MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. Let us begin the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas a world-class casino project, the Harrahs temporary and permanent casino in New Orleans, has just gone bankrupt; and
Whereas not only was Harrahs a finalist for the Liberal Government's casinos but the New Orleans plans, like Halifax, called for temporary then permanent casinos; and
Whereas in Halifax, as in New Orleans, the Vegas operators receive steady income but are shielded from full responsibility by use of corporate shells if they fail to hook enough gambling addicts;
Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the failed opportunities and mismanaged economic strategy of those Liberals who broke their promises to rely on gambling rather than secure, productive new enterprises for Nova Scotia.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Waive notice.
MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I have several requests for waiver of notice.
MADAM SPEAKER: Waiver has been requested.
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas almost two years after the fact, the families of three homes on Diamond Street are still awaiting word from government on the fate of their residences that were seriously damaged as a result of the collapse of the old Diamond Mine in Westville; and
Whereas the Liberal Government has tied this immediate problem of providing an answer to finalizing a solution to financing all cases of subsidence in the future; and
Whereas this indecision on behalf of this government as to whether or not these people should be compensated for their losses, at the very least out of compassion, has left these three families uncertain as to their future;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs offer a concrete solution, which is already terribly overdue for these three families.
MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Natural Resources is unclear as to the actual wood fibre leaving the Province of Nova Scotia; and
Whereas forest industry representatives are eagerly seeking answers from the Minister of Natural Resources as to the annual allowable cut of softwood permitted to leave Nova Scotia; and
Whereas it is estimated by a number of individuals associated with the forest industry that between 8 and 9 million cubic metres of softwood is either being consumed in or leaving the Province of Nova Scotia on an annual basis;
Therefore be it resolved that the minister come to terms with the ongoings in his department and come up with a credible solution before the forestry becomes extinct in Nova Scotia.
MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas this government is once again sitting on its hands as jobs and the potential for value-added industry leave Cape Breton at fire sale prices; and
Whereas workers occupying the IMP plant in the Northside Industrial Park are not so ready and willing to see public investment hauled out of Cape Breton; and
Whereas Cape Bretoners are right to be concerned when provincial Liberals are bent upon de-industrialization and training shutdowns, while federal Liberals are busy pushing everyone possible off UI;
Therefore be it resolved that this House encourages the government to seize the IMP shutdown as the opportunity to work with Cape Bretoners ready to fight for a strong, community-based economy.
MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Health repeatedly dismisses independent studies and evidence that points to longer treatment delays and growing waiting lists; and
Whereas in response to Opposition questioning regarding problems in accessing medically necessary services, the Minister of Health said Opposition members should provide him with the details and he will personally investigate each case; and
Whereas a 19 year old woman, who has been diagnosed with malignant melanoma, must wait six agonizing weeks for surgery that could mean life or death;
Therefore be it resolved that despite his unsubstantiated claims that waiting lists are getting shorter, the Minister of Health recognize that the health and well-being of Nova Scotians is being threatened as the Savage Government proceeds with ill-considered cuts to a system already seriously under strain.
MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Transportation Minister recently declared, with regard to the overspending on the Acadian Cultural Centre in Petit-de-Grat that, "`no one in the federal, provincial or municipal governments had authorized spending this money, yet it has been spent . . ."; and
Whereas the minister added that, "`. . . people have to learn there's no bucket of money that we can keep taking from . . .'"; and
Whereas the Education Minister chimed in, saying, "`we must have an accounting of what went wrong and where the dollars were spent . . .'";
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to heed those strong words from two senior ministers, by giving Cape Bretoners, metro residents and all Nova Scotians a public accounting of the many millions in unauthorized spending on amalgamation of regional municipalities.
MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas there appears to be no end in sight to the amount of job losses being inflicted upon Nova Scotians drawing a public sector paycheque in the Province of Nova Scotia; and
Whereas the latest round of job cuts is coming at the Department of Transportation where safety officers, school bus inspectors and road transport safety examiners are all scheduled to lose their jobs in the next couple of months; and
Whereas like health care, job cuts are being made in transportation without any thought of the impact such measures will have upon Nova Scotians;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation explain to Nova Scotians why he is cutting a number of transportation safety jobs, yet spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on backhoes that are not being used.
MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas federal Liberal MP Wayne Easter has correctly noted that unfair and unworkable unemployment insurance cutbacks are not improved by a seven year phase in; and
Whereas 15 years of UI cutbacks have left Canada with a higher unemployment rate, less labour mobility as witnessed in London, Ontario, and more barriers to training; and
Whereas any Liberal, federal or provincial, who endorses still more UI cuts on top of the 20 per cent cut this year alone, would return Canadians to the hopelessness of those who were forced to ride the rails and work for food;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the federal government to undertake a genuine employment strategy as it promised, rather than taking more steps down the failed road of massive, never-ending unemployment insurance cutbacks.
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask for waiver of notice.
MADAM SPEAKER: Waiver is requested.
I hear two Noes.
The notice is tabled.
If there are no further items of business arising under the the daily routine, we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 47.
Bill No. 47 - Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Act.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: I am very pleased to rise in my place and introduce today the Act to create the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. Madam Speaker, the QE II Act sets the stage which began some months ago to amalgamate four excellent health care facilities, four facilities that have a long tradition of service, a long tradition in terms not only of service to the public in patient care but also in terms of teaching and research.
This amalgamation which has been, in fact, considered for some years, Madam Speaker, is now about to become a reality with the introduction of this bill. The amalgamation of these four facilities will offer to the public of Nova Scotia an institution that will be, as the four are now, nationally renowned, if not world-renowned, in the field of health care.
The bringing together of the human resources and the research components and the aspects of health care in those four facilities into one institution will mean that we in Nova Scotia have taken another step on the road to the provision of a health care system that will be, in fact, nationally admired and locally of great value, as it now is.
When one looks at the traditions being brought together, Madam Speaker, in terms of each individual facility, one can appreciate something of the care, the investment, the work and the teaching represented by each of those facilities. We can stand, today, with gratitude and also in respect for what each of those institutions represents. To take a look at the place of these facilities and this particular proposed facility in the health care system of the province would mean that we could indeed be very proud of what the years have built up and the work of those many people involved in those facilities have done to provide to Nova Scotians an institution in which so many of them have had confidence and in which all us of share this pride. This is another step on the road to health renewal in this province. This move demonstrates a common sense approach using available resources efficiently, effectively, to build better than individually we could do.
The Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre will bring together those resources which will allow us to serve the public in a greater way with a patient load estimated at above 35,000 per year, with every element of teaching, research and service emphasized and balanced in a way that not many institutions could boast of. It will be by far the largest adult referral centre in Atlantic Canada and in fact, in Eastern Canada. Its ties with the academic environment and the university environment at Dalhousie places it, as we have seen in recent reports, on a level of which we can all be proud.
Merging these four institutions into one corporation called the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre will reflect the role and mission on a community, on a provincial and on a regional level. As we have seen from the clinical program outlined in recent weeks, the merger will provide to the citizens of the province a more efficient way of providing services - both in Halifax and to the regions of the province - to all Nova Scotians.
Clinical programs will be grouped according to specialty in order to enhance patient care. Consolidated these programs means that this institution will avoid the duplication of equipment, of supplies, of inventories and programs and will generate savings and operating funds that will be put toward the provision of service to people.
The care of people in need can be better planned through setting priorities in terms, for example, of scheduling surgical procedures, the development of standards and protocols, the reduction of waiting periods and an increased opportunity to provide specialized knowledge in terms of medical research.
The merging of four honoured and respected facilities and institutions into one health care facility is an example of where health change and health reform is heading. By this merger we will provide more efficient care, certainly. We will also have the ability to attract to that facility and to that institution, both research and clinical resources and human resources that can more fittingly and better serve the needs of the community.
This legislation allows for the preservation of those elements of the hospital system which are operating well, while enhancing those areas in which improvement must be made. Through taking the step towards merger, we are again putting action on words that we have heard in the past of improving clinical facilities and reducing duplication in all of those things that have, in fact, been spoken of for several years. It is an approach, I might say, that emphasizes a gradual and sensible shift to community-based programming. It emphasizes the role of even this large facility in the provision of community-centered services such as home care. It is a clear and forward move, Madam Speaker, in health reform.
Participation of this institution as well as others around the province in community programs such as health care and home hospital, emphasizes the role and the connection, if you would, between community and hospital resources around the province in programs such as home care which is well on its way to now serving 12,000 people in the province.
The Outreach Program from facilities such as the proposed Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre emphasizes for Nova Scotians the need for community resources and the cooperation between hospital and institutional resources in the communities. Madam Speaker, the creation of this institution is another step along the road to reform. I should like to, in closing my remarks, pay tribute to the excellent job that has been done by the board and management of that facility and the many workers there who have participated in the clinical programs, the redesign of clinical programs, the comprehensive plan for clinical programs that was announced earlier this week and the realignment of the sites at which those clinical programs would be carried out.
The introduction of this legislation gives the QE II the go-ahead to continue implementing this far-reaching and important plan, for the welfare of Nova Scotians. This legislation is, Madam Speaker, a product of the hundreds of hours of work by Nova Scotians interested in providing better health care. It demonstrates our commitment, as ministry and as government to working together with those who are daily carrying out their tasks in the system, working to improve the delivery of health services in the province.
The legislation, Madam Speaker, as well, is a product of two ministries of government working closely together; the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Health, working towards the provision, or the structure, if you would, around which this institution can build and build well. It is a joint effort of those two ministries combined with the work that has gone on for the past year at least, and even before that, in each of those four institutions that will come together to form this respected medical institution.
Within this legislation is an attempt woven through it to ensure that employees of all of the facilities and all employees are as equally and fairly treated as possible. As well, we have given great attention to emulate the work that has been done by those at site to improve the quality of patient management and to foster research and teaching.
Madam Speaker, I am very confident in this bill and what it attempts to do in relation to the progressive health reform in Nova Scotia. I am confident that it will provide a better instrument through which we, as government, in concert with communities and regional health and community health boards can move towards improving the level of care and community services in health.
So, Madam Speaker, I would move second reading of Bill No. 47, An Act to Amalgamate the Victoria General Hospital at Halifax, the Camp Hill Medical Centre, the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre Corporation and the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation of Nova Scotia to form the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. Thank you. (Applause)
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I was really disappointed in listening to the minister. I did give him the courtesy and listened intently to what he was saying about this bill. I do not feel as confident as he does. He addressed the philosophy of the merger but very little about the bill and how it affects the workers and how it affects the patients who are going to use this facility.
My question, Madam Speaker, obviously comes to mind, does he really know what is in the legislation when he says that the employees are going to be treated as equally as possible in this legislation? I don't believe he has. So I do not have the same confidence that he fully understands the impact of the legislation and the philosophy of why he merges the four institutions. There is a great deal of difference. I am very disappointed and I assume the reason that he did not address the legislation is because either he does not want to address it or does not want to be up-front of really what it says and what it is doing to the employees at the Victoria General Hospital.
I guess one has to ask about what this does for patient care? The minister talks about what the workers have done to work on clinical programs and to get them decided on where and who is going to provide what. Yes, workers have, whether it be on the management side or the union side, worked hard to address those issues, trusting this minister to address their issues on both the management side and the union side when the bill was put in the Legislature. I am afraid if I was them, I would have lost that trust. They have worked many hours, long hours, for an objective they felt was right.
You know, Madam Speaker, we now have a piece of legislation that does not do some of the things this government committed that it would do for the workers. This minister promised way back in November 1994. The then Leader of the Opposition asked about this merger and the cost-savings. This minister gave an undertaking that he would in every way be forthcoming in terms of costs, estimates, and other things as soon as they are available. This minister has not produced one document, not one document, but have confidence in me, he says, that this is going to save millions of dollars. Is it going to be saved on the backs of the workers? Is that where we are going to save the millions of dollars? There is absolutely nothing that he has produced that has done any analysis on the costs and estimates of this merger.
Now he announced this over a year ago, Madam Speaker, and at that time I asked in this Legislature why he wasn't bringing in legislation after the big announcement, with the Royal Visits because he wanted to be front and centre and he had a vision and a plaque to put up. Never mind the details, we will work those out later.
I said to the minister, my understanding is you will need legislation, when is it forthcoming? His answer to me was, you don't know the system; I don't need legislation, I can do it by regulation. So that is what he said in this House.
I said I don't think that is right. Later he finds out, when he starts to check the facts, which he should have checked before making the announcement, sorry, whoops, I made a mistake, I do need legislation, I can't do this merger without it. That was over a year ago.
Now we finally get the bill at the very end of this session and I have to ask about the motive as to why it comes in so late. It isn't as if they knew this bill had to come in a week ago, two weeks ago, a month ago, the minister announced during the summer that he made the mistake and this bill was going to come in this session. So the government figures if they can come in at the end of the session, because the Premier said we have to get out of here before Christmas, we are going to bring this legislation in so that the workers won't have a chance to understand, in actual fact, how this legislation is going to affect us. To me, that is not being up-front with anybody.
For the government to say it wasn't ready, I don't buy that either because they had over a year to get it ready. They had over a year to meet with the workers and to get an agreement that was agreed to not only by the previous government, but by this government when they decided to make the VG Hospital a non-government hospital like the rest of the hospitals in the province. There was an agreement worked out with the previous government and agreed to by this government and a Transition Agreement that gave the workers the kind of protection that they are asking for in this legislation.
This government didn't keep that commitment because that commitment is not in the legislation. You have to ask yourself why? Is it because they don't intend to keep any commitments they made? Or is it their intention not to keep the benefits that those workers already have?
We know that amalgamations in the past by this government, such as in Cape Breton, they say are going to save money and provide better government, and we know that the amalgamation in Cape Breton didn't save any money; it cost money and we are not sure about the services. Why? They didn't do the study.
Now this government announced this over a year and one-half ago. Where is the study that the minister promised we would have? Where was the time spent with the workers to ensure they would all agree when they saw the legislation as to how this legislation affects them? There certainly was no chance for the public, as patients, to have any say at all how, in fact, this might affect them.
I know that ever since this announcement, the workers have been waiting anxiously for the legislation because they have been having this held over their heads, about, in actual fact, how would this legislation affect them. We know that if there are 800 to 1,000 people who are going to lose their jobs because of this amalgamation, so the minister can get the savings he says he is going to get, how does that affect patient care? What study has the minister produced that says, in actual fact, the waiting lists are going to be smaller? He cites that all the time in this House about the waiting lists getting smaller and smaller. We keep getting calls that say they are getting larger and larger. The minister says, but I can produce a piece of paper. He told our Leader a week ago that he had that piece of paper. It is like everything else the minister promises, we never see it. It is committed to us in the House. He makes the commitment in the House, he walks out of the House and that's it, forgotten. Either the commitment is not real or he never plans to produce it to begin with.
I know that this legislation - and I want to talk about parts of it - and I know I can't get into it clause by clause, because in actual fact, when you look at the bill and you see the bill only has 26 clauses, you say, how can there be so many problems when the bill only has 26 clauses? There are major problems with much of the wording of these clauses. The minister talked about home care, and I have not read it in the legislation, in the merger about his outreach program, but it is not there. He can talk about that, but he can't talk about the details in the bill and I find that very strange.
We don't know, and I have heard conflicting reports and this has never been cleared up by the minister, about whether this QE II centre will be under the regional board eventually or will not. We are not sure, we don't know. If this hospital isn't under the regional board, will the Children's Hospital and the Grace Maternity Hospital be under the regional board? It is a question that I don't know if we know what is happening. So that question still begs for an answer out there because, as we know it under this legislation, the people will be working for a corporation.
I find that in this legislation the corporation, even though it is not in any way connected with the government - it is supposed to be a separate entity, even though all the directors, practically, are appointed in most cases, most of them are appointed by the government - it is debatable whether it is in actual fact a Crown Corporation, even though the legislation makes it not.
I am not sure, when we talk about waiting lists, I have not heard the minister say to me or anybody in this House, this is what is in the bill that will actually shorten waiting lists. I haven't figured that out. I have read the bill from one end to the other and there is absolutely nothing there that says to me that in actual fact Nova Scotians rest easy; this is part of our reform. Rest easy when you have cancer and you need it to be treated immediately.
AN HON. MEMBER: Wait six weeks.
MR. MOODY: It won't be six weeks any more, now that we have the merger. It will be a matter of days, hours, I am not sure, but there is nothing in the legislation that says to me, because, what the minister failed to do was any kind of study that would prove to me that in actual fact, with 800 to 1,000 less people, we are going to be able to care for you quicker.
Nobody has talked about the cost of the merger and moving much of this equipment around from one hospital to the other and the renovations taking place. Is that going to cost $50 million? Is that going to cost $100 million? Is it going to cost $500 million? I have heard that figure thrown around. How much is it actually going to cost to move some of this equipment? I have heard that they wanted to move the MRI to the Camp Hill complex, but in actual fact, they would have to buy a new one, and I know that MRI was just replaced, I think, within the last year.
So what studies have been done to indicate all the costs of moving equipment and moving all of these things around when in actual fact the minister says this merger is actually going to save money? So we have four institutions - and the thing that I heard the minister say that I agree with that we have had four excellent institutions - and we have had staff of high quality in all those institutions. Although I would have to say that as of now, those people are being, I know, worked off their feet. What is going to happen to these people when we have fewer people putting through more patients after this Act actually comes into effect.
Now, is the minister saying that this is part of the renewal or is it part of the cost-cutting measures by this government? There is a great deal of difference between cost-cutting in health care and renewal or reform in health care. It isn't clear to me that one could get up and argue that by reading this legislation that in actual fact this government is going to have reform. When you lay off 800 to 1,000 people you are going to take many benefits, as I see this bill, away from some people. There are workers under the Civil Service Act who very clearly are going to lose benefits, let alone what other benefits we don't know about that management and others are going to lose, and even the other workers, then I don't see anything in this bill that guarantees a worker that he will have the same tomorrow as they have today. We all understand that through collective bargaining that may change, but it is not fair for the government to come in through a piece of legislation and say, we are going to take this away from you, without any bargaining whatsoever.
I know that in every institution there are waiting lists. I just had a case on the weekend where a man was rushed to the Victoria General, at 8:00 o'clock at night, rushed back to the Valley in an ambulance at 4:00 o'clock because they had no bed. We know that this is happening. I don't think there is any one of us that can't stand up and say that this is happening when we talk about waiting lists. I know at the Rehab there are waiting lists. I know that about a year ago they went from 62 beds to 63 beds and then they went back to 62 beds because they had an emergency. They didn't have an emergency two years prior to that, they haven't had an emergency since. One has to ask, what was that emergency? Obviously, it was someone who had more connections than most of us have.
The labour package does not deal with situations that I think will make a smooth transition. The government had very much of an opportunity, by agreeing to the Transition Agreement they agreed to in the fall of 1993, put it in this legislation and, in actual fact, we would have came out the other end, which I think would have been a smooth transition. We probably wouldn't have had a lot of opposition to this legislation by union workers. We might have had some questions raised, obviously, by other workers and management when they read the legislation because it doesn't give them a lot of protection either. If the government had sat down prior to introducing the legislation and got an agreement, then I think this bill would have probably had fairly smooth sailing. This bill isn't going to get smooth sailing, because the workers see very clearly that they are going to lose benefits by this bill without going the collective bargaining route.
I expect what the government wants to do is pass the buck on to the corporation or to the Labour Relations Board. So the government will say, our intention was to make sure you didn't lose anything but in the process, somebody else took it away from you. I notice the minister didn't mention any of that in his opening remarks; not once did he give us the assurance in the wording of this bill and didn't mention the Transition Agreement that he once agreed to. We didn't hear any words to that effect at all.
If all employees are to become employees of the corporation it doesn't include management. If you read and go back to Clause 17, I don't want to get into the specific clauses, but if you go through, it you will very clearly see that there are some major questions about what employees are, how they are described and how it affects them.
Maybe we could first talk about the NSGEU members because they seem to be losing outside and they seem on the surface very quickly to be probably losing the most from this agreement. Not the Transition Agreement but by the bill. There is no question that in this agreement and I haven't figured out the government's position yet on pay equity. If I understand this agreement; the minister talks about the rights of women - and I notice he is wearing his ribbon today - but if we really believe in pay equity why in this bill have we taken out the Pay Equity Act. In other words, the Pay Equity Act that is in place will not apply to the corporation after this bill is put in place.
In other words, the corporation isn't required to pay pay equity under the Pay Equity Act. If the Pay Equity Act was not taken out by this Bill No. 47, those that have pay equity would have it and the other workers, through collective bargaining, might be able to achieve pay equity. They won't be able to if this legislation passes because what this government is saying is that we don't support pay equity. We are going to make sure under Clause 20(1) that these agreements under Sections 14 and 16 of the Pay Equity Act are binding on the Department of Human Resources under Section 21 of the Pay Equity Act but under this bill we are saying, no, it doesn't apply.
I don't know why this government is not committed to pay equity. We can understand that under the present restraint Act maybe they cannot pay pay equity at the present time. What they are doing in this legislation is preventing the new Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre corporation from paying pay equity at a later time. So that very clearly says to me that this government is not in favour of pay equity. They are not in favour of people working side by side and receiving value.
Most of these people, not all, are women. There are some males, obviously, who come under pay equity but most of them are women. For this government to make sure that the corporation doesn't come under the Pay Equity Act after this bill is passed, I believe, is unfair. It wouldn't commit the government to immediately pay all of these people pay equity that aren't in the plan but it would allow these people to bargain for pay equity down the road when funds were available. So it says very clearly to me that I cannot but understand that saying that that is what it does - and I think the minister would agree that is what it does. I think every legal person I have talked to agrees that is what it does. It is the hidden agenda of this government not to allow pay equity down the road in any other cases other than where it is now. It is one thing to say that we haven't got the money to promote pay equity, but it is the second thing in this bill to ensure the corporation cannot pay it for those who aren't on it, even if they want to. That to me is a very major issue that this government is going to have to address because it clearly sends a signal from one end of this province to another, not only in this legislation but it sends a signal from one of this province to the other on this government's commitment to pay equity and to women who have fought so hard to get the Pay Equity Act in place, and now to find that this government is going to make sure that the bill does not apply to this new corporation. So I believe that issue is a very important issue.
The question of early retirement, I know when the Transition Agreement was put together, the early retirement package wasn't in place. We now find ourselves with the scenario that someone who is in the Civil Service and, say, was going to take early retirement in January or probably in the next 12 months, in the interim period, then this legislation won't allow that to happen. So until the argument can be made, until the Labour Relations Board may rule on many of these issues, then they don't know. So there is no commitment in this bill to recognize or to commit the corporation to honour that early retirement package that was given to those people, that runs to 1998, that these people, in actual fact, under the new corporation, will still be able to qualify to take that early retirement.
A long-term disability is one where members of the Civil Service are in the Civil Service long-term disability plan, which takes in about 15,000 people. Obviously the more people you have in a plan, the cheaper the plan is. That is common sense.
What this bill does is it now takes them out to a disability plan provided by the QE II, which could end up being 5,000 people. I guess does that mean a greater cost to the employee and maybe to the institution? What happens to the people who are already on long-term disability? So there are major questions that come out of this bill regarding that issue.
What these people are saying, who were already in this plan, is that we pay a certain rate, we know and agree with what the benefits are, until such as time as, through collective bargaining, we decide to go to another plan, then why is it that we can't stay in the present plan? It makes perfectly good sense to me.
Probably, the biggest overall area is when we get into statutory rights. I guess that is what we hope the minister will address, statutory rights. Of course that applies under the Civil Service Act with regard to statutory rights. There are many things that come under the present collective agreement under statutory rights, whether it is the Public Service Superannuation Act or the Civil Service Act, there are many things under those Acts that these people have that will be missing, at least for however long it takes the Labour Relations Board to meet and to decide and there now begins to be a line up.
With the ruling that was on the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, we are not sure if many of these things will be protected. We have the metro amalgamation, those people, I am sure, will be before the Labours Relations Board. I am sure on the new Education Act, those people will be there. Then we are going to have these people lining up. So, for someone to say, not to worry, we will get these things sorted out in a matter of a short time; well, it is a matter of months, it could be a year or longer before the matter is resolved. What happens in the interim to these people? Right now, if another job becomes available in government they have, obviously, some right to apply for that job but they won't have when we have this Act.
I know that the nurses at Camp Hill who are not members of the NSGEU, they have an agreement that says that they can't be laid off because of a merger. But that was a collective agreement. Is this government breaking that agreement or will they say that the Labour Relations Board will actually break the agreement so that we can obviously lay people off because of the merger? So, I guess if this minister, who was sincere in dealing with all the workers - be it the Victoria General or Camp Hill or the Cancer Treatment Centre or the Rehab - would have spent some time with these people to give them some assurances that after day one, after this Act is passed, that they have lost nothing until they have a chance to collectively bargain for whatever it is they are going to have in the future. That is called democracy.
Democracy doesn't start with this government coming in and saying, okay, folks, we are going to change the rules of what you have agreed to and we are going to change them because the Minister of Health wants to save $50 million a year and he wants to save $20 million a year at these four complexes, he is going to take it out of the budget. The only way we can do that is obviously on the backs of the workers, basically, that is what he is saying, without giving the workers the opportunity to bargain. So, we are not sure how they are going to get around some of these very important issues.
I know there is probably not a worker at any one of those institutions, having read this legislation - if they can interpret it all, because there are some parts that I am having trouble with and I am sure there are others, on what it actually means - that now, I think, would feel, I am sure, less insecure than they did before they saw the legislation (Interruption) Less secure, yes, more insecure, sorry, less secure, more insecure.
I am sure they are more worried after seeing the legislation than they were prior to seeing the legislation, and they should be more worried because the government didn't keep the commitment. Now the trust is starting to disappear because when you think you have an agreement with the government in 1993 that, yes, everything is fine in the Transition Agreement and then you see the legislation and it is not fine, where is the trust? Doesn't government understand that when you are dealing with workers, you have to build trust and then you have to keep that trust?
Well, now that trust is gone. I don't think that if I was a worker, after reading the legislation, from management down, that I would have any comfort in knowing that I was going to be treated the way the minister said I was going to be treated; that is equally and fairly after this legislation is passed.
AN HON. MEMBER: You have five more minutes.
MR. MOODY: I have 20 more minutes. I believe I have about . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: You commenced at 2:26 p.m.
MR. MOODY: Yes, that is what I thought. Somebody said I had five minutes, but I was sure it was more. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.
So that is part of the difficulty. So what will happen at the Labour Relations Board is quite unclear, although what happened with the Cape Breton regional legislation and those workers who had to compete for their own jobs and many of them were stripped of their jobs, the decision that came out of there, when people look at what happened there and now that the government here in this legislation has a very similar clause, I would begin to get worried, whether you are an MCP at the management level or whether you are a union person.
You know one of the things that we were criticized for was building buildings. But now the minister says that Camp Hill, the replacement for the Halifax Infirmary, is allowing us to efficiently provide programs and stop duplication. I know there were ministers who used the excuse that they have no money because buildings like the replacement for the Halifax Infirmary was built and that was wrong; they said that was wrong. Well, now they are saying that that new complex is allowing us to provide a quality of service that is second to none. So what is it? Would the merger have been easy with the old Halifax Infirmary? I don't know, we are not sure whether it would have been or not.
The question I have to ask, that has not been answered, is that even though we could decide to stop duplication and we could decide to have one out-patient facility between the Halifax Infirmary and the VG Hospital, if that is the issue and we could say that we could provide better care and economically we could do it at less cost and provide better care by having one out-patient facility, did we have to merge the four institutions to do that? Is that what we had to do to do that? Could we, in any way, have provided, if there had been a cost-analysis done and a study done on the merger versus doing these things without a merger, then we might have known, Madam Speaker, in actual fact, where the cost-savings are and whether or not we needed to merge the four institutions to achieve what we are trying to achieve. If we had not merged the four of them, but allowed them to do away with the duplication that the minister talks about, how would that have affected the workers?
Where is the study or the consultation that the minister said on November 14th would happen, and he would provide us with the information of 1994, how come a year later, none of that happened? None of those studies were done and we are now still introducing legislation on the minister's words that we're going to save money, we are going to provide better quality care, but we have to trust him because he is confident that is what it is going to do. But he hasn't produced a shred of paper that will back up what he says.
That is what I am having difficulty with, trying to understand. The minister at one point tabled a whole bunch of studies in this House that had absolutely nothing to do with his vision of this merger. Yes, it talked about maybe having one out-patient department, but it didn't talk about having to merge all of these institutions into one.
In the legislation it is very clear that workers are going to get less. That is very clear. How much of the millions of dollars the minister says he is going to save, up to $50 million, is going to come on the backs of the workers, how much? The bottom line is, if it comes on the backs of the workers, it does affect the quality of care. Every one of us knows that. Every one of us understands that. We know that the people who provide the care, the front-line hospital workers, are the ones who provide the front-line care. If they are missing, how in the world are we going to believe the minister when he says that the waiting lists will get less?
What does this legislation do for specialists, because - and I believe this to be true, Madam Speaker - in the past we have been very proud of the specialists that we have had at these four institutions. Some of them are world known for their work. We have had some terrific work in ophthalmology. I could start on many of the areas of specialty where I think you could get treatment here as good as you could anywhere. But because of this government's policy, we see them leaving - whether it is neurologists, neurosurgeons, orthopaedics or we could go on and on, where people are leaving - and they only decided to leave because they felt they were not part of the reform. They were left out of the minister's vision. He was going to reform the system without them. When they felt they couldn't provide good patient care, they decided that they had no alternative but to leave this province.
I have talked about the area of cancer treatment, as well, radiation oncologists. I think my colleague, the member for Kings North, alluded to that today, about the father of a child writing him. I can imagine any one of us having a son or daughter, a mom or dad, brother or sister, and the anxiety. We all know that early detection of cancer is so vital. We all know the early treatment of cancer is so vital. If that is true, why are the waiting lists getting longer and longer? I was shown a waiting list, with the names taken off, of how long they are getting. When my colleague gets a letter like he did it just proves the fact that anybody we know might be in that situation. What does this bill do to solve that problem? Absolutely nothing. There are no guarantees.
The minister talked about home care in describing this bill to us today. I didn't see the words in the bill, absolutely not. The minister described it as part of his introduction to Bill No. 47. We had a case of a patient moved to nine different rooms in eight days. We are going to downsize, we are going to have less rooms when this merger takes place. We are going to have less rooms to put people.
We know they are going to try to improve the area of day surgery and I support increasing day surgery. I don't think anyone would argue that. When you think about the Victoria General Hospital and the Infirmary and the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, they are tertiary care facilities. The kinds of people we get in those facilities are the most sick. They are referred from hospitals not only across this province, they are referred from hospitals across Atlantic Canada. In many cases, every one of us who lives outside of metro knows you can go to the Victoria General Hospital on almost any given night and know someone from the Valley there, and the same with the Infirmary. Why are they there? Because they are very, very sick is why they were referred there. They couldn't do the procedure in the Valley or they couldn't diagnose to find out what was wrong with the person in the Valley. Here we have the top minds and the equipment to deal, as a tertiary care institution, with these kinds of situations.
Now we are going to tell people that the excuse for making everything smaller is because we are going to merge. The minister stood up today and said that because of the merger you are not going to have to wait as long. There are going to be less beds, there are going to be less people looking after you, but we are going to get you through quicker. I don't know how that is possible, I really don't. These institutions have moved to day surgery in many cases already. These institutions are buying in bulk form. They have taken the fat out of the system. The management levels have been squeezed down, the number of nurses on the floor has been squeezed down. Everything has been squeezed as tight as it can be squeezed in running those institutions; it has been squeezed to the bare bones. If you squeeze everything out of the system and you are going to take millions of dollars more, then you take out people.
I have to tell you that there is one area I don't think you can take any more people from and that is health care. Surely there has to be some sacred cow by this government that understands that in health care we are dealing with the human side where you need compassion and you need people to make sure that people don't have long, undue suffering. In the case of reducing this, you are putting people's lives at risk. You can't put a value on a life. This government doesn't want to do that. Every one of us wants the best care possible. We are not going to be asking people to do that without the resources. If that is the case, let's tell them, let's be up-front. Let's not give a big speech that says everything is going to be better and the waiting lists are going to be less and you are going to be looked after better, but there are going to be less people looking after you and everything is going to be great, don't worry. Don't tell people that.
When they announced about the incentive package and how many less people were going to be working in the health care system in the province, the minister would not give a number, he doesn't want people to worry. People are worried and people as patients are worried and that is continuing.
Madam Speaker, those are the kinds of issues that I think this bill has to address. I am hoping that at some point we can get from the minister, prior to this bill being passed in this House, some commitments. This bill reminds me a little bit of the Education Bill and the fact that when the minister introduced the Education Bill he said how wonderful the bill was and the other day the Minister of Health said how wonderful the bill was.
When I looked at the bill quickly last Thursday, I had some concerns. But in spending the weekend looking at the bill, I have a lot more concerns going over this bill clause by clause. Madam Speaker, I think that, hopefully, we will be spending a number of days on this bill so that at some point the minister will be able to get up and explain to us how, in actual fact, this bill will help patients, what studies have been done to measure the financial impact that he talks about and also, thirdly, a guarantee to the dedicated, hardworking health care workers who are under a lot of stress, who deal with crises on a day to day basis, in many cases dealing with lives on a day to day basis obviously and with fewer resources, how in the world are we going to be sure that they are protected under this legislation?
If we could get those commitments from the government, then I am sure we would be willing to pass this bill without undue delay. But until we get that commitment from the minister, then I am sure we will be talking about this bill for many days to come.
I know the union is meeting with the government this afternoon and maybe it just will happen as it happened with the teachers, although I think the teachers were sold, in some areas where they probably have some concern now, a bill of goods. Will we find this government will quickly agree to a lot of amendments that are being proposed by the workers, the NSGEU for example, will they quickly agree to this? If that is the case we don't need to spend days and days arguing about the bill. So it is going to be in the government's hands. I believe if we don't get an agreement - because I came back to the office today and I have had dozens of calls from workers at the hospitals who have grave concerns about this legislation, some want to register their complaints, some want me to call them back but they say, Mr. Moody, don't quickly pass this bill until we can get some clarification and some commitment from this government, so that is the process we are into on Bill No. 47 - I am sure before we are done, we will have some amendments to clarify some of this.
I look forward, Madam Speaker, to speaking, somewhere along the way, on this legislation either through an amendment or through clause by clause as we go to committee, or both, on this poorly drafted piece of legislation, because that is what it is, either on purpose or by reason of incompetence, as my colleague said - but I think it was by design, on purpose, in a devious way - that now people are finding out it is not what they thought it would be.
Madam Speaker, I know I have only a couple of minutes left, but I just want to say that I was hoping when this bill came in that I would be getting up and supporting this bill for all the right reasons. At this point, I can't support the legislation, the way that it is drafted. I wanted so much to do that. You know the minister talked about all the time being spent by the workers, and they have spent a great deal of time, management and unions, to try to look at clinical practices, and so forth, and to look at many things in a merger that the government has announced it, it is going to happen, we can't stop it so we are going to work with government to make it happen.
They worked with government but the government didn't keep their end of the bargain when they drafted the legislation. That is what I have difficulty with. If government changes that and keeps their commitment that they made to the NSGEU in 1993, then I will support this bill. I will send it along quickly and we can get on with it. Until that happens, I am going to fight not only for the patients that visit those facilities, but I am going to fight for the workers that work in those facilities. I make that commitment.
I look forward, Madam Speaker, to other members speaking on this bill and having, hopefully, another opportunity to go over some of the points that I think are very valid. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak this afternoon on Bill No. 47, An Act to Amalgamate the Victoria General Hospital at Halifax, the Camp Hill Medical Centre, the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre Corporation and the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation of Nova Scotia to form the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.
Madam Speaker, as far as I am concerned, the principle of this bill, and I will focus some attention on that this afternoon, this is a bill intended to cut money out of the health care system in Nova Scotia, to cut people out of the health care system in Nova Scotia, to reorganize how health care is delivered here in Halifax, in the metro area, and how that will affect people from one end of this province to the other. I will contend and argue that this decision was reached on the basis simply of the need to cut costs out of the system, that there is absolutely no linkage between the decision to merge these hospitals and any evidence that it will mean an improvement in quality of care to Nova Scotians. I will also suggest that there is absolutely no evidence to conclude that this merger will actually lead to a reduction in costs, to a saving of money.
Madam Speaker, I think it is important to look at what is happening in Halifax right now. Halifax is not dissimilar to what is happening in Nova Scotia in terms of the delivery of health care services to Nova Scotians. The system in Halifax, as it is in many places in this province, is under a great deal of stress. In 1993-94 there were 2,500 health care workers taken out of the system, Madam Speaker. The hospital beds from one end of this province to the other have been reduced by 25 per cent.
The minister will argue - and I will give him his due to some extent - that hospital beds are not a measure of health care or the quality of health care, Madam Speaker. Nonetheless, when you combine the number of people taken out of the system who deliver health care, with the number of hospital beds that have been taken out of the system and when you realize the lack of services that have been put in the community to replace that, you can come to only one conclusion, that is that Nova Scotians have been experiencing a deterioration in their health care services ever since this government came into power.
Right now in Halifax, Madam Speaker, waiting lists for elective surgery, for example, have grown to at least seven months. When I talk about elective surgery we are talking about things like coronary by-pass, we are talking about people needing hip replacements, people needing to be put back in a physical condition so that they can continue to earn money for their families, can continue to support their families and continue to operate and function in their community.
What we are finding is that with these kinds of waiting lists is that there is a further pressure on not only the health care providers but also people who are trying to get access to health care services in this province. Because of the pressure, because of the lack of people, because of the lack of resources in the system, the pressure is continuing to mount, not only on the people who are trying to maintain the system, the physicians, the nurses, the CNAs, the orderlies, the people who clean and care for the hospitals, the people who deliver clean linen, the people who provide food services for people in the hospitals, not only is the pressure building on them, Madam Speaker, but the pressure is building on each and every family member who has exposure to the health care system in this province.
When the minister initially announced the merger of the QE II back in July 1994 and here today, while he has gone to great lengths to talk to us about our institutions and this institution being nationally renowned, world renowned and the fact that it will continue to provide world-class services and, in fact, just the very process of merging these facilities, will improve the quality of health care to Nova Scotians, the reality is that the Minister of Health cannot make these claims. He has been unable to substantiate by providing any analysis whatsoever that, in fact, by merging these four health care institutions together, by reorganizing the delivery of health care in those institutions, it is going to mean anything positive to Nova Scotians, to people in Halifax, to people across this province. As we are beginning to see this plan take shape, I think we all need to be very much aware of what people in other parts of this country understand, where these kinds of mergers have taken place, that, in fact, the costs are not only going to be huge at the outset but the costs will continue for many years to come for various reasons, including things as simple as needing to transport patients from one part of the merged facility to another within that new arrangement, Madam Speaker.
Not only does the minister make that claim of being able to improve on the quality of service provided to Nova Scotians by the result of this merger, but he is also taking all of the employees, up to 7,000 employees, Madam Speaker, in each of those four institutions and bringing them together and doing it in such a way that it is putting in jeopardy many of the rights, benefits and privileges that these employees have bargained collectively and fairly for over so many years. That is being done with the stroke of a pen. I will talk in some detail later on in my comments as to what, in fact, is being done. Clearly, there are provisions within this bill which override many, if not all, freely bargained rights or benefits. We would suggest that that is being done in a very clear and calculated way, in order to free up the employers to be able to manage as they see fit.
HON. JAY ABBASS: On a point of order, Madam Speaker, given that I am not the Minister of Health, I am not certain that this is totally in keeping with House procedure, but if I am given the opportunity, I will rise as often as needed to counteract the member opposite's freewheeling treatment of the truth. He is misleading both the House and several people in the gallery who have been misled in the last two days over the contents of this particular bill.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Withdraw, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: I hear a number of members saying, "Withdraw, Madam Speaker.". I am not sure if they are referring to me to withdraw or the comment misleading. I would comment that this is not a point of order. We attempt not to use language such as misleading in this House. It particularly becomes unparliamentary language when the words deliberately misleading are used, and not misleading. Nevertheless, misleading is not a word we tend to use. It is not a point of order, it is a point of information. Thank you.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, I would like to rise on a point of order. I know very well from previous experiences with you that when you are in the Chair, when you use a word that is unparliamentary, you require that person to either withdraw it or leave the Chamber, one or the other.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable member, but your point is not a point of order.
MR. ABBASS: I would be happy to withdraw the unparliamentary usage of terminology and simply say that the member opposite is plain wrong.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you for withdrawing the word misleading, but I would just state again for the record that in all the lists that I have of unparliamentary language, it is deliberately misleading that is listed. You can all note that.
MR. CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I am pleased that the Minister of Human Resources got to his feet to participate at least in a minor way in this debate, because, in fact, he and his department have played a monumental role in the crafting of this legislation and I would suggest and plan on getting to that at some point a little bit along here in terms of detailing the problems and the concerns that I have with the way that this legislation has been crafted. Suffice it to say that regardless of the assurances that this minister makes and that the Minister of Health makes that everything is okay, I would suggest that the union representing the employees who are covered under the Civil Service Act, their legal representatives are not people that will easily be convinced.
I would also suggest that unfortunately this government, this minister included, does not have the capital out there in order to just simply go around and say, trust us and it will be okay. People want to see clarification in this legislation, clarification that in fact their rights and benefits under the collective agreement and under all other Statutes that they are now affected by are protected and we will continue to push for those provisions to be included in the legislation.
Back when this merger was announced by the Minister of Health, in July 1994, he referred to a business plan. He referred to the fact that this merger had been based on discussion among somebody but we have never been able to determine who, in fact, participated in those discussions. We have not been able to determine how the minister and this government came to the conclusion that merging these four health care institutions would bring anything about that was in any way, shape or form positive for the health care system and for the Province of Nova Scotia.
We have asked for that business plan repeatedly. We have asked for any cost-benefit analysis that may or may not have been completed. We have done freedom of information requests in both October 1994 and again in September 1995 on this matter, as well as raising questions on a number of occasions here in this House. Unfortunately, despite assertions to the contrary, the minister and his department have been unable to produce any report that would confirm that this decision was based on anything other than anecdotal evidence, based on anything other than a whim and a wish of the Minister of Health.
We have had a debate in this House ongoing now since this minister tabled in the House the Blueprint Committee's report on the reform of the health care system. We have discussed whether or not the minister is following the recommendations of the Blueprint Committee. This was raised back in July 1994, shortly after the announcement was made and it has been raised since. How does the merging of all of these services and these four major institutions fit in with the recommendations of the Blueprint Committee Report? We have also asked where are the plans and where are the cost-benefit analyses.
In the Blueprint Committee recommendations it quite clearly suggests that a human resources advisory committee be established to report on a comprehensive health human resource strategy based on population health needs. Here we have a very significant readjustment within the health care system without there being any human resource advisory committee and without there being any needs assessment done of the population here in Halifax or across the province.
Also in the Blueprint Committee Report are the issues of wage disparity pay equity standards of employment. It was recommended by the Blueprint Committee on Page 23 that these questions had to be dealt with that in order to achieve the objectives of a reformed system the Blueprint Committee suggested that matters with respect to wage disparity, pay equity standards of employment should be addressed. What we are seeing in this legislation and I will talk about this in more detail later, is that this is being addressed if you consider the recommendations of the Blueprint Committee, the government is addressing it by ignoring it or by trying to wipe it away as they have done with pay equity.
Instead of sitting down and trying to resolve the issue in the best interests of a smooth transition, taking into consideration the history, the skills and the experience, the wealth of knowledge that is there in the hands of health care providers. Instead of doing that we are getting another example of the government putting in place systems which create chaos, distrust, disillusionment and discouragement amongst the people that are delivering these services.
On Page 48 of the Blueprint Committee Report, it speaks quite clearly about the problems with Civil Service employees when it says, Madam Speaker, that the Department of Health will no longer be involved in delivering direct care. It says that there will be obvious implications for Civil Service employees and it says no transfer should take place until there is proper legislative framework which protects employee's rights, not just salary and benefits as one provision within the bill does, but rights and, as I will return to later, the question of rights is extremely important because of the fact that these civil servants, many of their working conditions are affected by government Statutes, by orders outside of orders of this Legislature or of the Governor in Council that are outside of the collective agreement. If you merely transfer the collective agreement you are leaving behind a whole host of rights that have been granted under Statute, under the Civil Service Act and that is extremely important.
The point, again raised in the Blueprint Committee, Madam Speaker, on this issue is the fact that if you are going to move towards a reformed system, if you are going to reach objectives, you need all stakeholders to be a part of that. You need all stakeholders to have trust in the process and have a commitment to the process and the only way to do that is to participate in a fair and open manner and ensure that the rights and the benefits and the privileges of employees are protected throughout that process.
Madam Speaker, again, we have suggested that the minister has not given us any indication yet why this merger has been done, we suggested that the merger has absolutely nothing to do with the Blueprint Committee. With the minister's own Blueprint for Health System Reform which tabled its report in April 1994 here in the Legislature and which the minister has, from time to time, wanted to use as his justification for doing certain things, but what I have tried to argue time and time again is that the minister has strayed far from the recommendations of the Blueprint Committee Report and this is another example of where that in fact has been done.
I do not come at this whole question of the government proceeding with this merger without some understanding of the potential problems. Madam Speaker, at the same time that we have tried to collect information from the government, from the Minister of Health on the basis upon which they are carrying out their activities, we have had the opportunity to review a document that was completed in September 1995 out of McMaster University, entitled Review of the Multi-Hospital Arrangements, and it was primarily a literature review.
The significance of this review is that the researchers, the authors of this document canvassed not only all mergers, and what they call mergers and multi-unit arrangements, to determine on what basis the move, the step was taken to merge facilities or to engage in other less extensive arrangements, they attempted, through the literature, to identify on what basis these decisions were made not only here in Canada, but also in the United States. What they found, Madam Speaker, is somewhat alarming, but it fits very much into the situation here in Nova Scotia, is that decisions to merge or to engage in other less extensive cost-sharing arrangements have been done, backed by little solid evidence that such means will achieve their intended goals.
They also raise the concern that was obtained through their research, that sometimes these kinds of arrangements can be as harmful as they are beneficial. They suggest that the evidence that such arrangements would provide for increased efficiency, in almost all cases was simply anecdotal, Madam Speaker. In other words, as in the case of the Minister of Health when he rose on second reading, he believes that this is going to be a good thing for Nova Scotians. He is convinced that not only are millions of dollars going to be saved, but he is convinced that the new QE II will be able to deliver health services more effectively. The problem is that he has provided us absolutely no evidence to support those claims.
While the minister is entitled to have as many dreams and wishes and beliefs as he wants, when it comes to having an impact and effect on not only the cost of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia but, more importantly, the ability of Nova Scotians to access health care in this province. I wish at least, and I think many Nova Scotians wish, that the Minister of Health would proceed on such ventures as this with a little more evidence of the results or of the anticipated results than simply a gut feeling or perhaps a vision, Madam Speaker.
So the literature is suggesting then that there are serious gaps in our knowledge based within the health care system in this country and in the United States, for example, that these multi unit arrangements, in fact, provide any benefits whatsoever.
The other important point to remember, and this is what is cited in the report, is that because these arrangements may cause harm as well as reap benefits, they need to be carefully analyzed, Madam Speaker.
They talk in their report about front end loading costs, about the requirements to update compensation schedules, to improve the organizational structure, modifying facilities, Madam Speaker. They suggest that these short-term costs are something that, unfortunately, are not always anticipated.
We are beginning to hear, with respect to the QE II for example, that the $12 million that has been suggested as the cost to renovate the new $150 million Camp Hill site, is, in fact, terribly and sadly inadequate in order to meet the actual costs, Madam Speaker, to do such things as moving the cardiac catheterization lab. My understanding, and I asked the minister this question last week and he has been unable as yet to provide me with any information on that as to whether or not this is the case, but my understanding is that costs of moving these sorts of facilities from one location to the next is extremely expensive, beyond the wildest dreams of those people who are trying to plan and organize this particular merger.
But there is another cost that is apparently never taken into consideration, that is the whole business of transferring patients between hospitals, the need to house somebody in one facility and move them to other facilities to have various tests and procedures done, whereas previously, if you went to the VG Hospital and were housed there in order to have certain examinations done, then it would be done in that facility. These are some of the concerns that are not dealt with.
Also, Mr. Speaker, the report cites a merger that was attempted between the Women's College Hospital and the Toronto Hospital and failed. It is suggested that there were four lessons to be learned from the process. The first one is the whole question of anticipated cost of benefits of the linkage, of the multi-institutional arrangement, and those costs and benefits need to be realistically appraised. If in fact you undertake this massive transition without having adequate information, without being able to substantiate claims of cost-savings, benefits in terms of health care delivery, then you won't be able to bring people onside in order to ensure that people are committed to the process and this is one reason why that particular merger fell apart.
A second lesson, the strategic management needs to be integrated into the preliminary analysis and decision-making. Again, Mr. Speaker, before the minister had The Queen slap a plaque on the side of the new health care facility, now to be called the QE II, if there was any contemplation that a merger was going to happen, then there should have been at that point, before any initiative was taken, some analysis done of just in fact what was intended. What was expected to be achieved, what were the time lines, what were the costs involved and so on, in order that, as in the case with any venture, you develop a strategy so that at each stage along the way, you can evaluate the events and the decisions on the basis of that strategic plan in order to ensure that you are moving down the correct road.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, this has not been done. That is not to say that since the QE II interim board has been slammed together, they have not been rushing to and fro in order to try to pull together some strategy, some coherence of order, in order to see this all come together. I certainly understand in talking to some of the people involved that that is being done with some considerable difficulty because there was no plan set out at the outset.
The third lesson, Mr. Speaker, was that the purpose of stakeholder participation needs to be carefully defined. In other words, the stakeholders that are participating in this merger, whether that be the physicians, the administrators, the health care providers, themselves and the support staff, service staff and so on, that everybody's role in the consultation process be clearly defined so that people don't get the sense which they too often do, certainly with this government, and what it does under the guise of consultation, and that is that their presence at the table is merely there for political expediency and that their input is not valued as it should be in relation to the role that they are expected to play in this consultation. So, as a result, as has happened in Toronto, you have a situation where people peel off as soon as it becomes clear that their participation either is not valued or is not set up in a coherent and orderly fashion in order that it means anything.
Finally, the implementation of significant policy change needs to be planned carefully. Mr. Speaker, you and I know that the interim board that has been running the QE II, that has been pulling it together, that has been spending great sums of money, that has been hiring people and putting them into place and making decisions which have considerable impact on health care in this city and in this province, have been doing so - some have suggested - without any legal authority, that the interim board and its directors have been operating without the authority of this Legislature to do so. In this bill, in fact, there is a provision at the end which says that the decisions and any plans, and so on, put in place by the interim board, are approved retroactively, or something like that. In other words, what they have done over the past year is only now being given any status in law. In fact, there is an interesting point about that which I hope to get an opportunity to get to at some particular point later on.
Mr. Speaker, the final point on this evidence that has been pulled together, is that a strong systematic analysis of local conditions is required to determine the extent to which potential benefits may outweigh the potential costs, that there is a clear need to identify the benefits to the community. We have talked about that here in this House and the Blueprint Committee in their report talked about doing an assessment of the health care needs of Nova Scotians, to do an assessment of exactly what services needed to be provided and how they should best be provided here in metro and across this province, and whether in fact it needed to be decided and determined at some point, through an objective analysis, whether by combining health services in this province that were originally delivered by those four institutions could best be done by merging them and by reorganizing them. It has not been done and now what is happening is clearly a case of crisis management in that institution that is having an impact not only on those people who work there, but also on any and every individual who comes to those facilities looking for quality health care.
Mr. Speaker, the whole question of the rights and benefits of employees at the Victoria General Hospital and the problems associated with moving those employees from under the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, is not new. It is not a new concern, it is not a new issue, because the former administration had plans to move the Victoria General Hospital out from under the direct control, the direction of the Government of Nova Scotia into an administrative arrangement identical to the way other hospitals are managed and administered in the Province of Nova Scotia. In other words, to move it under the auspices of a board of directors and to have the employees then come in under, in their collective bargaining rights and so on, the Trade Union Act.
Mr. Speaker, back in 1992, an agreement was reached between the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the Victoria General Hospital which would deal with a number of the concerns that those employees had and, for that matter, that the administrators at the Victoria General Hospital recognized. What came out of that process was what is called the Victoria General Transition Agreement and it was signed on May 29, 1992 between representatives of the Victoria General Hospital and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union.
What this Transition Agreement does is ensure that in the process of changing the legal designation of that employer as being the Province of Nova Scotia to a board corporation that would be outside the auspices of the Government of Nova Scotia that in the process of making that transition that the rights, the benefits and the salaries of the employees would be protected. It was recognized that a great number of the benefits and rights of those employees were contained not simply in the collective bargaining agreement that had been reached between those employees and the Province of Nova Scotia, their employer, but also in the Civil Service Act and in other Statutes that were outside of the collective agreement.
For example, there are a number of items in here with respect to all accrued rights to pay sick leave, Public Service awards, holidays, pension, vacation, time off in lieu of overtime, compensation when such time off is not possible, all rights and conditions under deferred salary arrangements, job sharing arrangements, modified work week arrangements, flexible working hours, leaves of absence, maternity leave, pregnancy leave, parental leave or other existing leave arrangements, all rights to return to work from any leave, sickness, workers' compensation or injury on duty, vacation or holidays, either contained in the collective agreements or contract of employment or granted by the commission prior to this transfer date as preserved and continue unaffected by the transfer.
A whole host of rights and benefits that exist outside the collective agreement that are reached between the employer and the employee, in some cases, that are not provided for within the collective agreement, but they still exist and they are very important to those employees. In fact, many of those employees had bargained for those over a considerable number of years and had the opportunity to build up certain credits under those provisions and the organization of their work had been affected by a number of these arrangements. Under Bill No. 47, those arrangements are completely wiped out because it says quite clearly that with respect to the Victoria General employees it is the collective agreement and all salary and benefits contained therein.
In other words, and it is an important point because I get the sense sometimes that people do not quite understand the rationale behind this concern, the reason why people are so deeply concerned. Under the Trade Union Act, under any normal conditions of employment, let us say, your working conditions are directly relevant to your collective agreement. Any benefits with respect to a modified work week, with respect to sick leave, with respect to other kinds of leave, with respect to your pension plan, with respect to your long-term disability, is contained within your collective agreement; that is the process under which collective bargaining operates as it is affected by the Trade Union Act.
Under the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act there is a whole host of differences; number one is that employees are appointed by an Order in Council, by the Governor in Council. There is a whole host of benefits contained in the Human Resources manual that has weight under the Civil Service Act that has nothing at all to do with the collective agreement. If you don't recognize that reality, that all of those rights and benefits are there outside the collective agreement, then you are doing a serious disservice to all of the employees affected.
If, in fact, as the Minister of Human Resources has suggested on a few occasions and just recently outside, that the Victoria General Hospital employees will not lose their entitlements, then I would suggest what he has to do is pay attention to the concerns that have been raised because they are being raised by people who know of what they speak, they are being raised by people who deal with this type of labour law and these conditions with respect to labour law every day. The concerns are of such significance that if it is the government's intention to ensure that they are protected, then let's ensure that the language is there to provide for that. Let us provide in the bill that the agreement, as per the Transition Agreement signed between the VG and the NSGEU back in May 1992, will form part of this agreement.
The Minister of Human Resources raised this outside the House when he said, oh this is just a question of unions jockeying for position before the vote. That shows a serious lack of understanding of what is going on here. We are talking about all of the units and all of the employees getting to the point where the Labour Relations Board becomes involved in an equal sense, that they all come to that point in a fair and equal manner with all of the rights, benefits and privileges that they had prior to this bill coming into effect. In other words, the whole process of what the Labour Board is going to do and we have got some problems with that and we will deal with that at a later point, but what the Labour Board is tasked with here in the legislation is to decide how many bargaining units there are going to be. In fact, an area that we will take issue with is that the Labour Board will also deal with what provisions in what collective agreements will be retained by those bargaining units. We think that that is giving the Labour Relations Board too much power.
We see the whole point about the rights of the Civil Service employees is all before that comes into effect, it has nothing to do with jockeying. It has to do with ensuring that what the government says will happen. The government says that all employees will be treated fairly and equally. Well, if that means that in some instances employees will come to that process where the Labour Relations Board gets involved and they will have all of the rights and benefits, salary and so on that they had prior to this agreement coming into effect, that they will come to that unchanged, then what is good for one group of employees surely is good for another group of employees.
All I and others are suggesting is that in order to ensure that the employees who now come under the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, do not suffer as a result of this before they get to the Labour Relations Board, then we need to provide for this kind of transition, Mr. Speaker.
When the Minister of Health introduced this bill at second reading he made the statement, and I thought it was interesting, that what we are attempting to do here is ensure that all employees are dealt with equally, as much as possible, were his words if I recall, Mr. Speaker. The point is that as it stands, this legislation does not treat all employees equally.
What we have to ask is if, in fact, that is the government's intention, then they will agree to clear it up. If it is not their intention, then we have to ask why is it that they have put in these kinds of provisions here that ensure that employees who are now civil servants will lose many of the rights they have under the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, Mr. Speaker. That needs to be clarified because it is not clear now and, in fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that provisions within this bill that take away those rights have been put in here on purpose, in order to try to ensure that there are some cost savings, to ensure that many female employees at the Victoria General Hospital receive pay equity adjustments. As a result, when the transfer comes into effect, there are nurses with the same level of service, the same qualifications and so on, who will be working side by side, one from the Victoria General Hospital and one from Camp Hill and the person from Camp Hill will be making several thousand dollars more, as a result of pay equity.
Because the Pay Equity Act does not cover the new corporation, because, in fact, the Pay Equity Act, as it stood, only affected hospitals under the auspices of the provincial government, because the Pay Equity Act will not transfer to the new corporation, those nurses who are making a couple of thousand dollars less will not have their salaries adjusted in the way that their counterparts did.
So what do you think is going to happen, Mr. Speaker, under that arrangement? Do you think that if the Pay Equity Act affected that new corporation and the corporation would be obliged under that Act to adjust those salaries of those people in those classifications, in accordance with the Act, and then you could see parity begin to become established, but because the Act does not carry, what do you think will happen then, Mr. Speaker?
Well, I would suggest to you that there will be significant pressure upon the administration. I would say the authority is clearly here in the Act to ensure that those people that now have pay equity, now have a rate that is higher than others at other hospitals, will be red-circled. Do you know what red-circling means? Red-circling means that those people whose salaries are red-circled will be held in a state of suspended animation until it is determined that comparable salaries, comparable wages are adjusted upwards to reach that level.
Again, Mr. Speaker, let us not forget that is after the wage freeze, that is after the freeze on collective bargaining takes place in 1997. Nonetheless, what is going to happen is that as other incomes come up, that, in effect, erases that whole process of pay equity that this government indicated its commitment to when it was running for election back in 1993.
In fact, I refer back to their women's policy that they released in 1993. I know people are getting tired of hearing about those promises made by that government. Mr. Speaker, suffice it to say that they made the following claim, "Women deserve support in breaking free from the cycle of poverty. Liberals are committed to providing that support. We will implement fully pay equity to provide greater income level and securities.". (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the member would allow an introduction.
MR. CHISHOLM: I would be happy to after you give me an indication how much time I have left.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes. You have until 4:23 p.m., so you still have about six minutes.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce Mr. Peter Planetta. Peter is a second year student at the UCCB and he is studying Political Science. He is here today watching the proceedings of the House to further his information. Peter is up in the gallery. (Applause)
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I guess there are notes fast and furious coming in with respect to this bill, as there have been calls that have been coming in to my office since 7:00 o'clock this morning from workers concerned about the effects of this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, let me just take a little look. I have tried to argue in my presentation this afternoon that I have not seen any evidence that tells me that this merger makes sense. I have not seen in any review I have done of the literature any evidence that evidence exists out there, that any analysis has been done to lead the minister to make those kinds of conclusions. That having been said, the government has already gone down this road a very considerable distance. So now we are dealing with a process of ensuring that at least the people that work within the institution are dealt with as fairly as is humanly possible.
The way we will do that, Mr. Speaker, is to bring to your attention and to the attention of all members of this Legislature that there are provisions in this bill that take away, that legislate civil servants out of the Civil Service and do not provide any protection until they come under the protection of the Trade Union Act.
There are provisions within this bill that ensure, for example, that people's access to a long-term disability plan will be affected. For example, what it provides for in this bill is that the long-term disability plan will discontinue, but that the corporation must provide the same or equal plan or benefits. It says that the assets and liabilities of the plan will be transferred to the corporation. There are two things there. Number one is, as it presently stands, the members of the Victoria General Hospital, as civil servants, are part of a long-term disability plan that includes up to 15,000 other civil servants, which has the effect of reducing the rates because, Mr. Speaker, you may well be aware of the fact that health care workers are a high risk under disability plans because of the work they do. So, if you all of a sudden put them into a plan from 15,000, where the different categories of work keep their plan down, into a plan of 6,000 of all health care workers, all high risk, you are doing two things; one, you are reducing the pool and, secondly, you are ensuring, I would suggest, that the costs of that plan, be it same or equal benefits, is going to be extremely increased.
Mr. Speaker, I have many more things to say on this bill. But at the present time, I see that my time is winding down and I want to take the opportunity to introduce an amendment at this stage, because I am extremely upset about various provisions in this bill and I think that to undertake such an enormous step here, we need to do so in a reasonable and rational manner.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to move, in the dying moments of my time, an amendment that says, "That the words after `that' be deleted and the following be substituted therefor: `Bill No. 47 be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.'". I would so move.
As I table this amendment, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you and to other members of this House that if we are going to proceed with a bill of this magnitude, of this nature, that we have waited a year now for the QE II to become a legal entity and it can wait another six months. Let's make sure that all of the provisions to provide for employees to be dealt with equally, to be dealt with fairly, be put into place and let's do that over the next six months.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your patience and I will now take my seat and await other intervenors.
MR. SPEAKER: The amendment is in order.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this amendment to the bill that we have under discussion this afternoon deserves to be hoisted because once it becomes law, it will be putting in place a structure and an organization that would be incredibly difficult to dismantle somewhere down the line. What I am saying is if you are going to reform the tertiary care centre of Nova Scotia, here in Halifax, well you had better do it right the first time and not attempt, as happened with the Education Bill, make mistakes in the bill and then rectify it in Law Amendments Committee.
Mr. Speaker, I believe this bill deserves to be hoisted because it will affect the working lives of several thousand persons. In fact, for several thousands of persons, at least 2,000 anyway, a great many of those will be out when this bill goes through, because at that time the downsizing will be taking place.
This bill deserves to be hoisted because it is a bill that could quite usefully have been introduced by the Minister of Labour because it is dealing with labour matters; it could have been introduced by the Minister of Human Resources because it is about people; or it could be introduced by the Minister of Finance because, frankly, it is a bill which the government intends to use to save a lot of dollars in the health care system of this province.
Mr. Speaker, when we hoist a bill, what we are doing is providing time. Time is essential, I would suggest, for the public, for the unions concerned and for the workers concerned to meet with the minister and to make certain amendments to this bill that they believe should be made before this bill goes on any further.
Bill No. 47 isn't about health care. There is nothing in this bill that speaks about the improvement of health care to the people of Nova Scotia; there is nothing in this bill that refers to home care. I had a phone call this morning as a matter of fact, from a gentleman in my constituency who is 98 years of age - it wasn't from him, actually, it was from his daughter - this gentleman has been in hospital for about two weeks, I believe. They told him yesterday that he is going to have to leave the hospital and go back home. Now he has no wife, he does get some light housekeeping; however, the thing is, Mr. Speaker, for him to get the kind of attention that he needs at that age, and this is 24 hour, around-the-clock treatment that he needs, he cannot get it under the existing system. So, I don't know where we are going with health care in this province but wherever we are going, certainly this bill isn't going to help the situation. In fact, it is going to exacerbate the situation.
Mr. Speaker, this bill, if this amendment does pass, will provide for the public an opportunity to take part in the discussion. We have had two major bills in this House in this session: one dealing with education; and the other one now coming in with the amalgamation of the tertiary hospitals in the City of Halifax. The bill that we had for education, we were successful in getting that bill delayed for at least a week through an agreement with the minister. I would suggest that we are going to have to probably do the same thing with this bill because the public, the work force and the minister, I believe, should be meeting to iron out some of the problems in this transition. It is not just a matter of moving workers from one location to another. It is a case of moving workers, perhaps from one union to another, including some people in a union, perhaps for the first time. There are a great many things that have to be worked out before this takes place.
Mr. Speaker, I will be voting for this amendment and voting that it be delayed for six months.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to make remarks relative to the amendment which is now before us that Bill No. 47 be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.
The reason I believe that that amendment has merit and should be supported and that I will, in fact, be voting in favour of that amendment is really quite clear, at least as I see it. It is clear to me because there are, as was unfortunately the case with the Education Act, Bill No. 39 when introduced, there is such a myriad of unanswered questions relative to the detail of Bill No. 47, not only the detail in what in the world the principle or principles enunciated in Bill No. 47 actually are, but as important, the fallout and the result which will befall hundreds and hundreds and some thousands of health care workers in the event that this bill were to pass in its present form.
With the greatest respect, the Minister of Health when he rose in the House earlier today and made remarks moving second reading of Bill No. 47, he said a couple of very interesting things. He said that this bill will generate savings and operating funds will be put to the care of people. Well, I would like to take the minister at his word, but the fact of the matter is that, with the greatest respect, this minister has been asked repeatedly ad nauseam to please table in this place or publish in a newspaper or send in a letter or put out a newsletter or convey in some way the detail which supports the contention which he made here today and which he has made on earlier occasions. Namely, that the amalgamation and the merger of these four hospital organizations will, in fact, generate savings. I have real concern on the basis of those men and women to whom I have spoken and those men and women are medical staff, nursing staff, administrators, patients, support staff, a wide of range of men and women involved with and affected by and working at these institutions. They frankly, say to me that they do not believe that there will be significant savings at all.
You will recall that this minister at one point indicated publicly that it was his expectation and anticipation that the saving might well be in the range of $50 million. Within days of that $50 million figure being suggested, there were counter statements made to the effect that it is possible and we do not know that for a fact, so I am going to address some of the concerns that make me think there might be some merit to it. The minister's $50 million savings number was countered in very short order by information which was made public relative to the cost of effecting the amalgamation and the merger of the medical staffs, the nursing staffs, the support staffs and the general administration of the four institutions to be merged.
The number quoted by those who had at that time attempted some analysis of the costs involved there, was in the range of $35 million. So if we accept at face value the minister's $50 million and we accept the $35 million number at face value, we are talking about a number in the range of $15 million. Well, I have had people, again who have been working with these issues, make contact with me, Mr. Speaker, and they suggest that they have real doubts as to whether or not even that $15 million is to be effected.
Secondly, the minister said when he introduced the bill and moved second reading here today, Mr. Speaker, that woven through this bill is the equitable and fair treatment of employees at all the institutions affected. That he offered as one of the principles to be actually enshrined and to be made law in the event that Bill No. 47 were to pass. Well, the only way I can say it, on the basis of information which has been made available to me and I know to some of my colleagues, I just simply do not believe for a minute that that statement can, upon reflection, looking at the provisions of this bill and the principles enunciated in this bill, the statement - that woven through this bill is the equitable and fair treatment of employees at all the institutions affected - that statement simply cannot stand scrutiny. It is not accurate, it is not close to being accurate and I will, in support of the motion before us, attempt to make a few brief references to indicate why I believe that to be the case.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I think the member should understand, we are debating the question of whether the bill should be hoisted six months.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, and . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The member has been addressing the issue now for nearly eight minutes, or seven minutes, and I have heard nothing in the argument that you have put forward in the debate to indicate why it is relevant to the amendment. All those things you say are very relevant to the principle. The member has not spoken on the principle, I am sure he is going to make those points on the principle. So I would ask the member to remember that we are dealing with an amendment and the amendment is to hoist it and that is all we are dealing with right now. All those points you make, I am sure, are excellent points. They should be directed at the principle in second reading. I would just ask the member to keep that in mind.
MR. DONAHOE: I thank Your Honour for those helpful comments. I do understand clearly that the stage that we have reached in discussion of this legislation here is that we are to address the question of why, if we believe it to be the case and I do, why should this bill be given the hoist and not now read a second time and read a second time six months hence.
I was in the process of saying to you, Mr. Speaker, and through you to all members and all colleagues in this place that one of the principles of the bill that was described by the minister when he moved second reading is the equitable and fair treatment of employees at all the institutions affected. I was about to say that there is ample evidence, if one reads the bill, that that suggestion or statement does not bear scrutiny. Because it does not bear scrutiny - and that is the point that I want to come to - there are so many elements of the bill which is before us, Bill No. 47, which, if they were subjected to greater scrutiny, if they were the subject of more detailed and open and equitable consultation as between the Minister of Health, the Minister of Human Resources, the NSGEU, other affected workers and their unions we would find that over the next six months a number of issues which require to be addressed could be addressed and I say should be addressed. Because the point and the principal and fundamental point about this bill and the point that can and will be addressed during a delay is that the major concern about this bill really relates to the provisions which transfer civil servants at the Victoria General Hospital out of the Civil Service.
The fact of the matter is that those employees are, to use the vernacular, going to get it in the neck if this bill passes. Now I see the Minister of Health shaking his head and he does not like me saying that, but I frankly believe that to be true and I am going to attempt with your indulgence to raise a couple of issues or questions which I think can and should be addressed during the period of a hoist so as to ensure that as many as 2,000 to 2,500 employees at the Victoria General Hospital who have every right to have their current employment circumstances and collective agreement rights protected will in fact have them taken away by this bill if it passes. We require, before you jump too quickly to your microphone, Mr. Speaker, and they require a period of consultation which, frankly, has not yet taken place and needs to take place to ensure they are not disadvantaged as they clearly would be if the bill were to pass in its present form.
Mr. Speaker, this bill deals with, as I have said, among other things and in very large measure, the specific issue of transferring civil servants at the Victoria General Hospital out of the Civil Service. I have a very great concern that, as drafted, the bill does not maintain the status quo of employee right on the transfer of the Civil Service. I do not think, we simply cannot take that lightly. I believe that is the case. I believe that this bill cuts up and overrides employment circumstances now enjoyed by employees at the Victoria General Hospital and their collective bargaining rights and if we were to endorse and support the resolution which is before us it affords us the time, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that those issues are addressed.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, would the member entertain a question? The honourable member opposite is saying, in effect, that this bill overrides almost everything in the world, collective agreements, Acts of the Legislature, et cetera. Perhaps if he does not mind could he narrow his argument down just a bit and get a bit more specific about exactly what is not being transferred to the employees?
MR. DONAHOE: Well, if the Speaker will allow me because my difficulty in order to make that response is to . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. DONAHOE: . . . make reference to some of the ineffective language in the bill and to offer some suggestions as to how that language can, and, in my opinion, should be amended and improved to ensure that those employment rights and collective bargaining rights are not stripped away from those employees. If the Speaker will afford me that latitude, I will do my best to respond to the question.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the member has made a valid point. I do not think the House should fall into that trap. The question by the minister would involve an answer that in my view does not involve debate on the motion to hoist this bill. I want to make it perfectly clear on this that it is not my view that one can debate all of the principles of the bill and debate the clauses of the bill and finish up the sentence with, and we will get six months to think about this, and consider that that is debate on whether the bill should be hoisted. I am making that very plain while I am in the Chair. So if the member can answer the question without referring to those specifics, then the member can answer it. I am not going to fall into the trap that by allowing the question, we allow debate to continue on the amendment as if it were in second reading. It is not suffice to simply say at the end of a long discussion over a question on the principle or a clause, and this will give us six months to think about it, because that does not make it relevant to the hoist. I do thank the member.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. You certainly are expressing your opinion on what is or isn't valid in terms of a six months' hoist.
MR. SPEAKER: What is your point of order?
MR. HOLM: My point is that certainly if members are going to be putting forward arguments as to why this bill should be delayed for a period of six months, they need to be given the latitude to explain what constructive things can be done during that period of time to address the very serious issues that are left unaddressed in this bill. By way of a point of order I am trying to get clarification from you because you have said in your ruling that you will not just say that if you do this, that or the other thing, that is reason for the six month delay. I am trying to put forward the point that when one is arguing in favour of the six months . . .
MR. SPEAKER: This is a point of order.
MR. HOLM: . . . you have to have the advantages to be able to give the arguments in support of that.
MR. SPEAKER: Well first of all (Interruption) Not until I respond to that point of order. (Interruption) Oh, on this point of order?
The member for Queens on the point of order raised by the Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, you are a pretty intuitive person and I would suggest that perhaps this could be resolved if you perceive when a question is being put that the question in fact relates to a subject other than the amendment, that you might well rule that member posing the question out of order and tell that member to take their seat and invite the speaker on the amendment to take the floor and address the amendment with precision.
MR. SPEAKER: As I have said, I don't find it is a point of order but I understand it is a request for clarification. I must say I agree with the Leader of the New Democratic Party, he has said it very succinctly. All debate on what can be gained by having six months is all relevant and that is exactly what is relevant. That will be my ruling. So the point of order is not a point of order.
The member for Halifax Citadel. And I have not ruled you out of order, sir.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hadn't understood that you had. Let me try it this way, if I may. Under an earlier administration and back in May 1992, there was a Transition Agreement. The minister I think alluded in his introductory remarks to the fact that prior to his assumption of his current responsibilities there was extensive negotiation between the previous government and the Victoria General Hospital administration, medical staff and others and the NSGEU about the circumstances that would befall the membership of the staff of the Victoria General Hospital in the process undertaken and initiated by the previous government of moving them out of their then current employment relationship with the government.
At the same time, efforts were being made in that Transition Agreement to ensure that the shift of their employment circumstances would be, if I could use a term that some these days like to use, seamless, that they would shift from one employer-employee relationship which today has certain agreements, provisions, rights, authorities, responsibilities and make the transition to the next day, when they are the employees of another employer and that their rights, responsibilities and collective bargaining provisions and protections and so on would, in a seamless fashion, carry to the new employer.
HON. JAY ABBASS: A question, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask whether the member opposite is aware that the government of the day did not sign the agreement and did not, in fact, go so far as to extend that seamless transfer to those employees?
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, I am well aware of that. There were some difficulties, I acknowledge, relative to that agreement. The minister is right when he says, (Interruption) exactly.
AN HON. MEMBER: It was an election promise.
MR. DONAHOE: There were some difficulties. The agreement (Interruptions) Yes, it was made in 1992. It was signed on May 29, 1992. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. DONAHOE: No, it was not, it was signed by the VG Hospital and by the NSGEU. It was signed by the board of the Victoria General Hospital, Mr. Speaker, and I will table a copy of this, and it was signed by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. There was a commitment and an undertaking from the previous government that the terms and provisions set out in that Transition Agreement would, in fact, be enshrined in legislation which was to be introduced by the previous government.
The election intervened and so it then became the responsibility of the ministers opposite to either say no, we are not going to go with that, or, yes we will, or do whatever they please to do. The interesting thing and the point that I am trying frantically not to address the clauses of the bill, but I am going to, if I may, and with respect I think I can, I am going to make a little bit of a reference to some of the provisions in the Transition Agreement of 1992 because, Mr. Speaker, the point is that the NSGEU now says that if the elements of the Transition Agreement of May 29, 1992 were enshrined in Bill No. 47, they would be perfectly happy and that it would have the effect in their opinion of protecting and preserving the employment, rights and responsibilities and the collective bargained rights and responsibilities of the membership of that union.
For some reason or another, interesting, Mr. Speaker, and I will not make reference to them, because you will throw me out of here, certain of the provisions, certain of the paragraphs, word for word out of the May 29, 1992 Transition Agreement appear in the bill we now debate, or the bill that was presented by the Minister of Health. But, however, certain fundamental, vitally important elements do not. The point I want to try to make in regard is that the hoist and the time to talk would afford the government and the NSGEU to review those elements of the Transition Agreement, which for some reason or another, as yet unexplained, and I am told, if the ministers want to stand up and say that I am not accurate or whatever parliamentary expression they want to use . . .
MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: I wonder if the honourable member would entertain a question, Mr. Speaker? Was there a bill ever introduced in the Legislature that enshrined the 1992 Transition Agreement?
MR. DONAHOE: No, the answer is no.
MR. HOLLAND: Well, I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, . . .
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I would take a follow-up, a supplementary.
MR. HOLLAND: It is more a comment than anything. I am not sure how the Speaker can allow him to make the inference that because this Transition Agreement existed then, that it was somehow going to be in some kind of a bill at that time. I mean, that is the impression that he is trying to leave with the Legislature, I think.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, that is a question I can tell you, the Speaker can allow it, and the Speaker did allow it, but nevertheless the member for Halifax Citadel in response to the question from the member for Timberlea-Prospect.
MR. DONAHOE: I did respond and I said the one word answer to his question was no. However, that having been disposed of, it is my understanding and maybe the ministers opposite want to suggest to this House, Mr. Speaker, that what I am now going to say is either untrue or a misunderstanding . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, never you.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, inadvertence sometimes leads one to misunderstandings and perhaps I might have misunderstood. But I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that one of the reasons that the reference back to the May 1992 Transition Agreement is so vitally important is because we are told by the NSGEU that they had an undertaking from this current government that the terms and provisions, in their entirety, of the May 1992 agreement would, in fact, be enshrined in the legislation, in what is now in the form of Bill No. 47. That commitment, we are told, and if I am wrong and if the NSGEU is wrong, then the minister . . .
MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: It is in Bill No. 47.
MR. DONAHOE: My friend from Timberlea-Prospect says it is in Bill No. 47. The problem, which he fails to grasp - and maybe my ability to articulate the point I am trying to make is deficient and often I am accused that that is the case - the fact is that the sum and substance of the May 1992 Transition Agreement is not - I repeat the words, Mr. Speaker - is not in Bill No. 47. Part of it is there, but it is not there in its entirety. The NSGEU comes to us and the NSGEU says, listen, these men and women who are now the government, Dr. Stewart, Mr. Abbass, Mrs. Norrie and others . . .
MR. SPEAKER: One should not refer to the members of the Legislature by their given names.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, that is the way the NSGEU refers to them. I was simply quoting the NSGEU.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I am giving a direction.
MR. DONAHOE: The NSGEU came to us and they said that people such as the Minister of Health, the Minister of Human Resources, and the Minister responsible for the Gaming Commission, when she was in a previous incarnation as the Minister responsible for Human Resources, gave a commitment that the May 1992 Transition Agreement would, in fact, be replicated in the bill to merge these units; but it is not and the NSGEU represents many of the 2,500 men and women whose lives are on the hook as a consequence of what we do or do not do by way of this legislative change.
Now I think, Mr. Speaker, it is completely legitimate to argue, and I do argue that the six months' hoist that we are talking about here this afternoon affords an opportunity for the NSGEU and those three ministers whom I have named and, may I say, that meetings have been held with the Premier and that those meetings could be reconvened and an answer could be given to a fundamental question put by the NSGEU: Why, Savage Government, did you give us a commitment and an undertaking that the terms and provisions of the May 1992 Transition Agreement would be enshrined in this legislation and, in fact, they are not?
I think there is some important debate and discussion that should take place because, Mr. Speaker - and I feel constrained and I want to abide by your ruling and your direction -if you read the legislation against the 1992 Transition Agreement, you will find that the clauses of the 1992 agreement which are left out are fundamental to the preservation of the employment and collective agreement rights, privileges and responsibilities of the men and women covered by those collective agreements.
It is not an oversight. It is a purposeful decision taken by this government that certain elements of the 1992 Transition Agreement did not make their way into Bill No. 47. The clauses out of that agreement that did not make their way into the bill, Mr. Speaker, and I do not think I offend your ruling by referencing the Transition Agreement, if you will bear with me one second . . .
MR. SPEAKER: There is no problem with referencing the agreement, but going into specific clauses in the agreement, I think, would be a deviation too far from the amendment of the bill before us. General reference to it, I find, would be fine.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, suffice it then to say that there are provisions in that agreement which directly relate to who shall be the bargaining agent and, referencing the collective agreement, the integrity and the continuation and the successor rights relative to the collective agreement. Those clauses do not appear in Bill No. 47. My contention in support of the argument that it needs time for further discussion and analysis to take place, is that that fundamental question has to be raised.
If it is not, I suggest to you, that another reason that we need the time and the hoist should be supported is that if that language is not there in Bill No. 47, we have a chaotic situation which does very serious detriment to as many as 2,000 to 2,500 men and women who have worked long and hard at the Victoria General Hospital. That simply, I am sure, cannot be the intention of this government and I am sure is not what any of us in this place want and I suggest to you will, in fact, be the result if we do not have a six months' hoist and an opportunity for reasonable, rational discussion and consultation and debate.
I repeat, and I think it is important for us not to lose sight of the fact, and if I am being misled by those who speak with me then I apologize, but I am repeating here what I am told, and I am told that the NSGEU had a commitment straight up from this government that all of those relevant provisions of the 1992 agreement would appear in Bill No. 47 when it appeared, and they do not. They, the NSGEU, and I today on their behalf and on behalf of the 2,500 men and women who are affected, ask why were they made the promise, why was the promise not kept and now why can we not go back and open those discussions and deliberations so that those 2,500 men and women are not very seriously adversely affected?
These are men and women who are, as most of us here are, struggling to keep spouses and families going. They are, as people here and as public servants across the province have over the last couple of years, compliments of this government, have had salaries frozen and rolled back and so on. They are struggling. They can put up with the struggle and it is not easy, but they certainly cannot live with the fear of having their employment rights and responsibilities, their successor rights and responsibilities and their collective agreement rights and responsibilities ripped out from under them and that is what they contend happens here and that can't be allowed to happen. I suggest that potential is very real and justifies the six months' hoist which we address here now.
There is a real problem here, Mr. Speaker, with this bill which, again, I suggest justifies that we put it on the back burner, that we afford the relevant ministers and the Premier, if he is so disposed, to engage in the discussions and deal with these issues. There are provisions in this bill which override or have the legal effect of amending existing clauses in existing collective agreements. Frankly, as a matter of practice and principle, and as a practicing barrister and solicitor, I know you know the impact of that and I know every member of this place knows the impact of that.
I suggest to you that without the unions affected and the membership of those unions affected having the opportunity to make their case which, frankly, they say to us they have not had, we simply can't have legislation passed through this House which has the effect of tearing up collective agreements.
I repeat, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding what the minister said here today, the bill fails to maintain the equivalent of the statutory rights of the VG Hospital civil servants. Even their status quo, as difficult for many of them as it is, isn't maintained by this bill. I believe those 2,000 to 2,500 men and women have a right directly, and through their spokespersons and their unions, to make that point.
There is a real problem, Mr. Speaker - and again I am working hard to avoid specific reference to specific clauses in the bill - but there is this problem and I know you will appreciate this and I offer it as further justification for the hoist and the fact that this fundamental issue must be addressed by way of further detailed negotiation and consultation. All of the existing Civil Service collective agreements have a clause in them which provide that the employees who are covered by those agreements continue to be covered by the provisions of the Public Service Superannuation Act.
There is a real problem here. Keep in mind what we are talking about. We are talking about pension entitlement; in some cases, pension entitlement of men and women who have worked 12, 14, 18, 22, 26, 28 years in the Public Service and have worked long and hard and faithfully. We have that provision in existing collective agreements and we have this piece of legislation which, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, overrides that provision by establishing a very threatening and unhelpful process whereby there are options available to opt out of certain pension plans. I might say that if I understand the circumstances correctly, those who might be tempted to make such election or opt out, would, in fact, be opting to something which is of less value to them and their families than the pension circumstances which now pertain.
Mr. Speaker, how many years ago did this Legislature pass legislation dealing with pensions, legislation which was designed to move, to the extent that we could, more and more Nova Scotians, to the point where they did develop pension entitlements because we had discovered that far too many people were coming to what I might call a more advanced age, or closer to an age at which retirement would be relevant and had no or inadequate pension entitlement? Here we have a piece of legislation which has the legal effect of changing dramatically and indeed, overturning virtually entirely, the pension security and entitlements of men and women who have worked for many years to ensure that those pension entitlements would be there for them and their families.
Again, in the area of collective agreement provisions, you will be aware I am sure, as will all other members, that there are provisions in Civil Service collective agreements which address the question of long-term disability. If the bill that we have before us, Bill No. 47, were to pass in its present form, it would have the effect of dramatically reducing the value of long-term disability plan membership for the men and women covered by those Civil Service agreements.
Again, some of those provisions were raised in earlier discussion and there was simply no apparent recognition when the bill comes here as Bill No. 47 that that is the case. That is an issue which is fundamental again to the long-term welfare of some 2,000 to 2,500 men and women affected by this legislation and really must be a subject which is discussed and about which or in relation to which there is consultation over a period of time, rather than try to do what we are attempting to do in the most unseemly of fashion relative to Bill No. 39, where we have a piece of paper put on our table here purporting to be a new Education Bill.
The minister is telling the world that it is the greatest thing since sliced bread and it is so good that the minister within days comes to the Law Amendments Committee through his agents and offers something like 171 amendments. I think we are, potentially, in the kind of situation here where we could face that same sort of thing. It can be avoided and with respect, as legislators, all of us I am sure, want to avoid that kind of situation.
There are so many rights and responsibilities which are available to the men and women who are so directly affected by this legislation in the collective agreements; rights to seniority preference; rights to placement and recall in the Civil Service; and individual contractual rights, all of which are contained in collective agreement provisions. I go back again to the May 29, 1992 agreement between the hospital and union, specific provision was made to ensure that the rights arising from those arrangements were preserved and binding on the new employer, yet they don't appear in this legislation.
I hesitate to make reference to the clauses but I will go to the agreement itself, the Transition Agreement. The Transition Agreement provided in essence that such things as, ". . . job sharing arrangements, modified work week arrangements, flexible work hours arrangements, public service award advances, leaves of absence, maternity leave, pregnancy leave, parental leave or other existing leave arrangements, all rights to return to work from any leave, sickness, workers' compensation or injury on duty, vacation or holidays, either contained in the collective agreements, a contract of employment or granted by the Commission prior to the transfer date . . .".
MR. SPEAKER: You must not quote extensively from the clauses in the agreement but make reference in general. We are on an amendment to the bill, not extensive quotes from the agreement.
MR. DONAHOE: I hear you, Mr. Speaker and I don't want to tread where you don't wish me to go but I read only about four or five lines from one section of the agreement and the point I want to make is that all of those things to which I have just made reference are now the rights of the 2,500 men and women covered by the collective agreement and they are provided for in the May 1992 transitional agreement and it is the same May 29, 1992 transitional agreement which they were promised would be replicated in this legislation. It is not replicated in this legislation.
In fact, interestingly enough, I do not know whether it is accident, incompetence, oversight, what it is, but it is highly interesting, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the early part of the provision in which all of those other elements which I have just read appears, the early language appears, but that litany of non-financial benefits of the membership is curiously omitted from the section which appears in Bill No. 47. I do not know, as I say, whether that is oversight or omission or something else. I sincerely believe that some honest hard consultation and discussion and brokering, as between the Minister of Health and the Minister of Human Resources and the unions and their membership affected can and should be addressed.
Mr. Speaker, I had the honour and the privilege on an earlier day some years ago, when I was on the other side of the aisle, to introduce pay equity legislation and it was not perfect by any means and indeed it still is not perfect. But it was the first time in this Legislature and in this province that pay equity legislation appeared on our order paper at all. I acknowledge that there are some problems in various ways relative to pay equity.
Pay equity, Mr. Speaker, is a vitally important issue in the context of Bill No. 47 because it is the fact that several classifications of employment, as an example at the Victoria General Hospital, do in fact have pay equity elements built into them which represent additional remuneration to those who are in those classifications. Those same pay equity provisions are not in place in many of the classifications, indeed many of the similar almost identical classifications, as but two examples, at either Camp Hill or at the Rehabilitation Centre.
The problem is, Mr. Speaker, without some serious detailed analysis because pay equity, as I know you know and the Minister of Health knows and the Minister of Human Resources knows, is not an easy concept and it is not easy in its application. It is particularly not easy in its application when Bill No. 47 contains, as it does, a provision which in effect says, that you cannot deal with the pay equity issues and merge those agreements and even move in the direction of attempting to provide for, as an example, the men and women who are in those positions at Camp Hill and the Rehab Centre in the pay equity field, you cannot move in that direction to bring them even closer to a position of parity, let alone bring them to parity, with those at the Victoria General Hospital who do have the pay equity elements in their employment unless you can do it - I forget the language of the bill but I am not allowed to read that to you anyway - unless you can do that in the context of the same and within the parameters of the same number of dollars which are already being expended for the salary bill.
Now I think, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you would agree, we are, in this case, dealing almost in the main with women. It is unfortunate, but it is clear, and one of the reasons that I took some pride in having the opportunity to be the member of this Legislature to introduce the first pay equity legislation was because I believed fervently that we had to find a start to the process which would move us to the point where there was honest to God legitimate parity, as between the remuneration paid to the male worker and the female worker.
Here we are talking, of course, virtually by definition, about many hundreds of women. I truly believe that this legislation, Mr. Speaker, will, for all intents and purposes, make it impossible for the new corporation to move in the direction of writing and merging the pay equity element of the merged staff, which will be its employees upon the passage of this legislation and not address properly the pay equity elements, without some very close and careful analysis, discussion, debate, figuring. Some paperwork has to be done, some analysis of the number of positions affected and the like and that just simply cannot be done here on the floor of this House. It cannot be done at the Law Amendments Committee. It has not been done and I say, in fairness to the women who are affected so directly by this, it should be done.
The effect of not doing it, Mr. Speaker, is essentially this. We will have some forced merger imposed, again by reason of other provisions in the bill, imposed by the Labour Relations Board, relative to who is going to be in what bargaining units and what collective agreements are going to apply and so on and that is going to be imposed. We have the potential, indeed, I would go so far, being an outrageous betting man that I am that I would put a loonie on it, that we will have the situation that once these employees are merged together, we are going to have people who are formerly VGH employees enjoying pay equity entitlements and stipends, working side by side with Camp Hill and Rehab Centre employees who will not.
They will be doing the same work. They will be side by side. They will, in every sense except their pay, be colleagues and brothers and sisters in those union agreements. But they will not be dealt the same. Do we want that? Is that the result that we want from the passage of this legislation? I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, it is, among many other inappropriate results, it is but one of the results we will realize if this bill were to go forward in its present form.
Because I introduced the pay equity legislation, I remember well the discussions that went into its design and I remember well the nature of the discussions and the job by job classification by classification analysis which is necessary to effect a pay equity program. I repeat, that kind of work simply cannot be done in the context of debate here in this Legislature or in the Law Amendments Committee and it just, in my opinion, screams out for some delay. It screams out for an opportunity for the unions to deal with the ministers involved and responsible to ensure that as fundamental a matter as pay equity is, in fact, worked out and handled.
There is a further basic fundamental, I think, virtually fatal flaw that results if Bill No. 47 passes and hence, discussion on how to avoid what I consider to be the possibility of a fatal flaw is just so absolutely necessary.
Mr. Speaker, could you tell me how much time I might have?
MR. SPEAKER: Five minutes.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that an early retirement incentive plan was initiated. The regulations relative to that early retirement incentive plan are found under the Public Service Act. There are civil servants at the Victoria General Hospital, as an example, who become eligible under that early retirement incentive plan before April 1, 1998, or who might have become eligible if the window under that early retirement incentive plan is extended for civil servants who don't have these rights preserved under the proposed bill. I say to you that that is a terribly significant and, I think, fatal omission and flaw. An employee, for example, who is eligible to take early retirement on January 1, 1996, and that is only a matter of days away, would no longer be eligible if this bill is enacted and proclaimed before that date. I don't know that it will but I don't know that it won't, either.
It strikes me as being absolutely fundamental that an answer be worked out in discussions with the relevant ministers, since the early retirement incentive plan regulations are made under the Public Service Act, and that Public Service Act is one of the Statutes which provides the important statutory context for the rights of the civil servants at the VG Hospital and nothing in the proposed bill preserves the statutory rights for those employees under the early retirement program.
How can that be fair? How can we have men and women who, in as short a time as 30 days, give or take a few days from now, could be cut off, and would under this legislation, from access to the early retirement incentive program, if the bill passes in its present form? That will happen. It depends, of course, on the proclamation date, I acknowledge, but we don't have any indication from this minister or from the Premier or from anybody when the proclamation date is going to be.
So, Mr. Speaker, in my inadequate fashion, I have attempted to raise a number of issues which I honestly believe represent, if we allow Bill No. 47 to go forward in its present form, fatal flaws to the rights, the careers, the hopes and aspirations of thousands of Nova Scotians, particularly the 2,000 or 2,500 employees at the Victoria General Hospital, who have worked long and hard and faithfully and probably have looked after some of us in this place as patients, who have looked after us and looked after thousands of others. They, with respect, are thrown into a state of chaos and very real jeopardy if this bill passes in its present form.
Mr. Speaker, the reason that I believe so fervently that the hoist has value, it will allow the Minister of Health, who I believe is a person of goodwill, and the Minister of Human Resources and the Premier - and, indeed, the Minister of Finance may be helpful in the discussions, who is, without question, a person and a minister of goodwill - to sit down with the membership of those various unions and their leadership and work out some of these fundamental questions.
I really believe that the question has to be asked, why did this government promise that the substance of the Transition Agreement of May 1992 would be replicated in this legislation and here - that commitment, by the way, was made not so terribly long ago, if I understand correctly. Lo and behold, we now see the legislation and that provision is not there in its entirety. The elements of the agreement which are not there in that bill are the elements which speak to the preservation of the right of those employees to be represented by the NSGEU and that rights, privileges and responsibilities under the collective agreement under which they have worked for the last number of years are preserved. Those issues are the kinds of issues which can be worked out in the kinds of consultations which could take place during the period of the next six months. I would urge all honourable members to sympathetically consider the motion which is before your House, Mr. Speaker. I will support the motion and urge all members to do likewise. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity tonight to take a few moments to express my views on why we should be supporting the motion to the amendment to hoist Bill No. 47 for six months.
For all, I am from Pictou, I am particularly interested in the great hospitals here in Halifax. We have a lot of people, of course, from our area, use these facilities and I have had the opportunity myself to be in the VGH for a few days and also attended the Rehab Centre quite a bit back in 1990. I know they are excellent facilities and to put them together very quickly without considerable consultation, I think, is wrong. These facilities important, not only to the people of Halifax, but all across the province. We should do it correctly and by taking six months, I think, we can have input from the various ministers who are involved with the unions and the care workers from those hospitals, the nurses and the administrators, to give them an opportunity to have a say and to see that we do it properly.
I am concerned sometimes in these mergers that we set up a big bureaucratic system. Get nice new offices and everybody is put to work without serious consideration of the cost. I have not heard the minister say and I may have missed it, but I have not heard the minister say that there has been a cost analysis study done of what could be saved by putting these together. I think we should have time to look at that and have that study done. I know the suggestion was $50 million one day. I do not know if that study was conclusive, I have not heard the figures and I would be very pleased and honoured if the minister would stand up and tell me that they have a study that is done, that will save a lot of money. I understand why the government has to save money. We have a massive debt and it is important, but our people in Nova Scotia need good health care and these are the units that I refer to are very important to our people.
I think it is important that we take six months, not be in a hurry. What is the hurry? They are not going to go away; the units will still be there. If we give the hospital workers, I say, the people who are involved, the opportunity to come in and have their say, work with the Minister of Health, the Minister of Human Resources and whoever else may be involved, and the Premier, of course, to do this properly.
There is nothing I see in the bill about home care or whatever, we want to have these units available to our people, but it is important that, again I say, we look at it very carefully.
We have not had it pointed out to us what the savings are to have these hospitals put together. The bill should be sent back and put aside for six months to have health care studied very carefully. There is nothing in the bill, as I say, that I could see - and I know I am not supposed to refer to any clauses particularly - that will improve the health care of Nova Scotians or shorten the list of people who are unable to get into the hospital or anything like that.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment to hoist the bill is one that I am sure will probably not pass in this House. It will eventually, with the government numbers, pass second reading. Whether today, tomorrow or Thursday or Friday or whatever, it will probably pass second reading. I am sure then it will go to the Law Amendments Committee and perhaps, I do not want to refer to another bill, but for example, the Education Bill which had many corrections made by the minister himself, 171 or 177 amendments to that bill. We had hearings all last week and my understanding from the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee is that there will be hearings all this week in regard to that bill.
So I think if we would put this bill out, put it to a hoist for six months it would give people an opportunity to come in and participate. It is probably a good thing to do. I have no doubt about that, but let's take our time and do it right. My understanding too, about these different pay scales at the various hospitals involved and the other members of the Legislature who have spoken previous to myself have talked about those items of pay equity. I guess it refers to the fact that it is not in place so some hospital workers are going to be working at one particular salary and others at another. I think these types of things have to be worked out.
I believe, and I stand corrected on this, Mr. Minister, but I think there are about 7,000 workers involved in those units and he is not paying any attention to me and that is fine. I think there are about 7,000 workers and by putting this together it would reduce maybe by 2,000 to 2,500 workers. So maybe I am wrong on those figures, but that is what we were led to understand.
I think it is important that we do a detailed analysis on how we can save money and that we not build fancy offices, make fancy places for people to work, but the thing that we have to do is to have proper health care for the people of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, I do not want to delay your committee. I know, as I said, that the bill will probably pass second reading in due course, but if we could set it aside for six months. We are not saying not do the bill, it is probably the right thing to do, but the fact is we will go to the Law Amendments Committee and I am sure from what I have heard from the people involved that we will have many hearings, many participants at the Law Amendments Committee and we will have many suggestions to be made as to what changes will be made on the bill.
So why not take our time and do it right and bring it back in the spring session and see what will happen. It would probably pass very quickly. Mr. Speaker, I will be voting for the amendment and I hope that all members from the Legislature will. Otherwise, I hope they will get up and speak and express their concerns as to why we should do it so quickly. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think there are probably a number of people who wish to speak on the amendment. I certainly welcome the opportunity to say a few words on what I think is a very responsible approach being proposed by my colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic.
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about something that is of fundamental importance to not only the people in the metropolitan area but, indeed, right across the province.
The hospitals that are being amalgamated, that are being joined together, provide services not only to the residents who live in the Halifax-Dartmouth area, but they provide, with their excellent staff and their excellent facilities and services, Mr. Speaker, not only elective surgery, much of which is vitally important for quality of life and, indeed, longevity of life, but they also provide essential services in terms of emergency services for people right across the province.
I believe, very strongly, Mr. Speaker, that what we are setting up with this legislation in terms of a confrontation between some workers and other workers possibly, but certainly with the government and, more importantly, what we can be doing that will be harmful to the health care system and to the employees who have given so much of their time and energy and their heart and soul to serving the people of this province. I believe that a lot of that can be avoided if the sponsor of this bill will, in fact, agree to back off and to allow time to do things right.
When I say that, Mr. Speaker, I know that it was the Minister of Health who introduced the legislation so, on paper, the Minister of Health is the sponsor of this bill. But based on the number of interventions that we have had from the Minister of Human Resources, I am not sure if this is really a health bill or if it is a bill aimed at trying to get the Minister of Human Resources' policies through.
Mr. Speaker, the minister, when he stood and spoke about this bill, talked about how proud he was of this bill and about the tremendous work and consultations that have gone on with the interim board of the hospitals to bring it about. Not once, unless my ears fogged over for a period of time, which I don't think they did, did the minister talk about the consultations and the discussions that had gone on with the workers and with the workers' representatives.
Mr. Speaker, the workers in this province, those who have dedicated themselves to providing the highest quality you possibly can, health care services to the people of this province, those people are themselves very committed and very concerned to ensure that health care reform proceed, but that it proceed in a manner that is not going to destroy the health care system but, in fact, enhance it. They are also looking for fair and equitable treatment for those who work in the health care system and have worked over long periods of time.
I believe that the bill in its present form, regrettably, is not supportable. The bill, as it presently sits before this House, does not deserve the support of members of this House. I say that without any hesitation. But you know, with some work, with some honest consultation and with making the legislation match some of the rhetoric that comes out from the public communications officers for the various ministries, Mr. Speaker, this bill can, in fact, be improved so that it is supportable. But in its current form, it simply is not.
I believe this government has to decide and over a six month period of time, they can take a look at the bill. They can take a look at their misconceptions. They can take a look at the misstatements that they are putting out and they can then (Interruption)
I think that the Speaker would, quite correctly, rule me out of order if I was to refer to what the Premier just gave me, Mr. Speaker, because it is a very important matter, but not dealing with the bill.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I think I do have a rule against reading speeches, reading them too extensively anyway.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it has absolutely nothing to do with the bill and so, quite honestly, it is very important information and I thank the Premier for providing that information.
Now, Mr. Speaker, members of this government have to decide and over a six month period of time whether or not those who have worked for the health care system in the various hospitals to be merged, deserve fair and equitable treatment. The government is saying, for example, and is trying to imply, that all rights and benefits of employees - for example, those who work in the Victoria General Hospital - will be carried forward with them to the new board.
I would suggest that there is a need for a briefing session and an education session for members of the government who are saying that, that they need to have somebody sit down and explain to the members of the government benches the difference between the Trade Union Act and the Nova Scotia Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act and the differences in terms of how benefits are arrived at and determined. As this bill currently stands, there are countless benefits that if public sector workers had negotiated under the Trade Union Act and had these items negotiated in their collective agreements instead of them relying on Acts of this House, Orders in Council, and other provisions of terms of contract, then some, Mr. Speaker, of the problems may not exist.
But this bill that is before us does not recognize that, and therefore has the potential to strip away countless benefits and rights that currently exist for those workers. You have to ask, how is that going to improve the quality of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia? I would suggest that it is not. If this is not an accident, the way this is written, if this is clear government policy to strip these away, then let the Minister of Health, the Minister of Human Resources and other members of the front benches stand on their feet and say, we no longer believe in pay equity for hospital workers. Spell it out, be up-front, tell the workers who work in the hospitals that that is what the government's position is. If this government believes that benefits that workers have, benefits that would deal with things like maternity leave, sick leave, Public Service awards, vacation time in lieu of overtime and so on, Mr. Speaker, all of these things which are not part of collective agreements and haven't been negotiated as part of collective agreements because they are covered under Statutes of this House and regulations.
Is that the position of the government? I would like to have a minister of the Crown stand on their feet and, Mr. Speaker, if that is not their plan, let them say so. Let them commit that they will amend the legislation to ensure, as was the case in the transitional agreement that had been reached in 1992, that all rights, benefits or privileges entitled pursuant to any Act, regulation, collective agreement or employment contract is transferred.
The government would have people believe - and they say so outside - that this is all about a turf war. Not at all. People who understand the implications of this bill, who understand labour law, who know the collective agreements, who know the Nova Scotia Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act and all of the other legislation involved. Those people aren't trying to raise smoke-screens. They aren't trying to needlessly upset and concern their members. Quite to the contrary. What they are trying to do is an honest education in explaining the ramifications of this bill.
Now the government and I can go through press statements put out by the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and things that talk about supposedly what this bill does that don't match the legislation. In a six month period of time, if this government is truly committed to the rhetoric that is put out by their communications officers, then maybe we will have a bill that is supportable.
Statutory benefits will be lost according to this bill. Is it the view of members of this government, and if so let them stand and say so, that in this health care reform, in the ways, methods and attempts to raise some money to maybe pay for the merger costs, that those monies are going to be ripped out of the employees' pockets in terms of the loss of statutory benefits like long service awards and maternity benefits? If so, say so. If not, say so and say so on the public record in this House. Make the commitment to those women and men who have and continue, often under very severe working conditions, overworked with increased pressures and strains being placed on them, tell them that this bill will be amended in the Law Amendments Committee process where the Minister of Health will table a series of amendments to put in place, in effect, the terms and conditions of the Transition Agreement. That is what this government and this minister can do.
Pay equity; over six months maybe this government can decide if it supports pay equity. Pay equity is a very important principle. It was put in place to end discrimination based on sex. It is a recognition and the Pay Equity Act as it currently sits is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But pay equity was supposed to recognize that in work places dominated by women, work places of 10 or more in the Public Service, that those work areas would be compared to male dominated comparable groups and salaries adjusted to end discrimination in terms of wages based on sex.
This bill does not provide for this new hospital board having to abide by the pay equity legislation. Does this government want to return, and maybe this is something that they have to spend some time to think about, do they want to return to a system of discrimination and to have that discrimination not only continue but to increase? Under this legislation, and this government needs some time to think this one through, I certainly don't because I strongly believe in pay equity, but this government obviously has to decide whether it is willing, to save some money and that is what it is about, to compromise the principles of pay equity.
What is going to happen, quite clearly, will be that those who have benefitted by pay equity - and the discrimination they have suffered was recognized and their salaries were elevated - those people are going to be red-circled and they will not receive any increases in wages until other employees in the same jobs with whom they have been amalgamated have come up over a period of time, after wage restraints, of course, come off, to a level that would match theirs, you could say that they came up to a level that matched theirs or, Mr. Speaker, given inflation and all the other things you could say, have gone down because the benefits that would have been achieved under pay equity will have been lost by that time.
The principles we have been trying to do away with, that being discrimination based on sex, will be back in full swing, equal to where it had been. Is that what this government wants to do, Mr. Speaker? Is that what they want to be known as, putting 3,000 employees back into the situation of discrimination on the basis of sex?
I suggest this government needs some time to think about that. Maybe some of the government members will even hear from constituents over the next number of days. I know that my phone started to ring shortly after 7:00 a.m. this morning, calls from constituents with concerns about how this legislation was going to affect them. I even had the opportunity to direct several of those who called me shortly after 7:00 a.m. to call their MLA because they thought I was their MLA, Mr. Speaker, but when I pointed out that based on their address that they were actually in a Liberal member's riding, I suggested that they should look up their numbers and give them a call early in the morning as well.
MR. SPEAKER: With deference, please, we have to get back to the amendment.
MR. HOLM: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I was just thinking here that in six months there could be an awful lot of educating of government members being done.
Now this bill, supposedly, is about somehow improving health care. improving efficiency, and improving the quality of service that can be provided. But you know, as others have said from time to time, I have yet to see any detailed kind of plan produced by this minister or his colleagues as to how this health care reform is going to take place. I certainly have not seen any cost-analysis or cost-benefit being provided by this minister or this government telling us how it is going to be done. But you know one doesn't have to look too far to realize that this government's projections in terms of what the costs of amalgamating services are going to be, one doesn't have to look too far to see how far off the mark they tend to be in their assessments. In fact, I haven't seen them coming within a county mile so far, in terms of the actual costs.
Before this bill proceeds, and if we are genuinely talking about health care reform, this government has a responsibility to lay on the table a detailed analysis in terms of how it is going to improve health care in the province, where those cost-savings are going to come from - other than from the workers who they are going to be taking these benefits away from, like the statutory benefits, Mr. Speaker, that is the only way you can read the bill - and also they have a responsibility to provide accurate, reliable expenditure details in terms of what it is going to cost. Without that information, one cannot help but wonder when the costs start to come in, originally $12 million, then it goes up to $20 million, then it goes up to $50 million for the implementation and the moving of equipment and the redesigning and alterations of the buildings that are going to be necessary, where is that additional money going to come from?
Is the Minister of Finance going to open up his purse and start chucking over millions of more dollars? Maybe he will negotiate a new agreement with the casino and we will get $50 million a year instead of $25 million. Who knows, Mr. Speaker. But there certainly is nothing in this legislation and there are no assurances that if additional monies are needed, that the government has a way to come up with that money to meet those cost overruns. We don't even know what they are because the government has not provided any kind of actual plan.
So where does it come from? Maybe it will come from reducing even more of the essential services. We have already seen, for example, about 25 per cent of the health care workers in the province being out of work now, Mr. Speaker. We are seeing possibly another 2,500 employees involved in health care being removed from those positions.
So are we going to increase those numbers yet again? Are the waiting lists going to grow from seven months to one year for elective surgery, Mr. Speaker? Is that the plan? So that a person who needs a hip replacement will end up having to wait for one year, so that the person who needs a coronary by-pass will now have to wait for one year because that is elective surgery? Is that where the cost savings are going to come from? How much is going to come from the workers who lose their statutory benefits because they are not included within collective agreements?
Who even is going to be able to represent the workers from the Victoria General Hospital who had been members of the NSGEU before the Labour Relations Board when all things are being sorted out? Because this bill does not recognize them as having any bargaining agent. They are not recognized as anybody being there to bargain for them, so if they are not recognized under the Trade Union Act, which they are not, who is going to bring forward their concerns? Maybe it will be the Minister of Human Resources who will interfere, personally. Oh, I am sure that warms the hearts of all of those employees to think that the Minister of Human Resources might himself move forward, like the champion on his big stallion coming forward to protect the workers.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I am not sure if the minister's big stallion relates directly to the amendment. Please return to the amendment.
MR. HOLM: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was just trying to glorify the minister there a little bit and trying to build him up. But that is a very important point. I would suggest that this government, not only the Minister of Health, because, as I said at the start, I don't know how much of this legislation is the Minister of Health's and how much of it is really the Minister of Human Resources and carrying out, not just the Minister of Human Resources, but, in fact, government policy as adopted by Cabinet. So I know the Minister of Health has broad shoulders, but I believe that the minister and all of his colleagues should carry some of the responsibilities for this bill.
The government said that it supports the Blueprint Committee recommendations. The Blueprint Committee, which was set up, which certainly involved many people from across the province, involved as health care providers, as consumers, representatives from the hospitals, from the workers, worked long and very hard to come up with recommendations on how health care reform in the province can be carried out. Nobody is denying, least of all the workers, that health care reform needs to be done. Nobody has said that the purse strings have no limit. But you know, the Blueprint Committee made very specific recommendations on ways in which health care reform should proceed. This government supposedly said that they support the recommendations of that Blueprint Committee.
Maybe in a six month period of time this government will actually have the opportunity to read and to understand some of the important recommendations made in that report and not only to read and understand them but to put into place some of those fundamental recommendations that are crucial for such an amalgamation. Here, for example, I am speaking of the Human Resources Advisory Committee. That isn't something that you could do overnight but if we believe at all in fairness, if we want to have a level of morale that is higher than the floor, we have to start to treat and to acknowledge that health care providers are crucial in the delivery of the health care system and that they need to be treated with respect.
Where are the health care needs assessment that the Blueprint Committee recommended? Where do we have a needs assessment based on the populations? Where are the policies as recommended by the Blueprint Committee that would deal with such things as wage disparity, pay equity, standards of employment and so on? All important issues plus many more that one could list that the Human Resource Advisory Committee should and needs to be appointed to be working through.
I just can't understand why members of this government would even consider the embarking on such a program as this without first having done what is right toward their employees and in establishing that Human Resource Advisory Committee to look at the overall health care needs and to ensure that workers are going to be treated fairly. For example, once this government amalgamates these and transfers employees to this new corporation which, by the way, is not independent, it is very much under the control of this government. It is not as if this board is going to be appointed and maybe I will touch on that point for a moment and deal with this because, of course, now that this is being set up as an independent corporation with its own board where the employees are no longer going to be public servants under the Civil Service Commission, the government is trying to portray that it is arm's length, it is distant from them. This government no longer controls them. It is run and controlled by a board of governors.
It is interesting to know who appoints the majority of members of that board of governors.
AN HON. MEMBER: Eight of them.
MR. HOLM: Eight of them. If my memory serves me correctly, 8 out of 14.
AN HON. MEMBER: Sounds like a majority to me.
MR. HOLM: It does definitely sound like a majority to me. Chairmen have a lot of power and it might be amazing to know who appoints the Chairman or Chairperson. Independent, not an agent of the Crown, yet this government that says that this board and commission is totally independent, sets the by-laws and the rules and can accept property, can hire people, can fire people, can be doing all of these things, setting terms of employment and so on, setting up pension funds.
The majority of members are appointed, not by election, not by the public, but by the Governor in Council, undoubtedly on the recommendation of the Minister of Health. So, Mr. Speaker, while all these employees are losing their statutory benefits, as this bill reads - and it is okay, well and good for the ministers to stand up and say, oh no, we don't mean to do that, in their press statements - I would like them, I would invite the Minister of Human Resources to stand and say on the public record, on the floor of this House, that the benefits, all of the rights and entitlements, statutory rights and entitlements of those employees will be vested in the new corporation and that those employees will continue to have all of those statutory rights and benefits that they have at the present time.
If there are some particular ones that this government doesn't want them to have, right now the government will say, well, that is up to the board to decide which ones they will or won't have, items that would normally have been done through a collective bargaining process, but as those employees are not under the Trade Union Act, they fall under the Statutes and regulations. If this government has a list of those they plan to delete and tell those who they are going to appoint to the board to delete, let them stand up and say so. Let's stop hiding things, let's be totally up-front. (Interruption) Yes, indeed, as the Minister of Natural Resources says, stop misleading. That is what I invite them to do, Mr. Speaker, stop misleading.
Let's publicly say what will be provided. Will the terms, will the things in the transitional agreement be honoured? Will the employees be entitled to those things as listed and identified in the transitional agreement? Will they be honoured? Then say so publicly, and, Mr. Speaker, agree to amend the legislation so that they are, indeed, covered by this bill. If, as their press statements say, all the rights, all employees' rights, benefits, salaries, et cetera, including - their's don't say - statutory benefits and rights and privileges are intended to be carried forward, say so.
Silence is deafening, silence tells me that it is not us who are fear-mongering, as we have been accused of doing. Silence gives credence to what we are saying. I believe very strongly that this government has a responsibility to the women and men who have provided, often under extremely difficult working conditions, the highest quality of health care that they have been.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.
HON. JAY ABBASS: On the invitation of the member opposite, I rise, since I don't want to give credence to anything he is saying, to explain that very clearly this bill does guarantee salaries and and benefits under one or the other or several of its sections. LTD and pension benefits are assured. I would ask the member opposite that rather than ask us to delineate those rights, entitlements or benefits that are not going to be transferred, perhaps he could do that for us since successorship is assured by the bill and since all of those rights and entitlements which I have just mentioned are assured. Could he perhaps spell out a little bit more clearly than he has done so far exactly what he is talking about?
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, am I allowed to do that?
MR. SPEAKER: It is certainly permissible for the minister to ask a question and for the Leader to respond, yes.
MR. HOLM: Oh, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have all kinds of pages of information, if I may.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, all of this is in the context that the bill be read in six months' time.
MR. HOLM: Well, it is in the context of trying to put forward, in answer to the minister's question - because the minister is implying in his answer that the statutory benefits which are not included in collective agreements are going to be carried forward. That is not the case in the way the bill is written. If Mr. Speaker would like, I will go through a number of areas.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I will tell you what I would like. The motion is that the bill be not now read but be read six months hence. So any good reasons why that would be a recommended course of action are in order.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, to make the answer as short and as succinct as I can, maybe the minister would like to get a copy of the letters: for example, the letter recently provided to the Director of Corporate Services in his own department which itemizes and spells out, a letter that was written only the other day.
MR. ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise and respond. I was happy enough to drive to New Glasgow and pick up a copy personally from Mr. Dave Peters on Friday. The letter is written on his behalf by a well-known member of the Party of the member opposite. It is a very well written piece of literature but most of what it says is not the sort of thing that should hold up a bill as important to health reform as this bill. The members opposite are being unnecessarily alarmist. I cannot say that they are being misleading to the House because that is unparliamentary, but I would say that they are presenting a version of the truth which would deny the fact, and it is a fact, that LTD, pension and successorship, Trade Union Act style, is assured, guaranteed, under this bill. Now I am asking the member opposite, could he please contradict that?
MR. HOLM: The first thing I want to do, if I may, Mr. Speaker, as the minister himself raised it, I want to suggest to the minister that he just very much impugned the reputation of one of the best lawyers in the Province of Nova Scotia. He not only impugned that lawyer, a member of his own profession, I would suggest, but he also insulted the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and all others who not only have used his services but depend very heavily on the legal advice that is provided by that gentleman and others. This minister stood up and he implied that Mr. Peters was taken in by a letter that was written for him by somebody who was associated with my Party. Therefore, obviously, this person, who was working for the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, according to the minister's rhetoric, was writing this letter supposedly for political reasons, not as an analysis of the bill. That is quite clearly the interpretation that one would be putting on what the minister just said.
Mr. Speaker, I find that to be an absolute disgrace. It also casts a great deal of doubt and draws into question - it is an insult against Mr. Peters himself, who is the author or has a signature on that letter. I would suggest that he is implying that Mr. Peters and the members of his union are being duped by some political activist out there who is trying to embarrass the minister. That is the essence of what this minister just said. I find that reprehensible. I have to say in all honesty, when legal documents are presented by his government, by legal experts working for the government, one does not sit down and question their motives in so doing.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, is this another question?
HON. JAY ABBASS: I will only rise if you are prepared to have me intervene that's all. On a question, Mr. Speaker, I would very clearly contradict the member opposite. I have the highest regard for Dave Peters, for the NSGEU, its leadership and for all its members. That is why I have gone out of my way to consult with them over the last many weeks and months leading up to the tabling of this bill. It is with their help that some of these provisions were brought forward. It was after their well informed intervention that things like pension benefits, LTD benefits and trade union style successorship were assured to the members of Dave Peters' union, the NSGEU. As for Mr. Larkin, and I will name him, Ray Larkin is one of the very best lawyers in all of Nova Scotia and I have no trouble saying that.
MR. HOLM: I have to say that this time, Mr. Speaker, that I welcome the minister's intervention and that he has cleared up the impression that was left by his first statement. Because I actually find myself, in this situation as well, for once, agreeing with the minister. Therefore, if as the minister has said, that this letter was written by Mr. Larkin, who, according to the minister who has just spoken yet again, is one of the very best lawyers in Nova Scotia then, obviously, there must be a lot of credence to the concerns that are raised in that letter.
Mr. Speaker, I have not yet heard the minister in his interventions, it is interesting to note, however, I will point this out yet again, if I may, it is the Minister of Human Resources who is rising on this bill, not the Minister of Health, which does tell us something about whose bill this really is and whether this is about health care.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, that does not relate to the amendment. Certainly, any member has the right to rise to ask a question during a debate here, any member does and that right will be upheld.
MR. HOLM: Yes, they do, Mr. Speaker, but it is interesting to note that most of the matters in the bill really deal with Human Resources issues, rather than Health issues and, therefore, even though the Minister of Health is the one sponsoring the bill, one cannot help but think that there has been tremendous amounts of collaboration with his colleague, who sits a row behind him. One has to wonder, if the bill is crafted in this way, aimed at improving the quality of health care or if it is aimed at trying to put into place some policies and strategy of the Human Resources Department and the Liberal Government that will have the effect of stripping away a lot of the benefits.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what I have not heard yet, though, is a commitment that the statutory benefits (Interruption) I was just going to finish my one sentence, if I may, before I recognize the minister, on his feet. It was a question he was asking about? What hopefully the minister will announce when he is up today, right now, that he will say, quite clearly - and if he does, I promise I will sit down and I will give the floor to another speaker - if the minister will promise that the conditions and terms that had been agreed to in the transitional agreement will, in fact, have force and that this legislation will be amended to ensure that the benefits and the statutory benefits that had been provided under that transitional agreement will be put into this legislation.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Depending on what kind leeway I am given, I am happy to talk, at least a bit, about the transitional agreement. Make no mistake about it, Clause 5 of the new QE II bill, says that, "The Corporation is not an agent of Her Majesty in right of the province.". Individuals who are employed by the QE II will not be civil servants. That is no surprise to the leadership of the NSGEU or for any employee of the new QE II complex, or at least it should not be. Be clear though, that one of the major concerns which was addressed, or at least was attempted to be addressed in the Transition Agreement, which was signed by the VG and the NSGEU back in 1992, but not by the government of the day, was successorship. Clause 20(1), "For greater certainty, the Corporation is a transferee for the purpose of Section 31 of the Trade Union Act and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, (a) the Corporation is bound by successor rights as determined pursuant to the Trade Union Act;" and it goes on.
Now members opposite have tried to maintain that there is a lack of clarity there. Perhaps the next time the member opposite stands up he could clarify where there is a lack of clarity because in order to maintain that, he will have to argue that Section 31 of a long-standing Act, a much respected Act, the Trade Union Act, is unclear, but that is just not so. Section 31 is the successorship clause which is so important to Dave Peters, so important to the members of the NSGEU, it is that clause and that provision, that benefit which we have guaranteed to the employees of the NSGEU.
MR. HOLM: I very much welcome the dialogue that we are having back and forth across the floor.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you listening?
MR. HOLM: Am I listening? I am trying to, I say to the Minister of Natural Resources, listen intently. But you know, Mr. Speaker, unless something has changed that I am not aware of, and that is quite possible, it wouldn't be the first time in here that I have made a fool of myself or made a mistake, and that is something that most members of the government benches will agree with, but to the best of my knowledge, those who are covered under the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act are not under the Trade Union Act, they are not registered.
Mr. Speaker, the minister is talking about successor rights and transferring over the benefits. Successor rights deal with those items that are contained in collective bargaining agreements. And there is no question, I don't think, that the wage scales and items contained in the collective agreements for those employees will be transferred over to the new corporation.
But the minister surely knows that there are many items, even the early retirement incentive plan, got down to things as minuscule - they aren't unimportant for people who do a lot of it, but travel, mileage for those who have to use their vehicles when they are going out, maternity leave, week schedules, those are statutory . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Well now the honourable member's time is going to run out in 10 minutes. I have allowed him an extra six minutes, incidentally, to 6:45 p.m.
The honourable Minister of Human Resources again.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Well, the member opposite is going through a very short list and he is going to run out very quickly so perhaps I should have let him go on. I welcome this delineation of these various items that are so crucial to this debate. Mileage at the new QE II, or at least Camp Hill, I understand, is actually higher. So if you want to argue for a lower mileage allowance for the members of the NSGEU, go right ahead, fill your boots, but I think you are going down a wrong path.
Another thing that I think is so crucially important to the member opposite and supposedly to the NSGEU members is that they be able to run for political office. Well, it is a wonderful office and one that I ran for. It is one that almost any individual who works in the private sector has the right to pursue.
A lot of what the member is raising as concerns are really just red herrings. If the individuals who have come into the gallery care to listen to the member as he goes through his very short list of concerns, they would realize that this is all much ado about absolutely nothing.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hope this minister will be prepared to meet in public forums with all of those who think that what I am talking about is much ado about nothing.
MR. SPEAKER: That can happen at a later stage but right now we are debating this amendment, that the bill be read in six months' time. I am going to let the honourable member go until 6:45 p.m., on account of the interruptions. Carry on.
MR. HOLM: Well thank you, Mr. Speaker. I may use that much, I may not. But I have to say to the minister, and I started off, as the minister will know, talking about some of the minor points but there are many things that deal with (Interruptions) Well, the minister wants some major things; how about sick leave, how about Public Service awards, how about holidays, how about pensions, how about vacation, time off in lieu of overtime? How about compensation time off or compensation when such time off is not possible. How about rights and conditions under deferred salary arrangements? How about jobs sharing arrangements? How about a lot of these items? Are those items that are major enough that need to be considered? Are those benefits? Are those rights privileges and so on, much of which depends upon statutory items, are those being transferred? I could go on, Mr. Speaker, but the minister said he wanted a short list. What about pensions? Yes, there will be pensions, but what will the new pension be?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Again, for the member opposite and for all those NSGEU members who care about choice in this life, they will have a choice of remaining part of the Public Service Superannuation Plan, a measure that was very much at the heart of interventions by the leadership of the NSGEU. But, shame on us, we have actually given the employees the choice that if the new plan, the third plan, which might eventually come forward under the QE II's management, if it is richer, they have a choice of taking the richer plan and believe it or not, that has come forward as a major concern.
Would the member opposite explain how in God's name that could be a concern to the average member of the NSGEU or any other union, please?
MR. HOLM: I have to wrap my knuckles, Mr. Speaker. I am obviously being a very bad person in here today.
Shame on them, they say, for giving the people a choice. The new people who would be employed will not be able to be involved or enter into that superannuation pension fund which, by the way, is a very good pension plan, it is well run, it is well managed, it is well funded and it is jointly administered. Under these alternate plans there will not be that joint administration and one of the things that this does is that it has the potential for weakening that fund and I invite the minister, who has now left, to think about the difficulties and speak to his colleague, the Minister of Justice, about the problems surrounding the correctional officers.
MR. SPEAKER: I think we are getting a little away from the amendment there when you are bring the in correctional officers.
MR. HOLM: Yes, Mr. Speaker, maybe I am transgressing a little bit when I am talking about that, but the principles are the same.
We are dealing with a piece of legislation that is going to have long-lasting implications for the quality of health care. We are dealing with a piece of legislation that is aimed, supposedly, at making the health care system more efficient and more effective, so we are told. The reality is there is not a single solidary study that this government is prepared or able to put on the table to show what their plan is; to show that it is more cost benefit effective and to show how employees are going to be treated fairly. When you start to set up double standards within the work force where one will have a benefit and another one does not, where one's collective rights and benefits are going to be transferred and another's are not, you are not having an equal playing field.
I can use up, without any difficulty in my last six minutes or seven minutes, I assure you. There are several members of the government benches who are suggesting I should sit down and I am going to be doing that one thing to please them in a minute.
If this government truly believes in fairness, in integrity, if this is not just about cost-cutting instead of improving quality health care, then we will not get the kinds of not only interventions in here that we got this afternoon, but what we will get is commitments to work with the representatives of the workers to ensure that we have a top quality health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia and where, Mr. Speaker, all of the savings are not going to be ripped out of either the pockets of the workers or out of the health care services that are so essentially needed.
We have tremendous long waiting lists already. We have a very dedicated staff working long hard hours under very difficult situations trying to provide patient care of the highest quality. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, those individuals who have been doing that kind of service deserve to be treated in an equitable and in a fair manner by this government.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources on the amendment.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Since the member opposite is actually winding up, I would only add a few comments at this time. (Interruption) No, you have just sat down, I think.
Mr. Speaker, some of the comments by the member who went just before this were not intentionally misleading by any means, I am sure. In producing his longer list of concerns or deficiencies or items that are supposedly covered by Statute and not by collective agreement, he unintentionally, I think, strayed into several items that are included in fact in the collective agreement. I am sure that was unintentional but, for instance sick leave, that is clearly a collective bargaining item. Whether he did that intentionally or not, let the House be assured that something like sick leave, like probably the majority if not all of the items that the member read off, are collective agreement items and, under this bill, are assured or are respected, are guaranteed to employees of the QE II.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a question. Could the minister tell us if all of the benefits that workers currently have, under Statutes, are covered and are guaranteed in this bill? All of the statutory benefits to which workers are currently entitled, will all those benefits automatically be vested in those employees when they become employed by the board, all of them?
MR. ABBASS: I would be happy to answer, and I will repeat again, Clause 5(1), "The Corporation is not an agent of Her Majesty in right of the Province.". An Act like the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act will not apply, make no mistake about that. There is no surprise here, the NSGEU and its leadership know that, as do the new management of the QE II or the interim board at least.
Clause 5(2), "A person employed or engaged by the Corporation is not an officer, servant or agent of Her Majesty in right of the Province.". A major concern of those who were promoting a Transition Agreement back in 1992 and its inclusion in whole or in part in this bill was that successorship would not be extended to the members of the NSGEU or other unions.
Again, people who are covered by the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, the civil servants of this province, do not enjoy something called successorship. Those who are familiar with the Trade Union Act do understand that upon the sale of a business or an entity, an enterprise that has unionized employees, there is a principle of successorship in this province whereby collective agreements are honoured. Make no mistake about this, this was a major concern to which we listened and to which we responded.
Again, Clause 20(1)(a), if the Grade 2 kids at Saint Agnes or any other school wish to open the bill tomorrow, they will understand that clause. They will know what the clause means. It means that successorship is granted, Trade Union Act style Section 31 successorship is granted and guaranteed to the employees of the QE II. Now, if there is a problem with the wording of Clause 20(1)(a) or Clause 20(1)(b) for that matter, let's talk about it, Subclause (b) is also of interest, "subject to the Trade Union Act, the Corporation . . ." and that is the QE II, " . . . and the employees, who are covered by collective agreements, of a predecessor hospital are bound by the collective agreements as if the Corporation were a party to them.". Successorship pure and simple.
Where else do we see the concepts of successorship coming forward? In Clause 17(2)(e), salary and benefits are continued. Subclause (f), "the Corporation and the employees of the Corporation covered by a collective agreement concluded pursuant to the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act and their bargaining agent are bound by the collective agreement . . . ". The member opposite has not made a case for claiming that successorship has not been assured here. Neither has he been able to establish that pension benefits are not passed on, or that LTD benefits are not passed on, he has not established his case. In fact, Clause 17(5)(b) for greater certainty, "benefits accumulated by an employee at the Victoria General while employed at the Victoria General Hospital at Halifax are vested in the employee, and the employee is entitled to receive those benefits from the Corporation.", the QE II. Now is that unclear? I think not and I think anyone and that person need not be a lawyer would be able to read that section and understand what vested means, would understand what salary and benefits mean and would understand the principles of successorship which are enshrined in this bill.
For now I would be pleased to give the floor back to the member opposite if he cares to go any further in presenting . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Well, his time is expired. It certainly has expired now, it is 6:42 p.m. now but if you wish to ask a question of the minister, he didn't quite take his seat yet.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. As is my wont in this place I am inclined to get confused. Which member has the floor?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources has the floor and the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party is attempting to ask him a question.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hadn't finally said I was taking my seat yet and you noted giving me until 6:45 p.m. but by way of a moment and you can call this a question . . .
MR. SPEAKER: But you did yield the floor.
MR. HOLM: . . . if you wish. The Trade Union Act does provide for successor rights. Successor rights deal with those items that are contained within collective agreements. Yes, indeed, we all do understand that and the minister will know that I made that observation in my remarks. However, the Trade Union Act does not deal with matters that are not contained within the collective agreements and those who are public servants do not fall under the Trade Union Act, they fall, as the minister will know, under the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act. The minister will also know that there are many rights and privileges to which public servants are entitled. They are entitled to those because of the regulations, because they are statutory or terms and conditions of the contract under which they are implied. Those are not covered by the Trade Union Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, again the member opposite's list is short going on non-existent. Sick leave benefits are part of the collective agreement. The collective agreement is respected by this bill. I am not sure how much clearer we can get about this. We can go back and forth all night, I don't think we should, frankly, for the sake of House decorum but again, I would reiterate that the intent and the effect of this Bill No. 47 is that successorship, trade union style, Section 31 style, successorship should be and is extended to those employees who are affected.
Rather than reiterate this, which I have done at least twice tonight, I would be pleased to rise at a later moment and again address the bill.
MR. SPEAKER: Is there another member to speak to the amendment that the bill be read in six months' time?
The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, timing is everything. No matter what path one may choose to move along, if the timing of the motion is wrong, then the likelihood is that what will befall the mover is going to be somewhat more disastrous than was initially anticipated. You would appreciate this, Mr. Speaker. With respect to Gallipoli, timing was everything. The idea was great, the timing was lousy and so it was a disaster. The same might be said of Dieppe. Although it might be drawing a bit of an extended analogy, I think perhaps the same might be said of this bill, that the timing of this legislation leaves a great deal to be desired and the timing of this legislation holds out the possibility, indeed, if not the probability, that what the minister intends to accomplish will not be accomplished, but rather, in fact, as the law of unintended results comes into play, there will be an impact flowing out of this legislation which will be very negative and which will impact significantly in that negative way on all kinds of Nova Scotians who will be affected by it. Again, timing is so vitally important here, hence the need for a six months' hoist, to give time for us to give consideration to these matters.
The minister has made reference to $15 million in savings as a result of the amalgamation encompassed within this relatively brief bill, which consists, I think, of 26 clauses. Yet, to my knowledge, the minister has not told the House, let alone provided evidence to the House, that there has been a significant cost-benefit analysis done with respect to the impact of this merger. I can't think of any business worthy of the name, in Nova Scotia or anywhere else in our country, which would undertake such a merger without first undertaking a cost-benefit analysis, to understand at the end of the day whether the balance sheet created by that cost-benefit analysis was going to dictate that the action proposed was going to have a positive result or if it was going to have a negative result and, of course, flowing out of that, a pretty fair determination of what the actual savings are going to be.
If the minister does have that information available, I think it behooves him to make the people of Nova Scotia aware that it exists and further to that, I think in order to support his argument, if indeed a cost-benefit analysis is available, that he should make that cost-benefit analysis a public document. If he has it and he is not prepared to make it a public document, then that would give me and I am sure all others who have an interest in this legislation cause to be suspicious that in fact the cost-benefit analysis undertaken does not reflect the kind of positive attributes and consequences to this bill that the minister and the government have laid forth as a rationale for introducing it. So timing is absolutely essential. The time can be short if, in fact, the cost-benefit analysis has been done and the minister is prepared to make it public for all who are interested to see. But the time may well be longer if, in fact, the minister is not prepared to do that because it then requires each of us in this House and those outside who have an interest to stand in whatever place we have available to us and to demand this very basic study and document from the minister and from the government. Timing, Mr. Speaker, is everything.
The minister has not qualified for us, even on the assumption that $15 million will be saved, where those savings will go. Will those $15 million in savings simply be applied to the Minister of Finance's budget or will those $15 million in savings be applied to provide better health care for Nova Scotians? Or will those $15 million in savings in part go to assist the Minister of Finance in having a better bottom line to his budget and in part go to the provision of better health care for Nova Scotians? We do not know. We do not know because we do not know if a cost-benefit analysis has been done and we do not, therefore, know whether there is a qualification available to us with respect to the $15 million. Those are important questions which are germane to the debate on this bill.
Timing is everything, and if the minister has that information available, he should put it on the table for all to see; then the timeframes he is demanding may be able to be met. If the minister is not prepared to do that, then the rationale for a six months' hoist is that much the greater, because the six months' hoist would allow for the appropriate examinations to be made of the potential impacts of this bill so that we will be able to qualify the spending of that $15 million or, indeed, the saving of that $15 million if it is going against the Minister of Finance's budget.
Another aspect of this legislation which concerns me and it is in part addressed here -whether it is addressed appropriately or not it debatable, but it is, nonetheless raised - is the whole matter of safety net for employees. You and I know, Mr. Speaker, you more than I, because unemployment is a much more serious problem for more people in your part of the province than in mine. That said, whether you are unemployed in Caledonia or unemployed in industrial Cape Breton, it is still pretty tough to be unemployed.
We do not know, with any degree of precision, what safety net is available to the men and the women whose jobs may well be, in fact whose jobs will be affected by the implementation of this bill. It is not solely a matter of saying to those men and women, gosh, I am sorry, there are not going to be jobs available to you, or you may have a job but it will not be by the same hours of work as you previously experienced. It is not a matter of saying that. What, in effect, we are saying to the men and women, who are going to have their employment terminated as a result of this, is go out into a labour market place where there are not many opportunities. So the question then arises, what safety net is the government prepared to provide the men and women who will be negatively impacted by this legislation?
What about wages? We know that the wages are not the same at all of these institutions. Will we move to the lowest common denominator? Will everybody be moved up to the highest wage? Will some kind of wage in between be worked out? What about the matter of pay equity? We know that pay equity accrues to at least one of these institutions, but not to others, so will this bill result in pay equity becoming a fact for all of the workers who will be caught up in this?
I believe, if I am not mistaken, that one of these institutions has a no-layoff clause in its contract in the event that an amalgamation takes place. How is that going to be effected in fairness to all parties to this agreement when the agreement comes into effect? These are some of the kinds of questions we should be asking. For those men and women - and our hearts must legitimately, really and honestly, ache for them - who will have their employment cease because of this bill, what is being put in place to try to help them in a transition from the work which they have enjoyed, the work which they have dedicated themselves into the new world that they must function in? Is the government providing counselling for these people? Is the government providing retraining opportunities for these people? Is the government providing funds so that these people who lose their employment will have the opportunity to go to agencies which specialize in finding employment for those who have had their employment terminated by their previous employer, through absolutely no fault of their own whatsoever?
We all know that the work that these men and women provide on a day to day basis is provided absolutely professionally, and not in a cold professional way but in a warm empathetic professional way, such that when people leave these health institutions, they leave with the sense that those who served them there genuinely cared about them. Well, should we not demonstrate that we genuinely care about these men and women who work in stressful situations every day and now are faced with the stress of knowing that their job may disappear?
What is being prepared by government for these people to help them in this very difficult and trying time? The answer to that question is, we do not know. If the government has a plan, then please tell us what that plan is. If it is a good plan, then the need for a six months' hoist is less evident than it is without knowledge of such a plan existing. Timing is everything. Timing is important with respect to the impact of this legislation on the entire province. Bear in mind that the minister himself has pointed out what is a penetrating glimpse into the obvious for all of us. We are talking about not just four institutions in the metropolitan area, we are talking about four institutions fused together which have a role to play with respect, not only to all of Nova Scotia, but indeed in a very real sense, to much of the Atlantic region. I will deal only with the Nova Scotian aspect of that.
This merger, in all probability, will have an impact on the regions that are served by the regional health councils around the province. What happens here will have an effect on the regional health care centres in Yarmouth, in Bridgewater, in Kentville, in New Glasgow and in industrial Cape Breton. It is like a freight train, you push one car and it bumps into the other and into the other. I wonder, and again we do not know - and the minister may be able to be helpful in telling us if this analysis has taken place and advise us what the result of this analysis is - we do not know what the impact of this legislation will have on the regional health care centres, the regional hospitals in our province. I think I feel quite confident in saying that it is going to have some impact and it will be a measurable impact. I ask the minister to tell Nova Scotians what those impacts are.
Then we go on again to the next step. If this provincial institution is going to have an impact on the regional institutions, then what happens in the regional institutions in response to the provincial institution is almost as assuredly going to have an impact on local hospitals. For example, Queens General Hospital which gives me a very specific interest and focal point with respect to my own constituency.
There is a domino effect which almost assuredly is at play here and I have seen and heard no evidence from this government or from this minister that the government or the minister has investigated what that domino effect is likely to be as it is played out. I think it behooves the government and the minister to ensure that we do understand that. So if there are going to be negative aspects to the implementation of this bill into the regions and then into the local hospitals and other health care institutions, be they institutions made of bricks and mortar or made of human beings, then we have to make sure that we identify those and if we cannot dispel them altogether we at least find the best ways that we possibly can to moderate them.
Madam Speaker, although it is not mentioned in the bill, the minister himself has made it abundantly clear that a major aspect of this legislation is home care, and I wonder - and again timing is everything - if the minister can provide us timely information, then perhaps there is no need to hoist this bill for six months. I wonder if the minister is telling Nova Scotians that one of the aspects of this legislation which will be positive is the infusion of some of these $15 million into the provision of home care because, after all, if this bill does what the minister purports it is going to do, it is going to have an impact on the stress put on home care in the province.
I have not heard the minister define for us the extent of that stress, nor have I heard the minister define for us how he intends to take action to ensure that that stress is alleviated as much as he possibly can. One of the ways to do that, of course, is to ensure that there are sufficient dollars put into home care that it will take that stress off the system, but we do not know that. We have only been told by the minister that home care is an important feature of the impact of this bill. Without the timely information available from the minister, I have no choice but to stand in this place, on behalf of my constituents, and to advise the minister that I have to support the motion which is on the floor, the motion to hoist the bill for the next six months.
Madam Speaker, I think, again, just before I leave home care, the minister also has a responsibility to advise us not only that the appropriate financial and human resources are going to be made available for that home care service, so that this bill will work with respect to health care delivery, but also I think the minister must, in convincing fashion, demonstrate to us that the provision of that additional home care support will be province-wide and will be provided in an even-handed way amongst all of the health regions and, within the health regions, amongst all of our communities.
My colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel spoke of the necessity of creating a seamless transition from where we find ourselves now to where the minister and the government, in the bill, is taking us. I do not have any comfort that we are guaranteed that will happen. In fact, I am quite discomforted, Madam Speaker, by the lack of information which has been provided to Nova Scotians, to those who know that they are going to have to avail themselves of the services of this institution and, most acutely, by the men and the women whose employment is going to be affected either by being cast into an entirely new work place situation, or being cast out of this work place altogether.
There can only be a seamless transition when every party to the actions, which are encompassed within this bill, have equal and ample and full and genuine opportunity to participate in crafting the legislation and in ensuring that the legislation, once crafted, speaks to all of these considerations.
Last week, as I am sure did you, Madam Speaker, I caught a newscast where it seems that the government had struck a bargain with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and with the Nurses' Union respecting this measure. Yet, it would seem, upon further reflection, those two groups, which are certainly the two organized groups which have the right type focus on this legislation, have had pretty serious second thoughts. Serious enough so that we even now hear some talk of possible strike action taking place.
Well, people don't threaten to hit the bricks lightly. I doubt - you know, Madam Speaker, I used to be a school teacher - if any of the people who are involved in health care work, in the provision of health care in our province, have months and months of savings that they can rely on, should they feel that the ultimate weapon must be used and they have to go on strike. I suspect they would find themselves in as great difficulty as I would as a school teacher if I had, at any point in my career, had to go out on strike on the basis of a principle that I thought was worthy of using that ultimate weapon, ultimate tool. They, certainly, would not take such a measure lightly. They would only do it if they honestly believed that it was the only weapon to which they could resort with any possibility of bringing the government to the table to do the kinds of things that should have been done before this legislation was introduced.
There is going to be a significant socio-economic impact with respect to the implementation of this bill. That is a little different kind of consideration on a solely cost-benefits analysis. I think that the government should have undertaken an impact study with respect to the socio-economy of this legislation. We are talking a lot of jobs here. We are talking a lot of change here. Whether that change is truly reform, well, we will find that out after the legislation, in whatever its final form is, passes and is implemented. Nonetheless, I would think that the government would have wanted to undertake a socio-economic impact study in advance of crafting the legislation which we find ourselves debating tonight.
That six months that the hoist would provide, would give the opportunity for such a study to take place, one which might well result in a significant amendment to the bill, one which might result in the people of Nova Scotia and, perhaps most significantly, the men and the women who work in the health care institutions, having their fears reduced.
In this whole mix the NSGEU and the Nurses Union are not the enemy. They are very much and in a very real sense, our partners. We are charged with the responsibility as legislators of debating legislation and voting in favour or against it. The Ministers of the Crown have the responsibility to present legislation to the House such as this but when it comes to delivering the goods it is not we, the 52 members of this House whether members of the Treasury benches or not, who bear the responsibility of delivering those goods, it is the men and the women who work on a day to day basis in these health care institutions. They are the ones who give life to this legislation just as they give life to those who come to their health care institutions for succour.
That is why it is so essential that we not look upon these men and women in an adversarial way, certainly we in the Opposition don't and I would hope that the government would not but rather that they look upon them as partners who have a tremendous body of knowledge and experience which can help us to ensure that when we embark upon reform, it can be real and positive reform with long-lasting benefit. They, after all, know ever so much more about the delivery of what this bill purports to deliver than almost any of us in this place. Perhaps even more so than many of those who are in this place and came from the medical profession and who have not been delivering medical services in that profession for some time because they have been involved in this profession of ours, politics.
Let's make them the partners in what we do and that way not only will they be better served but as they would wish and as we would wish, the people of Nova Scotia will be better served. It is because I want to ensure that everything I do and say, no matter how small a part it may play, does nonetheless play a part in getting it right and getting it right the first time for as many of the players as we possibly can.
When the last member was speaking one of the government ministers admonished him for fearmongering. It is not our intention to fearmonger any more than it would be the government's intention to fearmonger but fear is out there, the fear of the unknown, the fear of the application of a bill whose results we have not studied sufficiently to understand, the fear of losing a job, the fear of losing a profession, the fear of not being able to provide the service that Nova Scotians need, not just want but need, all of those fears are out there. While we in the Opposition may endeavour as best we can to address those fears on behalf of the men and the women who harbour them, it is only the government which can alleviate those fears. The only way the government can do that is by providing the kinds of information that many of us have alluded to. The only way that we can accomplish that, unless the minister can provide us that information on the table for all to see, is to hoist this bill for six months so that we then can undertake those very kinds of studies in partnership with all of those who are true partners in creating and delivering the services encompassed within this bill. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this evening in support of this amendment. The amendment, of course, is essentially stating that Bill No. 47 be not now read a second time but be read a second time this day six months hence.
Now, Madam Speaker, the reason and rationale that I support this amendment, much of it, at least, has been explained and certainly been very aptly conveyed by the previous speakers. But one of the elements of the legislation that concerns me greatly is the fact that a lot of employees' jobs are going to be lost. Any time we talk about Nova Scotians losing jobs, it is extremely hard for any of us in this House, I believe, to support. When we look at this bill, we understand the principle and the concept. It is essentially to amalgamate the Victoria General Hospital, Camp Hill Medical Centre, and, of course, the Nova Scotia Rehab Centre and the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation. Basically, what we are going to be doing and what the government is going to be doing is forming the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.
Now, as I stated, I support the hoist. I believe we need this six months' hoist. When we look at the economic environment in Nova Scotia, we have to realize that a lot of Nova Scotians in the public sector are losing their jobs almost on a daily basis. As the previous speaker mentioned, timing is extremely important. The economic environment isn't such in this province that you can just be displaced from one job and go to work somewhere else. It just doesn't work that way, Madam Speaker. The six months' hoist will enable the communication officers in the Department of Health and the people that I presume are very intellectually sound and have a lot of brain power, it will provide those people with time to go to the employees.
Now some people perhaps wrongly presume that this has already been done. The fact of the matter is, Madam Speaker, I was just watching television tonight and the different unions that are involved, that represent the workers at the various centres, are considering a strike. I honestly believe that these people are serious. These people have families to feed. They have bills to pay, financial commitments and obligations, the same as the rest of us do, and by supporting the six months' hoist, I believe the communication officers and the employees will find a better way to deal with their concerns relative to collective bargaining: benefits, contracts, pay equity. Things of that nature are extremely important to the employees but right now, there is a whole lot of consternation respecting this particular merger.
Now, my colleague, the member for Pictou West, mentioned that, of course, he is from Pictou and he still has a keen sense about the merger so to speak. Part of my constituency is in the central health region and, of course, the new facility will be the regional hospital for a good number of my constituents. Not too long ago, the honourable member for Hants East tabled a petition in this House from his region and I believe it was from residents that are, at the present time, in the northern region and they are petitioning to belong to the central region. I did note that the member for Hants East endorsed that petition . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: And supported it.
MR. TAYLOR: . . . and supported it, and the hoist, . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I am having a little problem drawing the connection between the Hants East petition and your talking to the hoist amendment, so I would ask you to get your focus back now, if you would please.
MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, perhaps I should take the opportunity to clarify the similarity that I was trying to draw. In fact, it is very real. It is more than a similarity. The good citizens in East Hants along the corridor area, realize and recognize that the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre has the potential to be a world-class facility. This is going to be the largest adult referral centre in eastern Canada. So I certainly support the rationale for the hoist. In doing so, it is easy to understand the reasoning behind citizens in this province who would like to belong to the central region. So those are some problems that the hoist, in fact - they are not problems that are insurmountable but they are problems that the Minister of Health and his staff may like to address.
If we are going to save some $15 million, and I believe that is a figure that the minister put forward, we darn well have to know where those savings are going to go, too. Will the savings be going to the Consolidated Fund? Will the funds be, so to speak, at the discretion of the Minister of Finance? Surely it is understood and accepted by all of us in here that the amalgamation of the facilities, yes. Perhaps the time has come, and nobody doubts that. But the fact of the matter is there is an extremely large number of i's that have to be dotted and t's that must be crossed.
That is not trying to simplify it, Madam Speaker, we are talking about people's livelihoods here. It is a major concern. We are going to be blending four facilities, welding them together, so to speak. There is a lot of moving that has to take place. Of course again we have to be extremely concerned about the employees. A lot of these employees are health care givers and health care providers. They do a great job, just unbelievable, under, at times, very stressful and trying conditions. I don't think we give them enough credit. I mean we are not herding a bunch of cattle here out of one barn into another, bigger barn. We are dealing with human being and with livelihoods. All these people have families and spouses, perhaps, partners and children. It is very easy to understand the uncertainty and the anxiety they are experiencing.
So in support of the hoist, I believe what it will enable the minister and his staff to do is put some integrity back into the bill. It is not a bad bill, Madam Speaker, so to speak, but it is lacking completeness and some soundness and it is lacking unity. The problem is that while the bill has only some 26 clauses, and I dare not mention any of the clauses, I know you would be quick to chastise me if I did that, but the six months' hoist will enable the minister and his staff to go over some of those clauses and see if they can tidy this bill up a little bit and perhaps put a little virtue into this piece of legislation.
The previous speakers have mentioned, and it does bear repetition, Madam Speaker, that there has been no cost-benefit analysis done. We are talking about $15 million in savings but there will be socio-economic impacts felt and the ramifications will be very acute. So I think what we have to do is send this bill off for six months because it certainly is lacking in a lot of areas. We are a little bit concerned as to just what this bill does for patient care. Again, where is the study that indicates that patients will benefit from the merger? We haven't see any study and without the study, how do you know what will happen?
If I might, Madam Speaker, we have seen the results of poorly planned amalgamation in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. No, we are not discussing the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
MADAM SPEAKER: You are obviously reading my mind, honourable member.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes. Well, staff has been anxious because this has been looming over their heads now for well over a year and one-half. They want to know some things that can be decided over six months, or perhaps over even a shorter time it can be decided, but the amendment is for six months.
Staff want to know if the centre will come under the regional board. If it doesn't come under the regional health board, why not? We have basically been told two stories. We have heard that it will come under the regional board. We have also heard that it will not. We do not know how many people will suffer before it finally hits home that the safety and well-being of our people is and must be the number one concern.
There are cancer treatment waiting lists. The minister tells us that the lists are getting shorter. From the information and phone calls that I am receiving, the lists are getting longer. In fact, Madam Speaker, I had a call today from an individual out in my constituency. His wife had an appointment to see a neurosurgeon on Wednesday of this week and the constituent received a call this morning and was told that she could not see the neurosurgeon until sometime in January. There are only two neurosurgeons, to my understanding, and she has been waiting now since the end of August. So irrespective of what the minister says, there are a lot of waiting lists and the minister, in his rush to reform the health care system in this province, has certainly left a lot of loopholes and has left, I think, part of his plan back in his office. He needs to go back and revisit this piece of legislation.
I know the minister is extremely busy, but the six months' hoist would enable the minister to issue a directive to staff to get out of the office and go down to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and go down to the Cancer Treatment Centre and go down to the other centres that are involved and talk to the employees. I am sure there are locals there that are representing the employees and the minister could certainly get some feedback from his staff, relative to the concerns they have, and they will be quick to tell him what they feel the minister could do to make this bill much more doable.
Madam Speaker, I am not sure that the employees, in fact, have had time to even vaguely peruse this legislation and I do not think we can expect the employees of the facilities to understand the legislation chapter and verse, but I think it is important that they are given an opportunity to examine and scrutinize the bill before it goes to the Law Amendments Committee. I think without the six months' hoist, what we are going to see is a situation somewhat similar to the Education Bill and, lo and behold, we do not want to see an army of disgruntled employees land down here at the Legislature. It is possible that it could happen.
There are people very concerned about the legislation. Without a cost-benefit analysis and things of that nature, it would be very hard for me, as an employee, to get any comfort and any solace out of this piece of legislation. It is lacking in several areas. The facility, I might add, is a beautiful facility. It has a lot of new equipment in it. But I understand a lot of equipment must be moved from the other existing facilities to the new hospital. All this stuff does take a lot of time and the people deserve better here in Nova Scotia.
If this facility is really going to better serve the needs of the community and the minister tells us that it will better serve the needs of the community, and the minister also suggests that it is going to enhance areas where improvement is needed in the delivery of our health care. I don't doubt, in the long run, Madam Speaker, that it will do that. But we need this amendment in place, presently, because of the shortcomings of the legislation and the concerns that the employees have.
You know, there is also an opportunity here, through the six months' hoist, for the public. I think the minister put the figure forward that some 35,000 Nova Scotians, on an annual basis, have checked into these facilities over the last year. So with the public as patients, I think that they, in fact, deserve to have an opportunity and a chance just to see what this legislation is all about. We are talking of putting some 800 to 1,000 people out of work. I know the minister has some funds allocated for this displacement. But anytime people are sacked, discharged and disposed of, so to speak, and I use that term only in reference to employment, it is a very real reason to be concerned. All employees must be treated equally and all employees must be treated fairly.
I understand at the different facilities it depends, I guess it is possible at least, that you could have a CNA at the Queen Elizabeth II making a fair amount more than their counterpart at the Rehab Centre, for example, or at Camp Hill. All the facilities have a little different pay structure. In some cases, it is very significant and those types of details must be worked out.
We are moving ahead with a merger here that is essentially going to amalgamate and we are going to have the largest adult referral centre in all of eastern Canada. People are going to come into this facility with afflictions and abnormalities, some are going to be chronically ill and some people may even be there with phobias about this and phobias about that. The fact of the matter is this is a very much-needed facility, nobody is questioning that. But right now, we have to be concerned about job protection and the rights of the employees. We also have to be concerned that the minister has addressed some of the concerns like the cancer treatment waiting list and the lists are quite long. The six months' hoist will enable the minister to do that. The Rehab waiting lists, for example, are quite lengthy too, as I understand it.
The labour package just does not deal with the many situations that are critical to a smooth transition. So we definitely do need the hoist. We also understand that the government may be passing the buck to a non-elected board that may be forced, Madam Speaker, to cut salaries and benefits to live within their operating budget. Government, the Minister of Health could, in fact, wash his hands clean and say, it is up to the board. Again, I say timing is everything. In fact, the board may not have any choice. If their budget is reduced in such a dramatic fashion, the board will be seen as the bad guy. That is just unacceptable because the board is going to be dealing with a budget much like many of our school boards and things of that nature. They are having a very difficult task today trying to live within the budget that has been handed to them by the government.
We certainly, again, cannot overemphasize and underscore how important this hoist is. It will enable the minister to go and look at some of these concerns. A lot of people are wondering if they will qualify for early retirement. That has never been properly explained to the employees. What happens to their long-term disability plans and things of that nature? Again, I mention that there is a wage differential between the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the Nurses' Union, just for one example.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources on a point of order, or a question?
HON. JAY ABBASS: Just quickly, I do not think it was a question directed directly to me by any means, but on the question of what happens to LTD, that is covered by Clause 17(6) and clearly LTD benefits are extended to the employees.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you, I would rule that is a point of clarification on the discussion.
MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for that intervention and I will say, that irrespective of what the minister suggests, people in the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the Camp Hill nurses' agreement, for example, they have a no layoff due to amalgamation clause and I am wondering whether or not that clause, for example, will be dismissed. The bill, and again I know we cannot get into clauses - as the minister did and I certainly would not do that - but there are a lot of questions that the employees have. They want to know, in fact, if the board will have the ability to lift the no layoff clause, for example, out of the agreement.
The legislation needs more clarification. It is not as transparent perhaps as the ministers would have us believe. You know, I remember, of course, when the previous administration built this hospital or was building this hospital, it took quite a bit of time to build this new state of the art hospital and the Opposition of the day was very quick to lambaste the government for building this facility. Now they are telling us that it is a beautiful hospital, it is a great hospital and it is. I had a tour of the hospital along with my colleagues. It is a beautiful facility.
If the minister and the government would support this six months' hoist perhaps some of the members have had the opportunity to view the facility, but maybe they would like to go back for a second look, Madam Speaker. A six months' hoist would enable them the opportunity to do that and perhaps they would better understand. Perhaps it is a point I should bring up during my contribution on second reading, but there are doors there that are some 14 to 16 feet high for the ambulances to come in. I have had some questions I will raise later on that issue. I know they are going to direct everybody in and out much faster than the present facilities do. It is certainly a very interesting building. I am sure it was built in the goodness of time and a lot of consideration and a lot of planning went into building that facility.
Let's not be too hasty in shoving through Bill No. 47. Let's not be too hasty. We have a world class facility down there and some patients, of course, will come from other provinces in Atlantic Canada to this facility. We should not get too carried away with driving some legislation home that will displace our Nova Scotians. Because, as I pointed out before, these people do have obligations, do have commitments. They have many bills, car payments, Sears, phone bills, Nova Scotia Power, gas bills, things of that nature and (Interruption)
MADAM SPEAKER: You are getting a tad repetitive, honourable member. Order, please. You could list 15 or 16 bills in a couple of sentences, but there really is no point to that. I would like you to get more focused on the amendment, please.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I always respect and appreciate your rulings and would never dare argue against them, but you know, the six months' hoist, I think it would be appropriate to relate a little short story and I dare not mention that I could not help but hear some of the comments that were directed this way from the honourable member, I shan't mention from where, but he knows where he is from. (Interruptions)
When he talks about debt and the hoist will allow that member to go look at debt and if he wants six months to look at debt and things of that nature, he could go down and look at Centre 200 in Sydney, I understand it has an incredible debt. But I would never suggest who the member was.
MADAM SPEAKER: I am not really sure how many times I have to tell you to get focused, but I think I will make this the last time. So just now get on with the amendment and the discussion and keep your focus. I won't commend you one more time. Next time I will just sit you down.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Madam Speaker. In conclusion, (Laughter) just let me point out that one of my hockey playing buddies had an opportunity to go down to the Queen Elizabeth II last Thursday night. He had a terrible gash on his forehead as a result of an accidental stick flying up and he got cut right into the skull. He had to have three stitches on the inside and, I believe, eight on the outside to close the wound up. He went down to the VG Hospital emergency department and, you know, he had to wait for an hour and one-half, I believe it was, before the one doctor that was on could get around to looking after him. For a facility of that size, I surely to goodness hope that when we get the new QE II up in operation that our patients going to out-patients and emergency, and things of that nature, won't have to wait that long.
So, it is a truly remarkable facility. It is much-needed and I think it is time that some of the government members got around to talking to the employees at the four different facilities. Thank you very much.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, it gives me some concern, I guess, to get up to speak about the amendment to Bill No. 47, Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Act. As usual, it is important that we here in this Chamber do what is right and I hope that is what this debate here tonight is about, and that is the reason the amendment was put forward. It is important that we do the right thing because it is important that the people of Nova Scotia get the type and quality of health care that we all know they need and deserve.
Madam Speaker, there are many things that can happen in this Chamber and there are many things that we can do and there are many things in this province that have happened. We can have cuts in education and that will mean we will have poorly educated people. Or we can have forced amalgamation and that will mean that we will have a raise in taxes or a decrease in services. But when we talk about cuts in health care, we are not only talking about simple things, we are talking about a matter of life and death, and those are the types of things that we should pay close attention to. When we are talking about doing anything with our health care system, even the things that are done with the greatest and the best of intentions, we have to be sure that they are done so that the health of our people are not affected.
I think, Madam Speaker, it is important that we all realize that we cannot put a price on life. When we are looking at doing amalgamations and when we are looking at doing things that are changing our health care system, that we do them so that there is a positive effect on the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. This six month amendment will allow us to have a close second look at what is taking place. It will give us the opportunity to make sure that we are moving forward with the best interests of Nova Scotians at heart.
We are undergoing, in Glace Bay, the amalgamation of two hospitals. I have talked to many who work there and the stresses and strains as a result of that amalgamation have created a lot of problems. I sat in a livingroom with a nurse who works in that situation and listened to her for hours about stresses and strains that have been brought on by amalgamation. Whether real or imagined, this person felt there were real problems with what was going on and didn't feel that she had the opportunity to be listened to. The six months' hoist is going to give the opportunity to the many members of this union and the many who work in these facilities to come forward and bring those issues forward to the people who have made this bill.
There have been many issues in this bill that have been drawn forward, issues that the people now who are employed in these situations want to talk about. That should be a plus, because now the issues are identified, there is a focus on the conversation and this government, Madam Speaker, has said time and time again that their priority is to consult with the people, to communicate with the people and a six months' hoist will give them the opportunity to do just the things that they have said all along they want to do.
This is not a matter of just bricks and mortar, this is not a matter of buildings, this is a matter that deals with the health and well-being of Nova Scotians. We are talking about the health of our children, we are talking about the health of our seniors, and this amendment will give us the opportunity to make sure that this bill allows for the best opportunities for those things to take place.
The people who work in these hospitals have great concerns. They are talking about strike, but that isn't what they want to do. Nobody wants to strike. But they want the opportunity to speak, to talk to the ministers involved and to bring forward their concerns. I believe, as do many people in the union, that if they sit down and talk, we can come to an agreement that is satisfying and helpful to all parties involved. Isn't that what this is supposed to be all about? Isn't that the reason we gather here? Isn't that the reason the minister has brought the bill forward, an opportunity to make sure that we do the right thing?
Madam Speaker, allowing a six months' hoist will allow those people that opportunity to move forward and make the best decisions that are possible for the health care system in our province.
I am not going to go on for a long period of time, Madam Speaker, because I don't think that would accomplish anything but I do think it is important that we realize why we are here, we realize why the minister has brought forward this bill and we understand that it is not just a matter of dollars and cents, it is a matter of providing the best health care for the best amount of money, at the easiest convenience of the people of this province. That is why I will be voting in favour of this amendment, because it is important. It is the ultimate job of this Chamber to make sure that the concerns, the well-being and the thoughts of our people are listened to and are heard.
Jobs may be lost and in Nova Scotia nobody can afford to lose jobs, Madam Speaker. Nobody wants to lose their job and nobody is going to sit back and take it easy. The six months' hoist will make sure that people have an opportunity to put their concerns and their ideas forward. There are many concerns in health care; there have been many rallies in Cape Breton, in the minister's riding, in my riding and in other ridings. People have asked that we settle those. This six months' hoist will also give the minister the opportunity to help put those matters to rest. So it will make the whole of the health care services in this province work much better.
In conclusion I would like to say that I think it is very important that we speak highly and give this amendment for a six months' hoist an opportunity on this bill. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I want to take some time to talk about why I agree with this amendment. We have heard the Minister of Human Resources tonight explain why in this legislation that all the rights are protected. Then we also heard from the union and their lawyer why they are not. So obviously we need some time to find language. If the government is sincere in saying that they really want to protect the rights of these workers, that they would have time to, in six months, agree on the kind of language that they all could agree says what they say that it actually says.
When the minister talked about the Transition Agreement of 1992 that was signed then by the VG Hospital and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, why this wasn't signed by the government of the day - and I was Minister of Health of the government of the day - is that yes, we had an agreement and we said that this would be put in legislation and that any legislation on the transition of the VG Hospital, this agreement would be put in legislation.
This government and its Minister of Health agreed in 1993 to this Transition Agreement. But again, he didn't sign it because he didn't have to. He agreed that it, again, would be put in the bill that we have before us today. That didn't occur. Now whether or not, who is right - I had a fax late this afternoon from Local 13 of the Victoria General Hospital, with everyone signing, saying, we feel as VG employees, civil servants, that it is necessary to get some amendments to include this Transition Agreement. Now either the minister is saying something that won't hold up - the problem and the reason we need six months is, this legislation before us is going to affect the lives of thousands of workers. If the minister is wrong and their lives are affected, what happens? Nothing, except these employees will suffer undue hardship.
Wouldn't it be nice if during the six months the government and the union could sit down in a very rational way, knowing that the government is being honest and truthful and saying, this is what we really want, I can't understand why we can't find language that we all could agree to that says this is what we are going to achieve at the end of the day. So this hoist would give time for the employees. We have a bill that has been brought in at the end of this session. We all know that according to government this is the last major piece of legislation to come before the House in this session.
Why would the government wait, knowing full well that a year ago, in 1994, in the summer, that this was going to happen, that we were going to have an amalgamation of the Victoria General Hospital, of Camp Hill Medical Centre, the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre Corporation and the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation of Nova Scotia to form the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre? The minister has said since summer that we are going to have legislation. In that period of time the employees were waiting, obviously, to see what was going to happen to them.
What the government is trying to do at the last stage is, this legislation was introduced in this House last Thursday. Being fair to employees, to try to get a copy of this legislation and try to have an interpretation of what the clauses say, to know whether or not, how this affects them and their agreements and their future employment, is it unreasonable of them to say they need some more time? I don't think it is unreasonable.
If the government had introduced this bill a month ago there would have been a period of time for these people to sit down in a rational way to understand how each and every clause affects them. Because the government chose to take the position that we are going to introduce it at the end of the session and it won't give the employees that time, then what we are saying today and tonight in this amendment is that we will give them that time. This is something that is going to affect them and their families for many, many days, months and years to come is this legislation.
Obviously, they are going to have a new employer. When the government argues, and I don't know why they argue this. They said that this corporation is not an agent of Her Majesty in right of the province. Very clearly the minister got up in the debate on this amendment and said that it is not a corporation and an agent of Her Majesty in right of this province. But do you know what? The government appoints eight people. If the government truly believed that this is at arm's length and it is not a Crown Corporation or an agent of Her Majesty, why isn't it like the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children where the board members are gotten from the community? They are not political appointments at the IWK.
My argument is that if the minister says, really we are not a corporation, why in the world is the government appointing their Liberal friends and control by this government, a majority of the board? If they really mean what they say, then why isn't it like the IWK Hospital for Children, which doesn't have a whole lot of political appointments? Obviously, it only has one, which isn't a majority on the board. If we hoisted this bill for six months and if the government was true to its word, I am sure they would say it is not to be an agent of Her Majesty in the right of the province. That is what the minister got up and said. Then if it isn't, how come it is not set up like the IWK? I haven't been able to figure that out.
So this hoist would give us some time, because what the employees are going to be dealing with after this legislation, in actual fact they are going to be dealing with a government, because we have all government appointments on the board practically being told by the Minister of Health how to run the QE II Health Sciences Centre. But he can't do that at the IWK Hospital because all the appointments aren't by the government, so you can't say we don't want a corporation that is not an agency of Her Majesty. If you want to say that, then allow it, like the IWK Hospital, to happen and not be dominated by Liberal appointments so it is in actual fact representing the government.
We ask for some time for staff to review this legislation. I know I am not, Madam Speaker, a lawyer. I don't have a legal background, and many of us in this House don't; there are some who do. The minister gets up and goes clause by clause and says any Grade 6 student can read that clause tomorrow and understand that these people aren't losing anything.
AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?
MR. MOODY: The Minister of Human Resources. But, yes, Madam Speaker, I can read it and I don't get that interpretation. Apparently I don't read as well as a Grade 6 student. But the lawyer for the union, I know he has more than a Grade 6 education, doesn't agree with the minister either. So if we have this cloud over us, over who is right and who is wrong, then I know from past experience that legal minds can sit down and get language that they all agree to. Here we have employees who are caught in the middle. They are caught in the middle because you get one lawyer saying, no, it means this, the government means this, and their lawyer is saying, no, it means something else. But who suffers? The employees suffer because they eventually have to take somebody's word. If the minister says that it means something, is it going to be his word or somebody else's word? So we have to allow some time for this legislation to be gone through, clause by clause, and agreed to clause by clause, so that when it comes out the other end, after the legislation, the benefits the people have today, they will have tomorrow, until it changes by collective bargaining. That is only fair, that any changes that occur will occur by collective bargaining. That is how they got there.
Now that is all they are asking for and I honestly believe that is fair. We are saying to them that is not fair, because the minister stands up and says you have to understand that tomorrow they are not civil servants. We all know that, but what he doesn't say is, or he is trying to say is, yes, they are not civil servants and they don't have the same benefits - that is what he is really saying - the same rights. Now he is saying they have some benefits and he talks about benefits when he says they can choose pensions and there are other areas where he says that they will have LTD. I am not arguing that they won't have LTD after this, the question is, how much are they going to pay for it and which plan? They are in a plan now but they may be told they have to go to another plan. And how much is that going to cost them? That is all they are saying.
When the minister gets up and says, yes, they are going to have a pension and they are going to have a something, we recognize they are going to have a something. But what they are going to have is what the minister doesn't tell us. The minister is saying, we are going to tell them what they are going to have and it is not going to be during a bargaining process that they are going to be able to decide what it is they are going to have. So if you believe in that principle, then you have to allow that to happen.
This six months will give us time regarding some studies that should have been done. Even though this government announced this in the summer of 1994, this government has not done any studies to actually say that by laying off 800 to 1,000 people, in actual fact there is a benefit. The minister got up in the House when he introduced the bill and said, you know once we do this amalgamation and yes, we are going to reduce staff, if you look at the budget, by 800 to 1,000 people, but you know what, Madam Speaker, we are going to provide a better service; the quality of health care is going to be improved.
Now what analysis has been done that can tell me and you and other members of this House that, in actual fact, that is going to happen. I mean if you are going to make a statement like that to all Nova Scotians surely to Heavens there has to be some sort of data or information or study that, in actual fact, says, yes, this is really going to happen. Now if that study was done, there isn't anybody here who wouldn't say okay, we see an analysis of the effect of a reduction of this many people, 800 to 1,000, and we see actually how it is going to affect the care of the patient because the care of the patient depends greatly on the ability of the workers to provide that care, obviously. I am not convinced that that is going to happen.
We would be able to know how it affects the laundry workers; we would know how it is going to affect the cleaners, the food services people, the technicians, as well as nursing staff and others. So there is a large number of health care workers who are going to be affected in different ways with this merger, it is not all going to be the same. So what is the impact on each one of those categories, as we go through this merger bill?
A study was done and I know that a study could be done in a six month period, to give us some real data. The other kind of study that we don't have real data on is the kind of capital costs that are going to be involved because of the merger. Again we are being told by the minister that there are large capital costs involved, but we don't know how much and we don't know exactly what is going to be done or, in actual fact, what savings will be achieved, because of these costs.
Now we would also have time in the six months to tie this into the Blueprint Committee's Report. You know the Blueprint Committee very clearly talked about pay equity. Obviously this bill, whether you like it or not, destroys pay equity because, very clearly, the new corporation is not under the Pay Equity Act. We know the VG Hospital presently is, we know that Camp Hill isn't, but when we merge all four together, they are not going to be. I believe that the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation is so we have two out of four that are, two out of four that are not, but the new corporation doesn't come under the Pay Equity Act.
So if, for instance, the minister was factual when he said we are going to save $50 million by putting this together, wouldn't it be nice to take a little portion of that $50 million, Madam Speaker, to see that everybody gets pay equity if, in actual fact, the minister is correct. But because of this legislation, even though the corporation might achieve that $50 million saving, they can't do it because they are not under the Pay Equity Act. So there is no way that these people can bargain for pay equity after this bill comes into force because, in actual fact, they are prohibited from doing so.
So in the six months that we are going to have, a case could probably be made and we could consult to see, in actual fact, if that $50 million saving is there and, if it were there, I am sure this government would agree that pay equity then should be given to those workers when we have this new corporation. So what six months does, is give us some time to do the proper analysis and also give us an opportunity to treat workers in a fair manner. Those kinds of things can be done if we agree to a hoist. We have gone over a year, we have gone 18 months since the minister had the vision and at that time he said we did not need legislation. Some time this past summer, somebody said to the minister, you do need legislation, we cannot make this work without it.
We have gone 18 months, so what if we went six months longer and did it right, make sure the employees' concerns are addressed, make sure all the changes are addressed through the kinds of studies they talked about? We would actually know the cost-savings and then we could actually start from a playing field where we have much more knowledge when we debate this bill and we put it in. What is the urgency that the minister did not have 18 months ago that we have now that we cannot delay this for six months? You have to ask yourself, what has changed?
The minister did not explain that anything has changed in the past 18 months because, obviously, he was not in a hurry then that makes him in such a hurry now. If he was in a hurry, we would have had this bill earlier in the session and it would have allowed the opportunity for many of the workers to review the bill. I do not think we would be having the same kind of debate that we are having now because many of the letters and the faxes I am getting are that we, as workers, have grave concerns about the legislation, after they have now actually seen it.
So, the union is going to be meeting in the next couple of days to meet with the workers and so the workers are going to hear a version from NSGEU on what they think this bill does to them, as civil servants, when this Act is actually in place. They are going to hear from the government that this Act, in actual fact, does not do that of what they are saying. That is what the Minister of Human Resources said today. What could be done in six months is that the two sides could sit down. If they both agree that the objective is that after this legislation is passed that, in actual fact, the civil servants will not lose anything - and they will be treated fairly and things will be done through collective bargaining when the cooperation is up and running - then if the government is saying that, then how could they object to language that both sides could agree, that in actual fact says that?
That to me, is a very common sense approach to what I see as an impasse that we have between the union and the government at the present time. I am sure that communication lines will stay open between the government and the NSGEU in the next number of days and just maybe this impasse can be resolved. I would hope and pray that is the case, because if the impasse is not resolved, the NSGEU and their workers have to take a stand on what they believe is correct.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I hope that negotiations would be the kind of way that you resolve things and that is by sitting down and going through this bill. I understand this afternoon there was a meeting with the people of Human Resources and they had some discussion, but they have not reached any agreement. They are at an impasse because they are stalled. Because the government is saying, no, go back to a certain clause and the union is saying go to another clause.
So in the next six months, if the government had initially stuck to the Transition Agreement wording that would go in this bill, we would not be arguing the case. The only thing that has happened since that Transition Agreement is the early retirement program. Now the early retirement program would have to be, obviously, protected other than what was in the Transition Agreement, because, at that particular time, it was not in effect. I agree with the early retirement program, but what people are asking and it is unclear, is that after this legislation is passed, until such time as it goes before the Labour Relations Board, can these people still take the early retirement package up until 1998? There is some feeling that that may not be the case.
What would be wrong, Mr. Speaker, with agreeing to wording, if we all agree, that, hey, that is unfair because the package would be put out there to go until 1998? What in the world would be wrong with us agreeing on the language if we agree with that principle, but we all agree that, in natural fact, that is what is going to happen. If that could happen and we could get that kind of an agreement so that we all read the same thing into it, then let's do it in the next six months, so when we come back, that person who is now worried, would not have to worry any more about, in actual fact, are they going to be able to take the early retirement.
That is an issue that is concerning a number of people. I guess the issue of whether all the rights are protected is the disagreement between the minister and the NSGEU. When we talk about rights, we talk about statutory legislation that has to do with the Civil Service Act. But as the minister has said, we recognize that after this legislation is put in place, they are not civil servants. But why should they lose anything until they agree? They could say, well, they are going to have to get into bargaining anyway with the new corporation. Why couldn't those things be dealt with in that form and not through this legislation?
So whether the minister agrees or not, what has happened is that the workers are confused. They have got MLAs from the government side telling them not to worry. They have got the union's interpretation saying, yes, you should worry. Well, I tell you, when the minister stands up and says, yes, you have long-term disability. Yes, it is true, but whether you will have a plan that has joint management, joint administration or not, we do not know. The union fought long and hard to have joint administration of the present long-term disability program that we have in the Civil Service, a good program. We can say the same thing about the pension. The minister stands up and says, yes, they will have those things. But the argument is, what we will have and the cost of it and whether we will be able to participate like we are participating now or will they lose all those things.
So as we go down the list, there are many issues that I think could be resolved in the next six months because I honestly believe that there is not a government member over there that does not want to see this done right. In other words, they want to make sure the rights of those workers are protected in this legislation until such time as collective bargaining takes place. I believe that to be true and I believe the members are sincere about that. But unless the member sits down and goes through this clause by clause and gets maybe some help legally to interpret, that member cannot be sure.
The minister is saying yes, the union lawyers are saying no. For Heaven's sake, let's not blindly put this through and then have those workers unduly punished because no one took the time or cared to make sure what we are doing is absolutely correct and is achieving the goals that we all want to achieve. Sometimes we get in a bit of hurry in here and we think, well, we have got to move on quickly.
If you talk to the members of the NSGEU, and I do not mean the union hired people, I mean the workers at the Victoria General Hospital, if you take the time to talk to them, they are convinced that their rights are not protected. How do we convince them that they are? I think we can only convince them by putting in legislation that gives them that comfort zone, that comfort level and if that means changing some of the wording, then for Heaven's sake let's do it.
Let's not just be stubborn about it and say no, everything our lawyers draft is perfect and anything that other lawyers looked at cannot be right. For Heaven's sake let's get to the real crunch of it. Let's use some common sense and say, look, those workers are all important. Heavens knows 800 to 1,000 are going to lose their jobs. Isn't that enough stress without knowing that the workers that are going to continue to work there are going to be under stress too because that in the end affects the patients?
If we all agree, then let's take some time to do this and to help the worker and get the language so the worker can feel a comfort level and not have added stress, not have to come down to the Legislature day after day and call members out; come down as a group and appear before the Law Amendments Committee. Causes you stress, causes them stress, causes everybody stress. So if we believe in protecting the rights, let's take the time to do it right. Let's not be bull-headed about it and say, look, our wording is perfect, nobody else can be right.
I do not believe that anybody wants to, in this day and age, take real issue and go on strike because we all know that everybody is hurting salary-wise. There is nobody putting away a lot of money nowadays. People can barely exist. But these people know that this legislation is going to affect many of them for many years to come. Some of them have given 20 years to hard service in health care, 25, some of them have given 10, some have given 30 years. Let's have some respect for the fact that they want this legislation changed to incorporate the wording of the Transition Agreement, that they will then know will give them the comfort that they ask for.
If this already has the comfort they ask for and everybody acknowledges including this government that the agreement does as well, then why not change it? Everybody is a winner. The government is a winner and I will be the first to congratulate the government. The government is the winner. They get what they want in this legislation. The workers feel the comfort level that they deserve. I would congratulate everybody and I would have a merry Christmas and I know they would too. But here we are, allowing them undue anxiety around the time of year when there should be joy. Let's not have confrontation, let's get together and try to work this out in a way that people can have some comfort, that yes, we all achieve what we want to achieve.
So I am hoping that we can pass this amendment and that that will be achieved. If we do not pass this amendment, Mr. Speaker, that that will still happen because I believe it is the honourable and the right thing to do; comes as no surprise to you, as I finish, Mr. Speaker, that I will be supporting this amendment and I hope others will give due consideration to this amendment and that we, in some way, can resolve this issue in a way that is not harmful to anybody: harmful to the workers, the patients, the system and that we all go home saying, hey we passed legislation that is good legislation but we also passed legislation without confrontation and we passed it with the support of everyone. That is the way that I would like to see it done. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the official Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to spend a few minutes discussing the amendment to read Bill No. 47 some six months hence. Those of us who represent areas outside of Halifax are extremely aware of the importance of tertiary care in this province. This Bill No. 47, the bill to form the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, made up of four existing health care delivery institutions, is most important to everyone across the province because we do depend on these institutions to provide us with very important health care services, services that we can't provide in our communities.
The key to the sophisticated delivery of tertiary care is certainly held in the city here in these particular institutions. So we have to evaluate whether or not the introduction of this bill in its present form is, in fact, going to be a positive influence and have a positive effect on the provision of tertiary health care in the province, or whether or not the introduction in its present very raw form, will in fact prove to be detrimental to the delivery of quality tertiary care service in the city.
The other thing, of course, is we must not lose sight of the fact that these institutions as well as providing tertiary care, also provide secondary care for many of the residents in the metro area. So they have a twofold interest in what is going on here. So we have to look at this bill, bearing in mind the announcement for this endeavour was well over a year ago and it is only now that the legislation has come forward to legalize and put the official stamp on the corporation board and to formalize a situation that really has been growing, although growing rather slowly over the last number of months.
I had an opportunity to tour the new Camp Hill facility. I was particularly impressed. It certainly has a lot to recommend it. But now it is being asked to perform a somewhat different function than that for which it was originally intended. So we have to look at it in terms of whether or not the existing facility will in fact provide the kind of service that it will now be required to provide. I remember looking at what will now be the only emergency department in metro, and it is the emergency department that was designed in the new Camp Hill facility. I looked at it and my initial reaction is that it certainly won't be up to the job and there will have to be some considerable alteration made in that particular part of the facility, if, in fact, it is going to be providing all of the emergency room service that will be required here in metro.
The patient waiting area and the registration area will be far too small for the amount of service that that particular part of the institution will be required to provide. That will require some significant alteration in the layout before it would be an effective area in which to provide all this emergency room service that is now divided up in more than one area here in metro. So there are going to have to be some changes made as the new role is being found for this new facility.
The one thing that impressed me when this bill came forward is the very similar situation that was created in the teaching profession when the Education Bill was introduced in this Legislature just a short time ago and it was treated by the teaching profession with the greeted of a strike. That kind of brinkmanship that was demonstrated by the government with the introduction of that legislation, brinkmanship that almost resulted in the province-wide strike in the teaching profession, the government is again introducing this kind of brinkmanship as it introduces the legislation to merge the four units here in metro to form the new QE II Health Sciences Centre.
I think that is unfortunate because one of the real problems in the delivery of health care here in the province now is the morale of health care workers. The delivery of health care, like many other services, is dependent on good morale in those who are delivering the service. Certainly, I can't remember at any time that I have been involved in health care delivery in this province when morale has been as low as it is at this present time. The way that this particular piece of legislation is being brought in without a resolution of differences of opinion between the minister and the unions involved and the workers involved, is guaranteed to provide a confrontational kind of approach which will again result in a lowering of morale and perhaps again, the kind of brinkmanship we experienced here last week with the Education Bill.
So that kind of approach is to be discouraged and the government very definitely should have engaged in discussions with the unions concerned before they brought forward this legislation and provided wording within the bill that guaranteed the existing contract provisions and as well, preserve collective bargaining rights which the unions cherish and rightly so.
Mention has been made of a document dated May 1992 which, I think, indicates that the kinds of agreements to which we are alluding and which are not contained in this particular piece of legislation and which could be if, in fact, more time was given and if the amendment becomes reality, that the six months could be put to good use in which negotiations could occur between the minister and the unions concerned and to come up with a Transition Agreement perhaps not unlike that signed in May 1992 by the previous agreement, an agreement they signed with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union.
The only reason for bringing that up is to indicate that this kind of negotiation is possible, this kind of arrangement can be affected before legislation is brought into the House in which we are working under very severe time constraints and which is very difficult for the union and the minister to get together to work out an amicable compromise.
It is interesting as to whether or not delay is useful. I know there are times when you are sitting in the Chair and wondering that yourself, Mr. Speaker, I am quite sure. One of the things that the delay, even just a few hours of delay or a few days of delay can achieve, is that we are now providing time for negotiations to occur between the minister and the unions to avoid the kind of threats that the unions will be forced to use if they don't get what they perceive as being a reasonable compromise in terms of collective agreements and bargaining rights.
So while it well may be, Mr. Speaker, that at times the debate gets a little tiresome, it is not without some purpose. It will be the intention of this caucus to carry out its responsibility in that regard and to continue to analyze this bill and to take the appropriate amount of time and care to make sure that we contribute what we can to a proper health care delivery system in this province and, as well, a proper adjustment of how tertiary care will be provided in the metro area. So I just assure you, Mr. Speaker, that all sometimes is not as it seems here.
I did make a plea earlier about preserving the morale of health care workers. If our health care system is to survive in a way that is even slightly reminiscent of what we experienced in the 1970's and the 1980's, then we are going to have to find a way to restore the morale of health care providers in this province. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the introduction of this bill and the fine time line that is provided as this bill wends its way through the House is not doing anything positive for morale of health care workers in this province.
So, Mr. Speaker, you have probably guessed by now that I am rising in support of the amendment and will be voting for it and will hope that the government ministers are listening and can see the wisdom of further negotiations with health care workers, to provide an easier transition from the old system with four separate institutions to this new system, with one employer, which will result in massive changes in the working arrangements of those workers in the health care system.
I remember very clearly the day when the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union came and visited us in our caucus and explained the fact that they had a no layoff clause in their working contract. They appreciated the fact that their hourly wage rate was less than similar workers at the Victoria General Hospital. They made a statement that day that they were absolutely determined to preserve that no layoff clause in their contract and would have appreciated the opportunity to have fuller discussions with government over the preservation of their negotiated contract rights.
As well, the other major union concerned, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, have come. They are extremely concerned about the transition out of the Civil Service and with the loss of the protection of certain pieces of legislation that apply to their contract, as members of the Civil Service, and the loss of such provisions as contained in the Pay Equity Act. So there are a great number of concerns which are truly legitimate that these unions are bringing to us, they will bring to the Law Amendments Committee. It is truly unfortunate that, again, we are looking at a piece of legislation that if not handled with some delicacy, could result in massive disruptions in the provision of health care, particularly tertiary health care, in this province.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and indicate I will be voting in favour of the amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
There have been two calls for recorded votes.
Ring the bells. We will start with 10 minutes and hope we will be ready then.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Donahoe Mr. Barkhouse
Dr. Hamm Mrs. Norrie
Mr. Russell Mr. Downe
Mr. Moody Dr. Smith
Mr. Holm Mr. Boudreau
Mr. Chisholm Mr. Gillis
Mr. Leefe Dr. Stewart
Mr. McInnes Mr. MacEachern
Mr. Taylor Mr. Mann
Mr. MacLeod Mr. Casey
Mr. M. MacDonald
Mr. W. MacDonald
THE CLERK: For, 10. Against, 29.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried in the negative.
We are now back to the main motion, that the bill be now read a second time.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am a little disappointed in the result of the vote, that the honourable members did not see fit to support the amendment. I think it was a good amendment, however, I guess I cannot dwell on that.
I want to take an opportunity to speak on Bill No. 47, which is An Act to Amalgamate the Victoria General Hospital at Halifax, the Camp Hill Medical Centre, the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre Corporation and the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation of Nova Scotia to form the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. Mr. Speaker, I guess I do support this bill in principle. I think that it is probably the proper thing to do. They are all actually excellent facilities and perhaps by amalgamation, by putting them together, it will be better.
However, I am concerned that if we don't do it properly, that it may in the long run cost us more money. I have to point, of course, to the bill that formed the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. It was $5 million, then $12 million and I don't know what the figure is now - $15 million - as the days go by it seems to get bigger, the cost of this amalgamation. So I think that we have to be very careful and do it properly and not set up another bureaucratic level that will cost the taxpayers of Nova Scotia a lot of money.
We wondered if the minister had done a study to see what would be the results of putting these excellent facilities together. If I can go back to Hansard, of Wednesday, November 30, 1994, the question was asked of the minister by my colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel, as to what financial results would come as a result of the merger. I won't quote him, but will try to quote him in context, "For example, I have been given an estimate fairly recently . . .", this is what the Minister of Health, the Honourable Ronald Stewart said, ". . . that in studying the provision of health care services in the central region, we could, with changes, including amalgamation, save up to $50 million here in the central region. But can I stand in this place and guarantee this to the people of Nova Scotia? Of course I cannot.", he said.
I know the minister is very sincere and believes in doing what is right, but I have yet to hear the figure presented in this Legislature as to how much it could save. We have seen the results of poorly planned amalgamation in the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton. We are wondering what the costs are going to be here in metro. So I think we have to be very careful in trying to do this very well. The staffs, the people who work at those various facilities, are very anxious to know what is going to happen. They have been worrying for a year and a half and they have met with some of our caucus members and expressed their concerns as to what is going to happen. As I did say earlier in speaking to the hoist motion, I know that we will have a lot of people at the Law Amendments Committee, all the groups representing their staff will be making presentations and showing their concerns.
I think the hospitals here in Halifax are second to none, certainly in Eastern Canada. I have had the opportunity, for one reason or another, to be a patient in the VGH and they certainly give excellent care and have excellent doctors and we are very proud and the people of Nova Scotia are proud of their services. I spent one half of one summer at the Rehab Centre with my arm, getting treatment, and I must say, they really bent over backwards to be cooperative and to try to help you out.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Your arm was pretty well bent over backwards.
MR. MCINNES: My arm was bent backwards, as well, as the member for Queens said. However, Mr. Speaker, as I say, in principle, I agree that perhaps it is the proper thing to do. But why are we in such a hurry to do it? I know our government had put a paper together and I know it was also the fact that it was not signed by this government and that was their prerogative to do that. I understand that. But I really think that we have to take our time and see what happens.
What does this bill do for patient care? Is it going to result in better care for the patients of Nova Scotia? Isn't that one of our major concerns? I can honestly tell you that one of the major concerns in my area, other than the shipyard, is what is happening to health care in Nova Scotia. (Interruption) I get it every day on the weekend. What are they doing? What are we doing cutting down our hospitals? As many as 2,500, I believe the figure was, are going to be cut out.
I understand, Mr. Speaker, that we do have to make cuts. I realize that we have a big debt and we, along with all the other provinces across Canada, are in the same situation and we have to make cuts. But can we do them in such a way that we still have the great health care system that we had over the years? There were probably things wrong with it. But I think there must be ways that we can do it that will still give the patients excellent care and they will not be on waiting lists.
Without a study, how do we know that this amalgamation at QE II is going to give better health care to the people of Nova Scotia? They deserve better care and they deserve the proper care and, as I say, I have so many people saying to me on the weekends and when I am home, what is going on with our health care? What is going to happen next? Where are these 2,500 people going to get jobs when they are laid off?
Another question that I may like to raise and the minister will probably address it later on, Mr. Speaker, is, will the centre come under the regional board? If not, why not? We have been told that maybe it will and maybe it will not. So I don't know what the answer to that question is and perhaps the minister will address that when the time comes.
Mr. Speaker, how many people in Nova Scotia will have to suffer before it finally hits home that the safety and well-being of our people must be the number one concern. Young people are concerned about their fathers, mothers, the senior citizens of this province that they are able to get into the hospital. I have some people that are trying to get into the Victoria General Hospital at home, and I saw a couple of them on the weekend and yes they were scheduled in November and then they got put off to December. Mr. Speaker, perhaps they are scheduled for January and I hope they are able to get in. What about the cancer treatment waiting list? My understanding is that there is quite a list of people trying to get in. What about at the Rehab Centre. I also understand there is quite a waiting list there.
Mr. Speaker, the bill talks about the labour package for the workers at these institutions. Some of the staff at Camp Hill and the Victoria General Hospital have different salaries. What is going to happen? Are the high salaries going to be taken down or I should not say that. I should not call them high. I am sure those people there would say they are not nearly high enough, but are they going to be brought together? Are people going to be working side by side that are getting different salaries?
We are going to appoint a board, and I know I am not supposed to be in the clause by clause, Mr. Speaker, but that clause refers to the board, I think it is, as I recall, president and chief executive officer, the president of the medical staff, the dean of Dalhousie Medical School and three persons appointed by the board. Well, I have to say, I never heard of any board appointing their own people. The board is going to appoint three people. I think we are going to have a lot of concern expressed about that particular item. Now eight persons are appointed by the Governor in Council and I understand that the government will be appointing the representatives to that board. Then the board, and they are going to appoint the chairman, which I also understand is understandable, but then the board is going to appoint three other persons. Heavens above, that is certainly something new to me altogether.
All employees are to become employees of the corporation. What about management? How is management going to be handled? Are the Public Service awards still in place under the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union? Will they qualify for early retirement? What about the long-term disability plans? It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that there is a wage differential between the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. Will the Nova Scotia Government employees be cut or will the Nurses' Union employees receive an increase?
You know, this amalgamation of the hospitals in the Halifax area, as I say, is probably the right thing to do and as a matter of fact, I am probably going to vote for second reading for this bill to have it go on to the Law Amendments Committee to give the people and the workers involved an opportunity to come in and to have their say and then we will have to see how it goes after that. What are the capital costs of this?
There are a lot of questions that are not answered in regard to this bill and, Mr. Speaker, what does it do for the health care of the people of Nova Scotia? We have people coming in. We are all travelling the highways, the ambulances are all coming into Halifax and where are they going? They are coming into the Victoria General Hospital, they are coming into whatever. I think it is important that we do this right. I think the hoist was certainly a good idea, but the government in their wisdom did not think it was. They voted it down and I was disappointed. I had suggested to them, when I was on my feet, that we would be very pleased to hear some government members express their opinions as to whether they thought this was good or bad; however, they just decided to vote it down.
I know there are many people here who have sat on hospital boards. I never had that pleasure before, but I am sure there are members here who sat on hospital boards and participated in how the hospitals were run. I think that is good, but I really haven't heard from them.
Mr. Speaker, what does it do for patient care? I go back to that. What does it do to the workers in the hospitals, to the hospitals? Will they all be treated fairly? This new board will be the daddy and they will make all the decisions. Who is going to appoint that board? Downstairs in the Cabinet Room; the majority of those people on that board will be appointed downstairs.
Mr. Speaker, as I say, I think this is not a bad bill but I think it has to be cleaned up. I would suggest that at this time I am going to move an amendment.
I move that the words after "That" be deleted and the following be substituted: the subject matter of Bill No. 47, An Act to Amalgamate the Victoria General Hospital at Halifax, the Camp Hill Medical Centre, the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre Corporation and the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation of Nova Scotia to form the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, be referred to the Standing Committee on Community Services.
I would so move that amendment, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well. I had been given some advance notice, through the Clerk, of this proposed amendment. I have researched both Erskine May and Beauchesne and our own rules. Two of those three make no mention of this procedure at all, only Beauchesne does. In Beauchesne, at Paragraph 673, it is implied that a motion of this type, as long as it is correctly worded, is in order. The motion, as best as I can make out, does appear to be correctly worded.
If there are any interventions on the propriety of the motion, I am prepared to hear them at this time. If there are none, I am prepared to rule the amendment in order, but I would direct that debate on the amendment must be very strictly directed only to this proposition, that the subject matter of the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Community Services and cannot deal with other considerations. Now, if there are members who wish to speak within those narrow parameters, I welcome them.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this amendment because I agree very much that the subject matter of this bill, the subject matter that deals with the merger of the tertiary care hospitals in Nova Scotia into one corporation and provides for a different functioning of those hospitals, Mr. Speaker, and also a bill which subject matter provides for a process which will have a significant impact on upwards of 7,000 health care workers, I think it is extremely relevant and extremely important that that issue be referred to the Standing Committee on Community Services.
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I have had concerns about, and other members of this House have had concerns about, is what the outcome is expected to be of this merger, of the merger plan that, in fact, is being carried out by this bill. If we were to be able to utilize the resources of the Standing Committee on Community Services, that forum through which we could invite presenters, people who had experience in this kind of merger, multi-unit arrangements. I think that we could undoubtedly gain a great deal from that. In fact, I understand that the Department of Health and this new QE II that is set up as a corporation under this bill has now gone out to experts in the field of mergers, health care managers, that have a firm in Chicago that have the use of or have partners here in Canada but regardless of that this firm from Chicago will send in experts to deal with the implications of this bill by assisting the QE II managers in determining the most effective and efficient realignment of resources in terms of delivery of health care through the new corporation, the QE II.
I think it would be extremely helpful as a member of the Community Services Committee, for example, if we were to entertain submissions from those experts to explain to us what happens when you try to merge large tertiary care institutions as in this case. Is it, in fact, a cost-saving measure? Does pulling those four - in this case four, in the case of the Womens College Hospital and the Toronto Hospital it was two but does pulling those - units together save money? As I have indicated earlier, in my review of the literature on the issue, it is clearly not a well defined answer. There, number one, either hasn't been a lot of analysis, there hasn't been a lot of research into the outcome of these kinds of initiatives or they have been undertaken without the benefit of any kind of examination which is the case here.
I would certainly be, I think, interested in understanding from people who are supposed experts in the field what would be the motivation for this kind of an initiative other than the fact that it is going to be a cost-saving measure or other than the fact that supposedly it is going to ensure that health care will be delivered more effectively. Perhaps they can help me whereas the Minister of Health has been unable to shed any light on whether, in fact, we can expect that to be the case, other than his assertions on the basis of some great faith that he has that by combining these institutions it will not only save money but it will also ensure that there is more effective delivery of health care not only here in Halifax but also across the province because of the fact that it is a tertiary care hospital. That is something that the Community Services Committee could do.
The Community Services Committee could also look at the ramifications, the implications of the various provisions of this bill on collective agreements. They could look at whether, in fact, the concerns that have been raised by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union about the fact that the bill as worded, if it were carried forward now, would result in 2,000 to 3,000 health care workers now covered by the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, would have the effect of those people losing a number of very considerable and important rights.
I know that the Minister of Human Resources has gotten to his feet in this debate and apparently questioned the motivation of the legal counsel of the union as being, I think, based on politics of some kind.
MR. SPEAKER: I sense the member is getting off track. This really does not relate to referring the bill to the standing committee, in my view at all.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, actually, Mr. Speaker, the point that I am trying to make is that there is obviously a significant disagreement between a large number of the people actually affected by this bill, in other words, 2,000 to 3,000 of the employees that will lose their standing, vis-a-vis the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act. There is significant disagreement between the union that represents them and the government who has crafted this particular piece of legislation. On the one hand the union says that all of these rights will be lost and that, in fact, all of these employees will be placed in a very disadvantageous position relative to other bargaining units, and the government who has crafted this and the Minister of Human Resources whose department has had a considerable role to play in this suggests that, in fact, is not the case.
I think this has to be dealt with and it is properly dealt with in a forum where we have the opportunity for some debate and for some exchange of opinion. At the Community Services Committee, a more informal process than the Law Amendments Committee, it is an opportunity for people to make presentations. If the Minister of Human Resources suggests basically that you cannot hold stock in the arguments presented by the legal counsel of the NSGEU . . .
MR. SPEAKER: That is where you begin to get off track.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, then we have to find some foundation because he is basically saying that the NSGEU do not know what they are talking about.
MR. SPEAKER: You put words into the mouth of another honourable member who, to the best of my knowledge, has never said any such thing. I ask you to get back to the amendment.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, the issue, though . . .
MR. SPEAKER: If another honourable member wants to express his viewpoint, he presumably has the right to do so, but right now, you express your viewpoint.
MR. CHISHOLM: If, Mr. Speaker, the government is saying that there is no foundation, there is no basis for the concerns raised by the union on a number of different counts, whether it is being motivated by the fact that they are into a jurisdictional battle with the Nurses' Union, for example. Then maybe what we should do is, through the Community Services Committee, have representation from not simply the legal counsel on behalf of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, but do as some other members here have done and refer that advice and that counsel to other legal advisors and other legal counsel to either confirm the position of the NSGEU and their legal counsel or to confirm what it is that the government is saying.
It is almost like we are standing here and we are talking into a void because some of us here on the Opposition side are trying to represent some concerns that we think are legitimate, vis-a-vis the implications, the impact of this bill on not just a few people.
You are indicating to me that the time is almost up here, so I will be happy to adjourn the House at this particular time and resume my debate on this amendment tomorrow.
MR. SPEAKER: The debate is adjourned.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will be sitting tomorrow from the hours of 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. and the order of business following Question Period will be Public Bills for Second Reading. We will resume debate on Bill No. 47.
I move that we adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
We stand adjourned until tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 12:00 noon.
[The House rose at 9:59 p.m.]
By: Mr. John Holm (Leader of the New Democratic Party)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Education:
(1) Details of all action taken in 1993, 1994 and 1995 to develop a Pre-School Orientation Program designed for children between the ages of four and five.
By: Mr. John Holm (Leader of the New Democratic Party)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Education:
(1) Details of all steps taken since 1993 to comply with the Walker Commission's recommendation to fund education according to programs.
By: Mr. John Holm (Leader of the New Democratic Party)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Education:
(1) Details of all action taken in 1993, 1994 and 1995 to establish a "Special Incentive Fund" available to school boards "which meet and exceed provincial standards through innovative programs and projects which enhance and enrich the curriculum".
By: Mr. John Holm (Leader of the New Democratic Party)
(1) Details of all steps taken in 1993, 1994 and 1995 to develop an "Extra Assistance Fund" to assist post-secondary education students with financial need, including the amounts dedicated and expended to this end for each of the noted years.
By: Mr. John Holm (Leader of the New Democratic Party)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Supply and Services:
(1) Details of all action taken in 1993, 1994 and 1995 to develop and implement contract compliance regulations to ensure that companies doing business with government follow policies on pay equity and employment equity.
By: Mr. John Holm (Leader of the New Democratic Party)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs:
(1) A listing of all loan and grant programs administered by the department showing a breakdown by constituency of the dollar amounts dispersed under each program for the years 1993, 1994 and 1995.
By: Mr. Robert Chisholm (Halifax Atlantic)
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 Economic Renewal Agency:
(1) Details of all steps taken in 1993, 1994 and 1995 to establish a community economic development panel known as Initiative Nova Scotia including a listing of all members of Initiative Nova Scotia and meeting dates held during this period.
By: Mr. Robert Chisholm (Halifax Atlantic)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Health:
(1) Details of all efforts taken to enhance sex education in Nova Scotia to fulfil the Liberal Health Policy distributed during the 1993 election, in particular, documentation showing the increase in time and effort "spent educating all ages about sexuality and the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases".
By: Mr. Robert Chisholm (Halifax Atlantic)
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 Sport and Recreation Commission:
(1) A listing of all loan and grant programs administered by the commission showing a breakdown by constituency of the dollar amounts dispersed under each program for the years 1993, 1994 and 1995.
By: Mr. Robert Chisholm (Halifax Atlantic)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Labour:
(1) Details of all actions taken in 1993, 1994 and 1995 to institute a recognition program for companies and unions that are leaders in labour-management relations.
By: Mr. Robert Chisholm (Halifax Atlantic)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Community Services:
(1) Details of all actions taken in 1993, 1994 and 1995 to implement "pay-back" schedules to reimburse municipalities for arrears accrued since the new Children and Family Services Act was passed.