coming forward, as he does now, in Bill No. 34 with an amendment to Section 28(3) of the earlier legislation, because the minister has very kindly and appropriately, I think, established the principle now, by way of this amendment which is before us or one of them, that if we have that situation and we have two contributors to a joint account, one of the contributors to that joint account is a debtor, or to be a payor under a maintenance order, we now, by way of this amendment, and I think an important one, have an opportunity that the person who is a co-contributor to the joint account now will have a 60-day timeframe in which he or she may make application to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for an order declaring that some or all of the money in that joint account is, in fact, the money of that person and not of the person who is subject to making the payment on the maintenance order.



I really believe that is an important and helpful change. I realize, too, it may, in some certain situations and these situations are, unfortunately, very often complex and acrimonious and I recognize fully that this provision may, to some extent, lead to some modest delay and, indeed, perhaps contribute to some degree or element of acrimony which surrounds the difficult issues of maintenance enforcement orders or the enforcement of maintenance orders. But I really believe it is an appropriate protection to an innocent third party who has been a contributor to such a joint account.



So without beating it to death, I repeat, I extend sincere compliments to the minister who is the sponsor of this bill and his officials for being willing to go back, have a look at that provision and come to the conclusion that there was merit to the suggestion I made when we debated Bill No. 124 some time ago.



The remaining principles enshrined in Bill No. 34 are, I think, worthwhile ones as well. There has always been, or has very often been as we look at Section 38(6) of the Act we are amending - and I will just make brief reference to it but for the purposes of addressing the principle enshrined in there and not to get into the language of it - essentially Section 38 of the Act we amend here by way of Bill No. 34 establishes the principle that the provisions of any general or special Act where there is an ex parte application by the director or a recipient in respect of a maintenance order not being enforced by the director, on such an ex parte application, if a judge is satisfied that there has been a failure to comply with a provision of a maintenance order for the payment of maintenance, that judge may enter a judgment for the outstanding amount against the person who has failed to pay as provided by the rules of court.



I note that the bill now before us, Bill No. 34, addresses that issue and it indicates that there will be an addition of new words, the words being "or pursuant to the Civil Procedure Rules" immediately after "court" in the last line. That is an important addition, from a technical legal point of view, as I am sure the Minister of Justice is now well aware. I think that is an important improvement in the legislation and it establishes the principle that the judge in those circumstances can enter the judgment which he or she deems fit for the outstanding amount against a person who has failed to pay, as provided for the rules of court, or pursuant to the Civil Procedure Rules.



The point of that is that there are other remedies and activities and actions and processes available under the Civil Procedure Rules which would give potentially the Director of Enforcement even a firmer hand in order to effect the collection of the amounts owed under the maintenance order. It is, therefore, a very important and significant change.



The bill we address this morning, Bill No. 34, also addresses, if I may, another issue which my recollection tells me we raised when we debated Bill No. 124 last session and I refer to the principle set out in Section 36(1) of the bill which we propose to and will, in fact, amend here by Bill No. 34.



[8:45 a.m.]



You will recall that in the existing legislation under the bill which we amend here by way of Bill No. 34, there is a whole process available to make assessments led in the main by the Director of Maintenance and her staff. The law that we now have before us which we are now amending sets out that, "At the conclusion of an examination conducted by the Director pursuant to . . .", earlier provisions allowing such examinations the Director is able to take a number of actions. She and her staff can, "(a) proceed to obtain an execution order; (b) require the payor to pay all or part of the arrears in such manner as the Director considers just; . . ." and quite a string of things, "(c) proceed to obtain the appointment of a receiver . . ." and "(d) require the payor to post a bond . . ." and so on and so on.



This bill that we now have before us adds what I think is a very important principle to that list of authorities and capabilities available to the Director and it is found in the present bill, Bill No. 34, in Clause 5 because it imports into the maintenance enforcement legislation an authority or a power to vest in the Director of Maintenance whereby she or her staff can, " . . . (k) require the payor to apply to court pursuant to the Family Maintenance Act of the Divorce Act (Canada) by a specified date for a hearing before a judge in respect of the payor's ability to pay the arrears on to make subsequent payments.".



When we looked at the procedures and the powers available to the Director of Maintenance in the earlier legislation, again, I think we pointed out earlier that we did not have this capacity or more to the point, the Director didn't have this capacity to make such an order and to require the payor to get back into the Family Maintenance Act or the Divorce Act before a judge relative to a further re-examination of the payor's ability to pay the arrears or to make subsequent payments. I think that is a very important additional tool and authority available to the Director of Maintenance in order to ensure the most effective and helpful collection of maintenance orders here in this province.



The last comment that I would make bears on the principle which is established in Clause 7 of the bill which we now consider. Clause 7(2)(2A) establishes the principle that the maintenance order, where there is an application to vary and a default hearing to be heard by the court at the same time, you will note that where that is to happen, " . . . the default hearing shall be held first.". I can assure you from my practice of law many years ago in this area of law, that is a very interesting and I think important and helpful provision.



I can recall from personal experience uncountable times being in court with the parties, the relationship between them at the time there in the courts, hassling and haggling over maintenance order payments and enforcements is invariably a very difficult time for those parties and, needless to say, a very difficult time for the children of those parties.



I can recall many times getting into situations where judges of good ability and intent would sometimes get into a situation where there was an application to vary, usually brought and almost invariably brought by the person having the obligation to meet payments under a maintenance order and almost invariably the male party to the issue, he would be in the court looking to have the maintenance order varied and again almost invariably suggesting that the court should make a ruling that he should not be required to pay as much as had earlier been ordered.



Meanwhile, the former spouse or the female partner in the contest, was there wanting to have the court understand that this male, who wants to have the payments reduced, is in fact in some cases hundreds of dollars, in some cases thousands of dollars in arrears of having met the obligation which had been imposed by the earlier order. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that it became sometimes an absolutely confusing mish mash in the court and this specific direction, I think, is an important one. If we have conflicting parties and one is looking for a variation and one is looking for a hearing on default questions, that this law now says, if we pass this bill, and I encourage all members that we should, if we pass this, such hearings will follow a procedure whereby the defaulting payer is going to be on the hook, in front of the court, to explain his, or may I say her - but the occasions where it is a female are rare - but the defaulter is going to have to explain to the satisfaction of a court that there is some justification for that default before that same judge would then make a determination as to whether or not there is legitimate and appropriate evidence to justify a variance of the maintenance order. I, for one, believe that that is the right sequence and it puts the test to the defaulting payer under the maintenance Act and again, my compliments to the minister and his officials for addressing that particular issue in that way.



Those, I think, Mr. Speaker, are the observations which I wish to make relative to Bill No. 34. I believe that the passage in this place last year, back in February of this year of Bill No. 124 was a very important and much needed improvement in the whole area of enforcement of payment under maintenance orders. You will recall on that one, if memory serves me correctly, I see the Minister of Justice is now joined by one of the province's leading barristers and solicitors and he may (Laughter)



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.



MR. DONAHOE: I was just suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Justice has just now been joined by one of the province's leading barristers and solicitors and I am not sure of the nature or extent of the family maintenance order law practice which that honourable member has been engaged in over the years, but one of the most important things that we did in Bill No. 124 which we amend by Bill No. 34 here today, was we finally, after a lot of years and a lot of confusion, we finally got to the point, and again to the credit of this Minister of Justice, where persons who were employees of Her Majesty The Queen, were no longer protected by the historical, but in today's practical world inappropriate fiction that they should by some reason or other, by virtue only of being employees of the Crown, that they should somehow be protected from garnishee and collection of maintenance order obligations.



So I say to you, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the Minister of Justice, that I think his combination of Bill No. 124 assented to in February 1995 and the few amendments we make to that by way of Bill No. 34 introduced here in this session, are very important improvements to the province's Maintenance Enforcement Act regime. I think the minister should be complimented for some very good work in that regard.



I really do appreciate that after the debate which we had on Bill No. 124, he was kind enough to go back and take a look at a couple of the issues which a few of us in the Opposition benches had raised and that he was good enough to come back with a couple of those changes which were suggested to him at that time.



I will support Bill No. 34. I will vote for it here at second reading and I will watch it and assist it, if I can, as it makes its way through the Law Amendments Committee.



I would hope, and I really do hope, I know that it happens so often that a minister will introduce a piece of legislation and one or two people, usually on the Opposition benches who have critic responsibilities in a particular area, pay some attention to those pieces of legislation - this is not a shot at any other colleague here - but often the nature of the business we are in is that we don't always, as colleagues, really pay quite as much attention to all of the legislation which proceeds through this House unless we have a particular responsibility to debate it by way of critic responsibility or the minister responsible to introduce and propose it. I really would hope that every single member of this House will now, once Bill No. 34 makes its way through the processes of this House, will go back to a reading of Bill No. 124, Minister Gillis' legislation to which assent was given February 1995 and Bill No. 34 which we debate now, and read them together as the full package of what I honestly believe is now a very effective, workable maintenance enforcement regime.



I was, by reason of illness, not able to be present at a caucus session which our caucus had scheduled yesterday morning, and I wasn't able to be there, unfortunately, when Judith McPhee, who is the new Director of Maintenance Enforcement, was good enough, with the endorsement and support of the Minister of Justice to spend some time to brief our caucus on just what has been going on as she sets up this new regime and her office. Reports from my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, are to the effect that she clearly understands this legislation and clearly has the attitude, which I think each and every one of us has, that there simply is no excuse, there is absolutely no excuse except in the most unusual or exceptional circumstances, that any man or woman who is faced with an obligation to make a maintenance payment to support spouse and/or children enshrined by way of a court order, there is little or no explanation or excuse that should allow any of those persons to avoid that obligation.



This legislation, the combination of Bill No. 124 and Bill No. 34, makes it that much more difficult for such obligations to be avoided. I think it is very important and positive legislation and I, again, applaud the Minister of Justice for his very good work and the work of his officials in moving us to this state. I will be supporting Bill No. 34 here on second reading and supporting it as it proceeds through the various steps as it becomes law. Thank you.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I won't be as long as the previous speaker, not because I am not as interested in the topic maybe as the previous speaker, but I confess that my knowledge about this angle of the law is not nearly as extensive as his. I listened with a great deal of interest to the comments made by the former speaker, and although I am not as learned in the law certainly as he, we have had this bill examined and have sent it out to a number of people who are very much involved in this area of law, Mr. Speaker. I am delighted to be able to say that I stand here on the basis of all the information that I have received back to echo the comments made by the member for Halifax Citadel and to congratulate very much the minister for having brought forward the piece of legislation.



[9:00 a.m.]



Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say, there is no excuse, or no explanation, as to why a person who has been required or ordered by law to make allowances or make maintenance payments to their former partner and children, there is really no excuse except in the most extreme situations where that should not be enforced. When I am taking a look at the legislation and I am looking at a number of the clauses here, I am very pleased, and not just because of my own interpretation, as I say, but because of the interpretation that I have gotten back from those who are learned in this area of the law, about its importance and what this actually will do.



So I am really here, as I am speaking this morning - in an incoherent way - I guess, trying to congratulate and thank the minister for having brought forward the amendments that he has done today. The only questions really, if I could leave them with the minister and I am not saying this as a way to be critical of what he has done or of the bill because that is not intended at all, I would just like some clarification if the minister could, in wrapping up his remarks, just explain how the process and how effective the maintenance enforcement aspects are going to be evaluated.



I am not standing here suggesting any particular process but I guess what I am most interested in is ensuring that it works as well as possible and that there be some kind of an independent assessment or evaluation which I am sure the minister has thought about, to ensure that it is operating as the minister and as we would all want. I am just raising that because the minister has been, I would suggest, very diligent and very progressive in this piece of legislation as he was in the former Act that he brought forward. This is completing the package. I am sure this minister will not be satisfied either unless he knows that it is going to be the absolute best and what we have to ensure is that there is an ongoing process to evaluate the effectiveness of that and a reporting on what is actually being done if there is a need for some fine-tuning or adjustments to make the system even more effective.



As I say, Mr. Speaker, I am not suggesting I have any knowledge that that needs to be done at the moment or any particular ways that that could be done, but those who are involved in this practice of law and who are dealing with the families who have been victimized, I might add, or might suggest, by the failure of the partner to meet the obligations, they all, I am sure, as would the minister want to ensure, that the process is as effective and efficient as it possibly can be.



So, Mr. Speaker, I am really, as I say, in a not very articulate way, trying to congratulate the minister and to thank him for bringing forward Bill No. 34 and would welcome learning if there is a process for an ongoing type of evaluation so that we can continually try to be fine-tuning and improving the legislation to ensure that as much as is humanly possible, people who have been victimized by partners refusing to make and pay what they are supposed to, that that comes to an end. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to rise in support of this legislation that the Minister of Justice brings before the House today. It has often occurred to me, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure to others in this place and across Nova Scotia, that no child ever asked to be born and, therefore, I think the obligation of society to ensure that every child who is born has reasonable opportunity and reasonable financial support is one that all of us must strive to meet. I think that this legislation will help us to achieve that goal to a greater extent than has been the case to date.



All too frequently, the well-being of children is caught up in the push and the pull between parents who have chosen to go their separate ways. They become the victims of parents who have made that choice too frequently; not, of course, in every case and, I don't believe, in most cases, but still too frequently. This legislation will help to ensure that children have greater opportunity with respect to not being caught in that terrible squeeze as their parents work out the problems which they, as adults, have a responsibility to resolve and to resolve not at the expense of their children.



Through my 18 years as a member of the Legislature, I have - thank Heavens not frequently - been called by parents who have been given responsibility by the courts to raise their children and who find themselves in distress as the result of the parent who has been ordered to provide financial support not being forthcoming with that support. I hope that that says that in our community those who have been thus ordered are, for the most part, meeting their responsibilities. I think, I believe and I pray that that is the case. I know the good people in my community and I think that is the responsibility which would motivate them.



However, there have been some who have been less than forthcoming; in fact, there have been a few who have been prepared to allow their children to be virtually destitute of financial opportunity and have not provided the funds which have been ordered by the courts. Those people, I believe, should be required in the most forceful terms available to the law and to society, to pay what is adjudged to be their responsibility to the upkeep of their children. The paying for the upkeep of those children is not a responsibility which should accrue to society as a whole, but one which we should accrue to the parents and, as the courts adjudicate, perhaps more particularly to one parent than another.



Equally importantly, Mr. Speaker, there is no reason why society, through its governments, should have to provide bridge financing to help a parent who has been rendered a judgment by the courts with respect to funding to bring up children, to get through a difficult period, waiting for the parent who was ordered to pay to do so. I think this bill will take us a very long way - I hope, indeed, all of the way - towards ensuring that no longer will the taxpayer have to provide bridge financing because the parent who has been ordered to provide child support has failed to do so or has put off doing so until the very last moment.



It is going to take some time to get this process up and running and completely glitch-free, but I am convinced after our meeting yesterday that this minister has given a lot of forethought to this process and that it is going to be just about as trouble-free as any new process could be. I know he has a deep personal interest in this legislation and that he will give it his personal attention to ensure that any problems that may occur with respect to implementation will be resolved in a fair and equitable way as quickly as possible.



Mr. Speaker, this is good legislation. It is good for the taxpayers, I think it is good for the parents but, most importantly, indeed all importantly, it is good for the children who too often have been caught in the terrible squeeze between two parents who, for whatever reasons, have had to choose to go their separate ways.



I applaud the minister, Mr. Speaker, and I very much look forward to supporting this legislation in second reading.



MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.



The honourable Minister of Justice.



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I just want to thank all honourable members for their participation in the debate on this bill and for their support of the bill. As all honourable members know, our new maintenance enforcement process commences as of January 1st, under the new Act plus the amendments. We are hoping it will go as well as possible. No doubt there will be some glitches as we go along but we are going to do the best we can to make the bill and the process to help the children and the spouses to work as well as possible.



One honourable member, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, mentioned evaluation. We haven't really decided on just how we might do that but it will certainly be ongoing and will be determined as we go along. We want to make sure the process works well for all parties.



I am sure all honourable members would be interested to know that since maintenance enforcement became a responsibility of my department I have had wonderful cooperation from the Department of Community Services and the staff of both Community Services and the Department of Justice. We have met regularly since the beginning, at least monthly, to discuss possible problems and how we move along the process to make it work properly.



I also want to indicate to all honourable members that information about this will be available, and it is important that we all know about it. As has been mentioned, the three caucuses have had access or will have access to the director to answer any questions and give information. At least two of the meetings have been held and I understand that meetings will be held with the Third Party caucus either today or in the near future. I think that is really important.



We are going to provide as much information to the citizens, the affected persons, and certainly to the MLAs because some of these cases will come to our attention. It is hoped that early in the process, in addition to the briefings, there will be a briefing book available which will be a guide to help understand the process and to help a person who wants to follow the procedure, so they will not be frustrated and they will be able, as easily as possible, to access the new process so that the monies due and payable to the spouse and to the children will be paid. I just wanted to mention that and we will continue to emphasize information and cooperation from the department and the director, Ms. McPhee, I want to thank her personally for her efforts.



Again, before I sit down and move second reading of this bill, I want to thank all three Parties for the support of this bill. I want to thank the staff again for the great deal of help, the detailed work they have done in developing these amendments to improve the bill. As well, I want to thank my colleagues in government and, in particular, Premier John Savage who was an advocate and a person who took a special interest in this and helped us find some additional money at a time of great restraint, so we can get on with this important program to help people who are in need.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice has moved that the bill be now read a second time.



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



The motion is carried.



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. 36.



Bill No. 36 - Arts Council Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to introduce Bill No. 36 to the House, An Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Arts Council.



Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to all members of the House Miss Sue Gibson Garvey, who was the chair of the committee that brought this piece of legislation into being basically.



Some time ago we had a study done that recommended that there be an arm's length arts board developed in Nova Scotia to deal with the arts community. A steering committee was brought together and when the culture section became assigned to the Department of Education, I had some names given to me which were nominated by the arts community and I circulated those widely to the arts community to get them reaffirmed, Mr. Speaker, and that group was approved by the arts community and, as a result, speaks with a certain integrity and authority for the arts community.



[9:15 a.m.]



Their job was sixfold. First of all, to develop a concise background statement on the specific needs to be met by the proposed legislation and how the legislation can address those needs. Secondly, to review and compare similar legislation and regulations used in other provinces and the territories. Third, to make recommendations on the qualifications and representation required for the composition of a permanent board. Fourth, to make recommendations on the selection process to recommend names to the minister for appointment to a permanent board and all future boards. Fifth, to draft a general outline of policy and program recommendations for a Nova Scotia arts board; and last of all, to comment on the relationship between the arts board structure and the Cultural Affairs Division of the department.



Mr. Speaker, this group met all summer in order to do this because the Premier felt that it was so important that we wanted to get it into this session of the House of Assembly. I had the good fortune to attend both the first meeting and the last meeting, the reporting meeting, and I want to suggest that it was one of the most rewarding relationships that I have developed with a group of people and from that I have developed some friendships that I will carry away with me.



The arts are an integral part of the Province of Nova Scotia. Artists contribute to Nova Scotia in tangible ways, ranging from the inspiration they provide to our citizens to the economic resources they contribute to the provincial economy. In recognition of the significant benefits the arts bring to Nova Scotia, I am pleased to introduce this bill today. The Arts Council Act will create a Nova Scotia Arts Council, Conseil des arts de la Nouvelle-Écosse, because we are including the French title as well, as an agent of the Crown and right of the Province of Nova Scotia. The bill establishes the guidelines under which the council may operate and identifies its mandate: to foster artistic excellence in all parts of the province; to make the arts integral to the lives of all Nova Scotians; to encourage creative expression by funding activity in the arts; to educate the public regarding the cultural, social and economic importance of the arts; and finally, to advise the government on matters of arts policy.



The arts community has recommended the creation of this council since 1973, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotia has been the only province in Canada without such a council until now. The council will operate under two key principles. One, it will function at arm's length from government, ensuring that policy, program and funding decisions are based on artistic merit rather than political, commercial and other considerations. Secondly, the peer assessment principle will assure that artists and their work will be evaluated by other artists or specialists with the knowledge and experience to make the right decisions that support excellence. It will assist both individual artists and arts organizations.



The council will support work in the visual, literary and performing arts, crafts and film media arts. All of these sectors contribute significantly to the quality of life in Nova Scotia and the province's economy. Over 4,000 people are employed in the arts and culture sector in 1992, studies showed us, Mr. Speaker, and the sector has a significant economic impact of more than $167 million annually.



The Nova Scotia Arts Council will complement existing agencies which support the arts and cultural industries in the province. It will be primarily responsible for the areas of arts activity that are best served by peer assessment and consultation. Responsibility will remain with the Cultural Affairs Division of the Department of Education and Culture for such things as multicultural activities, cultural industries - that is both publishing and sound recording - production crafts, the cultural federations, marketing of cultural products and, at least initially, grants to large cultural organizations and facilities.



The division will also continue to work in partnership with the Economic Renewal Agency to delivery the new cultural enterprises initiative. Other agencies including the Nova Scotia Museum system, the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation are important players in the cultural life of Nova Scotia. Working as partners, these agencies will allow the arts to move forward in their evolution and together they will deliver programs which will make Nova Scotian heritage and cultural products known world-wide.



Mr. Speaker, I am particularly pleased today to be introducing this bill for second reading because I think it is very important. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a few brief remarks on Bill No. 36, An Act to Incorporate the Nova Scotia Arts Council. I think it is an important step and advance in developing a process, regime and administrative structure which affords to our province's artists and artisans an opportunity to advance professionally, to have a mechanism by which and through which they will be able to enjoy a reasonable living standard as a result of the pursuit of their art and their craft. So, in a general way and as a general statement, I would indicate that my reaction is a positive one.



It has always been my view, and during my relatively short time on the Treasury benches when I had occasion to have involvement with and responsibility for matters relative to tourism and cultural matters, it became clearer each day I was there that our province's soul - the window upon who we are as a people; what our life, reality, history, heritage and language really is - is depicted, promulgated, presented and glorified in the work of our province's artists, crafts persons and artisans.



As the minister has rightly pointed out in his remarks as he moves second reading of this bill, not only does the work of our province's artists and artisans highlight and open the window upon who we are as a people, with proper support and there has been some, that artistic activity encompassing as it does all forms of artistic endeavour, is becoming and has become an exceedingly valuable contributor to the economic welfare of our province.



So I just would as a general statement indicate that there is considerable merit as we address the principles outlined in Bill No. 36 which we now debate. As a former deputy of mine might say, having said what I have just now said, Mr. Speaker, well, he might be tempted to take a little bit off that fast ball. What he means by that, when he used that expression and what I mean by using it now, is that the introduction of this bill, having as it does its fundamental principle being the incorporation of a Nova Scotia Arts Council, unfortunately and I really mean unfortunately, runs rather counter to many things which are happening or, more to the point, are not happening in our public school system here in the Province of Nova Scotia.



I think it is possible to make the argument and the evidence is there in large measure that we are, unfortunately, in our public school system running the risk, unless we really address the issues and address them effectively, of raising culturally illiterate children in our public school system.



The Minister of Education on the one hand comes to this House with Bill No. 36 to establish a Nova Scotia Arts Council and at the same time he, as a member of this government and a member of the Treasury benches of this government, along with his colleagues, is starving schools financially to the point where many of our schools across the province are being forced to abandon art and music programs. So it is like, and I don't know if the artists would appreciate the analogy, but you have major league baseball players and major league baseball players are, in the main, the product of effective farm team operations. The NHL has the American Hockey League and the IHL and the CHL and all kinds of junior hockey programs across the world and across the country from whom to draw and the very best rise to the top and are the athletes which we see on the world stage in athletic endeavour.



If we are going to see Nova Scotian artists and craftspersons and artisans on the leading edge of the Nova Scotia stage and the Canadian stage and the world stage, we are obviously, I submit, going to have to ensure that we have in cultural development terms, in artistic development terms, we are going to have to have our own farm team. If the farm team is being shut down in the province's public school system by virtue of choking art and music programs and things cultural in the public school system, we do ourselves a disservice and the men and women who might otherwise be inspired to become leaders in the arts community of Nova Scotia is therefore stilted and disadvantaged to a very considerable extent.



As we look at a couple of the principles of this bill I note that the bill proposes that, Clause 7(1), "The Governor in Council shall appoint such persons as the Governor in Council thinks are suitable as the first members of the Council.". They do go on to describe that there would ". . . be a Nominating Committee of the Council consisting of . . ." members of the council appointed by the council, persons who are not members of the council appointed by the minister and ". . . two persons who are not members of the Council appointed by the Chair of the Council and the Minister jointly.".



I might say that that set-up and that approach to the appointment of such a council with respect, from my vantage point, does not seem to be as broadly based as it might appropriately be. Again, with respect, when you look at the press release issued by the minister as he did back on November 1, 1995 he indicated in that release that, "The Nova Scotia Arts Council - Conseil des arts de la Nouvelle-Écosse would operate under two key principles. (1) The Arts Council would operate arm's length from government.". Well, if it is to operate arm's length from government it occurs to me that it is appropriate that the minister have far less of a hand than this legislation would give him in the selection of the men and women, the artists, the artisans and the craftspeople who would be members of this council. In the Law Amendments Committee and when we come back for third reading, I think we should take a look at the way in which the Arts Council is developed.



The principle is established that, Clause 7(5), "The membership of the Council should reflect the cultural, ethnic, arts, discipline and generational diversity of the Province, be representative of both men and women and shall include at least one member from each of the Black, Mi'Kmaq and Acadian communities.". That, again, I think is an important element.



[9:30 a.m.]



However, in terms of the appointment process, I don't see any reference to this Legislature's Human Resources Committee. The Human Resources Committee, you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, is that committee through which, theoretically at least and with great fanfare on an earlier occasion, the Premier and many ministers indicated that to ensure openness, transparency, fairness and equity, and to ensure that we would not be engaged in a partisan exercise that the Human Resources Committee would be called upon to make recommendations and appointments to boards, commissions, agencies and councils such as the one described in the legislation which we now debate.





I would, therefore, make the suggestion and ask the minister to give consideration as he contemplates his presentation to the Law Amendments Committee or his direction to his officials as it goes to the Law Amendments Committee, that he give serious thought to the Human Resources Committee process to be involved in the mechanics whereby the members of the council are, in fact, established.



Now, there is curious language in this legislation and I want to address the language and I want to do it as well as I can, Mr. Speaker, and not run afoul of your appropriate direction that my obligation here on second reading is to address the principle of the bill. I will do my best and if I know you will pull in the reins and I will understand that.



In principle terms, let me try to explain my concern here. This bill says that once established the Nova Scotia Arts Council will be called upon to meet at least four times a year. Clause 9(2), "A majority of the members constitutes a quorum.". A vacancy won't impair the right of the remaining members to act, and, Clause 9(4), "A member is entitled to such remuneration, . . . as the Governor in Council may determine.". Then it says, "(5) A member or a person serving on a committee of the Council is entitled to be reimbursed for reasonable expenses . . ." and so on and so on.



So we have a council which unless we change the legislation a little bit, will be populated by men and women, artists and craftspersons and artisans who are in the main, the pick of the minister of the day. Then you come to a provision in the legislation where - and I should say this and the minister alluded to this along the way - it is intended that this council would have as one of its principal functions and I think that that is set out in the legislation in the object section, Clause 6(a), to, "make arts integral to the lives of all Nova Scotians; (b) educate the public regarding the cultural, . . ." and so on, "(c) foster artistic excellence throughout the Province; (d) utilize peer assessment . . . (e) encourage creative expression by funding activity in the arts; (f) strive for regional, cultural and developmental equity in the distribution of funding; (g) carry out research . . . (h) advise the Government, . . ." and so on.



Well, when you read down through the legislation, we have a council with those objects, among them a funding object and then a Board of Governors appointed, in the main or in large measure, by the minister and by the government. Then we find a curious, to me at least, what is a very curious principle established in this legislation. I find that in Clause 10 of the legislation. Because Clause 10 of the legislation, Mr. Speaker, speaks to a process whereby a member - and member is a term of art and member is a defined term in the legislation - Clause 2(e), "`member' means a member of the Council".



So the council is going to be set up and, by this legislation, it is going to be a number of persons not to exceed 15, if I remember the legislation correctly. So in this Clause 10 we have what I find a very uncertain and confusing and perhaps problematic principle at play. Clause 10 sets up the principle where a member, and by definition a member is a member of the council, where a member applies to the council for funding or other assistance, that member has to do certain things. That member has to declare to the council if he or she has an interest in the application; he has to, Clause 10(b), "absent himself or herself from any discussion or evaluation of the application and from the selection of the jury or other review procedure by which the application is reviewed; . . .", and that member can, Clause 10(c), ". . . not vote on any aspect of the application.".



I guess what I am really wondering is, who is the member applying for? Is the member applying for himself or herself or is the member applying for or on behalf of some other artist or artisan or craftsperson somewhere else in the province?



If it is, in fact, an application by a member of the council, inviting the council to address the question of whether or not a deserving painter or potter or musician or somebody else involved in the arts of the Province of Nova Scotia should receive some funding, the language here, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, seems to set up a situation where the policy being enshrined, it is the member making the application to the council for funding or other assistance and that member has certain obligations. There is no mention of the fact that the member might, by chance, as I would have expected would be the case, be making application on behalf of one of a number, of as many as hundreds of artists or artisans or craftspersons across the province.



If it isn't that, if that is not the role of the member then what we now would be establishing would be a closed shop of 15 members of an arts council who would get around the table periodically and decide among themselves as to which of their own number, 15, would be funded for artistic and cultural activity.



Now I wouldn't expect that that is what is intended by this legislation at all. But the language, Mr. Speaker, which I know we can address at the Law Amendments Committee and third reading and elsewhere, can be revisited. But the present language isn't at all clear that the painter in Yarmouth or the potter in Shelburne or the singer in Glace Bay or the fiddle player in Richmond County or Sydney is going to have access to this council.



If it is intended that that is what the council is supposed to do and would assess applications to it to make a determination as to whether or not those various artists and artisans could or should be funded, then I think with respect, Mr. Speaker, the language is very unclear as to the effect that it is that kind of work which this council is being called upon to do. Therefore, I raise a very real concern that in its present form this bill, as I read it, will not accomplish, frankly cannot accomplish, without some very considerable additional language, the stated object of the council.



The next issue that I would like to raise relative to this legislation, Mr. Speaker, and I say this not with any sharp intent, but just simply because it did occur to me and I think it is a fundamental failing. There is a public policy principle which I believe has been missed by this legislation and it is simply this. If we are going to establish in the Province of Nova Scotia a Nova Scotia Arts Council which is intended to be a reservoir of resources available on the basis of peer review, to make it possible that financial assistance can be made available to fledgling, aspiring and indeed, perhaps in some cases, very accomplished and well-known Nova Scotian artists, artisans, musicians, painters and the like, then the question becomes, where does the money come from.



We have references in here, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the council is to establish an endowment fund to be known as the Nova Scotia Arts Endowment Fund. Clause 15(2), "All money received from the sale or lease by the Council of real or personal property of a value of one thousand dollars or more shall be paid into and becomes part of the Endowment Fund.". And, Clause 15(3), "Neither the person who acquires any real or personal property as the result of a sale, conveyance or lease of the real and personal property by the Council nor any successor in title of that person is bound to inquire as to whether or not subsection (2) has been complied with.". Clause 15(4), "The Endowment Fund and the proceeds therefrom shall be used for the purpose of this Act.". The purpose of the Act is to support artists and artisans.



It occurs to me that the fundamental flaw and failing relative to this aspect of this bill is that there is no provision here whereby any and all Nova Scotians who would wish to make a contribution to the Endowment Fund established under this legislation could do so and could attain tax relief in the process. I think there is a golden opportunity here to establish such a fund, a Nova Scotia Arts Council. That arts council would have and maintain and operate an Endowment Fund.



There should be a provision in the piece of legislation, in my opinion, whereby every single Nova Scotian, man, woman and child, should, if they are so inclined, have the opportunity to make a financial contribution to that Endowment Fund because they believe in the arts. They believe in the cultural and the artistic life of our province and they should be able, in my view, to make a contribution to the Endowment Fund and receive tax relief through the Nova Scotia Department of Finance. I believe that that would go an awful long way further to provide a fund that could, in time, become very meaningful.



This province, Mr. Speaker, as I know you know, is blessed with hundreds of people who have two advantages that are relevant in the context of this bill. Those two advantages are - those Nova Scotians to whom I refer - firstly, some of them have tremendously large amounts of money and, secondly, some of those same people with tremendously large amounts of money have a very deep and abiding interest in the artistic and cultural life of the Province of Nova Scotia. I would expect without question at all that if there were provisions added and a policy added to this legislation which would make it possible for many of those men and women in Nova Scotia to make a contribution to this endowment fund and realize tax relief in the process, that we would be enhancing by a factor of some very large number the possibility that those men and women would be able and prepared to make such contributions to the endowment fund.



[9:45 a.m.]



If I am misreading the legislation, the minister, I am sure, will disabuse me of my thought but when we read the principles relating to the establishment of the endowment fund - to be known as the Nova Scotia Arts Endowment Fund - we see language that says, Clause 15(2), "All money received from the sale or lease by the Council of real or personal property . . .". Well, that begs the question, where is this council going to get its real property? Is the Province of Nova Scotia going to turn over a bunch of real property to this endowment council and then the council is going to sell that and the proceeds of the sale of the real estate is going to be put in the endowment fund account? I see the Minister of Education turning up his nose when I ask that question. Well, I am asking it because the principle is established in the legislation. "All money received . . .", by this endowment fund, ". . . from the sale or lease by the Council of real or personal property . . .".



I am simply asking the question - and I hope, as we conclude second reading - where is this council going to get the real estate? In order to get it, they have to either go out and buy it (Interruption) The Premier is now saying it will be left to them. (Interruption) It can be left to them. Well, the Premier helps me make the point that I attempted to make a moment ago. It will be left to them, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, if the bill is improved by establishing within this legislation a principle whereby when the Premier, in his largesse, wants to make a multimillion dollar contribution of real estate to this endowment fund, the Premier will realize tax relief. That is the point that I have been addressing for the last 10 minutes. There are not going to be a lot of contributions to this endowment fund by way of real estate or cash or works of art, or whatever, if there is not tax relief available to those who make those contributions.



I repeat, it is, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, that one of the deficiencies here is that it is not at all clear that there is tax relief available for those who wish to contribute to the Endowment Fund, and I think that is a significant failing and shortcoming and one which should be in the legislation.



I notice too, as a matter of principle, that there is no provision in this legislation - and, again, one which I believe there should be and, again, one which when we listen to this government talking about openness and transparency and all of those good things - I don't find a provision that the books of account of the council are to be audited and that that audited report is, by this legislation, required to be tabled in this Legislature on a periodic and regular basis by the responsible minister in this legislation, and in that case, of course, we are dealing with the Minister of Education and Culture. I believe there should be such a clause.



I notice that the legislation provides that there is to be a system of accounting and the books and records of council are to be subject to the approval of the Minister of Finance and subject to audit by the Auditor General or any other person designated by the Governor in Council, but there should be a provision, I suggest, whereby there is a tabling of such an audited report in this Legislature.



By way of final comment, Mr. Speaker, the bill is a good effort, it is a good start. It is not as complete and as effective a package as it could be. A few of the comments I have made I sincerely trust will be seriously addressed by the Minister of Education and Culture, and I refer again specifically to the comments I have made relative to finding language which will make it possible for those of us who would wish to make a contribution to the Arts Endowment Council that we would have the opportunity to enjoy some degree of tax relief.



Otherwise than that, in general framework and format, the process, subject to a concern I mentioned about the Human Resources Committee not being a part of the selection process and review process for the membership of the council, I believe that there is some merit in this legislation and I would support it here at second reading so that it gets on to Law Amendments Committee, at which point I would hope we will be able to address some of the questions I have raised and some of those which I am sure other colleagues will raise, so that we truly have as effective a piece of legislation which really will have an opportunity to support and fund and promote the artistic life and practitioners and the arts and crafts industries of this province.



So with those few words, Madam Speaker, I will vote to support Bill No. 36 on second reading and look forward to possibly having the opportunity to participate in making, what I would consider to be, some modest improvements and refinements in the legislation as it proceeds through the various stages of review. Thank you.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, as I start to speak, I don't know what additional territory one can cover, other than that which has already been covered by both the minister and by the previous speaker in his analysis of the bill.



No, the Minister of Transportation and Communications is suggesting let's hoist it. Quite to the contrary, Madam Speaker (Interruption) Oh, I am sorry, sometimes when the heckles are not as loud as other times, you mishear, obviously, or maybe you hear correctly and then you are given a different interpretation. Whatever the case is, I want to indicate at the start that our caucus is very much in support of the principle of what this bill is trying to do. That doesn't mean we don't have some concerns with some of the crafting and a few of the elements, but I think that the minister can, and will, I hope, take them in a constructive way and try to find some ways in which those can be addressed.



Madam Speaker, I know that the arts community has been trying for many years, I didn't realize that it went back to 1973, as the minister indicated. My information had been that it had been going back 10 or 15 years but, certainly, I don't question or challenge that the efforts have gone back that far.



I think it is crucially important and I think here in Nova Scotia, in fact I know here in Nova Scotia, we should be extremely proud and we have every reason to be extremely proud of the richness of the arts and cultural community within our midst. Madam Speaker, I do believe there are tremendous opportunities economically as well, for the province, by doing all we reasonably can to foster and encourage the development of that, and certainly it is going to, in the tourist way, be very positive, but not only for the tourist, it enriches all of our lives. It doesn't matter where you go across this province, whether you are in Cape Breton or you are down in the southern extreme of the province, it doesn't matter where you go, we find that we have, as we do in the metropolitan area as well, very rich artistic communities, artisans, craftspersons and those who are involved in the performing arts. We need to be building upon that and I think that that certainly is the intent of the legislation.



I temper my remarks at the start by saying I am extremely supportive of the principle and our caucus is extremely supportive of the principle of the bill. We are very supportive of the objects of the bill as laid out in Clause 6, certainly, to make the arts integral to the lives of Nova Scotians. I think that that is happening now but we need to be fostering and doing even more to that to educate the public regarding the cultural, social and economic importance of the arts.



As I say, you just travel around the province, go to any of the craft fairs, go to any of the festivals or theatre groups and the performing arts groups, turn on your radio at any time. You are seeing and feeling it and whether you recognize it or not we are constantly being surrounded by and benefitting by the richness of the cultures and the arts that are amongst us. I could go through a number of the other areas in terms of the objectives but I don't think that I need to. I think that they are extremely important and we are very supportive of them.



There are a couple of areas and they have been touched on by the previous speaker where I too have some concerns with the legislation. That having been said, I don't think they are concerns that are so major that they cannot be easily addressed by very simple amendments in the Law Amendments Committee process if the minister is willing to support them. I think that it would strengthen the bill, it would give greater credence to the arm's length process, for example, if certain things were done.



At the present time we have the Governor in Council who will be the body that is appointing the majority of the nominating committee, including the chairman and the vice-chairman. Then, we will have the membership of the council coming from this nominating committee, of course, the minister and the Governor in Council, I have got to be careful, I don't want to trespass upon the rules and be talking too closely about individual clauses but trying to get at the principle without getting into trouble with the Speaker about the actual committee. The minister would be then, as I understand it, appointing the members of that council from the list of names that are submitted by the nominating committee.



I think that it is appropriate that the nominating committee should be, of course, bringing the names forward. I don't have any difficulty in the minister saying who members shall be, relative to certain parameters. For example, I am very pleased as I take a look at Clause 7(5) that, "The membership of the Council shall reflect . . .," it is not permissive but it shall, it is mandatory and I think this is extremely important, " . . . shall reflect the cultural, ethnic, arts, discipline and generational diversity of the Province, be representative of both men and women and shall include at least one member from each of the Black, Mi'kmaq and the Acadian communities.".



MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member it does appear you are reading from the clauses.



MR. HOLM: I am talking about the principle though, if I may.



MADAM SPEAKER: You are reading from clauses in front of you.



MR. HOLM: Yes, Madam Speaker, I am reading from the clause but I am trying to be supportive of the principle of what the minister is doing here. Madam Speaker, I am being supportive so that is the kind of thing the government likes to hear, hopefully anyway. I think that is extremely important and I commend the minister for having this insertion in the legislation.



[10:00 a.m.]



What I am not totally comfortable with is that the nominating committee is not at least an equal representation. Here, where the minister, for example, shall be appointing the chair and vice-chair and the minister will appoint two persons. So the minister could appoint both the chair and the vice-chair; the council can then appoint two others; then the chair and the minister can appoint another two persons to that nominating committee. So, in a sense, the balance of the nominating committee is more in the hands of the minister. I would like to see the council have at least equal assurance of selecting those on the nominating committee so that they would have at least equal nominating power to ensure as much as possible the arm's length difference from the government in terms of the appointment of the members.



With respect to a concern that had been raised earlier about the Endowment Fund, Madam Speaker, I may be wrong in this and I would appreciate hearing from the minister on that, because I think that a very good point has been raised by the member for Halifax Citadel about whether or not there can be tax credits given to those who are making donations to this important fund. It would be my - and I am not learned in the law but hopefully the minister has had this matter researched - my expectation that the Endowment Fund would become a registered charity. If it is a registered charity then I would automatically assume that there would therefore be the tax credits or receipts provided. Maybe the minister can clarify that principle about whether or not there will be tax credits provided when he wraps up.



If I may go back to the principle about how people are to be appointed, I believe, as the previous speaker did, that there needs to be the reference to the Human Resources Committee. Now quite possibly, Madam Speaker, it is the intent of the minister that this is how the original names will be arrived at and that those names would then be sent on to the Human Resources Committee for confirmation. If that is what is intended, that is a very simple matter and that can be adjusted in the legislation without any difficulty at all.



I know that the financial statements of the council and so on are to be audited and if there are to be any provincial funds go into that fund, then, of course, the Auditor General of the Province of Nova Scotia would have the ability under the Auditor General's Act to go in and do an audit of his own if he so requested or if he so wished, into that fund. I am not questioning the ability for the audit to be done. What I do think needs to be in the bill, an important principle, is a reporting process and a requirement that a report should be made available or must be required to be made available to this House on a timely basis through the minister responsible, as we receive reports from other bodies in the same manner.



The council, Madam Speaker, and again I am just going back to the minister's statements about how this is set up to be at arm's length, the council, of course, has to establish as it should some policies and programs with the objectives and so on of what they hope to achieve. The council, of course, will also have to carry out the duties it has been assigned. But when we are talking about arm's length, the policies and the programs and the objectives to be obtained by this council, which is supposedly at arm's length, have to receive the approval of the minister. That doesn't really seem to be at arm's length. The minister, of course, is involved in the selections of the members of the council and if the government is truly saying that this is to be an arm's length body for the promotion of the arts and culture, and so on, of the province, I am not sure why we would require, as a principle of the bill, that the minister should have to approve the policies and programs through which the objectives are to be achieved. There may be a very simple reason for that and I am throwing it out there as something for clarification.



Certainly the comments that were made earlier about how, in the public school system, the arts now are finding themselves under threat, where many of the arts programs being delivered by specialists, whether they be music or art teachers, that those services in the public school system are being eliminated and, in a number of areas across the province, art is no longer delivered by a specialist who is trained in the arts because the school boards do not have the funding from the province to be able to continue those programs. So, there are real concerns about how we are, in fact, trying to encourage and foster and develop in our children an appreciation of the arts, as well as develop their talents.



An appreciation of the arts is very important if we are to have a strong arts and cultural community within the Province of Nova Scotia. I shouldn't say if we are to have, because we already do have that, but to build upon the strength is what I really should have said, build upon the strength that is there and enhance it.



So, Madam Speaker, I certainly very much, and our caucus very much supports the principle and objectives as outlined in the bill. We definitely want to see it go forward, we definitely want to see the arts council set up. There are a number of technical points, but I think very important technical points that can be looked at. Maybe there can be satisfactory answers given and there may not be any need to do some of the things for which I am raising questions. But I think we do need to have responses to those, so that we can ensure that the arts council is going to be as strong as it possible can be and so that it is going to be in the best possible position to carry out the very important objectives that are laid out for it in the bill.



So, I want to indicate that I will be voting in support of the bill. I believe there are some other speakers who wish to make some comments on the bill, but I would also look forward to the minister addressing, either now or through amendments and the law amendments process - if he feels that is a better way of doing it - some responses to the questions which are not being raised in a mischievous way, I assure the minister, they are being raised in a very serious way, trying to ascertain answers to some of the questions that I and previous speakers have raised. Thank you, Madam Speaker.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, I, too, rise in support of the principle of this bill, albeit I think there are changes which should be made to it before its final passage in this House and, therefore, I wish to associate myself with many of the helpful suggestions made both by my colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel, and my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid. I think the concept of creating an arts council for Nova Scotia is sound. I particularly like the concept of ensuring that it is implemented such that there is an arm's length relationship between government and the council and, also, that peer assessment is very much part and parcel of the way in which the council conducts its business.



While certainly this legislation is good overall for Nova Scotia, I think it has immediate application for my own constituency. In my small community, which consists of only 13,500 people, we in our own quiet fashion have ensured that the arts are alive and well and functioning and playing a vital and important role not only in reflecting our community's past and present but helping us to build for the future. Part of that future, of course, is esoteric but also a very important part of that future is economic. As has been pointed out, the cultural industries in this province, particularly the arts, have resulted in creating new wealth. In the range of $164 million, I think, is the figure. Indeed, it is one of the areas of our economy that we can look to for continuing growth and what a wonderful thought that is. It is a part of our economy that can grow without creating pollution. It is a part of our economy that can grow without having to tap our natural resources. It is a part of our economy that can grow as the result of tapping our own human resources and causing us not only to feel better about ourselves through the way in which we express ourselves but giving us the opportunity to express ourselves to the world.



In our community we have painters, we have sculptors, we have weavers and potters, we have actors and singers and musicians, we have writers of prose and poetry. So the whole range of the arts is very much alive in Queens. We have given a particular outward expression to the history of many of these phenomena through the creation of the Hank Snow Centre for Country Music, which celebrates not only the tremendous contributions that Hank Snow has made to country music but also, of course, another well-known Canadian star who has international stature, Carroll Baker. We hope that through this Centre for Country Music, we will be able to contribute in an even greater way to the growth of that phenomenon as part of the Nova Scotia economy and as a manifestation of the Nova Scotia psyche and Nova Scotia culture.



I think the same observation can be made of the Astor Theatre. As all members of this House will know, as the result of changes in the municipal government, the old town office buildings in Liverpool will be vacated there, in the front of the Astor Theatre, and we are hoping that perhaps a council such as the Nova Scotia Arts Council may be able to assist us in many ways, moving in to take advantage of space vacated by the municipal administration and move it into support of the arts.



On the South Shore we have the South Shore Literary Council, alive and well and fostering literary arts throughout our South Shore community. Arlene Barret-Corkum, who is the President of that society, has just done yeoman service to get that society off the ground and to ensure that it is vigorous and thoughtful and forward looking.



We have artists who are, certainly, well known internationally in our community, such as Roger Savage, a well-known painter. Roger, of course, has been sustained on a number of occasions by the Canada Council. I think it is absolutely essential that we provide the same type of support through the Nova Scotia Arts Council as artists have been able to experience through the Canada Council, not to duplicate services but, rather, to complement each other. Also, artists like George Jerome and Joan Bray.



On the literary side, just recently we have had a children's book published by Marjorie Speed, so that the literary arts from children through to those which are offered for adults continue to expand in our community and, through our community, into the province and beyond our province, across Canada and into the world. There has been no greater example of that, of course, than the works of Thomas Raddall, Tom, having passed away just a little over a year ago, and having left a tremendous literary heritage not only to our community but, indeed, to all of Canada and beyond that to the world.



[10:15 a.m.]



I suppose not many people know that Tom's books were translated into something like a dozen or more foreign languages, so that the Nova Scotian culture, what we are all about, as expressed through his art, has been made available not only to the English speaking world but well beyond the English speaking world and into Europe and into Asia as well.



I would say, Madam Speaker, it is important that we get this legislation right the first time. I do hope that the minister will make himself open to amendments that will be put forward by us and, I presume, by the other Party. Our intention, as always, is not to be vexatious but, rather, to be helpful. I think at the end of the day if we are all satisfied that our client community of Nova Scotia is satisfied with this legislation, that it is the best legislation we could possibly create, then we will have done good service to the people of Nova Scotia and particularly to those who are the creators of art in our society.



In closing I think it is fair to say that the arts, the applied arts, the performing arts, the literary arts, are indeed an outward and visible expression of the complexity and the nature of our own souls. So it is appropriate that we give every level of support we can to cause us to be able to wax strong with respect to the future of the arts here in Nova Scotia. Thank you, Madam Speaker.



MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the intervenors on the bill. In answer to just a few questions, first of all in the public school system we are doing two things; we have already brought together a report on arts in the school system with my program staff and are looking at how you put mandatory programming in the high school, for example, how you build it into the core, and that is being done now.



Likewise, Madam Speaker, the artists in the Province of Nova Scotia have come forward suggesting they want to help and find some kind of way of integrating their services in the delivery in the school.



The comment on the Human Resources Committee; as a natural course, the final names go to the Human Resources Committee, that is government policy. You don't have to write it in this bill, just like it is not in all of the other bills. That will happen as a matter of course.



Thirdly, and I make a comment on this relative to the almost paranoia, if I might use that, as to the minister's influence. The minister has to be responsible for dollars spent. That is my responsibility and I have to be accountable for them.



There will be an audit, it is included in Clause 19. In fact, if the council doesn't do the audit, I am commissioned to have the audit done. So that will be done as a matter of course as well.



The Endowment Fund, all they have to do is apply, as the Art Gallery does, for a number and they can do it. It doesn't have to be in the bill, that is just a matter of course and there are programs to do that.



I might mention to all members of the House that almost everything in this bill came from discussions by the council and recommendations. After we put the bill together, they had some other observations which we have taken into consideration and the discussions are ongoing with the steering committee.



I also might mention that this committee is representative of the arts community of Nova Scotia and they have spoken - the arts community - in favour of this group and recognize their authority to make decisions, because of the way their names came together.



Likewise, and I am going to suggest this contrary to the member for Halifax Citadel who spoke with a certain suspicion about the minister naming the members, the minister was responsible for collecting the group that made these decisions. I would like to, and this rarely happens in this House, take significant credit for allowing a process that brought support across the whole province.



The history of it I remember, in fact, in 1973 the first request came forth and the successive governments hesitated to step into that because there was divisiveness in the community. This group has the support of the whole arts community of Nova Scotia and as a result this has much support with a few changes that have been recommended on second thought, I think this will move forward and get great support. Thank you.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I very much appreciate the minister's comments and I think he clarified a few of the points. Quite honestly, a couple of the answers that he gave are what I expected, for example, in the endowment fund and human resources.



MADAM SPEAKER: Are you speaking on a point of order, honourable member because the minister has closed debate.



MR. HOLM: No, I am wondering if before the vote if the minister would entertain a brief question?



MADAM SPEAKER: Well, the minister closed the debate but the choice would be up to him if he agreed or not.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: With your permission, Madam Speaker.





MR. HOLM: And it is just a very brief question. I appreciate too and I understand what the minister said about the audits. My only question to the minister is on the reporting process. In the bill I don't see that there would be a requirement that a report be tabled in this House. What is the reporting process for the Arts Council to the general public and to members of the House?



MR. MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, it is a public document and it is available to everybody. As I said in my comments, I am starting to get paranoid, it's as if somebody is trying to hide everything. This is a public document and it is available to everybody. All of the other reports that come across my desk I table in this House and make available to the House because they represent the public.



MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 36? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 37.



Bill No. 37 - Revenue Act.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in debate at this time and move second reading of the Revenue Bill. A year ago I introduced to the House of Assembly and the House of Assembly subsequently passed a new Finance Act for Nova Scotia.



That bill gave government the modern tools to deal with their debt and asset management. Those tools that were available to the Department of Finance specifically and to the Government of Nova Scotia had remained fundamentally unchanged for a very long period of time. I am pleased to tell the House that those tools have been used very effectively in managing our debt and our assets, to the advantage of the taxpayers by a very competent and professional staff at the Department of Finance.



This bill is the other half of the picture. We dealt last session with the Finance Act, with debt and asset management. This time we are modernizing our approach to revenue collection. That is essentially what the principle of this bill is, to modernize the approach to revenue collection.



The legislation has three main objectives: to simplify, streamline, modernize and consolidate provincial tax law; second, to dramatically step up our assault on the underground economy; and finally and very specifically, to reduce the illegal sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.



On the subject of streamlining tax administration, this bill is the modernization and consolidation of provincial tax law formally contained in the Health Services Tax Act, the Gasoline and Diesel Oil Act and the Tobacco Tax Act. We are the first province in Canada to consolidate in one major taxing Statute all of our taxing provisions. That in itself, I think, will provide significant administrative improvement.



The new Revenue Bill will allow us to standardize tax administration procedures such as filing dates, objections, refunds, appeals, audits, all of those things that accompany revenue collection by government. The same set of procedures will apply to all three areas of taxation; that is sales tax, tobacco tax, gasoline and diesel tax.



In this bill, we have attempted to clarify the basic tax law of the province and remove or correct inconsistencies and ambiguities that had caused problems in the past for business. This review was overdue; some of this legislation, although repeatedly amended, has not undergone a comprehensive review since 1958. Certainly times and technology have changed. This bill reflects modern business techniques and recent technological advances.



Also in this legislation, Madam Speaker, on behalf of the vast majority of Nova Scotians, we are saying we will not tolerate tax cheaters. The underground economy has become a serious problem. In Nova Scotia, we estimate that about $83 million a year in tax revenue is lost under the table. People who deal in the underground economy are not just cheating the government, they are cheating their neighbours who are paying their fair share, and they are cheating the legitimate businesses of Nova Scotia who must try and compete on an uneven playing field.



The government must and will and does in this bill find the revenue it needs to supply the services which Nova Scotians demand. Those who deal under the table - and this is very important, Madam Speaker - are driving up the costs that the others must pay. If they complain that taxes are too high, then explain to me how cheating on your taxes and forcing your neighbours to pay even more makes sense. (Applause)



To put it in perspective, if we could recover the money that is lost in the underground economy, we could lower provincial income taxes by about 10 per cent, or we could reduce the provincial sales tax rate to 10 per cent or perhaps even lower. For all these reasons and more, this legislation contains very substantial increases in penalties for the crimes of the underground economy, primarily the failure to collect and remit taxes. Once this bill is law, contravention of the health services tax section will bring fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. Those fines replace the $100 minimum and $1,000 maximum in the existing law.



What was happening, Madam Speaker, is that people dealing in the underground economy were treating these fines as simply a license fee, the cost of doing business. Well, the cost of cheating in Nova Scotia has just gone up considerably and will with this bill. Contravention of the fuel tax will bring fines of up to $10,000, double the current maximum; and contravention of the tobacco tax laws will carry fines of $50,000 minimum, up to $100,000 maximum, the current Tobacco Tax Act contains a maximum fine of $25,000. Default on these fines will result in jail terms ranging from six months to a year. In addition, the bill authorizes the tax commissioner to levy penalties, for wilful tax evasion and avoidance, of 25 per cent to 100 per cent of the amount outstanding.



We are serious about stamping out the underground economy. Legitimate businesses in Nova Scotia are demanding it. Justice demands it, and more and more individuals in Nova Scotia are coming to understand the costs.





Madam Speaker, finally, as the third element of the principle of this bill, the sales tax on tobacco products will be collected at the wholesale rather than at the retail level. This administrative tax change will have little or no effect on consumers; however, it will help the government ensure that cigarettes and other tobacco products are appropriately taxed and that those taxes are remitted to the province. This change will level the playing field for the majority, those legitimate retailers all across Nova Scotia who collect and remit taxes on the tobacco they sell.



Madam Speaker, this bill, as it was with the Finance Act, is a tool that allows the Government of Nova Scotia, and specifically the Department of Finance, to bring tax collection, revenue collection, into the 1990's and beyond. The simplified administration will allow technology to be brought to bear. What we want to do, to sum it up, Madam Speaker, and what this bill purports to do, is make sure everyone pays their fair share and to ensure that businesses will deal with government in as efficient and non-intrusive way as possible. This is the purpose of the bill, this is the principle of the bill and with that, I would move second reading. (Applause)



[10:30 a.m.]



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, Bill No. 37, An Act to Revise the Gasoline and Diesel Oil Tax, the Health Services Tax and the Tobacco Tax and to Provide for the More Efficient Enforcement of those Revenue Measures is actually going to be called the Revenue Act and I think we can all be grateful for the shorter title to the bill.



Madam Speaker, the minister has started off by saying that by bringing these various Acts together in consolidation, it is going to provide greater clarity, simplification, streamlining and what have you. But in point of fact, I am not really sure that these Acts should be combined together. I grant the minister, when he says that they are all alike in many respects, but then, again, they are very different in many respects. To consolidate these Acts, I believe, will make it more difficult for the people who use the Act on a daily basis to actually use this piece of legislation and to find out what the implications are for their particular business.



It might be argued perhaps that if we get into harmonization at some time in the future, which I understand the minister is not adverse to, that at that time one Act might indeed provide simplification, but I am not sure, as I say in this particular bill, by bringing these three Acts together, the minister is achieving any better clarity in the legislation itself. There are improvements in the bill, and please do not misunderstand what I am saying, but I am still saying that perhaps we are better off where people who are primarily selling gasoline and diesel fuel, can have their own little thin Act and all the provisions of that particular Act are encased in one piece of legislation. The same applying to people who are involved in selling tobacco products and those who generally handle the sale of other goods that are subject to the Health Services Tax Act.



There are five clauses, Madam Speaker, to this bill. Part I of the bill deals with the Gasoline and Diesel Oil Tax. Part II deals with the Health Services Tax and Part III deals with Tobacco Tax and Part IV - if I can find it in a hurry - I think is Administration. I can't locate it but there are five parts to the bill and they cover an awful lot of material.



The minister, I noted that during his introductory remarks to this bill, spoke about what the advantages were with regard to his department and to stamping out abuse of the tax system in this province. However, he failed to observe that this bill also increases some taxes. It increases some user fees and it decreases some user fees, too, incidentally. However, there are definite tax changes in this bill, most of them advantageous to the government, rather than to the person who is actually paying the tax.



Madam Speaker, I don't want to go through this bill clause by clause because that is obviously for another day, however, to give some emphasis to what I am saying, I am going to have to go into the bill to some extent. For instance, on Page 4 of the bill, it talks about computer software being taxable under the Health Services Tax Act. It always was, as I understand it, when one was buying packaged software but now we are looking at an amplification of that particular good that will be for sale.



On Page 5, Clause 13(c), we talk about graphic design, including, "(i) layout, (ii) artwork, (iii) illustration, (iv) type setting, (v) drawing, and (vi) design.". I understand that those particular services and goods were not taxable in the past under the Health Services Tax Act.



Then, Madam Speaker, we can come to, what I was saying a moment ago, there are some decreases in this particular legislation and there is one of those on Page 10. I think, perhaps, this is a rather important change where, heretofore, if you had a lodging for which you paid more than $2.00 per day, you were taxed. If you paid less than $2.00 per day, I don't know where you would be living but, however, the $2.00 per day or less, you were exempt from tax. That has been sensibly raised, I would suggest, to $20 with this legislation. Now, I don't think that really is going to cost the government very much money because I don't think there are too many people paying less than $20 per day for accommodation. As I say, certainly there was no tax being paid, I would imagine, on accommodation of less than $2.00.



On Page 12 of the legislation, Madam Speaker, there is also a change that I was unaware of, but evidently it is actually being taxed and collected at this time, and that is if a person is operating a commercial flea market and they are selling tables, 50 per cent of the cost of that table rental is now remitted to the Department of Finance. I think that is a change, but I am not too sure whether or not any amendment has been made in the past to permit that. But I do know that commercial flea market operators at the present time are making that charge.



That simply means that if you go to sell some goods at a commercial flea market and you rent a table to display the goods that you are selling, 50 per cent of the cost of that table from the flea market operator - whether it is $5.00 or $150 or $500 - is remitted to the Department of Finance. I would suggest that that is a new tax being applied by the Minister of Finance and I believe it should, if I am correct some of this stuff is retroactive but I don't think that is retroactive. But I have heard that people are being charged that additional tax at the present time.



Madam Speaker, I would like to discuss at some length one of the things in this particular bill that I think is probably a giant step forward, if I interpret it correctly. At the present time, if I am selling via the television shopping channel and I remit my cash for that particular item that I purchase, I do not pay provincial tax on that item. Now, in this bill, if I understand what the minister is saying - and, as I say, I hope what I am reading is correct -Clause 23 (1) says, "A person in another province of Canada shall not advertise for sale tangible personal property in the Province by means of a telecommunication service unless that person has been granted on that person's application, in the form required by the Commissioner, . . .", that is the commissioner of the tax department, ". . . a registration certificate pursuant to this Part and the certificate is in force at the time of advertising.".



There is also another portion, Clause 23(4), which says, "Where the Commissioner considers that there is a significant risk that an applicant for registration may not collect or remit taxes pursuant to this Part, the Commissioner may, as a condition of registration, require the applicant to deposit a bond by way of cash or other security . . .", et cetera.



If I understand this section correctly, Madam Speaker, I would suggest that the minister is moving in the right direction and I would also suggest that he is moving into a bonanza insofar as stepping on the underground economy, if indeed the underground economy is considered to be those who purchase out-of-province via one of the home shopping networks. In the past, we have been told that this is very difficult to enforce. We have been told in the past that it does require some agreement between the provinces to effect. I trust that the minister has decided that, indeed, this particular wording is satisfactory for that to take place and, if it does, as I say, I would imagine that that is probably worth something in the order of $10 million to $20 million in additional revenue for this province, on what is said to be in excess of $100 million per year which goes out of the province to buy goods in other provinces which are then shipped back here without the payment of the health services tax.



I think that is a step in the right direction and I applaud the minister for that particular change, because it just simply is not fair, Madam Speaker, not only for those of us who purchase within the province and pay taxes, it is also not fair for local businesses who are losing business simply because people can, indeed, purchase out-of-province and not pay the taxes that they would be required to pay if they had purchased the goods within the Province of Nova Scotia.



Madam Speaker, yesterday we were talking about a bill which was about inter-provincial trade - I forget the exact title of the bill, maybe it was called the inter-provincial trade bill - which provides, as you well know, for the free exchange of goods and services between the provinces of Canada, subject to a piece of legislation coming into effect federally and also provincially, the provinces having mirror legislation to permit that to happen. As I understand it, Clause 24(1) of this bill, in fact, I can read it, it is very short . . .



MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, then you would be into the clauses as opposed to the principle, so I would prefer you not to read the clause.



MR. RUSSELL: Okay, I will try and not read it. Clause 24 of this bill deals with contractors who are considered to be non-resident in this province. At the present time - but this bill will change it - if I am a contractor and I have been in this province for less than two months, I cannot operate in this province subject to the bill. However, this is now being changed to a period of 12 months, so it means that a non-resident contractor in this province, who will have this Act affect that person's operation, must have been operating in this province for more than 12 months before he or she loses their non-resident status.



Madam Speaker, we will say, for argument's sake, that I operate a small woodlot and, as has been common of late, we have had people coming over from the Province of New Brunswick and harvesting a small woodlot on behalf of the owners.





[10:45 a.m.]



If they are a non-resident contractor or coming across to this province to carry out that work in my woodlot or your woodlot or anybody else's woodlot, I am responsible for that person paying sales tax on things they buy in this province. Under this bill, as I understand it, when it passes, if that non-resident contractor is found operating outside the parameters of this bill, in other words he or she is not paying sales tax on the product that he or she buys while working on my woodlot, I become responsible and I am responsible if I know that that person is a non-resident contractor, to put up a bond to the tax commissioner to cover that person's operations in this province while they are here. So this is a clause, Madam Speaker, which does indeed impose upon a person, particularly those in the woodlot industry, to have great difficulty if they bring in out-of-province contractors to work on their particular property. As I say, I think that portion of the bill probably will be in violation of the Agreement on Internal Trade.



We have a clause in the bill which exempts certain items from the health services sales tax. I see that one of the things that is now being exempt is carbon monoxide detectors. I think this is a step in the right direction because I know that up until now people who have installed carbon monoxide detectors, this is very popular now with elderly people in their houses, having these particular pieces of detection equipment installed and now that equipment is going to be tax free, as were smoke detectors in the past, it is now covering carbon monoxide detection equipment.



I would also like to know from the minister why in this bill we exempt ambassadors and consuls from the Health Services Tax Act. Now it was normally Ottawa's prerogative to do so in the City of Ottawa. In other words, if I was an ambassador to Canada and I wanted to buy an automobile or something in Canada, I would not pay tax. However, we have in the past always levied taxes on general goods bought in this province by ambassadors and consuls. However, under this bill, Madam Speaker, we are exempting those persons from the payment of sales tax, which I don't think is really fair. These people who are in this province can afford to support the services we offer to Nova Scotians.



Although it doesn't change, Madam Speaker, this bill continues the Health Services Reserve Account. The Health Services Reserve Account is one set up to provide insured services under the Health Services and Insurance Act to supply hospital equipment and construction grants and the costs of the administration of this part. I thought that account was defunct some time ago and I am rather surprised that it is still in the bill and I would like the minister to perhaps tell me how much money is in that account and what it is being used for. Is it being used for the purposes actually shown within the bill, in that it is providing hospital equipment and construction grants?



The minister, in his opening remarks, spoke about the Tobacco Tax Act and how this bill will radically change the collection of tobacco tax. As we are all aware, I think, because the minister has mentioned it on several occasions, no longer will the tobacco tax be collected at the retail level, it will be collected at the wholesale level. This raises a number of questions.



At the present time a person who collects tax on behalf of the minister keeps a percentage of that tax up to a certain limit. Each retailer in this province collecting health services tax and tobacco tax, as I understand it - the minister is nodding in agreement - is permitted as an administration fee and a collection fee to retain a certain amount of that tax. Now if the tax collection is moved to the wholesale level, I would imagine that the cost of collecting tobacco tax under the Tobacco Tax Act will be substantially reduced because there is a limit, I believe, of $1,000 that a company can charge in a year. In other words, take a large retailer, a department store, The Bay, for instance. The Bay over a period of a year collects a fantastic amount of tax on behalf of the government. Their administration fee for collecting that tax and remitting it to the minister has a cap on it which is, I believe, $1,000 or $2,000, something in that order.



The small business person who can be collecting, say $1,000 in tax total in the year will be permitted 1 per cent of that amount, $100. There are thousands of retailers across this province who are at the present time collecting tobacco tax. In the future, there will probably be 5, 10 who are the tobacco retailers in the province. Therefore, the cost of collection of tobacco tax is dramatically going to decrease and I would suggest that the minister is going to reap a harvest there in amounts that he is going to have to put out from the collection of that tax.



There are two kinds of tobacco products that a wholesaler provides to retailers. There is the tobacco that goes to the native reservations, which is a quota system, and there is the tobacco which goes out to the general public. The tobacco that goes out to the natives goes out to them, as I understand it, tax free. In other words, the natives will not be paying tax. I hope the minister is getting this because I would like to know where I am coming to. The natives will not pay tax to the wholesaler or the natives will pay tax to the wholesalers and then claim it back from the Department of Finance. The bill doesn't actually specify cigarettes. (Interruption) That is what I was saying.



The minister said that they will pay tax to the wholesaler but because they are living on a reservation, if they are living on a reservation, buying from a reservation store, they are entitled to the tobacco tax free. The only way that they can get that tax back is by means of a rebate system.



MADAM SPEAKER: On a point of clarification, the Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: The province will collect the tax from the wholesaler. It is the wholesaler who is being taxed. Now the wholesaler is going to have to pass that tax along obviously to any of its customers, whether they be dative or otherwise, but there will be no rebate of that tax which we collect from the wholesalers to anyone. There is a separate convention with respect to the Micmac community across Nova Scotia whereby quotas have been established and the quota system will be in place. This doesn't affect the quota system, but it is for all of the other cigarettes. The quota cigarettes actually only represent a very small percentage of the market.



MR. RUSSELL: That is exactly what I am saying, that either the wholesaler pays the tax, pays it on all tobacco products except those under quota, right. Now this is the point that I am trying to make, Madam Speaker. Will the cigarettes that are sold to the native community bear any stamp or sticker which says no tax paid or duty free?



MR. BOUDREAU: Yes.



MR. RUSSELL: Good, I am glad. Well, then I would suggest, Madam Speaker, that this is definitely a move in the right direction because that has always been the difference. I am not saying in every native community but in some native communities, whether it be in tobacco products obtained from wholesalers and moving into the system so that the only tobacco products that will be tax free but vendered in the province will carry a stamp tax free or duty exempt or whatever the case may be. Certainly I can assure the minister that the small store operators, particularly those adjacent to reserves in many cases, will be delighted with that change.



Madam Speaker, in this bill, and for the minister's reference it is Clause 33, Page 21, we have specified certain products - in this case tobacco, which is not taxed - being purchased in the offshore area. In other words, the taxes paid on the tobacco for vending is tobacco that is used within the Province of Nova Scotia. Now this clause talks about, Clause 33(a), tobacco products purchased on "(i) a regularly scheduled ferry for use by the general public, or (ii) vessels engaged in the transportation of persons for profit or with a view to profit,". The bill speaks of, "where the voyage originates or terminates . . . or during a temporary stopover . . .", is in Nova Scotia. In other words, if a vessel comes in, ties up to a wharf, it is considered to be in Nova Scotia, not in the offshore.



My question to the minister is, does this apply to all vessels regardless of their registry? Does it, for instance, apply to vessels that come here, cruise ships, for instance, that come into the province and dock in downtown Halifax? I am on Clause 33.



MADAM SPEAKER: Although we are not debating the clauses.



MR. RUSSELL: Well, Madam Speaker, the only way you can deal with a bill such as this - for everybody to keep track of where you are - is to tell them, because the bill is not a confusing bill by any means but it is a fairly lengthy one, it has 97 clauses. So, my question to the minister is, what happens to a cruise ship that comes in, ties up for a day, can they not retail through their own system tobacco products?



Also, the next clause in the bill, Madam Speaker, deals with the increase in the price of tobacco products. Now the minister didn't make any announcement about this to my knowledge but on November 6th, I think it was, tobacco products in this province increased in price. I am wondering why the minister, in his hand-out, didn't announce the fact that the price of tobacco was going up? I know that the stores found out about it and those who smoke probably found out about it when they went to get their next package of cigarettes. It wasn't a tremendous increase but, nevertheless, there was an increase in the price of cigarettes and tobacco products.



[11:00 a.m.]



There is also a portion of the bill where the minister may require administrative fees, user fees or similar fees to be paid as prescribed, I presume by legislation. That is Clause 49. I would like the minister to perhaps speak for a moment when he wraps up on this bill about what these user fees, administrative fees are. This is Clause 49 on Page 27 of the bill, Madam Speaker.



I think as everybody is aware, when a person purchases a vehicle from a used car dealer or a new car dealer and they trade in their old vehicle, the difference between the trade-in value and their new vehicle is taxable. However, if I read in the newspaper where somebody has a car for sale and I go down and purchase that vehicle and I sell my present vehicle to the next door neighbour, then I have to pay the full sales tax on that vehicle that I purchase. In other words, there is no trade-in allowance. That may or may not be fair, I am not arguing that, what I am arguing, Madam Speaker, is the fact that it is up to the commissioner to decide on what the value of that trade-in is.



Now in this particular bill, there is a clause that applies to this and it speaks about where the commissioner sees fit, the commissioner may make a valuation of revenue property; that is the property you have sold. It has always seemed to me that this is perhaps unfair in that the actual price paid is so often not acceptable to the tax commissioner.



What I would like to ask the minister is, if, for instance, I gave my son a car and he goes down to register that vehicle, he has to pay the tax on what is the fair value according to the tax commissioner, on that particular vehicle, and it would seem to me, Madam Speaker . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: Unless you leave it through your will.



MR. RUSSELL: Yes, you can do it through your will, that is true. But it seems to me to be grossly unfair that you cannot transfer for, say, $1.00, something to a person within your own family. I think there should be some leeway in the bill to permit that to happen.



I note that in the bill we are still stuck with essentially, although slightly changed, the same wording as was in the previous Act. On Page 31 of the bill, Clause 60, which is the Objection and Appeal section of the bill, it does lay out a routine for a person to appeal the commissioner's assessment. You can appeal it up as far as the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board; in other words, if I have a dispute with the tax commissioner about tax matters, it can be appealed up to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. I am wondering why, though, that the appellant appears before the Utility and Review Board and also the minister; the minister and the appellant. I would have thought it would be better for the minister - let's put it that way - that the commissioner appear rather than the minister. Now, he may well have legal counsel that could appear on his behalf, but I would think that in Clause 61(4), rather than specify the minister and the appellant, that it be the commissioner and the appellant, or legal counsel for the minister.



Clause 67(1) is where we speak about a corporation that does not remit taxes and, obviously being in default, that ". . . the directors of the corporation at the time the corporation was required to remit the amount are jointly and severally liable, together with the corporation, to pay that amount and any interest thereon or penalties . . .". I am not sure if this is the same as in the old Act or not. The wording is different, but whether or not the intention is the same - this is Clause 67(3), for the benefit of the minister. We are told that "A director of a corporation is not liable for a failure . . .", under this particular clause of the bill, ". . . where the director exercised the degree of care, diligence and skill to prevent the failure that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised . . .", et cetera. I am assuming that this is a court decision that makes that particular exemption for a director.



As I say, Madam Speaker, it is different to what was in the old Act and I would like the minister, perhaps in wrapping up, to explain exactly what the difference is. For instance, if I own some shares - let's say in a restaurant as a for instance - and I am a director in a restaurant and the restaurant goes belly-up and there are sales taxes due. Am I, as a director of this corporation, liable for taxes that are due in that corporation?



There are garnishee powers in this bill, Madam Speaker, which I am not averse to, but it is different. We did not have that before.



Clause 69, Madam Speaker, is a section of this bill that I believe is in the wrong place. It refers to Clauses 68 to 72. I think that it should either be before Clause 68 or after Clause 72, to make it logical to read. It is just out of order.



Notification from the tax commissioner to those who are delinquent in payment of taxes, Madam Speaker. The commissioner can advise the company or the person that they are delinquent and it gives them 30 days in which to remit the taxes collected, before taking action against them. However, I notice that the legislation just says 30 days' notice to the person, by mail. I would suggest that in today's age, something of this importance would not go by ordinary mail but should go by registered mail or be personally delivered. This is common, I think, throughout most of the legislation that the province has on the books at the present time.



We will say for argument's sake, Madam Speaker, that the person still does not remit the taxes owing at the end of that 30 days. The commissioner then can seize whatever property they can seize. They keep that property for 10 days, they have to have that property in hand for 10 days before they can dispose of it. It would seem to me that 10 days is not a very long period for people to be able to, perhaps, come up with and remit the taxes due and expenses, et cetera, that are incurred along with, perhaps, fines as well. It just seems to be a remarkably short period of time from seizing property to when it is sold.



There are penalties in this particular clause, Madam Speaker. The penalty that can be assessed may be, Clause 75(2)(a), ". . . not less than twenty-five per cent and not more than one hundred per cent of the amount not remitted;". It just seems to me that this is a great spread and gives a large discretionary authority to the commissioner, from 25 per cent to 100 per cent. I was wondering if the minister could, perhaps, provide an example of what would warrant a 25 per cent penalty and what would require a 100 per cent penalty.



Clause 84 is tax avoidance, Madam Speaker. One of the things I also should say to the minister at this time is that we have the Health Services Tax Act in one section, we have the Tobacco Tax Act in one section and the Gasoline and Diesel Oil Tax Act in one section. It covers a lot of territory but, however, you have to dive back into the guts of the thing, back in the administration, to find out what the penalties are. When you get to that administration section that has the penalties, it refers you back to the other sections. I do not know why the penalties cannot be attached to the particular section of the Act to which they refer, because the penalties under the Health Services Tax Act are different from those under the Gasoline and Diesel Oil Tax Act and different again from those under the Tobacco Tax Act. They are different, I do not know why they are not together within the one section.



[11:15 a.m.]



I was talking to a chartered accountant about Clause 84 of the bill and he suggested that Clause 84 of the bill does require considerable work because it is very loose and it is open to interpretation and could very well end up before the courts. As I say, I received that from a CA who took a look at the bill from that point of view.



The minister, when he opened his remarks on second reading for the bill, referred to the increase in penalties and they are truly massive increases in the penalties for avoidance or for attempting in some way to circumvent the intent of the bill. In reality, I have no quarrel with that and I think that as the minister said, the penalty certainly is a deterrent under this bill whereas under the old Act, the penalty was simply considered to be a license to be paid periodically to continue in business and continue to be tax free.



I think this is the section also that I would like to speak to the minister about, about auditors, tax collectors and what have you in general. There was an article in yesterday's Globe and Mail and it was called, pay cash there are no taxes is the word on the street. It dealt with tax avoidance in the Province of Ontario and I would certainly think that that would be applicable probably to every province in Canada.



It is my understanding and my understanding goes back a long way but however, not much very recent so I don't know how the Department of Finance is operating these days. At one time it was said that for every auditor that the tax department hired, he would bring in three times his or her salary. In other words, if you hired an auditor for say, $60,000 a year, he would bring in $180,000 additional dollars to the department. I don't know if that range is still in effect. Obviously, there is some cut-off provision because otherwise the minister would hire himself 10,000 auditors and 10,000 tax collectors.



I am wondering if indeed the minister has sufficient auditors and inspectors and I presume they are all called auditors, to examine the books and the operations for the number of businesses that we have at the present time in the Province of Nova Scotia. This particular clipping from yesterday's paper clearly indicates that Ontario is having some thoughts of hiring a number of additional auditors.



While this bill deals with tobacco and it deals with it, I think, effectively, there are other parts of the underground economy which I don't think apart that if you can ignore the fine side of it, the penalty side, I don't think is going to do very much to cut down on that underground economy. In other words and I have mentioned this in the House before, there are other things being sold tax free, furniture is a for instance, television sets and VCRs. Unless the minister has the inspectors in sufficient numbers to go around and to do active investigations, I don't think that he is going to save too much on that side of the underground economy and it is rife, it truly is.



Clause 92, Page 47, is the one I am going to be speaking about now which is the clause dealing with regulations. In this clause of the bill, Mr. Speaker, are described a number of areas in which the minister may make exemptions. Under Clause 92(2)(i), for the minister's information, speaks of "providing for the rebate of the tax, in whole or in part, to", purchases made by religious or charitable organizations and the governing body of a hospital, nursing home, et cetera and goes on and on, down to Clause 92(2)(j) where we get to "providing for the rebate of the tax to a person in respect of a passenger vehicle, a truck having a load capacity not exceeding three quarters of a ton . . .". This is the avoidance of sales tax or at least the rebate of sales tax paid on a vehicle that a person who is disabled, partially or totally, is able to drive.



Now, this Clause 92(2)(j), Mr. Speaker, says that a rebate of tax will be made if the person "(i) is subject to a physiological defect or deficiency which deprives that person of the use of both of the person's limbs, (ii) has a valid motor vehicle drivers license, and (iii) primarily uses the vehicle for the person's personal transportation,". Now if that person is incapacitated beyond that level, in other words, he cannot get a permit to drive a vehicle . . .



MR. SPEAKER: The member knows we are in second reading here and I think, by necessity, in this type of bill, you will have to reference the clauses generally, but I wouldn't get too specific on the clause.



MR. RUSSELL: I will take your admonishment seriously, Mr. Speaker. What I am saying is, why is it that a person who cannot drive because of a physical state, why is it not possible for them to buy a vehicle and get a rebate if they are going to have somebody else driving them? For instance, a person who is confined to a wheelchair, has perhaps one arm and no legs, under this particular clause of the bill, the only way that that person can get a rebate on the vehicle that is used to transport them is if that person has a valid driver's license. I don't think that person probably would be able to get a valid driver's license. I would just simply like to see that rebate extended so that it covered all those persons who are disabled to the extent they must have a vehicle to get around in.



I note that within the bill, we have the extension of the rebate to first time home builders and that is extended until April 1, 1996. Hopefully, the minister in his budget next year, will continue to extend that for another period of 12 months.



Mr. Speaker, I think that is about all I have to say on this bill in general. I will have to get into specific clauses to make my point, but, as I say, generally speaking, it is not a bad idea, but I would like to see it easier to read. Actually, I would like to still have three separate Acts, but if it is the intent to combine, fine and dandy, but I just find it very difficult to find things in this bill because whereas it has three parts dealing with the three Acts that are being amalgamated, there are chunks of them taken out and put into Clause 4 and Clause 5. So I think it is difficult reading and, again, it could probably do with an index, but with those few remarks, I will take my seat. I will be voting for this, even though I do have reservations with the bill.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you. (Interruption) Yes, as my colleague says, I was trying to rise in a thoughtful manner. I might as well do something thoughtful, Mr. Speaker.



I want to address a few remarks to the bill before us and I am not going to go through a detailed, clause by clause that the previous speaker did, it is really a few observations and overall general comments on the bill.



First of all, I concur wholeheartedly with one of the things that the minister said when he introduced the bill, that is that those who are cheating on the tax system are, in fact, robbing everybody else who is paying their fair share. Mr. Speaker, I think it is reasonable and responsible that we should be doing all that is reasonable and proper to ensure that people who are owing taxes are, in fact, paying the amount of taxes that they owe to the Treasury. That not only means, and the minister used the example, that if all the taxes that were being avoided were actually being paid, the income tax rate in the province could drop by 10 per cent. That is quite probably true.



In addition to that, what it would also mean is that we would not be having a lot of the programs that are being devastated, the health care and the education programs, as a result of underfunding, the growing waiting lists and so on that we are hearing about in the medical profession and the kind of upheavals that are going on at the present time, if the monies that are owed are put into the system to maintain the system that those who are avoiding paying their fair share are also benefitting from.



I certainly support the attempts and methods or the stated principle, I guess is what I am trying to say, the principle of trying to ensure that those who are owing tax in a fair system, owing taxes to their fellow citizens, because that is really what it is, through the Province of Nova Scotia, that those monies actually be collected. So I am not disputing or challenging what is being done there. I am not totally convinced, and I am not a tax lawyer nor am I an accountant, I know that the legislation I have before me is a very complicated and complex piece of information. I have read through it, I have gone through it, skimmed over it on a few other occasions and, in all honesty, some of the implications and the different things, I am not pretending that I understand all the fine points and intricacies and the interconnections of that. So I am hoping, quite honestly, that we will have, at the Law Amendments Committee, some presentations from the accounting community, from the legal profession and others, who will have had an opportunity to go through the legislation with the special skills they have in understanding the system and bring that forward.



I certainly have tried to make some inquiries and spoke to several people who have some knowledge in the tax world, to hear their views and I will raise a couple of those in a moment. But one of the things that this bill doesn't really say, but the minister was quite clear about in his remarks when he was talking about the introduction of this bill in his press conference down the hall, was the idea of harmonization.



[11:30 a.m.]



One of the concerns that I do have with this legislation and I am not opposed in principle to putting all of the different tax measures under the one piece of legislation, it is like one-stop shopping except I am pleased that now those who are doing one-stop shopping, for example, on the television network, the Home Shopping Network, I would gather would now have to start paying taxes here in Nova Scotia. I think that maybe at the present time Ontario is the only place where taxes would have to be collected because that is where they are located in the country.



I am not sure how effective or what kind of arrangements are being worked out to ensure that there is actually the proper amounts of taxes being collected or a way of auditing that to ensure that Nova Scotia gets its fair share of the taxes. I know that there are some provisions in the bill where there can be requirements with the registrations and so on that you would have like a fund or whatever you would call it, put up front to supposedly guarantee that. I don't know if the minister has the ability to go to the networks and say, that channel is being turned off the air here because certain people aren't prepared to, in fact, meet the commitments of our legislation. So there obviously have to be some kind of arrangements and so on worked out with other governments and other bodies for the enforceability of this.



I do have concerns about the potential that we may be moving down the road with in terms of harmonization. I can appreciate from some business aspects that there are some benefits on a business perspective for those who are collecting the taxes for that to be harmonized. Certainly, some would say that it would be great not only for them to be harmonized but also to be hidden so that the consumer wouldn't necessarily know what they are paying in the way of taxes and/or to whom, if that is the case.



I still have - and we have had many debates in this House over a number of years, some before you became a member, about the whole idea of harmonization of the taxes, the PST with the GST - major concerns that have not been allayed if we are to, in fact, harmonize those taxes which I think this legislation leads us in the direction of or makes it easier to be doing. That would mean that the taxes would be expanded to a whole variety of goods and services that I have problems with, than they are at the present time.



I won't go down that road in terms of the debate now because that is not directly in the bill but I think that it is appropriate to say that there are still two sides to the debate about harmonization and to raise at least a couple of flags to indicate that if we are to be going that route, that we need to have a very thorough and thoughtful debate on that whole matter and how that would impact upon basically the working people of this province. We certainly also need to be having a debate when we are taxed as we are here about the need to establish a fairer tax system overall.



Here we are dealing with health tax, the fuel oil tax, tobacco tax, et cetera and so on, and Nova Scotia can only do so much but when you take a look at the fact that some of these taxes are at the rate that they are because others who are making huge profits are not paying their fair share of the taxes. Then one has to say that it is time to look at the whole tax picture and to try to come up with a fairer tax system so that, as we see here in Nova Scotia when we take a look at our Budget Books, the amount of monies being collected from the sales taxes, for example, are increasing rapidly while in reality a lot of the taxes from individuals are going down which is a reflection of the fact of both unemployment and also lower incomes.



When you see, for example, that now a large profitable corporations pay only about 8 per cent of the cost of running our country and individuals, through the various taxes like the health services tax, like income tax, are paying about 92 per cent. They used to be about 50/50, in terms of a split about 30 or 35 years ago. You can see there has been a tremendous shift and a tremendous change. I believe we have to have an opportunity to step back to look at the whole tax regime we have here in Nova Scotia and in the country as a whole, to make sure that the actual costs of providing essential programs and services are split on a more equitable basis than they are at the present time, rather than just simply harmonizing taxes, rather than just increasing the tax on gasoline or on health service tax, which for a person who is making a modest income, that can be quite a hardship, especially as all these individual taxes and so on go up.



For those who are making huge profits, having a 1 cent increase in certain kinds of taxes really doesn't mean anything to them, Mr. Speaker, because they are really not going to be burning any more gas than the person who is maybe making $15,000 a year, so the person who is making $1 million a year, if every gallon of gas they buy has another 1 cent added on or every litre had 1 cent added on, that is going to impact much harder on the person at a $15,000 or even with a $40,000 family income than it is somebody at the high end. So we have to look at that whole picture and we have to be having that debate. But I won't get into that any more here today.



There are a couple of specifics in the bill that I would like to refer to. One of them has to do with confidentiality. I have some concerns, and I know that the freedom of information Act does provide certain sharing of information within government departments but then there is still also supposed to be security to protect personal and private information. Under Clause 83, in the Confidentiality section, it starts off, "Notwithstanding the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, a person who has custody or control over information or records pursuant to this Act may disclose the information or records" and then it lists a number of areas.



In Clause 83(e), "for the purpose of compilation of statistical information by the Government of the Province or the Government of Canada.". So in other words, any of the information can be, notwithstanding the Freedom of Information Act, be provided for the compiling of statistical information for either the Governments of Nova Scotia or Canada.



That may sound like that is still within the government's control and whatever so therefore, the confidentiality and the protection will still exist. But a lot of this kind of work is now being farmed out, put out by contract, it could be, for example, to a private company that has been hired or contracted to do this kind of information, it could be through a university as well. A lot of this kind of research and work is being done where they are involved in a project and they go to the government to seek information to try to do a research project and the government may decide that it is to their best advantage as well to have that done. So I have some concerns. I am just going to hit on that one point there about the specifics of the confidentiality and ensuring that is being protected.



Also, the other clause I will just briefly touch on, and not getting into the nitty-gritty because I know I am not supposed to be going into a clause by clause discussion. I think at least the minister is listening, Mr. Speaker. The one clause is the idea of Tax Avoidance. The Tax Avoidance section, from a person who is far more knowledgeable about taxation and taxation law - it is under Clause 84 on Page 43 of the bill, the section on Tax Avoidance.



My understanding is that this is really taken from some federal legislation, that is really where this is borrowed from but that the Tax Avoidance section, even though it is in a particular piece of federal legislation, that that has never really ever been able to have been used. Part of the problem is that if, for example, an accountant or a tax lawyer were to be advising a client on the preparation of their taxes and not trying to break any laws or whatever but saying, this is how you can invest your money or this is how monies can be done to the best advantage for you or your company or whatever so that you pay only the fair share of taxes or the amount that you have to pay, I may disagree with some of the avoidances that they may be able to use. I may not personally like the fact that the law says that you can do this and refer taxes in certain ways but regardless of whether I like it or not, the tax rules are there, some of which I would like to see changed.



The way that this is really set up and under the federal one the way it would be set up, is that if the review process decides to deem that that really is a tax avoidance, whether it is or isn't, whether it is permitted or not permitted, if they deem that it is really intended to avoid paying taxes, then you are in effect guilty. Not only would that company which is following the advice of the accountant or the tax lawyer, not only maybe would that individual company be guilty but so too could the accountant or the tax lawyer who is giving that advice, possibly themselves also be guilty of an offence.



I don't claim to be knowledgable of this. I am just simply saying as best I can I am relating what was a concern from somebody who knows that world, certainly, far better than I, was bringing it to my attention. I bring it and I bounce if off the Minister of Finance as maybe one of those areas that maybe can be taken a look at. I will say no more on it than that, other than to flag it as an area where I would like to see some discussion.



I could also go through as others have and point out where there are some areas, obviously, where there are some tax increases, fee increases and in some other areas where there are decreases. One of the things that I would like to know because this really is a money bill, it supposedly isn't aimed at increasing taxes and I am sure the minister and his department has done an analysis and I would like know and see a copy actually if there has been an analysis done that shows where in one area the revenue will go up and in another area it will go down if there is some kind of a financial analysis to show the impact of each of the different changes in terms of the revenues and so on toward the Province of Nova Scotia. What areas pay more? What areas pay less? It really is a tax measure and bill and should be accompanied by those kinds of bit of information, I think, anyway.



My comments have not been overly lengthy. I am not trying to be overly critical of what the government is trying to do here. I confess I am not a tax lawyer nor a tax accountant and some of the intricacies of the legislation I don't understand them all, that is for sure. I would very much welcome the opportunity to hear from several vantage points or from several perspectives, presentations being made at the Law Amendments Committee, from those who are knowledgable in the field.



Also, I might add, I would like to hear from those who might be able to look at the bill and say, not only is this what it is doing but here are areas and avenues where we could be amending, through this legislation, the tax system that we have in the Province of Nova Scotia to make it a more fair and equitable tax system for all Nova Scotians.



[11:45 a.m.]



I continue to be extremely alarmed and concerned about the fact that we have a very small, elite group in this country who are benefitting tremendously from the tax system and they are the same group, like the C.D. Howe Institute or the Fraser Institute, which are promoting and advocating the cutting and the slashing of the programs, and those are very often the social programs, health, education and so on, and get rid of government, Mr. Speaker. Maybe some of these people think that, in fact, the Legislature should not exist and we could contract the service out to a consultant.



Mr. Speaker, certainly, when you take a look at the way the programs are being adversely affected, then obviously I think that we need to be looking at the broader picture so that we can ensure that we have a fairer tax system. If we did have that, maybe we would not have to be closing down 800 training seats in community colleges as but one example. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: There are no further intervenors on the bill? I recognize the minister to close the debate.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First, let me say I appreciate the thoughtful comments of the Opposition critics from both Parties. I also appreciate the indulgence of the Chair in allowing us to discuss this bill in, perhaps, a little more detail than normally occurs at second reading. As the Chair observed and, I think as some of the commentators observed, this is a very difficult bill to discuss without at least some reference to specific items.



I have made quite extensive notes based on the comments of both the member for Hants West and the member for Sackville-Cobequid. They deal, in some measure, with very specific sections of the bill. Rather than try and go through in my summing up of this stage and respond to each and every section, let me undertake to both of those members that I will address each and every one of those sections. I will try and have responses privately for them prior to Law Amendments but, in any event, as we deal in the House with the section by section review, then we will deal specifically with each and every concern and reference that was made by both of the members.



There were a couple of general things, though, I would just like to comment on very briefly in summing up. One of them is on the simplified approach. This bill, by itself, is not the final be-all and end-all. What it does though is it allows us the tools in simplifying and bringing the administration together. There is some initial awkwardness, as the member for Hants West pointed out, where you are looking at one section for administration and referring back to other specific revenue measures. The idea in putting this tool in place, to rationalize all this, is to bring the electronic and technology expertise of the 1990's to revenue collection, and we can only do that if we rationalize it and make it far simpler for business and all those, and to make the payment, collection and remission of taxes as painless as possible for those who have to do it.



The other question that I think particularly the member for Hants West raised - and I could not agree with him more - not only is this not the final shape of tax collection in Nova Scotia, but regardless of what the shape is, we still have to enforce it. We still have to go beyond the measures that we will pass in this bill and we have to deal with the appropriate, the efficient and the fair enforcement of any regime that we put in place.



I just want to assure the honourable member, in summing up, that we have already begun that process. In 1993-94, for example, Mr. Speaker, we added, on a permanent basis, 13 additional auditors to the Department of Finance. This was done at a time when the Department of Finance's budget is being reduced by over 20 per cent within the four year expenditure control plan, but in this area we added, on a permanent basis, 13 new auditors.



We have also established in September of 1995, a special investigation task force. We reassigned four people from within the department to target specific industry sectors, to deal with the problems of avoidance and non-compliance in those sectors. I can tell the honourable member and the House that that compliance effort has resulted in adding $50,000 of assessments per week for every week they have been in operation. So, there are enforcement measures underway. We have instituted eight separate identifiable joint programs with the federal government for the collection of tax. So, we are doing some of that; we will never do enough because no matter how efficient we become, there will always be some people avoiding tax.



The purpose of this legislation, as I close second reading, Mr. Speaker, is to put the tools in place for us to do the job and have everyone pay their fair share in this province. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: Second reading has been moved for Bill No. 37, the Revenue Act.



Is the House ready for the question? 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. 40.



Bill No. 40 - Expropriation Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I rise on this occasion to speak on Bill No. 40, An Act to Amend the Expropriation Act. In so doing and to start, I move that this bill be now read a second time. I want to give an explanation of the amendments I am bringing before the House so that we have them in context and we understand what is proposed by the bill. I think this would be helpful to all honourable members of the House.



Since 1973 when there was a major alteration to the manner by which landowners are to be compensated for the expropriation of their land, it has been recognized that the Act requires amendments in certain areas. The amendments that are in this bill are intended to assist both the landowners and the expropriating authorities. The intent is to make the system of dealing with compensation claims, arising from the compensation of land, more straightforward and fair.



The amendments have three goals, and I will list them:



(a) to address the manner by which offers to settle can be made to landowners;



(b) to provide a method to assess legal and experts costs; and



(c) to address various procedural and issues of evidence.



Under the existing legislation, the amount of the initial offer to a landowner is vital to the later determination of liability for costs. This can be unfair to expropriating authorities who may require additional information in order to properly assess compensation they are required to pay landowners. The amendments provide for making increased offers to settle to landowners in advance of hearings before the Utility and Review Board.



The procedure and time by which legal and experts costs are assessed following an expropriation are addressed by these amendments. The amendments will require costs to be dealt with by the very same board that hears the claim for compensation. In addition, the changes will set out the factors to be taken into account by that board in doing so. This will ensure that a landowner's reasonable costs, which are reasonably incurred, are payable.



The procedural and evidentiary issues address the effects of expropriation on property mortgages and business loss calculations. They clarify the jurisdiction of the U&R Board in expropriation cases, the effect of the provision of service or land access roads to claims for injurious affection and the presentation of expert evidence to that board.



Mr. Speaker, in order to be helpful to members so they understand what we are proposing and, in fact, I want to go through clause by clause and I want to also mention two other amendments that I intend to propose at the Law Amendments Committee. I will explain the purpose and intent of those so it will give us the full context before I conclude. I don't have to go on too long but I think that is important. I wanted to discuss each provision so that there will be no doubt by any other members about what we intend to accomplish by the legislation.



I will start with Clause 1, it amends subsection 13(3). We intend to remove the requirement that a copy of the appraisal be served on an owner with an offer that is required to be made within 90 days after the deposit of the expropriation document. In the course of negotiating compensation to be paid, the landowner is entitled to have the reasonable costs of an appraisal report paid by the expropriating authority. They have that benefit. More often than not, the landowners obtain an appraisal on these terms. The owner's appraisal report should be fully objective and stand on its own, without reference to a previous appraisal report prepared by the province.





Clause 2 adds Section 13A. This is an addition to the Act. The section will enable an expropriating authority to make, in addition to the offer that is now required to be made within 90 days after the deposit of the expropriation document, an offer to settle prior to an expropriation hearing.



An expropriating authority is required to make an offer to settle the amount of compensation owed to the landowner fairly soon after the expropriation. So members would know.



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am a little uncertain. I wonder if the minister would be prepared to go back and reference Clause 1 again. He was just getting to and I thought I was following the explanation and then there was a little bit of cacophony over here and I missed the punchline. Could he just give me the rationale of that one? I don't want to detain the House, but I think what he is doing is (Interruption) I think he is being very helpful.



MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I will go back through. As the members would know, we are removing the requirement that a copy of the appraisal report be served on the owner with the offer that is required to be paid within 90 days after the deposit of the expropriation document. In the course of negotiating compensation to be paid, and here is one of the points leading up to it, the landowner is entitled to have the reasonable costs of an appraisal report paid by the expropriating authority for that person. More often than not, the landowners obtain an appraisal on these terms. We feel that the owner's appraisal should be fully objective and stand on its own without reference to a previous appraisal report prepared by the province. So I guess that is the essence of it.



Then to continue on in Clause 2, it is an addition. It will enable an expropriating authority to make, in addition to the offer that is now required to be made within 90 days after the deposit of the expropriation document, an offer to settle prior to an expropriation hearing.



An expropriating authority, as members would know, is required to make an offer to settle the amount of compensation owed to the landowner fairly soon after the expropriation. Information required to carry out a proper appraisal, from the landowner or otherwise, often is not acquired by the expropriating authority until after the first offer to settle, as I understand it. An opportunity for the expropriating authority to present a more realistic offer, based on all of the information available up to one week before the date of the hearing, would encourage the settlement of compensation disputes, as I understand it.



Now, in Clause 3, it amends subsection 15(2). This is an amendment that is necessary as a result of the amendment in subsection 13(3). It deletes the requirement that a copy of the province's appraisal be sent to the landowner, which is the purport of the earlier amendment.



Clause 4 adds subsection 16(3). This is an addition to the Act. It provides that where the amount of compensation, as determined by the board, is less than the amount already paid by the expropriating authority, as required by the Act, the owner shall repay the difference to the expropriating authority. The purpose of this section is to provide the Utility and Review Board with the authority to order repayment so that the expropriating authority can avoid any need to take a landowner to court in the event of an overpayment. So this is to make it clear.





[12:00 p.m.]



Clause 5 amends subsection 27(11). These changes make it clear that provisions in the Act, which deem a mortgage paid in full, where the amount of compensation paid to the holder of the mortgage is not sufficient to satisfy the mortgage, apply to the mortgage only to the extent that the mortgage affects title to the expropriated lands. This is important in the circumstance where a mortgage deals with more land than the land expropriated. So you are zeroing in.



Clause 6(1) amends subsection 29(1). Currently the Act provides that business loss shall not be determined until the business has moved and has been in operation for nine months or until a two year period has elapsed, whichever is earlier. This amendment will provide that business loss shall not be determined until a business has moved and has been in operation 12 months rather than nine months and until three years have elapsed from the date of expropriation, whichever is earlier. So it is extending the time, from nine months or two years to 12 months or three years. This is intended to provide a more realistic timeframe for determination of business loss as a result of expropriation.



Clause 6(2) adds subsection 29(3). This is an addition. This clause defines the manner by which goodwill is to be valued as part of business loss. Goodwill is to be determined and awarded only in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, which seems fairly reasonable.



Clause 7 adds subsection 30(2). This is an addition again. It will prevent a claim for compensation for injurious affection resulting from the closure of an entrance to or an exit from land as a result of the designation of a highway as a controlled access highway. This would apply in circumstances in which another entrance or exit is available by way of provision of a service or land access road. I think that is important to understand. There is no compensation, if there is another entrance or exit available by way of the provision of a service or land access road.



Clause 8 repeals section 35. This is because costs are dealt with in the revised Section 52 of the Act which I will come to a little later.



Clause 9 amends subsection 47(1). This subsection is revised to make it clear that in all cases the Utility and Review Board shall determine compensation where the parties cannot agree to compensation. In some cases, the expropriating authority and the landowner recognize that there is no possibility for successfully negotiating a settlement. This amendment will permit either party to present the matter to the board.



Clause 10 amends subsections 50(1) and 50(2). These provisions address evidentiary concerns and bring the time lines for presentation of expert reports in line with our Civil Procedure Rules. They - and there are three of them - (a) remove the power of the Utility and Review Board to exempt a party from the requirements of the Act for filing of expert evidence; (b) lengthen the period of time for filing an expert report from 15 days before the hearing to 60 days before the hearing; and (c) replace the present requirement for the filing of an outline of the proposed evidence, where the expert is not an appraiser, with the requirement for the filing of the expert's report.



Clause 11 replaces Section 52. The old Section 52 is repealed and replaced with provisions that - there are two and I will list them - (a) contains specific guidelines to be followed by the Utility and Review Board in determining the amount of costs; and (b) provide that an expropriating authority is not liable to pay costs incurred by the owner after the offer to settle is made. This applies in cases where the owner does not accept the offer and the compensation awarded is equal to or less than the compensation obtained in the offer to settle.



The board is given sole jurisdiction to tax costs. There are no guidelines under the existing Act for determining which costs incurred by a landowner in asserting a claim for compensation, will be paid by the expropriating authority other than to provide for payment of costs reasonably incurred. The new provision remedies this by setting out specific guidelines to be followed in determining the amount of costs.



Also, the amendments introduce a provision that the expropriating authority is not liable to pay costs incurred after the rejection of an offer to settle. As a result, in cases where the offer was more than the amount awarded by the board, the problem that the current provisions respecting costs offer no incentive to settle issues of compensation is eliminated. That may be an improvement.



Mr. Speaker, I mentioned there were two amendments that I propose to bring forward at Law Amendments so we will have full disclosure. First of all, I want to give notice that when the bill goes to the Law Amendments Committee, I will be suggesting a change in the wording of subsection 52(6). As it is currently worded, that subsection provides that "An offer to settle shall not be disclosed to the Board.". That is desirable while the board is considering the appropriate amount of compensation. However, once the compensation issue is decided, the board must address costs and needs to have the offer to settle. Accordingly, I will suggest the addition of the words "prior to the Board's determination respecting compensation" be added to the end of subsection 52(6) as it now stands.



Then the final clause in the present bill I want to mention is Clause 12. It amends Section 66. This provides that a schedule of costs payable to an owner under this Act and the rate of interest on unpaid costs can be prescribed by regulation. It also provides that words or expressions used but not defined in the Act can be defined by regulation.



Then, Mr. Speaker, before I wind up, I want to tell you that I am going to suggest an addition to this bill of a clause to provide that amendments will not affect matters currently before the Utility and Review Board but only those where the expropriation is initiated on or after February 1, 1996. So this will come into effect February 1, 1996. It will not affect matters currently before the board. This will avoid any confusion about whether the amendments are intended to have a retroactive effect. Thus the changes made by this bill will not apply to expropriations in progress.



The effective date of February 1, 1996, has been chosen to give specific assurance that the amendments will not apply to any expropriations for the purpose of the construction of the western alignment of Highway No. 104. Those are well along in progress and they will be completed, as I understand it, well before that date. The province, as I understand it, through the Minister of Transportation has given a commitment to its partner that it will acquire all lands needed for the western alignment of Highway No. 104 before the end of this year, before December 31st. All lands for this purpose must be purchased or expropriated before the proposed effective date in this bill, which is February 1, 1996, so there will be no conflict. Those things will be dealt with, they will be all cleaned up. Nobody is going to say that we are trying to put this bill through to expedite the western alignment of Highway No. 104. It is not going to happen because the lands will be acquired by the end of the year and these amendments only apply to new expropriations after February 1, 1996. Mr. Speaker, by making this announcement now I hope to avoid any confusion or uncertainty that may otherwise arise because a major project is in progress at this time.



In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the principle of the bill. I assure all honourable members that the amendments will provide further direction and guidance to landowners, expropriating authorities and the Utility and Review Board respecting expropriations taking place on or after February 1, 1996. Thank you. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I want to say as I open what I assure you and all colleagues will be brief remarks in relation to Bill No. 40 that the applause just now given the Minister of Justice and Attorney General is, in my opinion, very much warranted. I do not want to, having made a complimentary remark as I begin, take the edge off that by making a remark which some might consider to be somewhat less complimentary. I could not help but be struck, but I was, as I listened to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General lead us through second reading of Bill No. 40. In the course of doing that, as I know you noticed, Mr. Speaker, and all colleagues noticed, he walked us through this bill in a manner which made it, first of all, possible for us to understand what the impact would be, as he saw it and as he sees it, of the provisions of the bill itself. But he went much further; he told us here in second reading that he had other amendments with which he would be coming forward and he described those to us all and he described what the impact of those amendments would be.



I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and all members and anybody who will learn of this discussion, of this debate by whatever form of media, I ask you and all of them to contrast that performance against the abysmal performance of the Minister of Education who now has us in total chaos relative to what might happen with legislation which he has introduced into this House. Exactly what the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General did here today was exactly what a competent minister can and should do. By comparison, the total incompetence of the Minister of Education is that much more highlighted and spotlighted. I endorse and applaud and support the very professional, effective and competent effort of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General in regard to Bill No. 40. Would that he had some colleagues, more colleagues, all colleagues, who understood the role and the importance, the function and the responsibility that they have as ministers proposing legislation to this place. This is a class act; the other is second class, and then some.



Having said that, I couldn't resist because I am very impressed, I mean it sincerely, with the approach which this minister has taken. This legislation, as you would know again, Mr. [Acting Deputy] Speaker, as a practising barrister and solicitor, is a fundamentally important piece of legislation that affects the lives of every person in this province who owns real estate. The old line, a man's home is his castle, a man's land is his principal (Interruption)



Yes, his land is his land. The Minister of Natural Resources helps me out as I was stuck for words, and says a man's land is his land. That is important. That line is important. His land is his land. There should be clear, precise, fair, equitable rules if the state wants to come on to his land, the minister's land or your land, Mr. Speaker, or my land or land owned by any Nova Scotian and say, for whatever reason, that we, the state, are going to take some or all of that piece of land. So, this legislation is vitally important.



I want to make a few brief references to a couple of the principles described by the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General and not delay the House unduly long in the doing of that.



I take it that the principle being espoused, one of them at least, Mr. Speaker, really is - and I think if I understand it correctly, it is a good one - to afford the expropriating authority what I would describe as a second chance to make an offer. I get the sense that whereas the requirement or the possibility for an expropriating authority to make in addition to the offer that is now required to be made by that authority within 90 days after the deposit of the expropriation document, the expropriating authority now has no legislative capacity to offer to settle prior to the expropriation actually going to hearing. I think the addition of what I would call the second chance go at making that second offer is an important and a valuable one and one which will - and I think the minister made this remark in his comments - I think will have the effect of resulting in some number, who knows, only experience over time will tell but will have the effect of seeing that some number of expropriations actually don't go to the hearing stage which is to the advantage of all of the parties and is a tremendous time and money saver for all involved.



[12:15 p.m.]



I had occasion many years ago to be engaged in a little bit of difficulty with an expropriation matter and I believe that the principle which will be imported into this bill now which makes it possible now, if this bill passes in its present form, that the amount of compensation, as determined by the board, if that proves to be less than the amount already paid then the owner is required to repay the difference to the expropriating authority. There have been a couple of very unfortunate, acrimonious, litigious and expensive circumstances of that kind in the past and I think that is a very good change.



I guess I make an assumption - and maybe the minister when he closes might be able to comment - that in that situation if the amount paid exceeds the amount of compensation ultimately determined and the board then makes a follow-up order indicating that there is an excess owed by the landowner, the registered owner shall pay the excess to the expropriating authority. I assume that and I guess it must be in another provision of the legislation that that order requiring the registered owner to repay the expropriating authority would be a registerable document and would be in the form of an order which would encumber the land.



I wonder if the minister might make note of that and either as he closes or between here and on the way to the Law Amendments Committee might be able to address that issue, as to whether or not that order saying to owner x, you were overpaid, you were paid $100,000 and the board ordered that your land was worth $80,000, you owe $20,000, does that order from the board result in the production of a document which is registerable as an encumbrance to the tune of $20,000 against that land? I think it would be important to put on notice anybody else with whom that landowner might deal with the remainder of the lands which would be in the ownership and title of that landowner.



A further principle addressed in this legislation is that provision which deems that a mortgage paid in full, where the amount of compensation paid to the holder of the mortgage is not sufficient to satisfy the mortgage in its entirety, that that applies to the mortgage only to the extent that the mortgage affects the expropriated lands. Now I see it, it is a reference back to other provisions. We have referenced back to an earlier provision in the legislation which I think has made the assumption that compensation paid to a property owner, which property is subject to a mortgage, is deemed to extinguish or retire that mortgage. I see that what the minister is doing, the principle being imported into the legislation now is that it may not be. There may be cases where the amount of compensation is, in fact, not sufficient to satisfy the mortgage. So that he is making a clear statement in this legislation that that payment would apply to the mortgage only to the extent that the mortgage affects the expropriated lands and if that mortgage covered other pieces of real estate and the like, then we would not be - the rights, as between the landowner and the mortgagee would not be affected vis-a-vis other pieces of property. If I am understanding that principle correctly, then I would concur that that is an important and a proper one.



The business loss provision is one which I think is important. The legislation now has a provision that establishes the principle that a ". . . business loss shall not be determined until the business has moved and been in operation for nine months or until a two-year period has elapsed, whichever is the earlier . . ." of those two occurrences. That is to be replaced with a provision that states that business loss shall not be determined until the business has moved -which is no change - and has been in operation for 12 months or until three years have elapsed from the date of the expropriation, whichever is earlier.



I guess I agree with that. The minister explained the change but I don't know that he offered a rationale as to why it was felt that the earlier provision was perhaps less fair to either the business owner or to the expropriating authority. I can conjure up in my own mind an example or two or a reason or two, I suppose, as to why this change might be made, but I wonder if when he closes the minister might perhaps briefly go back to that provision for me and just offer an explanation as to what the thinking, his thinking and the thinking of his officials in the Utility and Review Board folks actually might be as to why the change in those time periods would be of more value.



I guess the real question I am uncertain about is, does that policy change do good by the business owner or do good by the expropriating authority? Is it to the benefit of the business owner or otherwise? If the minister, when he closes, might return to that, I would greatly appreciate that.



I agree that the provision which we don't see and, by the way, I wonder, would it be possible, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, the minister probably has specific language that he proposes to take to Law Amendments Committee, relative to the new provisions he talked about, Clause 52(6) and so on.



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I do not actually have the amendments, I really just have the intent of them. I think maybe in one case I do. If there is anything I have here, I will send it over to you, in specific. Other than that, it may be in general. But if there is anything specific, I will ship it to you.



MR. SPEAKER: Just before the member returns, I think for the benefit of the House, you will note that we seem to be going through this bill very close to a clause by clause analysis. I know the minister did that and it is a short bill so I haven't interrupted the members on it because I think in the long run it is still to our benefit. I just want to explain that.



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I, frankly, had been conscious of the prohibition against doing that too extensively on second reading, and not by way of criticism at all, you will recall that the minister's approach to walk the House through, was to do it pretty much on a clause by clause basis. I felt it appropriate that response along those lines might be acceptable.



I believe again, having been involved in a couple of expropriation matters, that the principle which the minister describes - I think it is Clause 52(6) - relative to the offer to settle not to be disclosed to the board and while the board is making a determination on the liability question, the obligation that compensation be paid at all. But once then, when the hearing turns to a question of the matter of dollars and cents, then clearly it is not unreasonable at all for the board to be aware of an offer or offers to settle and that they are at that point able to be disclosed to the board as I understand it. If my understanding is correct, then that seems to me to make some sense.



I wonder if and perhaps by way of final comment the minister - because I think in general terms that I am of a mind that the changes which we are seeing here are important and helpful changes to the expropriation legislation - might take a minute or two to address again the principle that he described and I think he was referring to the fact that he was going to be either adding a new Section 66 which would set out a regulation-making authority whereby a schedule of costs payable to an owner could be and would be established and that sort of thing. I wonder if the minister might just revisit that issue for us for a moment or two.



What I would be particularly interested in, Mr. Speaker, is having a sense from the minister of the kind of schedule to which he refers. Not to be too juvenile or simplistic about this, would the schedule be something like if you are expropriating two acres, the maximum is; if you are expropriating 100 acres, the maximum is; if you are expropriating whatever, the maximum or minimum is something else? Or, is the schedule likely to be descriptive of legal principles as opposed to descriptive of amounts of real estate and dollars involved in a particular expropriation? So if the minister could help me in that regard, I would very much appreciate that.



Having said that, and having said those things (Interruption) Oh, good, thank you. I thank the minister for sharing with me some of the precise language with which he proposes to come to the Law Amendments Committee in coming days.



Those, I think, Mr. Speaker, are my comments. I am sure I haven't added greatly to the understanding of some of this bill but I have benefitted greatly by the explanations made by the minister. I repeat, I very sincerely applaud his presentation and his approach and look forward to rather smooth passage of Bill No. 40 through the balance of second reading and the Law Amendments Committee process and ultimately on its way to becoming the law of our province. So I will leave it at that. I will support the bill here at second reading and participate in its analysis at Law Amendments Committee when it gets there. Thank you very much.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't share as positive a view of the bill that we are now having a look at as does the previous speaker but I certainly do share his compliments to the minister that he made at the beginning of his remarks, complimenting and thanking the minister for doing a detailed analysis and explanation of the implications and ramifications of the bill and of trying to provide a fair explanation of that.



[12:30 p.m.]



Also, Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to - it is obviously not government policy - juxtapose what the minister did when he introduced the bill on second reading, to be willing to share with members on all sides of this House and with the general public what his intentions are with regard to the Law Amendments Committee and the process of providing, as best he could, copies of the actual amendments that he would be proposing to put forward. If that was followed more often we might not have been in some of the conflicts that we are in today. But I won't get off on that tangent because we all know to whom I am referring and I don't think that I need to elaborate any more than that, Mr. Speaker, because if I do you are going to call me to order and say that is not dealing with the bill in any event. I see by the way you are nodding your head, I think I can read your intentions well enough from that distance.



Mr. Speaker, I want to go back and talk about the bill. First of all, I would also like to say and I thank the minister and I am sure the minister will know that I was extremely critical of this bill when it was introduced. I put out a release and outlined a number of concerns that I had with the bill and with respect to Highway No. 104, for example. One might have used the term highway robbery, the way I was looking at the bill and the way that the lands could be expropriated for Highway No. 104 and the implications for the citizens who live in Cumberland County and Colchester County who could have their lands expropriated. So I was pleased to see that the minister did make the commitments that this will not apply to any of the lands involved with the western alignment route and that all of the - I believe I heard the minister correctly - expropriation processes, he has a commitment that they will be completed or have begun by the end of this year.



In effect, quite honestly what I see as harmful impacts of this legislation will not affect those whose lands are going to be expropriated for Highway No. 104. (Interruptions)



I think maybe the Minister of Transportation and Communications is going to take part in the debate a little later on, Mr. Speaker, to clear things up, but I can't follow the dialogue that he is trying to provide across the floor in the way of being helpful, so I will ignore it and just stick to the bill.



Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of concerns that I still have with the bill before us. My major concerns really deal with how I think it is going to impact negatively on the little person because one of the things being denied by this bill is the ability for the person whose lands are being expropriated to receive and have the government fund an independent appraisal of the lands being expropriated.



Now, you can make the argument, well that should be their own cost and that should be their own determination if, in fact, they are going to go ahead with it. But there are a number of other things that fit in with that as well, Mr. Speaker, and I will try to outline some of the concerns that I have as I go through. Certainly the individual, the small person, is no longer going to be on a level playing field with the government.



I have heard of situations, and these are not from my own experience in practising law because you know I am not a lawyer, but we have been in consultation and discussion with people who are involved in law and with expropriations and we have heard of situations where, for example, people have had lands expropriated and where they have made offers in the low figures, under $10,000, based on government's offers, but when that went through the negotiation and the appeal process, they ended up receiving amounts approximately 20 times what the government had offered plus interest, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the member would allow an introduction.



MR. HOLM: Oh, I would be happy to.



MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank.

MR. WILLIAM MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It gives me great pleasure at this time to introduce the Grade 6 class from Beaverbank-Kinsac Elementary School. Along with the children today are Fred Carter, Derek Carter - teacher - Sheila Kelly, Louise Wagner and Rose MacIntyre. We also have another special guest here, my granddaughter, Lindsay, sitting up there. I wish she would wave to everybody. (Applause) Please stand to the warm welcome of the House.



MR. SPEAKER: I thank the member. We turn to the Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly, too, want to extend my welcome to the students, teachers, chaperons and guests who are with us this afternoon. I congratulate the member for Sackville-Beaverbank for his fine introduction. It is great to see so many young people here today and to see students from all across Nova Scotia showing an interest in this Legislature, and the teachers bringing them forward so they can see what is going on. That is how we learn about democracy so, welcome, and thank you very much for coming.



Now, Mr. Speaker, I will go back to the bill, if I may. I am going to touch on a number of principles that I have some concerns with. First of all, the bill as it is written at the present time denies compensations for injuries suffered due to the loss of an existing access to a road or highway. There is only a requirement that some other road access be provided. That can have a very serious detrimental impact, particularly on a lot of businesses that are located along these roads. Just because there may be another access, another road provided by way of some service road or another road two or three miles down the road to get into an area, that is not necessarily going to have and probably will not have the same kind of benefits in terms of being able to attract the customers into the local business. That has potential. It is going to eliminate payment for landowners to have, as I said before, an independent appraisal done. That certainly is a very regrettable step.



I might add, Mr. Speaker - and welcome to the Chair, as we change Speakers - the costs involved, the costs that that property owner is going to have to come up with in order to get this independent appraisal, are not voluntary costs. It is not something that they really want to do or would have done voluntarily, it is something that they have been forced into doing because their property is being expropriated. Surely to heavens it is reasonable to think that a person who is having, maybe, their home or the land from which they make their livelihood or property that has been in their family for generations, whatever, surely it is reasonable if the government is going to come along and say, we are taking your property from you, that whether that is a business that is losing the land or it could be a senior citizen with little or no income at all, surely it is a fair part of the process of doing that kind of business to say that the government will fund an independent appraisal so that that person would know that the monies that they are going to be receiving, in fact, or being offered, are reasonable or not reasonable.



I think that the Minister of Justice, himself, is a very reasonable person so I am hoping that the Minister of Justice, picking up on what the Minister of Municipal Affairs had said, will be willing to look at these things, since I am sure since he is a reasonable person he will look at them.





Right now, the landowners would have to wait until a final decision before any costs are paid, even if the offer should turn out to be unreasonably low. Mr. Speaker. Right now, for example, if a person under the way this is going, and I am not trying to say that this minister is trying to be mean or trying to pick on this, that or the other group, I am trying to look at what are the possibilities, what are the potentials, what can happen, what potential situations could arise.



If, for example, right now, a homeowner, let's say that their house was going to be expropriated and the homeowner feels that the amount of the offer that is being made to them is very low, it is inadequate, it doesn't represent the true value of the property, and so on, to them but they are going to have to try to find another place to live because it is being expropriated. So it has to go through this expropriation process.



Well, Mr. Speaker, (a) they are not provided with monies or funding up-front for an independent assessment, they can't get that assured; and (b) the pressures are going to be on them even if they believe that the offer is unreasonable and low, since there will be no payments made to them at all until the final appeal process and the decision has been dealt with, nothing would be coming forward, the pressures on them will be to accept an offer lower than that which they believe honestly is a fair level of compensation for the property that is being taken.



This is removing the requirement, as I understand the Act, that the landowner be given a copy of the government's appraisal of the land's market value. Mr. Speaker, here you have a situation where the government is going to deny to the person whose property is being expropriated (a) the ability for an independent appraisal; and (b) not even provide them a copy of the government's own appraisal and market value.



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, just so there is no misunderstanding. The Act provides that the landowner is entitled to have the costs of an appraisal report paid by the expropriating authority. That is the law. The member is coming from somewhere that I don't realize. There are changes in who gives which report but they are entitled to their own report and it is paid for by the expropriating authority. So I don't know where you are coming from on that. I just don't understand it.



MR. HOLM: Well, if my information that I am being given is incorrect then I very much appreciate the minister's intervention. My information from what I have been told about the Act is that those kinds of costs after the appraisal, after it goes through the review board or it goes through the appeal process, that those kinds of costs can be awarded at the end. But in terms of trying to resolve the expropriation process in the beginning in order to determine if, in fact, there is a fair offer that is being made to them that those costs would only be at the tail-end so, therefore, they wouldn't be able to. (Interruption)



Up front, in the beginning? I have that from the minister now then on the record and if that is in fact the case, if the information that I was given from the legal people who have looked at this are wrong, well, I certainly will look for clarification then as well at the Law Amendments Committee but I appreciate the minister's intervention.



Another area though that does cause some concern and it may sound reasonable but as I understand the Act, now, in terms of the appeal process, the government can keep making offers up to seven days before the actual appeal is heard. Now, Mr. Speaker, one could say, well, that's great because government still then has the opportunity to be making offers and trying to resolve it before it has to go through the appeal process, up to the last minute, to try to resolve it.



[12:45 p.m.]



It is my understanding as well that, according to the bill, there will be requirements that the expert evidence that is to be reported to the board, is going to have to be provided 60 days now in advance of the board hearing, instead of 15 days. So the expert advice that the board will be using to make determinations can be two months old, yet the final offer that has been received by the person is only up to seven days before the board hearing is being held. If at the end, at that board hearing if the government should decide to come in with an offer seven days before the hearing date, and if that offer seven days before is turned down, then the board would not then have to award all of those costs to the person whose lands are being expropriated.



Mr. Speaker, there are some problems with this, because if the board at the last moment, if they, in their hearing, decide that the final offer was a valid offer, but the person has incurred all kinds of expenses related to fighting that offer prior to that last offer being presented a week in advance, as it has been explained to me, there are many concerns that the individual whose lands are being expropriated could end up having to eat a lot of those costs that they endured fighting, trying to get the offers up higher.



Mr. Speaker, our office has received a number of inquiries about this bill from those who are involved in the legal profession, who are actively involved and make their business, in large part, representing those whose properties are being expropriated.



I thank the minister, as I did at the start, and I say this sincerely, I very much appreciate the fact that the minister did go through the bill and try to explain the details. He is to be commended as well for outlining in his opening remarks not only some of the specifics but also the general areas in which he plans to make amendments. I also very much appreciate that he made it very clear that the bill will have a new clause putting in the date when it will take effect, to ensure that those with the Highway No. 104 are going to be protected.



I also acknowledge that this is not the kind of legislation that is going to probably start bush fires all across the Province of Nova Scotia causing tremendous uprisings and so on, because it is not a bill that is going to affect many people. Most people do not, fortunately, have their properties expropriated. It is only going to be of specific interest to those in particular pockets where lands are, from time to time, expropriated.



Mr. Speaker, whether it is something that is affecting all Nova Scotians or only a small, select group in particular pockets, what happens when land is expropriated has a major impact, a serious impact upon the lives of those people who have lost their lands. So we have to ensure that the legislation, before it leaves this House, is going to have a process that is completely fair or as fair as it possibly can be to those persons to protect their interest.



I welcome very much the minister's intervention. I welcome very much as well the opportunity to have said a few words on the legislation and to raise some of the concerns that have been brought to our attention. I also say that I would welcome and encourage those who are involved in the expropriation process as part of their profession and who have expressed some of the concerns and pointed out some of the kinds of examples to us that they have, I would hope that they, too, would be willing to come to the Law Amendments Committee and make recommendations and suggestions as to how this particular piece of legislation can be improved. Thank you very much.



MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister, it will be to close the debate.



The honourable Minister of Justice.



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Yes I thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank all members, those members who participated, and I would also want to make the point that was made by the last speaker, that any person particularly interested in the process, a lawyer who is involved in this, should feel free to attend Law Amendments Committee. If they feel that some of the provisions are not clear or are unfair, we would be glad, I am sure, as a committee to hear their views. We'd be glad to do that.



I just wanted to make clear, as I did on a point of privilege, that my information is that in terms of evaluations, in terms of negotiations, we are concerned about fairness, that in the course of negotiating compensation the landowner is entitled to have the reasonable costs of an appraisal report paid by the expropriating authority, and that is clear. There may be a change in who gives copies of the expropriating authority's documents to the landowner, that is a change, but the individual still gets their own and I think that important. Again, I thank that honourable member.



The former Leader of the Opposition, the member for Halifax Citadel, mentioned several particular points. One was whether a change is a registerable document, does it encumber the land? If, for example, the compensation is greater than the award and then the landowner is required to pay back some money, I would have to check and I will endeavour to do that to see if there is an encumbrance on the land.



In terms of business losses, the change is going from 9 months and 2 years to 12 months and 3 years. It is intended to give a more realistic timeframe, it is a little longer, 12 months versus 9 and up to 3 rather than 2. But I am not sure if one can judge if it is to the benefit of the owner or the expropriating authority; I think that maybe a judgment call.



In terms of the schedule of costs, I will endeavour to get more. But in Clause 12, Section 66, the schedule of costs payable will be by regulation and they will also include the rate of interest on paid costs, which might be helpful. I will endeavour, Mr. Speaker, to obtain more information on that as we go through the process.



With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank the members for taking part and for their interest and I move second reading of Bill No. 40.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister moved second reading of Bill No. 40.



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



The motion is carried.



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. 43.



Bill No. 43 - Interpretation Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Communications.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs, I would be pleased to offer a few comments on the Interpretation Act amendment and to move second reading as I do so.



This amendment to the Interpretation Act will allow credit unions and trust companies to be considered the same as banks where banks are referenced in many Statutes of the province. Rather than go through each and every one of those Statutes and make an amendment, we have made the amendment in the Interpretation Act where banks are defined. Of course the exception to that would be where a bank is specifically defined in a piece of legislation; in that case that would apply. Otherwise, this becomes consistent with the bill which came into effect on January 1, 1995, allowing credit unions and trust companies to be considered and to have all the privileges as banking institutions, in accordance with the Statutes of the Province of Nova Scotia.



So with those few words, I would move second reading of this bill.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure, I don't think the Minister of Finance is in the House at the moment, I guess he just stepped out. Perhaps, when the minister wraps up, he could tell us whether or not the extension of the term bank to a credit union means that the province, for instance, will be holding money on account in the credit union, the same as they can do at the present time under the Finance Act in banks? Secondly, does this mean that credit unions come under the Bank Act with regard to control, reporting, registration and what have you? I guess those are the only questions I have with regard to this bill.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I won't go on very long. I am very pleased to see this piece of legislation before us. I think this is a very important piece of legislation. There have been attempts over the years, for a long time, to try to provide for the credit unions an equal footing within the province to be able to provide the full range of services, to be able to receive on deposit whether that be from the government, from municipalities and so on, monies into the credit unions.



There have been a number of attempts to change a particular piece of legislation. I think that what is being done here is actually a very smart and a very simple way to do it. You don't have to go in and change each and every piece of legislation. What is being done here is simply changing the Interpretation Act. So now, wherever you find in the Interpretation Act which is really for definition for so many pieces of legislation, the definition of the word bank, anywhere you see the words bank or chartered bank, now that is going to have the broader meaning which includes credit unions. I think that that is very important.





I think it is also extremely important that we be supporting credit unions in Nova Scotia. Credit unions, as we all know, are community-based. The monies that are placed on deposit with those credit unions are reinvested in businesses and so on back within their communities. Whereas so many of the dollars that you deposit within your banks, those dollars are then invested elsewhere, out of the province and often, out of the country. I think it is extremely important as we are talking about economic development that, in fact, this kind of Interpretation Act amendment be done.



The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency is not here but I think and my understanding would be, and maybe I am wrong in this but I would like to get some clarification, at the present time the provincial government has the ability to guarantee some loans, like through the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, for particular small business development projects. Since credit unions are not a bank then the ability to be providing the same kind of guarantees to loans that may be being made to assist and develop local enterprises in Nova Scotia to get up and running, whether they be a cooperative venture or a private enterprise, that that kind of protection isn't there.



I believe and I hope that maybe the minister, when he wraps up, will be able to get the clarification on this but I believe that this will, in fact, mean that the kind of dollars and we have I believe in Nova Scotia combined assets of the credit unions of almost $1.2 billion. We have tremendous amounts of assets of the credit unions and there are millions of dollars that can be being invested back into the economy here in Nova Scotia and to help to promote the expansion and growth of new businesses and enterprises within our province.



I very much welcome this amendment, it has been a long time coming. I think that this is a very sensible way to go. I am sure that the different ministers will be making sure that the staff in their departments, those who are dealing with and making arrangements with banks and credit unions and so on, will be making them aware that now credit unions are also to be treated on an equal footing with the banks as a result of this. I can't help but think that this will have anything but a very positive impact for the many communities and credit unions across the Province of Nova Scotia and therefore that it will be indeed a very major benefit in the longer term for our province. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.



The honourable Minister of Transportation and Communications.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the members opposite for their comments. With respect to the last speaker, I believe the province has the authority through an Order in Council at the present time to really guarantee any loan, no matter what the financial institution. Yes, according to the Finance Minister and others, it would have that authority. So they certainly would be able to do this.



[1:00 p.m.]



Many of the laws on the books of the province, the Nova Scotia Statues, have requirements for depositing funds. Some of those Acts are, for example, trust funds held by law firms, real estate sales companies, insurance agencies, funeral directors and there are provisions in those Statutes on where funds may be deposited. This will now allow through this expanded definition for deposits to be made in credit unions and so that is what this really clears up. I believe it may be as many as 59 references in other Statues and it will allow that.



Whether the credit unions falls within the Bank Act, I guess you would have to look at the Credit Union Act for the powers given to the credit union; similarly with the trust companies, and that determination would be made. I would pass that on to the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs and perhaps that can be addressed later for the honourable member for Hants West.



So, Mr. Speaker, with that summation, I would move second reading on Bill No. 43.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 43. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



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. 44.



Bill No. 44 - Motor Vehicle Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Communications.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, the amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act contained in Bill No. 44 refer to seven or eight items. I will very briefly go through what those items are and the reasons for them and if the members opposite would offer comments, I would hopefully be able to answer any questions or at least take them under advisement.



The allowance to designate areas where golf carts can cross provincial highways. There are several areas in the Province of Nova Scotia where this actually occurs. However, the golf course owned by the federal government, the Cape Breton Highlands Golf Course in Cape Breton, for some time there has been a move afoot to have the course upgraded and improvements made and one of the difficulties that our federal counterparts have had in doing that is to accept the liability and the responsibility if golf carts were permitted to cross provincial highways because of the lack of legislation on the books to do that.



So this will now allow, for example, improvements to be made there; a cart pass to be installed. We have lost a lot of business in the Province of Nova Scotia to neighbouring provinces such as P.E.I. who offer golf holidays, if you will, because golfers have gone away from the Cape Breton Highlands Golf Course as a result of this type of problem. So this now will allow the federal government to go ahead and make significant improvements to one of the major tourist destinations on Cape Breton Island as well as apply to several other areas in Nova Scotia.



The creation or the appointment of district traffic authorities will comply with the regional municipalities' set-up and will allow the regional authorities to now be consistent and their mandate will be consistent within the boundaries of the newly created municipal units.



Removing the restriction of a school bus from 75 kilometres an hour to allow the school bus to travel at the posted speed on highways is a request that has come from the Nova Scotia Safety Council, from the Student Transportation Advisory Committee, from the Nova Scotia home and school associations and several other organizations.



Traffic engineering studies suggest that the safest speed to be travelling is the speed that other vehicles on the highway are travelling and some of the problems created when you have a vehicle that is restricted to a much slower speed is that the other unsuspecting traffic moving at a faster pace comes up on the vehicle which is moving slower and the different speeds create safety concerns. Also, frustration and risk-taking result from being caught behind a slower moving vehicle. So at the request of many agencies, safety agencies and home and school associations, we will remove that restriction and allow the school buses to travel at the same rate of speed as the other vehicles on the road.



We will now see that an abstract of a driver's record will be permissable in court. At present the abstract is not a document that is used in court. I would hope we would all agree that using a driving record would indicate an individual's practice, and how they have performed could be taken into consideration as the court determines decisions, Mr. Speaker.



Last year members will recall that we went through the Motor Vehicle Act and we addressed most of what I refer to as the moving violations, the dangerous infractions; leaving the scene of an accident, passing a school bus, dangerous and imprudent driving. We increased the fines to a more realistic level in amending that bill. One missed at that time was failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. We have increased that fine from $100 to $250.



There is another amendment here which allows compliance, through Order in Council, with the National Safety Code. What we have done with respect to the newly created municipality with respect to taxi zones, we are allowing the taxi zones which presently exist to remain in effect until such time as they are changed by the new municipal government. What this will do is prevent chaos, if you will, during the transition period when the new municipal unit is created and until such time as the matter has an opportunity to be dealt with. This is obviously at the request of the taxi drivers.



We have gone a step further with the taxi zones, we are allowing them to stay as they are, until the municipality has an opportunity to deal with them. Also we repeat the provision here where the number of taxi licenses for the accessible taxis cannot be limited by any municipal unit.



Mr. Speaker, I believe that would cover the amendments contained in the bill and I would move second reading.



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



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I generally support the amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act. The Minister of Transportation and Communications suggests that one of the changes in the bill will permit golfers using a golf cart to cross a highway. I guess that implies a motorized golf cart because I think you can presently take your chances and go back and forth with a manual cart. (Interruption)



It should be, yes. Mr. Speaker, there are also some changes here that affect taxis and taxi operators. He talks about a prescribed course and it also talks about zones and so on and so forth for taxis. I am sure the Minister of Transportation and Communications would have spoken with owner/operators and drivers and the municipal units that he talks about that now will have district traffic authorities and things of that nature.





I do have some concerns, however, and I must admit that I am somewhat of two minds relative to the changes to the maximum speed of a school bus. The minister has indicated now, as a result of this legislation, a school bus will be able to travel at the maximum speed, the posted speed limit, and as you know, Mr. Speaker, the speed limit maximum in Nova Scotia at the present time is 100 kilometres on some of our highways. When the much talked about and ballyhooed Highway No. 104, the western alignment, comes into existence, the posted speed limit I understand will be 110 kilometres. I don't know whether the minister has any concerns about our school buses travelling at 110 kilometres or not but I certainly do and I believe some parents in this province will have some concerns respecting the increased speed limit for school buses across this province.



Now, Mr. Speaker, I think you would agree and most people would agree that school bus drivers have lots of distractions. Of course one of them is looking after children on a bus. It certainly, perhaps, could be seen as an extra problem for the driver as he or she tries to match road speeds with other vehicles. The person driving the bus will have an additional responsibility because the children are not belted in . . .



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of clarification. The bill does not force the driver to go at the posted speed limit. It allows them to go at the posted speed limit. So if a driver is distracted, I would hope if a driver in any vehicle is distracted and feels that driving the posted speed is not safe, that they would drive at a speed that they would determine would be safe.



MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I did say at the outset that I am of two minds. I have experienced frustration at travelling behind school buses and I think there are few things that irk a busy motorist more than getting behind slow traffic and I appreciate that. The drivers in this province, our school bus drivers for the most part, are very competent, very responsible and caring individuals.



What I am trying to point out is that the school bus driver has lots of distractions. You know as well as I do that faster speed means the driver will have less time to pay attention to the children. We all know that the faster one goes relative to an accident the most likely there is that there will be an increase in personal injury. Should a person have an accident, the more likely there will be personal and property damage and things of that nature. It is certainly an area that I am sure the minister has given lots of concern.



I am sure the minister is aware that Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick do permit their school buses to travel the posted speed limit. I also have learned somewhat in a second-hand fashion that the Minister of Transportation and Communications has no studies, no data, he hasn't really done an analysis so to speak of how increasing the speed limit may or may not impact on the children. It is important that we put the children first and foremost, relative to this change.



I also would like to suggest just in conclusion that this is the third time this session that we have seen the Motor Vehicle Act and that Statute amended. This government purports to be very organized, extremely organized and very cost-conscious. I would recommend to the Minister of Transportation that he refer the Motor Vehicle Act to the Standing Committee on Economic Development for their review of that piece of legislation. If the minister is going to keep coming in every other day with amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act then obviously we have a problem and he is not as organized as he would have people to believe that he is. I recommend he refer the Motor Vehicle Act to the Standing Committee on Economic Development for their perusal if there are more amendments coming forward.



So, with that I will listen to other speakers. Thank you.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't golf so I am not going to talk about the first part but I do understand the reasons for it from the discussions and I support that.



There is really only one section of the bill that I want to raise a little bit of concern with. I would like to find out from the Safety Council and so on, I can understand and appreciate that as the minister said in his intervention - this is the section dealing with the speed of the school buses - that they can now go from 75 kilometres per hour up to the posted limit and not be restricted to the 75 kilometres.



I can appreciate that the drivers and I would say the drivers of our school buses are very mature, responsible and caring individuals, so they aren't going to be going and racing the buses down the highways if the driving conditions are unsafe, if there is any snow or whatever, I am not suggesting that for one minute. I am not suggesting that the school bus drivers won't be prudent if there is some disruption on their bus that they will try to take that into consideration when they are driving.



I still do have concerns because school buses aren't necessarily noted for being the safest vehicles on the road. When you and I get into our cars - and I can't remember the size of the fine and I hope I never have to find it out - if we are driving down the road and we do not have seatbelts on, we face a fine and the passengers in our vehicles face a fine. That is for safety reasons. School buses do not have seatbelts and they aren't necessarily considered to be the safest vehicles on the road. An operator of the vehicle, the driver, could be as prudent and as careful as possible, but they also have to keep their eyes on the road. They cannot constantly keep their eyes on the rear view mirror to watch if children are jumping and moving from one seat to another.



[1:15 p.m.]



As you increase the speed of that vehicle, I have concerns that that will have an impact. I hope and pray that it doesn't result in an injury but I am concerned that that could have a negative safety consequence for the children on those buses. I am curious as to the reason for that, why the speed limit is being increased. I don't mean to be or wish to be looking for or trying to cast aspersions or throwing out economic reasons, but, Mr. Speaker, as boards are being amalgamated, we do know that quotes have been obtained from companies like Laidlaw as to how much they could deliver the transportation of students in the Province of Nova Scotia. One of the ways to reduce the cost is to make it possible for those buses to travel greater distances. One way to make it possible for them to travel greater distances, especially those who are on the 100-Series Highways, is to be increasing the speed at which they can travel.



Now, Mr. Speaker, if they are going faster, then presumably they can cover more distance and therefore maybe carry more children or whatever and possibly eliminate some buses. I don't know. So I am wondering if that has any implication or any motivation behind the provision that is here. I can appreciate, too, that buses going down the road at a slower speed can impede the flow of traffic and that, too, can be seen as a dangerous situation. I am not denying that. I am not disputing that at all. What I am trying to wrestle with is, what is the greatest safety hazard and what is the greatest inconvenience? I am sorry if a vehicle is travelling down the road at a speed that is a little slower than I or somebody else who is behind it who may want to travel. That is an inconvenience, but I am not interested in solving an inconvenience if that means increasing the safety risk for the children who are being transported on the buses.



So I would like the minister, when he is wrapping up, and I am not trying to go through all of the different items in the bill. I support what the government is doing with the abilities, giving powers to municipalities, and the taxis and certainly the increasing of fines. This is the only thing in this bill that does cause me some concern and I would like to know if there are any kinds of studies, if there are any kinds of analyses that can be done, that show that, in fact, the overall safety is enhanced rather than going to be harmed by this. I would also like to know if the government is considering - and I think the school buses are regulated. I can't remember if that is through the Department of Transportation and Communications or if that is through the Utility and Review Board, but if it is through the Utility and Review Board, whether or not the government is thinking about making an intervention to require that seatbelts quite possibly be installed in school buses.



I would be less than honest if I didn't say that I have some concerns as to how increasing the speeds of those vehicles may impact upon the safety of the children. I certainly know that nobody in this House is willing to increase the risk or willing to see any child injured as a result of our increasing the speed limit. I am not suggesting that anybody in here would, because I don't think anybody in this House is willing to pay that price at all. So I would very much welcome finding out if there are any studies or any comparisons that have been done, whether it be here or somewhere else, in terms of what kind of safety impact this actually does have, and whether or not other precautions would also then be required to ensure the safety for those children who would be travelling in the vehicles at a higher speed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.



The honourable Minister of Transportation and Communications.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I will start with the comments of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and the reference, again I can only repeat, the bill will allow the buses to travel at the posted speed limit, it won't force them to do that. The underlying principle that any driver on the highway, whether it is you and I in our car or whether it is the driver of a tractor-trailer or the driver of a school bus, they are expected to drive as conditions allow and anyone who is driving faster than the conditions would suggest they drive, whether that is because of weather conditions, highway conditions, or distractions, they are putting themselves and everyone at risk. So this bill is not suggesting that anyone should drive faster than conditions would suggest they should drive.



The member made reference to the constant and often amended Motor Vehicle Act. Mr. Speaker, I would disagree with him that that shows a problem. That is good, it is very good that each and every year, all the time, on an ongoing basis, the Motor Vehicle Act is being reviewed. Our vehicles on our highways are changing, our highways are changing, and as we do that, the fine system, we are part of a system, the CCMTA - the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Association - where laws become applicable across the county that we have to comply with, a National Safety Code, so it is to the advantage of all Nova Scotians that the Motor Vehicle Act is amended and upgraded and enhanced on a continuous basis.





Former Ministers of Transportation in this House would know there is a book on proposed amendments in the department that is reviewed before each session of the Legislature to see what provisions can be amended, and will be included to try to get on the legislative agenda for that session. So I think it is a credit to the Department of Transportation, to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the people who do review these that the Act is amended and reviewed on a constant basis.



With respect to the comments of the Leader of the New Democratic Party, the design of school buses is a responsibility of Transport Canada and at CCMTA meetings, again the Canadian Council on Motor Transport Association, at annual meetings these issues are constantly reviewed, constantly studied. Transport Canada designs school buses; they are responsible for the designs that are permissible. The studies show that school buses would be safer on the highways or safer for the passengers if all the seats faced backwards. It has been determined that seatbelts are not a deterrent to serious accident on a school bus because the seats are so close together, the head injuries that would result in accidents and those types of things.



So Transport Canada looks at this, studies it and it is discussed with all provinces at the CCMTA meetings, but the safest design would be with all seats facing backwards; however, to date they have chosen not to do that. He is quite right when he says that the school buses in this province are regulated by the Utility and Review Board, in compliance with the Motor Carrier Act, not the Motor Vehicle Act, Madam Speaker.



He made reference to whether or not bids by people such as Laidlaw to provide transportation services to school boards was a factor in this bill; absolutely not. That is something which has come up very recently and this has been in the works for some time.



At present, school buses are permitted to travel the posted speed if they don't have students on them or if they are chartered and have other passengers. So the buses are permitted to do it but school buses when they have children in them are not permitted. It is not because of the inconvenience, he has misunderstood that point. It is drivers who are frustrated or inconvenienced that will put the school bus occupants at risk by trying to take chances to get by them in places where they shouldn't. So it is not the inconvenience to anyone, it is the safety and only the safety that is a factor in this.



Mr. Speaker, the way to make school buses safer for everyone is to reduce the number of accidents. The studies would show that reducing the number of accidents can best be achieved by having a regular flow of traffic. It is the problem we face right now today in the Wentworth Valley, the mix of speeds of all of the traffic, the high speed through-traffic, the slower speed local traffic coming in and out of driveways and businesses, that is what creates the safety hazard. That is why divided highways are so effective when you get the traffic going at one speed in one direction, it has proven to be safe. That is what the traffic engineers and the studies would suggest that allowing the school buses to travel at the posted speed is the best way to reduce the number of accidents.



It would be nice if we had a way to reduce all of the accidents but we all know that that is not likely to happen, let's hope it does but this amendment, we hope, will address it as best it can be at this time. I am very pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 44.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 44.



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



The motion is carried.



Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



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



The motion is carried.



[1:27 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]



[1:36 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]



MADAM SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:



THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bills:



Bill No. 24 - Wildlife Act.



Bill No. 25 - Government Records Act.



Bill No. 26 - Motor Vehicle Act.



Bill No. 27 - Railways Act.



and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.



MADAM SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read for a third time on a future day.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call Private and Local Bills for Second Reading.



PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 41 and in the absence of the minister, I would move second reading.



Bill No. 41 - Truro Curling Club (1995) Act.



Bill No. 42 - LaHave River Valley Heritage Association Act.



MADAM SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? The motion is for second reading of these bills. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, given the considerable progress that we made today, that concludes the government's business for this day. I would advise members that we will be sitting from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on Monday and we will commence with the order of business, Committee of the Whole House on Bills starting with Bill No. 28, the Regional Municipalities Act.



I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.



MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is carried.



We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.



[The House rose at 1:38 p.m.]





NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)



RESOLUTION NO. 622



By: Mr. John Holm (Leader of the New Democratic Party)



I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:



Whereas Monday in Truro, correctional officers will again use an information picket to emphasize their concern that this government prefers bringing Americans here to run our jails; and



Whereas money that could have been used to improve the correctional system has been wasted on years of consultants reports, with still more consultants to be hired; and



Whereas privatization and centralization have failed dismally whenever a misguided government imposed them on its correctional facilities;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to stop wasting time and money on jail junkets and consultants, and to start working in partnership with the correctional staff on realistic made-in-Nova Scotia improvement of the facilities.





HOUSE ORDER NO. 50



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 Economic Renewal Agency:



(1) Cost to the Nova Scotia Government to distribute 250,000 brochures about Nova Scotia in the American mid-west between Minneapolis and Detroit in the spring of this year and the method of their distribution, i.e., newspaper advertisements, distributed aboard flights on Northwest Airlines.



HOUSE ORDER NO. 51



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 Economic Renewal Agency:



(1) A copy of all correspondence between both the former and present Ministers for the Economic Renewal Agency in Nova Scotia and the Premier of New Brunswick and New Brunswick's Minister of Transportation relating to the construction of a ramp leading directly to the Nova Scotia Tourist Bureau at Amherst between August 1, 1994 and November 9, 1995.



HOUSE ORDER NO. 52



By: Dr. John Hamm (Leader of the Opposition)



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 Economic Renewal Agency:



(1) Cost of the Nova Scotia Government funded study to gauge the economic impact of the ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor;



(2) Specific information being sought by the province as a result of the study;



(3) Completion date of the study; and



(4) Details as to whether the study will be reviewed individually or collectively by Marine Atlantic and the federal and provincial governments.