MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time and commence the daily business. Are there any introductions of guests? If not, we will commence the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a brief statement on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving initiative.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also known as MADD, is kicking off their national campaign, Project Red Ribbon '95. This red ribbon symbolizes MADD Canada's hope to end the senseless deaths and injuries caused by drinking and driving accidents.
Last year in Nova Scotia, 21 people died and 111 more were injured because someone drove while drunk. In Canada, alcohol related crashes caused the deaths of 1,700 people.
Nova Scotians cannot and will not tolerate this unnecessary toll of death and grief. We are leading the country in fighting drinking and driving. We have established zero tolerance for new drivers. We have established a mandatory rehabilitation program for first time offenders and we have established a roadside suspension to immediately withdraw the license from drinking drivers.
I am proud to support the MADD campaign and I urge each member of this House to tie on a red ribbon for safer driving.
Mr. Speaker, I have red ribbons. I believe some of these were circulated last week so what I would do at this time is perhaps make them available outside the House so a member could pick them up and then tie one on their vehicle.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the statement from the Minister of Transportation and Communications and we certainly do support Mothers Against Drunk Driving and we support the organization MADD. In fact, I believe it was just last week that the honourable member for Kings North passed out red ribbons. He attended a meeting in the Town of Kentville relative to the organization and he listened to some of the concerns that the people had. We certainly hope that everybody will tie on a red ribbon. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, very briefly, just to thank the minister for his statement and to extend our congratulations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. This is an intolerable situation. The toll, in terms of life and injury that are lost and suffered, are just totally unacceptable to all reasoned that people within this province and across the country.
I do recognize and I appreciate that there have been some stringent measures taken by the provincial government to try to, in their way, reduce the incidence of drunk driving on our highway. I applaud those measures, but it is important that we be diligent, not only during the time of this campaign, when we put the red ribbon on our cars tied to the antenna, but it is something that we have to be diligent about all year long. I think that we all have a responsibility when we do know that there is somebody who is drinking that we try, as a society, to prevent that person from drinking by removing their keys and providing safe, alternative ways home. We all have a responsibility, not only those who may have impaired their common sense because of the alcohol that they have consumed, but all of us who are aware of situations have a responsibility throughout the year to try to ensure that those people do not get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
So, I thank the minister for his announcement. I congratulate Mothers Against Drunk Driving for, again, sponsoring this campaign and, hopefully, we will all constantly be wiser and more alert throughout the year as a result of these efforts. Thank you.
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas a recent Amherst Daily News editorial said, the lifespan of any government is directly related to the degree of credibility it commands; and
Whereas the editorial continued by saying, one can only conclude that the province's Liberal Government is destined to become a one-hit wonder; and
Whereas as a result of the closure of APSEA and the failure to transfer jobs to Amherst, the people of Cumberland North will continue to feel the heavy toll of unkept Liberal promises in the next election;
Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government remember their promises to the people of Amherst and Cumberland County.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas like the Premier, so too all other MLAs should ensure that their publicly paid travel expenses can be seen by any member of the public; and
Whereas the Government House Leader has taken the lead in demanding a public record of all public expenditure on MLA travel regardless of how it is paid for; and
Whereas the Government House Leader has gone further and correctly urged that no one who criticizes others' travel spending should hesitate to ensure that all of their own is public;
Therefore be it resolved that this House hereby authorizes Mr. Speaker to place on the public record MLA travel expenses, regardless of how they are paid, excepting only Cabinet travel covered by the Premier's guidelines for disclosing ministerial expenses and requests that the Board of Internal Economy provide any advice and regulations needed to fully implement this policy.
Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Education was warned as far back as 1994 that the deal he developed for early retirement for teachers would affect the funding of Nova Scotia's school boards and in turn, the classrooms of this province; and
Whereas after signing the early retirement deal on June 17, 1994, the minister claimed the savings he was able to achieve, "will have little or no impact on the quality of instruction in the classroom. That was our goal from the beginning, and today I can say we have met that goal."; and
Whereas only a month later the Education Minister's deputy was instructing a school board superintendent on just how to achieve those savings with the plan, with one choice being to, "rehire fewer teachers" but to be "diligent" in following this procedure to ensure, "sufficient number of teachers" are hired to "deliver a quality program of instruction"';
Therefore be it resolved that the minister acknowledge that his call to ask the school boards to "trust him, the classroom would not be affected", has once again fallen flat - that a cost to boards of some $16.6 million in principal and interest alone over seven years for the early retirement plan will cost the classroom and the students because the money is not there to provide for both.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Shelburne.
MR. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the lobster industry contributes significantly to the lives of people in Shelburne County by injecting millions of dollars into our economy each year; and
Whereas Shelburne County was proclaimed the Lobster Capital of Canada; and
Whereas this week marks the beginning of Shelburne County's lobster season;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly recognize the dedication and hard work of the men and women in our fishing industry and extend best wishes for a safe and successful lobster season.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice, please.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Inverness.
MR. CHARLES MACARTHUR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas yesterday, more than 750 people attended the funeral of Inverness native, Reverend John Angus Rankin, whose faithful devotion to the Catholic priesthood spanned 49 years, including his service to Saint Mary of the Angels Parish of Glendale and Holy Trinity Mission in Waycobah near Whycocomagh; and
Whereas Father Rankin had a tremendous passion for all things Scottish and was a major influence in Scottish fiddling and the Gaelic language in Cape Breton, along with the 1973 revival of the Glendale Fiddlers; and
Whereas Father Rankin, who served the Mi'Kmaq people for 39 years was an Honorary Chief of the Mi'Kmaq, left a lasting message to all, "colour, race, age, gender, or any other divisiveness, must never keep us apart, rather, we must cherish the differences, the individualities";
Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly of the Province of Nova Scotia acknowledge the great contribution of Reverend John Angus Rankin in promoting the life and culture of all Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
It is requested by the Premier that we observe a minute of silence in honour of the memory of the late Reverend Father Rankin. If that is passed by the House, we will do that then.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
The motion is carried.
[A minute of silence was observed.]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Finance has suggested that For Sale signs could soon be placed on both the A. Murray MacKay and Angus L. Macdonald Bridges; and
Whereas the Minister of Finance has stated that different options exists such as municipal or even private sector takeover of the bridges; and
Whereas the two bridges are major commuting links for the metropolitan region;
Therefore be it resolved that when a decision is eventually made concerning the bridges, the Minister of Finance not come up with major surprises such as a $3.00 to $4.00 toll as is being imposed upon the residents of Colchester and Cumberland Counties.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.
MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the ever resourceful and determined Town of Canso, shocked five years ago with the announcement of the closure of its fish plant, welcomed the news that Seafreez Foods Incorporated plans a $2 million expansion, creating more than 100 full-time and part-time jobs; and
Whereas the plant expansion includes a doubling of the herring processing capacity, the installation of a new surimi processing line, and the processing of snow crab, which had been taken out of the community and the province for the past several years; and
Whereas the workers at the Seafreez plant, ever determined to maintain a viable fish processing operation in Canso, have consistently worked to a high quality standard and have made wage concessions which are now being heralded as a major factor in the Seafreez expansion plans;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the citizens of Canso, all Seafreez employees and management, for their successful efforts to maintain and expand the fish processing capacity of Seafreez Foods Incorporated in Canso.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Colchester North.
MR. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas on Sunday, November 26th, more than 300 people attended a special Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph in Londonderry, Colchester County to place wreaths and crosses which had been destroyed earlier by vandals; and
Whereas the special remembrance ceremony was arranged after 18 markers laid during the community's traditional Remembrance Day ceremony were found the next morning destroyed and spread over a wide area; and
Whereas the destruction of the Remembrance Day markers had left the residents of Londonderry deeply shaken and saddened;
Therefore be it resolved that this House hail the work of the Royal Canadian Legion and all community residents who rallied together to show their respect of Canada's war dead at Sunday's special remembrance ceremony.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the schools of the Kings County District School Board are now having to ask PTAs and Home and School Associations and parents to raise funds for essentials like classroom supplies; and
Whereas these same volunteers were once asked to assist to help supplement schools with extras like computers, playground equipment and class trips; and
Whereas those extras - which are definitely essential to most students, teachers and parents - have gone to the back burner because schools can't even afford things like chalk, paper and classroom curtains;
Therefore be it resolved that this Education Minister and the Premier acknowledge the impact of the 10 per cent cut to the education budget, the effects of the ERP, the loss of teacher numbers and the increasing expense of essential supplies is having an impact - a negative impact - in the classrooms of this province and on the learning experience of our students.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas employees of the future Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre have been told they will keep all of their employment rights, terms and benefits, but no such legislation is before this House; and
Whereas school staff were told that they would keep their collective agreements, but no such legislation is before this House; and
Whereas municipal taxpayers have been told they would see taxes fall and services improve through amalgamation, but no such legislation is before this House;
Therefore be it resolved that Cabinet Ministers and their representatives should endeavour, in the spirit of the on-coming festive season, to tell the truth.
MR. SPEAKER: I think I had better read that one before it is tabled. Let me just read that one.
The honourable Minister of Supply and Services.
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, it imputes the telling of falsehoods.
MR. SPEAKER: ". . . resolved that Cabinet Ministers and their representatives should endeavour, in the spirit of the oncoming festive season, to tell the truth.". I feel that that impugns the integrity of members of the Executive Council and rule the motion out of order. (Interruptions)
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency has reneged on a commitment made by his predecessor that a highway ramp would provide easy access to the Nova Scotia Tourist Bureau at Amherst; and
Whereas the minister has stated that jurisdictional issues with New Brunswick was the main reason for the cancellation of this highway ramp; and
Whereas residents of Amherst and tourism businesses along the Sunrise Trail will suffer from the impact of this negative government decision;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and the Minister of Transportation and Communications table in this Legislature today details of exactly what the New Brunswick Government was seeking prior to allowing the construction of a highway ramp that would provide better access to the Amherst Tourist Bureau.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Eastern Shore.
MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas this year marks the 35th Anniversary of the Chezzetcook Volunteer Fire Department; and
Whereas the Chezzetcook Volunteer Fire Department has 27 active members serving the community; and
Whereas through the years, the Chezzetcook Volunteer Fire Department has made a valuable contribution to the overall fire safety and security of the area, particularly in fire safety education;
Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to the Chezzetcook Volunteer Fire Department on the occasion of its 35th Anniversary and encourage the members to continue their excellent community service.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the former MLA for Cape Breton West was ordered out of the Liberal Caucus for stating that his constituents would pay higher taxes as a result of the Cape Breton municipal amalgamation; and
Whereas, nevertheless, the other six Liberal MLAs from that municipality endorsed legislation which mandated the pre-amalgamation budgets of the previous municipal units; and
Whereas the Liberals also gave the Municipal Affairs Minister power over hiring by the previous units, plus power to issue any orders, directions and conditions she wished regarding the amalgamation;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Cape Breton Regional Municipality taxpayers, whose rates will increase as services are cut to help pay for the Liberals' amalgamation binge, to send copies of their tax bills to their Liberals MLAs and the Municipal Affairs Minister.
MR. SPEAKER: I reject that motion as being out of order. It impugns the members from Cape Breton and it is out of order. (Interruptions)
The honourable member for Hants West. Hants East, I mean.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Well, the member for Hants West is almost as good looking.
Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Department of Education Task Force on Mi'Kmaq Education, which has been meeting for two years, has recommended the enhancement of Mi'Kmaq programs in Nova Scotia schools; and
Whereas the recommendations of the Mi'Kmaq Education Task Force reflect the commitment of the Department of Education to the unique cultural and educational needs of the Mi'Kmaq community; and
Whereas this concept is being applauded by Mi'Kmaq educators as giving rightful recognition to the Mi'Kmaq as First Nations people in the province;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extol the ongoing efforts of the Department of Education to work with First Nations people across Nova Scotia, to ensure that the unique cultural and educational requirements of the Mi'Kmaq are met.
Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Yarmouth.
MR. RICHARD HUBBARD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas all Nova Scotians were reminded yesterday that making a living by lobster fishing in southwestern Nova Scotia is a dangerous profession that requires great courage; and
Whereas eight people were rescued from boats through the mutual aid of fishermen, the professional services of the Coast Guard, DFO, and the Department of National Defence; and
Whereas these incidents underlie the need for an adequate search and rescue presence in Yarmouth County;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly applaud the heroic efforts of fishers, the Coast Guard, DFO, and DND in saving the lives of eight fishers off the icy waters of southwestern Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas IMP hopes to walk away from Cape Breton with equipment bought by federal and provincial taxpayers with $16.7 million in startup funds, plus generous training assistance, to establish a state-of-the-art machine shop on the Northside; and
Whereas workers and the community object to this further drain of opportunities, facilitated by the $5 million provincial loan with which IMP took over the equipment; and
Whereas this Liberal Government claims that it is undertaking a community-based economic renewal of Nova Scotia;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency should respond positively to the IMP Cape Breton workers who want to keep and manage in Cape Breton the public funds spent on their high-tech plant and the jobs it can secure.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
Are there any additional notices of motion? If not, I have a request from the Government House Leader to revert to the order of business, Statements by Ministers.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to inform members of the House of Assembly and all Nova Scotians that today the province launched a bond issue in the European market. Total value of the issue is $250 million Canadian. This borrowing is in Canadian dollars, in keeping with the government's commitment to reduce the foreign currency exposure of our debt portfolio. (Applause)
The coupon is priced at 7 per cent and is selling briskly this morning. The all-in costs to Nova Scotia are 7.21 per cent, an excellent rate and an indication that Nova Scotian's financial position is gaining credibility and confidence in the international financial community.
I might add, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotia is borrowing this money at a rate just 28 basis points above the rate available to the federal government.
The lead financial institution on this issue is Toronto Dominion Securities Incorporated.
A portion of the proceeds from this issue will be used to call a previous bond issued at 13.375 per cent. (Applause) In other words, Mr. Speaker, we are replacing money borrowed at more than 13 per cent with money borrowed at just over 7 per cent. That is a good deal for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, this borrowing is consistent with this government's active approach to debt management. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the Minister of Finance. Certainly when you are borrowing money at 7 per cent to replace money borrowed at 13 per cent it is a good deal. There is also the matter, of course, of returning the debt back into Canadian dollars and I think that, too, is a step in the right direction.
So, Mr. Speaker, while it would be nice if we did not have to borrow money, if we are going to borrow money, it is always best to borrow at a cheaper rate and get rid of the foreign denominations of present debt.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome the minister's statement in the House. Certainly, anytime that we are able to borrow money at rates to pay off loans that are at a much higher rate, that is good business sense and we would certainly be being very critical of the province if they were not doing that. I congratulate and thank the minister because every dollar that is saved in terms of interest payments is a dollar that is going to be going back, hopefully, into programs and services in the province. So, I very much support that.
There are a number of questions that are left unanswered in the minister's statement. For example, I do not know how many of those $250 million are actually going to be used to pay off what portion of debt. I do not know if that is $100 million, $50 million or the majority of it. I also do not know what the length or the term of the agreement is, if it is a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year term or a longer term at that interest rate. So, I would be interested to get that. I think that the 7 per cent rate is basically, if I am not mistaken, when I was skimming through the newspaper today, the same rate that a person can borrow for a new home mortgage on a one year term. So, I do not know what the conditions are. (Interruption) It is 10 years. Well, I appreciate that and that makes it even better news.
I guess the last comment that I would just make to the minister, and this is not as a way of criticizing, because I know that there are not sufficient funds within Nova Scotia to meet the borrowing needs of the provincial government, but one of the things that I hope that the government would look at providing, in future, some way to provide some of these kind of bond offerings to Nova Scotians so that they would also be able to participate in the purchase of these bonds so that some of the interest, even though it be a smaller rate, would be returned here in Nova Scotia and give Nova Scotians an opportunity to participate in the financing of the operation of the government and not having to just go offshore. I know that there are some difficulties, but I would look forward to discussing that with the minister on a future occasion.
MR. SPEAKER: Now that would appear to conclude the daily routine.
I wish to advise members of the House that the Clerk conducted a draw for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 p.m. and the winner this afternoon is the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party. Now he submitted a motion for debate which we earlier had read into the record by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, so I will not read it all out but it resolves that the Premier and Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency should respond to the IMP Cape Breton situation.
So we will hear debate on that topic at 6:00 p.m.
Now the time is 12:33 p.m., the Oral Question Period today runs for one hour so it will run until 1:33 p.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier will know that the IMP plant in North Sydney was originally built at a cost of $30-some million and $18 million of that was taxpayers' money. The Premier is also very aware that a number of workers have become extremely upset in that the plan is afoot to close down that particular plant of the IMP operation in the province. The workers at that plant are desperately seeking a meeting with the Premier. Bearing in mind that a loss of a job in Cape Breton is a very serious matter, as is a loss of a job anywhere in Nova Scotia, is the Premier prepared to meet with company and workers to try to find a solution to the closure of the IMP plant in North Sydney?
HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I have stated a couple of times yesterday and today that this is a matter between a private employer and his employees. IMP has no outstanding obligations to the Province of Nova Scotia and it is obvious that I have a great deal of sympathy for the workers, understand their plight, but the reality of the situation is that this is a matter between an employer and his employees.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Premier, I have before me a record of the Orders in Council of last year and it indicates here that the province provided by way of retractable preference shares $4 million to IMP and at that particular time it was obvious that the government felt that IMP was a good investment for the provincial money and was worthy of provincial support. Would the Premier indicate what has happened to IMP since February 1994?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the document referred to, if I may. Thank you very much. I will take this under advisement and I will get back to you on it.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, will the Premier make a commitment, either personally or through his Economic Renewal Agency Minister, to investigate the situation at IMP and see what positive influence the government can have in helping the company obtain further contracts to improve the work situation in the Sydney plant? Will he make that commitment?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government, since it took office, has worked to create conditions in Cape Breton that have lowered the unemployment rate from 25 per cent, which it was when they left, to about 18 per cent now this year. That indicates the degree of support that this government has for Cape Breton and the understanding of their work needs. It is perfectly obvious that this remains a matter between the employer and the employees. My position has been made quite clear and it is the same as I said before.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. The Premier will know that the Legislature in setting up the Cape Breton Regional Municipality legislated budget spending limits on the previous municipal units, gave the minister the power over hiring and also gave the minister, basically, the powers to do whatever she wished regarding amalgamation. The minister, of course, won high praise and headlines suggesting that the savings could be as high as $14 million. Now, we are seeing the results with higher tax rates being projected, with cuts in services and the province having actually to make a loan for up to $2 million.
My question to the Premier is quite simply, given the failure to follow through on the commitments that were made and the projections that were forecast, why hasn't the Premier called for the resignation of his Minister of Municipal Affairs?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the matter and the details of what has happened in Cape Breton I will refer to the minister concerned, as is my custom, to pass it to my competent minister. As for her resignation, I have no intention of asking for it because she has done a tremendous job under very difficult circumstances. (Applause)
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, well, it certainly would appear that the Premier and the government is not prepared to accept any responsibility or to be held accountable for the outcomes that have gone on in the amalgamation that they imposed.
In metro, voters are being offered exactly . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Now, let's not have a sermon, a question.
MR. HOLM: There is a question, Mr. Speaker. In metro, voters are being offered exactly the same kind of sales pitch and given the same kind of assurances that were given in Cape Breton. I would like to ask the Premier what assurances will he provide to the taxpayers in the soon to be established super regional municipality of Halifax County that taxpayers there won't suffer the same fate that Cape Breton voters are waking up to?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, once again this falls within the Minister of Municipal Affairs' responsibility. I am sure that she would love to answer the question.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite is trying to draw a parallel between the Cape Breton Regional Municipality amalgamation and the metropolitan regional municipality amalgamation. I think as we have clarified a number of times in Question Period, there are different reasons why we amalgamated in Cape Breton as compared to why there was an amalgamation in Halifax. I think those reasons are very important and clear. When we looked in Cape Breton, we had units under very serious financial difficulties which I believe the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has come forward and addressed. I think they should be applauded for the work they have done.
In the metropolitan area we have four areas that were bickering, fighting back and forth and we will now have one, strong, regional voice which, as the business community has suggested, is the right way for us to go. (Applause)
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, what we are hearing from the Premier and the minister are basically the same things, that is, to trust us, we know what we are doing. We have seen where those kinds of assertions have gotten us before.
I would like to ask either the Premier or the minister, whoever wishes to get up to answer it, what specific steps, what specific actions have this minister and her government done differently here in the metro amalgamation than what they did in the Cape Breton amalgamation, which is going to prevent metropolitan Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County residents waking up to the same stark reality that their taxes are going to go up and services cut, as is facing the residents in the new Regional Municipality of Cape Breton, which this government imposed on them?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer that question. As the honourable member knows, the Coordinator, Mr. Hayward, as has been written up in the press and some of the mayors have been quite concerned, he has corresponded directly with them with regard to expenditures.
As we have seen in the press on a number of occasions, we have seen where Mr. Hayward had some difficulty with some of the directions on the Neptune Theatre borrowings that the City of Halifax was going to do. He has also looked at some of the borrowings. Mr. Hayward has been directly involved in ensuring that the municipalities do not put a tax burden or a debt burden onto the new regional municipalities. I think that has been very clearly articulated in the press and on the floor of this House a number of times.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The minister was quoted last year as saying in May, "Cape Bretoners who'll live in a new super-city won't have to worry about increased residential property taxes, says Municipal Affairs Minister Sandy Jolly, . . . We do not expect the level of services to increase in a rural area nor the taxes to increase.".
Now will the minister confirm that the deal she cut with Mayor John Coady last week includes a minimum 11 per cent tax hike to residential and commercial taxpayers in Cape Breton County and a 5 per cent residential hike in urban centre taxes?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, to my understanding the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has not set a tax rate, so I have no idea what those taxes would be.
DR. HAMM: Well, we are kind of playing cat and mouse here today, Mr. Speaker. It makes me wonder why Mayor Coady came down last week, it didn't seem there was much agreement on anything.
Will the minister confirm that part of the discussions that went on between the minister and Mayor Coady, revolved around the loss of jobs to municipal workers in the new super-city? Was that part of the discussion?
MS. JOLLY: No, Mr. Speaker.
DR. HAMM: Well, would the minister indicate then to members of the House, and particularly to residents up in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, when will those taxpayers in the new Cape Breton super-city enjoy the tax decreases that the minister promised when she introduced the legislation to amalgamate the eight units?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, there seems to be an unwillingness of the Opposition Parties to understand the financial difficulties that the Cape Breton municipalities were in when they came into the amalgamation. They are trying to suggest that the amalgamation is the reason for this debt.
Mr. Speaker, you know I have been very clear on any number of occasions that we had eight units, six of which were in financial difficulty, that had to be addressed. The honourable member, now the Leader, but back on May 6, 1994, in the evening news, "Hamm lauds C.B. reform plans". He lauds those plans to look at reform plans and the reform plans included an amalgamation. It is because of the amalgamation that we are able to put on the table an opportunity for an action plan that will allow the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to move forward. The amalgamation has been very clearly stated, that there is a $4.2 million savings because of operating one regional municipality rather than eight municipalities.
So, I think it is very important, Mr. Speaker, that they look at exactly what is happening and try not to mix apples and oranges. I know that this honourable member, on a number of occasions, when speaking with regard to the regionalization bill that we have put forward, has applauded the fact that we are dealing with the difficult situations in Cape Breton and that the amalgamation was the right way to go.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition, a new question.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for reminding us that I did support that particular endeavour but that is not the issue here. The issue is that it has not gone the way the minister predicted and yet the minister, who was quite willing, on earlier days, to claim parenthood for the new municipality, has now decided it is an orphan and she has no responsibility to what is going on down there.
Will the minister confirm that part of the deal that was arranged with Mayor Coady when he visited Halifax recently involved a $2 million provincial loan to the new super-city?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I would just suggest to the honourable member, there is quite a difference between being a mother and a fairy godmother. (Interruptions)
AN HON. MEMBER: There is the member for Queens, going to help you with municipal business again. The member for Queens want to write your lines.
MR. SPEAKER: All right now, order. The minister has the floor.
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, what we have tried to do, and I think what we have been able to accomplish, and I am very proud to be the person who announced the amalgamation and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. I do not walk away or back away from that one bit because it is because of this amalgamation that we are able to deal with a tough situation. Imagine as minister dealing with six units that are bankrupt, imagine what the discussion would be on the floor of this House if we had not done the amalgamation. We have an amalgamation that has $4.2 million savings because we have one unit rather than eight units. (Applause)
So, Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to have been the individual who brought this forward but we also have a business plan which this government, when they were here, knew nothing about. Business plans dealing with the financial difficulty in a four year program, dealing with it in a reasonable, fiscally responsible way and I applaud the people in Cape Breton because they have been able to come to the table with an action plan. We have said that amalgamation would require some reinventing, some reorganization and they have come forward but we have a business plan. As this government is taking control of the debt that those people left to us, Cape Breton Regional Municipality will take control of their debt as well. (Applause)
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister, in formulating her answer, forgot to answer the question which had specifically to do about the $2 million loan, but we will try again.
Would the minister indicate that the loan that was arranged by the province to the new super-city, is it a forgivable loan, what are the terms and what were the conditions that were stipulated by the province in order for the super-city to qualify for this new loan? Could she give us the details of the loan?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the agreement that had been worked out between the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the Department of Municipal Affairs, Mayor John Coady has tabled that agreement and I will be happy to table a copy here. In that agreement, it is very clear what has to be done.
Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, it is a tough job. There is no question, this is a tough job but it is very clear. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality was able to deal with $13 million of the $15 million debt and they have dealt with it in a very reasonable manner and we have been able to help them on a number of avenues which are all clearly outlined in the agreement. The agreement does say that we will loan them $2 million for a four year time period without any interest requirement. At the end of that four years, that loan will be forgivable provided they have stuck to and dealt with all the financial implications that have to be dealt with to put their house in order. Mr. Speaker, this is a very important loan to these individuals and one that we support. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: There is a request that the document be tabled. Is that possible?
AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: Possibly some copies could be made, maybe 8 or 10 copies.
DR. HAMM: So it looks like, in four years, it will be a forgivable loan.
By way of a final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, will this be the way that the government and the minister will deal with any cost overruns that may be accrued in the new merger process that is going on here in Halifax?
AN HON. MEMBER: In Pictou?
DR. HAMM: And in Pictou, if that happens to be the case. If, in fact, the study indicates savings that are not realized by amalgamation, will that be the procedure that would be followed by the government to assist other merging units in the province who run into the same kind of difficulties?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I have said on any number of occasions, and that is why it is quite difficult, the amalgamation will produce a savings of $4.2 million in Cape Breton. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality have gone through and verified that and we are quite comfortable with that.
They would suggest that these expenditures or this debt has come from the amalgamation and that is just not the case. There is a $4.6 million one-time cost to reorganize the municipality. Surely we should have a good communications system there. Surely we should deal with the police issue and the police station there. Surely we should be dealing with the administration system and the accounting system. Those are all things that need to be done to bring it together. I don't think there was anybody who ever suggested that amalgamation wouldn't have some start-up costs to it. Those are there, but there is clearly a delineation and it has to be made - that these people refuse to look at - between the amalgamation and the eight municipal units coming from where they were. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question through you to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Grants.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes the Minister of Grants.
MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Municipal Affairs.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Your government, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, indicated that in Cape Breton there would be no new taxes after amalgamation. However, today, we are finding the taxpayers are facing huge tax increases, loss of services, loss of jobs, and they don't know the reasons why. No one has given a full accounting as to why the new regional government is facing such a huge deficit. Will the minister provide Cape Bretoners with a full and complete accounting of the details as to why their taxes are going up and why they have fewer services than were promised by you as Minister of Municipal Affairs?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: As the honourable member knows, the tax rates and the establishment of the taxes is a responsibility of the municipality. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, the people in Cape Breton do know why we are in the situation we are in; I don't think there is any question about that. The people there do know what has to be dealt with. The new regional municipality has come forward with a business plan. They have come forward with the plan that will deal with the issues there and I think the people in the area will have an opportunity to have discussion with their municipality as well as with their mayor. I know that the regional municipality is looking forward to having those discussions with the public as well.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Premier of the province and all the Cabinet indicated that amalgamation in Cape Breton would result in no tax increase. The member who indicated that there would be a tax increase if they went ahead was bounced out of caucus and out of his bench, even, in this House. I want to know if this minister will indicate to the people what she intends to do to prevent the same sort of a tax increase happening in Halifax that she has driven into the people of Cape Breton? Are you taking any steps, are you even paying attention to the details that are happening in Halifax?
MR. SPEAKER: Please honourable member, please. That last question will be ignored.
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I could ask this honourable member, the manager of the mismanagement board what he was doing when we tabulated a $9 billion debt in the Province of Nova Scotia? I would like to know what he was paying attention to? He is directly responsible for that debt.
As I have answered the interim Leader of the New Democratic Party, there has been communication between the coordinator and the four councils, a discussion with those individuals. The coordinator has dealt with a couple of issues already that we have seen in the press where there was an opportunity for the municipalities to look at putting the debt onto the new regional municipality of which the coordinator was able to stop.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, again through you to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Minister of Municipal Affairs wanders around and she asks and answers more questions than have even been thought of. The entire problem revolves around the misconception that the people in Cape Breton were forced upon that there would be no tax increases as a result of the amalgamation. Now the minister, in her capacity, signed loan documents last year so that the municipal unit could borrow an additional $18 million. You add that to the $15 million that they are short now and that is a $33 million deficit that has been cracked up in the municipal unit since she forced the amalgamation. Now she is taking absolutely no responsibility for it. When will this minister start doing her job as minister and take responsibility for the actions that she forced the people of Cape Breton against their wishes?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, it is amazing how this individual would suggest that this government is not taking responsibility. I am just amazed that that individual would have the audacity to stand on his feet and say this government is not taking responsibility. We are taking responsibility for their problems, for the problems that they created for the taxpayer of Nova Scotia. I am proud to say that the amalgamation in Cape Breton is exactly what we are doing, we are taking responsibility and we are ensuring those municipal units have an opportunity to come forward and deal as a unit in Cape Breton. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I would like to know first if indeed she is taking responsibility for the loss of jobs there but more importantly there have been a lot of concerns that have been raised over the past weeks and months and they are very important questions. My question is very simple to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I would like to know that if the minister had to do it all over again what would she do to get it right in Cape Breton and what would she do to get it right in the rest of the municipalities?
MR. SPEAKER: Now that line of questioning is innovative, we have never seen it here in the House before, I don't know if it in an order or not. If the minister wishes to respond she may.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you one thing, we certainly would have proceeded with amalgamation but we would have done it three years earlier when it needed to be done, when it would have made an even bigger difference. That is what we would have done, we would have done it three years earlier. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: We have to maintain order in the House, honourable members. If this is going to lead to catcalling back and forth I will have to cut it off.
MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, again my question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. On May 19, 1994 the minister said, "Cape Bretoners who'll live in a new super-city won't have to worry about increased residential property taxes, says Municipal Affairs Minister Sandra Jolly.". In Hansard, "It will be more effective and efficient, cost less to run and provide the people of Cape Breton . . .".
MR. SPEAKER: Those documents will have to be tabled.
MR. MACLEOD: No problems, I would be happy to table these documents. My question to the minister is, is she willing to stand beside those statements today as the people of Cape Breton are looking at massive tax increases?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister, if you wish to see the documents I have asked they be sent to you.
MS. JOLLY: No, that is fine, Mr. Speaker, I think on the floor of the House today I very clearly have stated that I stand beside the decision that I have made with my Cabinet colleagues on the amalgamation in Cape Breton. I don't think there is any question in the answers to my questions today and the answers to the questions I have made in the past five weeks when I have been questioned almost every day on this issue. I do stand behind the decision that we made because we made a business decision, we made a decision that we were able to bring forward, a streamlined administration system. Mr. Speaker, he wants to talk about cost. We have seen where the new amalgamated unit is $4.2 million less to run than the eight units.
MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my final question is also to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and it is quite simple. If indeed the people of Cape Breton are faced with a major tax increase, will the minister resign post-haste?
MS. JOLLY: No, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Human Resources. Back in the summer of 1993 an Affirmative Action Work Force Survey was conducted in the Civil Service in Nova Scotia. Subsequent to that, in September 1994, the results of the work force survey were released and the intention indicated at that point by the then minister was to develop an affirmative action policy on behalf of the government.
I understand, Mr. Speaker, that such a policy has been before Cabinet since, I believe, January 5th of this year. I would like to ask the minister if he could give us an indication of when, in fact, we can expect to receive the affirmative action policy on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia?
HON. JAY ABBASS: It may be that before I entered the Human Resources Department something did go to Cabinet. I cannot recall, Mr. Speaker, but I can confirm or affirm that since March when I did go to Human Resources there was nothing that went to Cabinet, just for the sake of clarifying that. However, the affirmative action policy which has been worked upon by a committee of NSGEU representatives, union representatives and people from the Human Resources Department, is now in the hands of my deputy. I, in fact, am looking forward to reading it at a very early day. I do hope to bring it to Cabinet very soon.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, maybe to the minister again, I don't understand what the problem is, because we spoke to people within the minister's department who confirmed for us on November 8th that in fact the policy was still before Cabinet. Perhaps the minister could provide some explanation of that later on.
Mr. Speaker, it was clear in the work force survey that there were some serious problems in the work force in terms of the underrepresentation of aboriginal peoples, of blacks and women in terms not only of their underrepresentation but also the positions that they occupy within the Civil Service. I would like to ask the minister, the government indicated some considerable commitment and urgency to the whole policy of affirmative action and ensuring that barriers to women, to people with disabilities, to blacks and aboriginals was an important commitment of theirs. I would like to ask the minister if he could explain to those same Nova Scotians why it is taking so long for an affirmative action policy to come forward that would, in fact, reduce some of those barriers?
MR. ABBASS: Just getting back to the question of whether it is before Cabinet or not. Often departmental staff will say that something has gone on to Cabinet whereas really it has gone on to the deputy or to the minister for review before being submitted to Cabinet. I think that is all that is at play here.
The member opposite has very appropriately and eloquently, if I may, described what the affirmative action policy should accomplish and there is no departure on the part of government from its interest in seeing such a policy implemented. The delay, if there is one, has partly been at the committee level; but in fairness to that committee, they have been a very hardworking committee of union and government staff members. At this point we are moving as quickly as possible on the deputy minister's and the minister's end of things to make sure that it does find its way to Cabinet.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the minister that the members of the Affirmative Action Joint Committee were very hardworking and participated with a conscientious understanding of the fact that this government was committed to actually doing something about the barriers to employment and to mobility within the Civil Service. In fact, I understand that there are various members of that committee who are extremely frustrated by the fact that this policy seems to have stalled - we were led to believe by the minister's own department - at the Cabinet level.
Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary. Will the minister give a commitment here in the House today that he will do everything within his power to ensure that an affirmative action policy comes out on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia to deal with the very real and very significant barriers to job equity and ensure that that policy comes out before the end of 1995?
MR. ABBASS: Well again, if the member opposite wishes to, in the future, verify whether or not a matter is before Cabinet, he should feel free to ask me directly. All I can assure him of as I stand here is that, no, it is not before Cabinet; yes, it is before me and I should read it as quickly as I can, which I will do, and make sure that it makes it to Cabinet and does get vetted as quickly as possible.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister responsible for the Gaming Control Commission. Throughout the year, our many Nova Scotia volunteer organizations, fire departments, et cetera, conduct fundraisers and raffles that require a lottery license. In the past, these applications have been dealt with while the applicant waited, so to speak, and they were dealt with by the staff at the Lottery Commission. I am told that at the present time the situation is that the requests must go before the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission. It convenes on Wednesdays, Mr. Speaker. I am told that the number of requests, I guess perhaps because it is Christmas time, are so numerous that many of the volunteer groups must wait up to six weeks to have their request heard.
My question to the minister is merely this, can the minister confirm that applications for lottery numbers, which used to be approved by the staff of the Lottery Commission, must now be approved by the board?
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite may be aware that last spring new regulations were adopted by this government to control all gaming in the province. As all applications come in, they are vetted through staff in the commission in compliance with the regulations that were adopted.
MR. TAYLOR: So, Mr. Speaker, if you are having a teddy bear raffle or a glass of water raffle, now you have to have your application go before the Nova Scotia Lottery Commission. It seems somewhat ridiculous; I mean this is the same minister who talked about further empowering government employees and she suggested that she would be eliminating red tape. She has now set up a system where, to get approval to sell tickets on something as innocuous as a glass of water, or a teddy bear raffle, my goodness, it is taking a long time and it is putting a lot of our volunteer organizations in a real hardship.
My question to the minister is, what is the rationale behind changing the process to require the board approve all applications that go before the Lottery Commission? What is the rationale for the change?
MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is aware of any organization that is having difficulty, perhaps he would share that with me and I will pass it on to the board for their consideration.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question by way of final supplementary. Can the minister tell the House if she believes that it is fiscally responsible to pay the chair of the board a salary that is comparable with the salary and benefits authorized for a judge of the Provincial Court and to pay other board members $250 per day to make decisions that used to be routinely made by paid staff of the Lottery Commission?
MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, we have the legislative authority to empower the commission to do their job and we are doing that with the principles of honesty and integrity. The commission is at arm's length from government and I am sure they are doing their job as best as they see fit.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I think this initiative, Question Period, is rightly named because it certainly isn't answer period.
My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister might know, perhaps, that sawmill owners and shippers across this province - from be it Elmsdale, Kennetcook, Musquodoboit, Bridgewater and Liverpool - are in a quandary. Hundreds of bundles of United Kingdom-bound lumber are presently sitting at the Ceres container pier and it has been sitting there since early October. The approximate value of that lumber, at market value, is somewhere around $750,000. Can the Minister of Natural Resources tell the House if he is aware of this situation?
HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the details of the lumber that is at the port, I would be happy to be able to report back on the details on why that product is not moving to the U.K. as the member opposite is alluding to.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, perhaps for the Minister of Natural Resources' benefit, I could table a letter here that the Maritime Lumber Bureau has written to the Liverpool Port Authority. As the minister may or may not know, the Liverpool Port in England has been on strike for some time now. I wonder if the minister can tell us if he has exchanged any correspondence and, if he has, will he table that correspondence with the House relative to this very serious concern?
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate a copy of the letter he is referring to the Port of London with regard to a strike issue. I know that any correspondence that we have in regard to the Maritime Lumber Bureau, that we have worked on, has been worked on in a cooperative way with Diana Blenkhorn, Executive Director, and other members of the organization. I know our Department of Natural Resources and this government have been very supportive of initiatives and undertakings by that organization in regard to bringing forward the issues of concern and trying to resolve issues such as pinewood nematode and phytosanitary issues and unfair trade sanctions against Nova Scotia by the European Community.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I guess I can take from the minister's response that he is not aware that there is a strike over at the Port of Liverpool, England, and much of the United Kingdom-bound lumber now must go to the Port of London. It causes a great financial hardship on the shippers.
I wonder if the minister can tell the House if he has had any discussion, dialogue, exchanged correspondence with the Port Authority in Liverpool, England, relative to this concern? Has he had any discussion?
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this letter in reference to the strike was November 22nd. I have not been informed officially by the Maritime Lumber Bureau about this issue; it is not an issue that I have been brought forward on. I think this member is just continually trying to confuse this House in regard to phone calls and letters that I would have written about issues that obviously have not been brought forward.
MR. TAYLOR: It has been there since October.
MR. DOWNE: This letter was drafted on November 22nd. I just want to assure members of this House and audiences that are here in the gallery, and elsewhere, that this ministry has worked in a very cooperative way with the Maritime Lumber Bureau, and other organizations, in regard to access of market. I would appreciate the member opposite pointing that out periodically, as he knows better.
MR. SPEAKER: The member for Halifax Citadel, a new question.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. On November 7th of this year, the Minister of Education issued a press release in which he indicated that Mr. Michael Laurie of Laurie and Associates Consulting, Inc. has been contracted as school board amalgamation coordinator for the new South West Regional School Board. My information further is that another of the candidates in that competition was a gentleman named Mr. Lloyd Campbell who was a retired senior administrator with the Lunenburg District School Board. I am informed further that the fee recommended or suggested to be charged by Michael Laurie if he were to be the successful candidate, was in the range of $1,100 per day to the department and that the fee to the charged by Mr. Campbell, were he to be the successful candidate, was in the range of $350 per day.
I understand further, Mr. Speaker, that there was a group of officials appointed to be an interview team, to make a determination as to which of the candidates these two and others was the most appropriate candidate. My information is that Mr. Lloyd Campbell was the recommended candidate by the interview team. I wonder if the Minister of Education will confirm that the information that has been made available to me is accurate?
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: No, Mr. Speaker.
MR. DONAHOE: I am curious then if the Minister of Education, Mr. Speaker, by way of supplementary, is prepared to table the assessment analysis done by the group of officials who did the analysis because I am further informed that upon Mr. Campbell being the recommended candidate by the committee of officials, the matter was then referred to the Minister of Education who took it to the policy and priorities group and that the Minister of Education, himself, personally intervened to override the recommendation of the interview team. Will the minister table today the report made by the officials who did the interviews and made the recommendation of which candidate was the one to be selected?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the honourable member listened to the answer of the first question. His information is wrong. The information he presented to this House the second time is wrong and I would be pleased to table the analysis done by the staff of the Department of Education with the recommendation which will demonstrate very clearly that he is wrong.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I would trust that it would be possible with a quick phone call that the Minister of Education could table that today. I trust that that will be done. In the release issued by the Minister of Education in this connection, the Minister of Education is quoted as saying, "Education and Culture Minister John MacEachern said Mr. Laurie's knowledge of current educational issues is also impressive." He goes on to make reference to the fact that this gentleman had done work with the public and private sector clients throughout Atlantic Canada, including health organizations, utilities and the Halifax District School Board.
I have made inquiries, Mr. Speaker, of the Halifax District School Board and I find nobody at the Halifax District School Board who can come up with any recollection of Michael Laurie or Laurie and Associates Consulting Inc. having done work for the Halifax District School Board. I would ask the Minister of Education if he will advise this House whether or not he personally or if he has personal knowledge as to whether or not the group of officials looking at the interview process made inquiries of the Halifax District School Board to confirm the allegation that Mr. Laurie had indeed, on an earlier occasion, done work for the Halifax District School Board?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member owes the consultant he refers to, an apology. I really do. Number one, he got up first and stated something that wasn't true. He got up second, he announced something that wasn't true, asked us to table the information on the assessment, I said we would. Then he gets up and makes an allegation about the person who was appointed by staff, recommended by staff, approved by P & P and hired therefore. I think he owes the consultant an apology because what he basically has done, without any evidence, first thing he was wrong, second thing he was wrong, so I think given two out of three he was wrong, he should have had some question about the information he was provided on the third issue.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel, a new question.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Education, then, who seems to know a great deal about this issue, if he will tell this House whether I am wrong when I suggest to this House that the fees quoted by Mr. Laurie to the Department of Education were in the $1,100 per day range as opposed to fees quoted by Mr. Campbell which were, according to my information, in the $350 range; am I wrong on that score?
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: In terms of the per diems, I think that is about the range, Mr. Speaker.
MR. DONAHOE: I see, so I am right on that.
I ask the Minister of Education to confirm for me as to whether or not I am right that Michael Laurie of Laurie and Associates Consulting Limited is not known to the Halifax District School Board and that there is no evidence that that gentleman, either in his personal capacity or his corporate capacity, had undertaken work for the Halifax District School Board in the past; am I right or wrong according to the minister in that regard?
MR. MACEACHERN: Well, in terms of probing the detail, Mr. Speaker, I cannot answer that question but I certainly, in the recommendation that comes forward and the analysis of the candidates that were involved - and there were more than two - then I would suggest that the honourable member will have his answer.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, the suggestion, Mr. Speaker, that Mr. Laurie had done a great deal of work with private and public sector clients, including health organizations, utilities and the Halifax District School Board is the minister's press release, not my allegation. It is the statement from this minister and we now do not have him in a position to indicate to us whether or not he knows that that is accurate or not.
I ask the Minister of Education by way of final supplementary, will the Minister of Education immediately, upon the conclusion of his response to this question, go to the phone and get the materials which he has promised that he would table here, and table them here this afternoon before we finish our proceedings here this afternoon?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I have great difficulty with the honourable member. First of all, he is talking about two minutes to five minutes to respond to a request that he has made at this time. He stood up in this House - I still do not have an apology for his wrong information that he has provided this House, twice . . .
MR. DONAHOE: You prove it is wrong and I will apologize.
MR. MACEACHERN: Twice, Mr. Speaker. First of all, he said that . . .
MR. DONAHOE: You prove it wrong and I will apologize.
MR. SPEAKER: All right, we are having an outbreak of disorder.
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, he said to this House that my staff made a recommendation that I overruled. He said that, you all heard him. I told him that was wrong. I told him the information would be provided to demonstrate he was wrong. He stood up and continued as if he was right. He was wrong.
MR. DONAHOE: . . . any information to show you are right.
MR. MACEACHERN: Number two, Mr. Speaker, I said I would provide him the information.
AN HON. MEMBER: It is called being lawyerish.
MR. DONAHOE: You table it and I will apologize if I am wrong.
MR. MACEACHERN: You won't apologize. That man never apologizes, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: All right, we seem to be getting into a free-for-all; this is not the intent of Question Period.
MR. MACEACHERN: I will provide the information, like I said, when the information is available and I will give it to the honourable member like all things that I provide to this House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a couple of questions through you, sir, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I am looking at the agreement that the minister tabled in this House earlier today between the province and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. In the preamble, it says that, ". . . the Municipality faces financial difficulties owing to an accumulation of factors beyond its direct control;" and that it, ". . . had no control over revenues and expenditures for four months of the current fiscal year.". I am wondering if the minister can explain, since it was beyond the control of the municipalities, their direct control, who was responsible to ensure that those kind of matters were, in fact, being properly taken care of?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the member obviously is not used to reading agreements, I would suggest, because in this instance the municipality is the Cape Breton Regional Municipality which did not come into effect until August 1st.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that insight. Looking at the agreement as well, it talks that, "The Parties agree that the accumulated deficits of the predecessor municipal units . . .", was in the range of $3 million, but it points out that, ". . . the transitional cost of establishing the Municipality . . .", were about $1.5 million and that the implementation costs are another $3.1 million.
Is it not the fact that the combined transitional costs and implementation costs are actually higher than the accumulated deficits of the previous municipalities, up to March of 1995?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, as part of those numbers, which is also in the agreement, is the $3 million shortfall in receivable taxes. So what you actually have, as outlined in the agreement, there are $3 million which were operating, you have $3 million that was a shortfall in setting aside reserves for taxes that had not been collected. So you have a $6 million deficit there.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, obviously the transitional implementation costs are higher than the accumulated deficit, and I am not talking about the reserves that were not put aside.
My final question. It points out that the new regional municipality is supposed to be collecting at least $2.7 million in increased tax revenue and that that is supposed to be collected from all municipal units, regardless of where those debts were incurred. I am sure that the minister in her department has had financial runs because they have the tax assessment of this entire area and the minister has what those are projected to work out to, in terms of increased costs to the municipal taxpayers. My question to the minister, based on the analysis that her department would have done, what does that $2.757 million more in increased tax revenue work out to, in terms of an increased tax rate for residential, commercial taxes within that municipality? Surely the minister will have that.
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, as this member has done on many occasions, he wants it both ways; he wants to be the dictator and, at the same time, he doesn't want to be responsible for things. The municipality has the authority, the right, the responsibility to set the tax rate.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition on a new question.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, on previous days, since that meeting between Mayor John Coady and the minister, we have been attempting to get some idea of the details of what went on at that meeting, what was agreed to, what was discussed. On more than one occasion the minister has indicated that the issue of taxes was not really an issue at that particular meeting. We were left with the distinct impression that the minister was not trying to influence what was going on, in terms of the municipality and the municipal government running the new municipality.
Then earlier today the minister provided me, through tabling, the document of the agreement that was signed as a result of that meeting. I quote from that document; "The province agrees to lend to the Municipality the sum of $2.0 million for the 1995-96 fiscal year, without interest . . . (b) In the event of noncompliance . . . the loan shall immediately become due and payable . . . (c) At the end of the Agreement the Minister shall forgive the loan provided the municipality has strictly complied with all the terms of this Agreement.".
One of the terms of the agreement, "As part of its program to establish fiscal stability, the Municipality agrees to raise an additional amount from taxation in the fiscal year 1995-96 of not less than $2,757,000.". In other words, the minister has signed an agreement that demands that the taxpayers of the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality provide an additional $2.7 million by the way of taxation payments. Will the minister confirm that this is so?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I have said from the very beginning that this is an action plan that the municipality brought to the department. This is the plan that the municipality presented to us to agree to, to look at, to give them some assistance on how to deal with their financial situation. This is the municipality's action plan that they brought forward and it has been put into an agreement form. That is where the information comes from, from the municipality.
DR. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have no doubt that the municipality came down and discussed with the minister the fact that they wanted a $2 million forgivable loan. I find it passing strange that the municipality would come down and say that in order to comply with that we are in agreement that we will raise our taxes $2.7 million. That, I find, extremely strange to have been brought to the minister's desk by the mayor. Will the minister confirm that it was the municipality's suggestion that in order to comply with the terms of the loan that they would raise the taxes, $2.7 million in the new regional municipality?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am not surprised a member of that Party finds it difficult to believe this because this regional municipality is taking responsibility. I am not surprised one little bit that he finds that very surprising because it is responsibility, a business plan, a four year business plan of how they are going to deal with their difficulties there. I know they are not interested in business plans, I know they are not interested in taking responsibility because they have never taken responsibility for debt, for $471 million dollars a year, never have they taken responsibility. So I am not one bit surprised that he is surprised. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Everyone is applauding but there is only one and one-half minutes left in Question Period, so if we could all be quiet, there is time for one last supplementary question and answer.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of conclusion with the Minister of Municipal Affairs, would the minister who has suggested now that this was brought to the meeting by the municipality be prepared to table any documents which would confirm that it was the suggestion of the municipality that as a term of the agreement for the $2 million loan, that they were suggesting as part of that arrangement, a $2.7 million municipal tax increase in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality? Table the documents. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order. Let the minister respond, please.
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, we have the agreement. The mayor put the agreement out to the press last night and I have tabled it here today. This is the agreement that the regional municipality is looking to bring forward to a public meeting tomorrow night and I would have to tell you that this is an important agreement, it is a business agreement and one that the municipality, it is my understanding, is going to be supporting.
MR. SPEAKER: Order please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.
The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence and the indulgence of the House I would like to table information requested by the honourable member for Halifax Citadel in Question Period some days ago concerning individuals with whom I met in Las Vegas.
MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private and Local Bills for Second Reading.
PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 45.
Bill No. 45 - Brookside Cemetery Corporation Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Communications.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, yes, I so move.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 45. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 46.
Bill No. 46 - Kings County Development Charge Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.
MR. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move for second reading Bill No. 46, the Kings County Development Charge Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: I was wondering if the minister could please give us some explanation, it is a tax bill and it can be levied on the people of Kings County? I was wondering if the minister could give an explanation to the background of the bill?
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable that the minister do this without prejudicing the rights of other members to participate?
It is agreed.
The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, this tax bill has been put together by the councillors in Kings County in consultation with the Department of Municipal Affairs. What it represents is an innovative development plan using and investing taxpayers' dollars in the development of future opportunities for Kings County developers, citizens, planners and so on. I bring this forward with the consent of the council on the recommendation of the warden after consultation with the Department of Municipal Affairs. It is something that has been asked of me and I do so with full confidence in the quality of this particular bill and the results that can benefit our area of the province.
MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? The motion is that the bill be now read a second time. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 47.
Bill No. 47 - Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The debate was last adjourned by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic whom I now recognize. You may want to know just how much time you have remaining. I believe you have 48 minutes.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, as you and other members of the committee will no doubt recall, my intervention is with respect to an amendment . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, it is a referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. Yes, that is exactly right.
MR. CHISHOLM: Yes, that's right. I just wanted to clarify that. To continue from where I left off yesterday, what I was raising yesterday was some concern, Mr. Speaker, that there were a significant number of issues in dispute here between the representatives of the employees at the Victoria General Hospital, for example, and the government, as to the impact of various provisions of this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I think it can perhaps best be represented by, for example, memos that have gone out to the employees, the most recent one, November 27th, that was yesterday, which says - and I would be happy to table that if anyone is interested - it is from the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and it is a merger memo. Under the summary of the QE II Bill, it says, "The existing collective agreements for the employees at the four separate institutions will remain in effect." Then, it says, "All employee rights, benefits and salaries under these collective agreements will be carried over and honoured by the new employer, the QE II, until such time as new collective agreements are negotiated or amended by the Labour Relations Board.". Then it says, "All benefits including pensions accrued by all employees over the years are completely protected.".
Mr. Speaker, that is one of the crucial issues that is in dispute here. In the bill, in the legislation, nowhere does it refer - when it talks about the Victoria General Hospital employees - to rights as well as benefits and salaries. It does, in fact, refer to benefits and salaries and it does refer to collective agreements. But the point that I think is being made, as I understand it, by representatives of the employees of that facility, is that there are a host of other rights that have been negotiated, that have been bequeathed or otherwise have been presented to employees by the Governor in Council, in most cases, through either provisions or regulations of the Civil Service Act, or through Statues, in particular, and that there is some concern and I think legitimate concern that, in fact, these rights will not be carried forward on the basis of the language of this bill.
I am quite quick to indicate that I am not a lawyer, that I don't practise law with respect to labour relations or any other kind of law in the Province of Nova Scotia, but I have dealt with collective agreements for a number of years. I have dealt, to some extent, with language such as this and I recognize the fact that there are differences of interpretation. Often, what has to be considered are decisions that have been rendered previously on language like this, in the courts or before a Labour Relations Board, Mr. Speaker, with respect to disputes of interpretation of contract language or language in legislation that has been brought to the attention, because of disputes on behalf of two parties.
I don't think that is illegitimate in any way, shape or form, that there would be this kind of disagreement between the union and the government with respect to the implications of this language. What does concern me considerably is the fact that this government and the ministers responsible for this legislation are attempting to dismiss those concerns as not having any basis and the concerns not being factual and that the concerns are addressed in the language - and there have been various suggestions during interventions last night in debate by members of the government side that anybody with Grade 2, if I recall the language correctly, and I can refer to Hansard if need be, but anybody with Grade 2 would be able to read that simply by reading the language in the legislation.
Well, I am sure that the individual who made those interventions will agree with the fact that as has been suggested, the legislation in this House is anything but clear at the best of times and that it is often referred to as being written in a lawyerish manner and in a manner that makes it extremely difficult for a layperson to understand.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources on a . . .
HON. JAY ABBASS: I will only intervene if the member opposite invites such interventions.
MR. SPEAKER: Does the member for Halifax Atlantic invite the intervention of the minister?
MR. CHISHOLM: I haven't invited him but if he wants to say something, I would be more than happy to.
MR. SPEAKER: Then the honourable Minister of Human Resources.
HON. JAY ABBASS: The vein in which I was saying yesterday that the bill is very clear and could be understood by someone of elementary school level, at least, is Clause 20(1)(a) and (b). The member opposite has had some experience with the Trade Union Act and he is very familiar with Section 31 of the Act. I have a copy which I would sent over but it is unnecessary. He knows Section 31, he knows the impact of that section. That impact is to extend to employees of a unionized enterprise the same collective bargaining rights with a subsequent employer, a new employer, as they had previously, which happens to be the exact same impact of Clause 20(1)(a), "the Corporation . . .", the QE II, ". . . is bound by successor rights as determined pursuant to the Trade Union Act;". There is nothing that can be said that would be clearer than that.
Section 31 itself is a long-standing section in a long-standing Act, one within which the labour relations process has evolved and operated for many years now. Union leadership of all unions throughout this province are well acquainted with the Trade Union Act and should not have difficulty in understanding the import and the impact of Clause 20(1)(a).
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, yes, I am familiar with Section 31 of the Trade Union Act and I am well aware of the effect of successor rights and how important it is. It is a provision that many of us in the trade union movement have fought long and hard for and have fought to not only protect but to expand to other jurisdictions.
To suggest that if people don't agree with the minister or if they don't disagree with the minister's interpretation of the Act, that they somehow are less intelligent than he or are missing something or have the equivalent education of less than Grade 2, Mr. Speaker, I think is missing the point that I am trying to make and that is there are very serious issues in dispute here which affect the lives and the livelihood of individual women and men. I think it is incumbent upon us to address those and to deal with them responsibly and constructively.
In comments made yesterday, the Minister of Human Resources complimented the union and the union's representatives in consulting with the minister's department on the drafting of this bill and its various provisions, and of bringing matters with respect to the pensions and the long-term disability pension plan and other rights that were being left out or that they saw as not being given sufficient attention; he complimented them for having brought those forward.
That's all well and good but the concern of those same representatives is that while they did have the opportunity to consult and to intervene and to make those representations about those issues, they feel, Mr. Speaker, as has been explained to - me and I don't mean to speak on their behalf necessarily because they are quite capable of doing that, but in terms of the correspondence I have seen and the representations that they have made to me and others - they believe that the government, the Department of Human Resources, the crafters and drafters of this legislation, have in fact missed those points, have in fact made a conscious decision not to clarify that those rights and benefits will be carried over. Perhaps we should take, as an example at this particular point, the whole question of the long-term disability plan.
I think this is important with respect to this amendment, because these are such significant issues to each and every one of those 2,000 to 3,000 workers that are affected, that we should have an opportunity through a standing committee of this Legislature to engage in a discussion as to whether or not these concerns have validity and whether, in fact, there are ways that they can be addressed fairly and equitably in the legislation and still enable the government to proceed with their plan, which is to merge the four health care institutions into the QE II, Mr. Speaker, and do it in a manner that is less disruptive or that is the least disruptive of all of those workers who, I think all of us would agree, deserve that level of protection, deserve that level of consideration with respect to not only the service that they have given, and the skill and the dedication they have shown to the health care system in this province, but the fact that their continued service, their continued dedication, their continued commitment and skill is required in order to make the health care system, whether it be through this merger or any other delivery, ensure that that in fact continues to be provided.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to intervene because I entirely agree with the member opposite. He has indicated that the appropriate forum within which changes or amendments to any Act should be pursued is the very public forum called Law Amendments, a standing committee of this House. The reality is, of course, that we are debating this bill against the backdrop of a threatened strike, and we are not sure, as of today, exactly how serious that threat is, frankly.
The appropriate forum, as I have said, and as the member opposite has said, within which changes of any sort should be discussed with a bill of this sort is the Law Amendments forum. I would urge all parties having an interest in the QE II Act, whether within this House or without, to observe the historic, traditional and parliamentary usage and observance of that Law Amendments process and to adhere to it.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let's just be clear, I made no reference to the Law Amendments Committee; I was talking about the amendment which is before us which deals with the Community Services Committee. The reason I am supporting that amendment is because the Community Services Committee is a much more informal process whereby we can have dialogue, we can debate, we can entertain as many witnesses as we want in order to consider these questions.
For the minister to suggest that the only way for matters like this to be dealt with, the necessity for changes to legislation like that is at the Law Amendments Committee, I think is erroneous. We have already seen in this session an Education Bill tabled in the House one week, and the following week end up at the Law Amendments Committee with 172 amendments, before it even got to the Law Amendments Committee, before the first witness was called to the Law Amendments Committee, that bill had already gone through 172 amendments.
The message being is that each and every stage of this parliamentary process is important and at each and every stage, if I or my colleagues or anybody else here in this House or anyone out there in the public has concerns with a piece of legislation, then they have an obligation to bring that to the attention of the minister. If, in fact, the minister recognizes the validity of those concerns and the benefits of bringing about changes, as the Minister of Education did, then much time and acrimony, perhaps, can be saved.
Mr. Speaker, the other thing is, and I think it really shows a lack of understanding on what it is all about to call a strike. This minister says that this is being done in the backdrop of the union calling a strike, of members making a decision and he doesn't know what will happen and so on and so forth. Well, I will tell you what, as far as I am concerned, it is the obligation of this government and every member of this Legislature, as well as the union representatives and everybody else involved in this whole situation, to try to avoid that kind of disruption. That is what it is all about here, that we come to a resolve that deals with the concerns and the questions and the problems that people have in order to make sure that - in this case - health care services are not disrupted.
Mr. Speaker, let me go a little further and say that the decision to go on strike or to vote in favour of a strike is an extremely personal decision. What an individual is saying when they cast that vote is, I am prepared not only, in this instance, to sacrifice my wages and benefits over a period of whatever that strike might be, but because of the nature of where this falls within the law, they could very well be jeopardizing their job, jeopardizing their very livelihood. Let me tell you, through experience I know that people do not make those decisions and take those decisions lightly, and I think we should understand that.
The decision, because it is so personal, because it has such a significant impact on a person and their ability to function not only in the work place, but also in the home and in their community, if we in this House can avoid those individuals having to go through that process, then that is what we must do. That is what we must pledge ourselves to do here, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that those people don't have to go through that process, because it is an extremely disruptive, extremely emotional decision that is going to be made or that has to be made, whether they vote yea or nay to a decision to go on strike, whether it is this issue or any other issue, and that will have an impact on the ability of those individuals to carry out their duties in the work place. That is something that we should all be concerned about.
We should also understand, then, that if they make that decision, if they feel pushed to the wall, if they feel that they must defend their rights that they have negotiated freely, Mr. Speaker, and that they have been able to accumulate under their conditions of employment and, in this case, the Civil Service Commission, under the Civil Service Act, under Statutes in the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act and under their own collective agreement. If they feel that those rights are being violated and those rights are being taken away by this legislation and that therefore, they must do something drastic, then I think we must respect that this is an extremely serious issue because people do not make those decisions and take those decisions lightly.
I think it is important and incumbent upon us not to dismiss these concerns as concerns being drafted by a member of our Party but concerns that experienced labour lawyers in this province believe to be the case and that experienced labour representatives and labour leaders responsible for many thousands of workers in the Province of Nova Scotia believe to be the case. Surely that in itself should give some validity to the concerns that have been expressed.
MR. SPEAKER: Just before I recognize the minister, we seem to be heading in a direction that the debate on this amendment doesn't contemplate. We are dealing with an amendment to refer the subject matter of the bill to a committee.
Once again, just as I said on the previous motion, debating the principles of the bill and then saying, and by the way we can discuss this at a committee, does not make the debate relevant. The debate must be centred on what advantages there are in referring the whole of the subject matter, not individual clauses in this bill, not even individual concepts, those can be debated at second reading, the subject matter, the whole purpose of the bill, what are the advantages or disadvantages of sending it to a committee?
I would ask all members of the House to restrict themselves to the terms of that amendment.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, members of the House should be informed that currently employees who are covered by the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act do not have the leeway to even make that very personal choice. The member opposite would have us believe that there is some inherent right to strike granted by the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act. That is not the case, I think the member opposite knows.
Interestingly enough, once the QE II is up and running and once the succession and transition occurs, under the Trade Union Act, to which certain of the VG employees are moving, they will have the right to strike. Along with that benefit, of course, they will be extended pension benefits, LTD benefits, all other collective agreement salaries and benefits entitlement accrued to date, pay equity increments will be honoured and substantially every measure for which the NSGEU leadership lobbied in the period leading up to this bill will be honoured.
The point that should be made, though, is that this is a bill that is not only directed at either the leadership of that particular union or the employees which it represents, but rather, to all employees at all facilities involved, led by all unions. This is a balancing act which treats all those employees and all those unions in an equitable manner.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was even going to get up on a point of order and correct the record, on the basis of the minister suggesting, it is not even important, the minister saying that I was advocating that these workers go on strike and that they had a legal right to do so.
You heard me, Mr. Speaker, and the record will show that in fact that is not what I said. What I was talking about is the heart-felt decision to take drastic action is a decision and if that be to vote to go on strike, which has been contemplated and has been done in other cases, what I am suggesting is that, in fact, that is an important decision. It is an important decision, I think, in terms of the ramifications that it has for each and every individual employee and I think it is an indication of the seriousness of this issue. That, in itself, is my point, that this is very serious.
I don't see how the minister can think that it is just sufficient for him to rise and say that even though the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union has presented him and his officials with a 20-odd page letter raising their concerns with many parts of this bill, that, based on his understanding, they need not worry. Well, I think they are worried. In fact, I think they are very worried and I would suggest that regardless of the merits of the arguments, we have to take from that that there are some serious problems here.
I don't think it is good enough for the government to simply turn a blind eye and say that they don't understand and that we know all the answers and were they to listen to us, that it would be okay. Mr. Speaker, I just don't think that is good enough. I was trying to keep the debate on this amendment on the basis of that point, that the disagreement over the subject matter of this bill is so intense, that it appears - I don't know what the minister is doing outside of this Legislative Chamber - but in interventions in this debate, the Minister of Human Resources has given me a clear indication, and I think members of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and employees at the Victoria General Hospital, that he does not believe that their concerns have any validity whatsoever.
What I am trying to argue is that simply because of the fact that they themselves believe that they are important, important enough to consider the possibility of taking drastic action in order to get that message to the minister, that maybe he and all members of this government should take the time to consider the implications of that division and the seriousness of the possible ramifications of the actions. That should be dealt with properly at Community Services, Mr. Speaker.
Imagine if you will if the Minister of Education followed the Minister of Human Resources' directions with respect to dealing with the Education Act. The 172 amendments and corrections - and now the support of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the School Boards Association and others - would not be there whatsoever. The chances of that legislation getting through and getting any support whatsoever would not be there. I think regardless of what committee, regardless of what happens, it is incumbent upon all of us and I would urge the minister, regardless of how right he feels he is, to in fact give some merit and show some respect to the officials of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the employees at the Victoria General Hospital to give a serious hearing to their concerns.
Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that was dealt with during the debate last night that could be properly explored, I think, at the Community Services Committee, given that opportunity, is the implications of provisions within this bill that deal with the Long-Term Disability Plan. There are a couple of very disturbing things in this bill. One is that assets and liabilities of that plan have just been shifted over to the corporation. Now I think it is important for everyone to recognize the fact that, as I understand it, that plan was originally established or it was certainly beefed up big time as a result of a contribution from the government of $9 million in UI monies that had been deducted from the members of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and had to be returned. That fund, therefore, was bulked up, if not established on the basis of $9 million. That is money that all of those members have and in fact, the monies in that plan are held by trustees. As best as I understand it, those trustees haven't asked if they will give that money over to the corporation. So I think there is a need to consider whose money is this and is it the right of this government to just basically hand it over to this new corporation.
With respect to the Long-Term Disability Plan, the other important issue is that in this bill the new employer, the corporation, must provide such benefits to be the same as or equal to the benefits under the plan. The point at issue is that you will go from having a plan with 15,000-plus members of all different job categories and all different working circumstances and therefore all different risk ratings to a pool of workers of 6,000 to 7,000. Those 6,000 or 7,000 are highly rated in terms of risk employees because of the nature of their work in the health care sector.
What has to be explored here and perhaps we could get at that with some expert testimony at the Community Services Committee is what happens to the premiums paid by the members of this corporation or the people that were formerly in that plan? I would suggest to you that it is reasonable to suggest to suspect that those rates may increase substantially. If you take those two points, the smaller pool of highly rated individuals, into consideration, I mean, I am not an actuarial expert but I think it is fair to suggest that even with the limited education I have and the intellectual abilities to suggest that, in fact, in order for that new plan by the corporation to provide the same or equal benefits as that provided by the Nova Scotia Public Service Long-Term Disability Plan, that it will require a significant increase in benefits and there is absolutely no indication here.
It doesn't say in this bill, as I understand it, that it will be the same or equal to the benefits at the same cost. So the point is that there is a very significant change being made through the LTD Plan and to the cost of that LTD Plan for each and every individual employee and I think that has to be considered. That is just one example and there are others in here.
The Minister of Human Resources has argued at various times as to whether or not these where sufficiently significant to worry about but suffice it to say that the people that enjoy these rights, who are now covered by the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act feel that these rights are sufficiently important that in 1992, they negotiated an agreement with the Victoria General Hospital in preparation of a changing of the status of their employer from that as being Her Majesty The Queen in the right of the Province of Nova Scotia, to that as being an independent corporation and I forget what the language is here exactly. Clearly, there was a recognition from those two parties that this transition, and it is called a Transition Agreement and we referred to it, needed to be dealt with in order that there were no concerns, that there were no questions with respect to what, in fact, went with that in the transfer under Section 31 of the collective agreement from the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act to the Trade Union Act. That is the issue because there are other matters here that need to be resolved, there are other rights and benefits that are enjoyed by civil servants in areas outside the collective agreement. So this transition which is known as the Transition Agreement was negotiated between the hospital and the union.
At various times, as I understand it, the government was a part of this but primarily what this would do, this Transition Agreement, as I understand it, would pave the way for legislation that would change the status of the Victoria General Hospital. The intention then was that it would be legislation that needed to incorporate the provisions of this Transition Agreement.
There was a recognition of that, as I understand it, by this government when they met in the fall of 1993 to prepare legislation to do that very thing. Unfortunately, between that time and the time when the Minister of Health decided to do something different with the VG Hospital, those plans were put on the shelf.
Nonetheless, I don't think those issues are any less important today than they were then, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I would suggest that perhaps they are more important today, given the level of disruption, given the level of disillusionment and the level of distrust that is developing within the health care sector.
There is extreme and unrelenting stress on that system right now, for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with decisions by this government. I think it is imperative that we provide for the same protections in this bill for Civil Service workers, for former Civil Service workers, as was done in the Transition Agreement that was agreed to back in May 1992, Mr. Speaker.
You and I both know, Mr. Speaker, that the issue here, and I know that the Minister of Human Resources in press reports has tried to characterize the objections of the union representing the majority of the Victoria General Hospital workers as being a turf war between that union and other unions, a jockeying for positions between those unions as they get ready to appear before the Labour Relations Board. I don't think that is a fair representation of what is happening here. I think it would be helpful for everyone in this House if we had all representatives of the unions involved in the health care sector at the QE II appear before the Community Services Committee to discuss the ramifications of this piece of legislation.
While the minister has said that all he is trying to do is put all unions on an equal playing field, what he is clearly doing or what is being done through this legislation, Mr. Speaker, is that one union and one group of employees are clearly being put at a disadvantage in respect to the other unions, when they go to appear before the Labour Relations Board, and have the opportunity to make submissions on who, in fact, will end up representing the employees at the different facilities and doing different work at the QE II hospital.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would have us believe that those employees who are represented by the NSGEU are disadvantaged in some way by this Act. In fact, vis-a-vis the other employees who are involved in this merger, this amalgamation, they are the ones who are specifically advantaged by this bill. As the member opposite knows, not only is there no right to strike currently within the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act but there is no succession provision within the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act.
Yes, the NSGEU leadership has done an excellent job in lobbying for inclusion in this bill of that provision, Clause 20(1)(a), which does ensure to the employees who are represented by the NSGEU those same successorship rights provided under Section 31 of the Trade Union Act as the employees of the other three facilities who are represented by one or the other of the other four unions involved who are affected by this bill. It is an important point to clarify. This is an important item for which the NSGEU lobbied and which they are assured of under this bill, trade union style successorship rights and adherence to collective bargaining, salaries, benefits and entitlements.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources should take more time convincing the NSGEU and their legal representatives than he is taking to convince me because it is those employees and that union that believe that they are clearly disadvantaged in this legislation. As a result of the analysis that I have done on this, I would suggest that there is certainly some merit to that.
The issue here is not what wonderful benefits are provided under the Trade Union Act and the whole successor rights and so on. That is important stuff, there is no question, Mr. Speaker, but it is what happens to those employees when they go from the Civil Service Act or the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act to the Trade Union Act. As it stands right now, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union with respect to the employees at the Victoria General Hospital are not certified to be the representative of those employees under the Trade Union Act.
The minister raises his eyebrows but that is an important point. In other words, what will happen if that provision is not considered in this legislation is that if the legislation goes through, those people who are now at the Victoria General Hospital, formerly Civil Service employees, Mr. Speaker, will not be represented by a bargaining unit.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, this is so important, so germane to this whole debate and so integral to the QE II bill that this has to be clarified. The member opposite is giving the impression that successorship rights are not extended and, again, I would reiterate that under Clause 20(1)(a) of the bill and Section 31 of the Trade Union Act, successorship style rights are assured to the members of the NSGEU. It is perfectly clear to the member opposite that that is the case. There is no room for doubt.
I will send over a copy of the Trade Union Act so he can refresh his memory and I will refer him to Section 31. He knows that section has been in existence now for many years. It has been passed upon by the Labour Relations Board many times. It is perfectly clear. If he is about to maintain that Clause 20(1)(a), which merely incorporates that Trade Union Act is unclear, then he will have to maintain that Section 31 of the Trade Union Act itself is unclear now and has been for those many years. He should not persist in giving these false impressions about these successorship rights which are being extended to the employees represented by the NSGEU. Those successorship rights are being extended.
AN HON. MEMBER: Typical fear-mongering.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton South is shooting his face off back there about fear-mongering. (Interruptions) That was the same member who when we were talking about amalgamating the Cape Breton Regional Municipality said . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . that we were fear-mongering when we said that taxes were going to go up in that municipality. What do we see happening today? We see tax rates going up to 11 per cent there, thanks to the member for Cape Breton South and other members of this government. So, I will persist in making my interventions here, even though members like the member for Cape Breton South are certainly hesitant to listen to reason.
Mr. Speaker, the minister doesn't need to send me the successor rights provisions of the Trade Union Act because I am quite familiar with those, and that deals with bargaining units that are recognized and have been certified under the Trade Union Act. In this case, with respect to the Victoria General Hospital employees, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union has not been recognized under the Trade Union Act as the representative of those employees; that needs to be done in order for the successor rights provisions of Section 31 of the Trade Union Act to come into effect as it relates to that bargaining unit.
Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left? Three minutes.
It continues to boggle my mind that the minister stands up in this House - and the member for Cape Breton South encourages him to do the same - and suggests that he is right and everybody else wrong, and that legal counsel that has spent upwards of 20 years in the labour relations field in the Province of Nova Scotia, dealing with this very thing, does not know what they are talking about, in effect. I just can't understand where that is coming from. I don't understand how the minister has the audacity to say that anybody who has concerns about this legislation, or about what is there or is not there, has the education level of a Grade 2 student. Not only is that disrespectful to the extreme; as far as I am concerned, it shows utter contempt for each and every leader and each and every individual in the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. I think we all expect better from a Minister of the Crown, especially the minister responsible for dealing with those very employees.
We have a piece of legislation here which not only disrupts the employment conditions of employees at the Victoria General Hospital, but it is supposed to - according to the Minister of Health - lead to a better delivery of health care services in Halifax and in the Province of Nova Scotia. I suggest that if this legislation goes through the way it is, that, in fact, will be very difficult to do because of the level of disruption within the work force at that facility.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to clarify what it is that we want the Community Services Committee to do when the subject matter contained in this amendment is referred to it. So, in order to do that, to further clarify this issue, I would like to move an amendment to the amendment which says the following:
"so that the Committee may seek expert advice and community views on both the health care delivery and labour relations implications of the subject matter of Bill No. 47.".
Mr. Speaker, I am moving that amendment in order to ensure that there is some direction given by this Legislature to the Community Services Committee to ensure that those aspects that I have raised here in my debate today are, in fact, dealt with. I think that whether this bill goes through or not, if we are going to proceed with this merger of four major tertiary care institutions in the Province of Nova Scotia, that we must make sure we don't do it in a way that will disadvantage that merger in reaching its objectives, even though some of us have suggested that those objectives are more anecdotal than they are based on fact.
So, I would submit this amendment and request that you and all members of this committee give it serious consideration. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Is the minister rising on the validity of the amendment?
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, perhaps I should be seated, pending your . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I was just seeking advice on the validity of the amendment only.
It is an interesting question, the amendment to an amendment at the second reading stage. It is my view that, generally speaking, amendments at second reading are actually types of devices and that is why they are limited. The few types of amendments that are in order: the hoist amendment, the reasoned amendment, and the referral of the subject matter to a committee. They are very particular and it is certainly extremely out of the ordinary to accept an amendment to these types of amendments.
More importantly, and I can refer all members of the House to Page 200 in Beauchesne, where amendments are referred to, especially amendments at second reading, under Rule 666 and Rule 667. But I would also refer members to Rule 673, Referral of Subject Matter to a Committee, "An amendment, urging a committee to consider the subject-matter of a bill, might be moved and carried if the House were adverse to giving the bill itself a second reading and so conceding its principle.". Simply put, you put the subject matter over to the committee because the House is not ready yet to concede the principle of the bill. "But where further information is desired in direct relation to the terms of the bill . . . the advantage of referring the bill to a committee could be explained in the second reading stage.".
Now I think that is what this amendment does, it seeks more information, it certainly seeks advice and community views on a particular portion, so I think Rule 673 applies. I must say in general, though, I have serious reservations about amending the three basic amendments allowed at second reading because they are, particularly there, a matter of devices. So for that reason and my general comments, I would find the amendment to be out of order.
Well, I guess the member for Halifax Atlantic is finished on that.
An introduction? Yes. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on an introduction.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, through you and to all members of the House, I am extremely pleased this afternoon to introduce some members of the Bedford-Fall River Progressive Conservative Women's Association. We have in our midst the President, Joan Anthony and she is accompanied of Geraldine Smith, who is the Vice-President, and we have Alda Publicover and Grace - and she will have to forgive me if I mispronounce her name - it is Grace Kendzieora. I would like the House to give the ladies a warm round of applause, please. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Okay, now we are back to the amendment and I recognize the honourable Minister of Human Resources, on the amendment.
HON. JAY ABBASS: I rise to ensure that there is no uncertainty whatsoever among members of the House about the impact of this bill. Perhaps a way of illustrating, the reason I am so concerned about this is to explain that yesterday I was visited by, I believe she was a lab technician, she certainly had a lab coat on and all of the various implements that go with that uniform and clearly was somebody who was employed at the Victoria General Hospital and was represented by the NSGEU.
She was literally on the verge of tears because she had been led to believe that she was not going to have her pension or her LTD, her salary would change, her benefits would disappear, all that she had worked for, for 15 years would go up in smoke. After about a 20 minute conversation she felt a bit better and was reassured and I think returned to work and probably had a more productive day than she would have had had we not had a conversation at least. It is for employees like that lab technician and others who are in her position of not knowing for sure because they are not being given the right information in their work place, at least to date, that I rise and try to reassure them and all members of the public and the NSGEU and all members of all unions involved, that the impact of this bill is to recognize, not overrun, not override collective agreements. It is Clause 20 (1)(b) which so clearly ensures that this does, in fact happen.
This is a bill dealing with many employees represented by several unions, not just one. This is the QE II Bill, this is not named after one or the other of the several unions who are effected by this bill, this is the QE II Bill. This is an all-employees, all-facilities, all-union bill. It strikes a careful balance and treats all of those employees and all of those unions equitably.
The member opposite has brought forward an amendment which I believe would cause the bill this go to a Standing Committee of this House, other than the Law Amendments Committee. The appropriate committee before which this debate should be had is the Law Amendments Committee or rather, the appropriate committee before which amendments should be discussed is the Law Amendments Committee. It is within that context, that legal framework that traditional, historically recognized, parliamentarily recognized forum that any conversation, any discussion over an amendment should take place. Nevertheless, I have instructed my staff very specifically to be available as much as possible to representatives of the NSGEU. I would venture to say that we might very well have requests for such meetings from other unions involved in this bill.
I can confirm that at this very moment, representatives of my department are meeting with NSGEU representatives and this is as it should be. All I can do is urge all parties to this bill, all unions, all employees, all leaders involved with this bill to adhere to, observe the existing Law Amendments Committee process if they wish to make their views known. Yes, the NSGEU is a much respected representative of the employees of this province. My own respect for that union has been illustrated by my own availability in the period leading up to the introduction of this bill.
It was made very clear to me by the leaders of the NSGEU, prior to the introduction of this bill, that items like pension and accumulated entitlements thereto were very important, that LTD entitlements were very important, that seniority rights were very important, that prior accumulated service was very important, that pay equity increments granted were very important and that successorship rights of the sort contained in Section 31 of the Trade Union Act were very important. These were concerns which were very specific to the NSGEU, very compelling to the leaders of the NSGEU, subject only to further interventions either in private with my staff or before the Law Amendments Committee.
I would maintain that the bill is very clear in observing seniority rights, in observing past service and assuring employees their pension benefits and accumulated entitlements thereto, and ensuring equal or better LTD treatment and ensuring that pay equity increments are kept by employees and that Trade Union Act style successorship - i.e. observance of existing collective agreements - is extended to employees who are affected by this bill.
Again, this has been a balancing act among all unions, all employees, the interests of all parties who might be affected. To tamper with the bill, in any substantial way, without very careful thought and very careful consultation and discussion before the appropriate public body - which is the Law Amendments Committee - would be entirely inappropriate. Therefore, again, I would urge all those who might be affected by this bill to, if they feel they have an intervention to make, be prepared to bring that intervention before the Law Amendments Committee at the appropriate time. That time, of course, will follow upon the eventual passage of this bill in second reading. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, I listened with some degree of interest to what the minister was saying and, while I couldn't fault his words, I am not absolutely sure that everybody who reads the bill comes up with the same conclusions that the minister has arrived at. I think that is the basis on which a lot of this debate has been raging over this bill and its implications.
The amendment before us is simply to refer it to the Community Services Committee for a more extensive evaluation. This kind of amendment makes a lot of sense because the bill came before us, obviously, without enough consultation in terms of analysis by health care worker unions, it doesn't come with any guarantee that health services will, in fact, be improved - as there are no studies - and, in addition, the cost implication or cost-savings of the merger have not been made absolutely clear.
When you break the bill down, there are really only three areas of interest in terms of what the bill can or cannot do. Those three areas of interest can, in fact, benefit by this particular referral. So, looking at them in order, the cost-savings, when the Minister of Health presents the QE II Health Sciences concept - which was introduced well over one year ago - he indicates that there will be considerable administrative savings. I would hope that the minister is absolutely firm and has evidence that will, in fact, back up that particular claim.
One of the difficulties I have with the thing, when there isn't any information before us, I think it is very logical, for example, that the new Camp Hill Medical Centre and the Victoria General Hospital would come together as part of the merger, because they will be cooperating and providing a complete menu of health care services, both secondary and tertiary, to adult Nova Scotians. So, since there will be kind of a hand-in-glove relationship between those two institutions, then it would seem painfully obvious that putting them under the umbrella of a single administration would make sense, if for no other reason than to facilitate the delivery of service and, I think, to eliminate any possibility of duplication of service. So, I think that part of the argument hangs together very well.
However, when you then come to marrying that particular part of health care delivery with perhaps the Cancer Treatment Centre, would it not make sense that if that becomes a valid marriage, then one would perhaps think that the IWK and the Grace Maternity Hospital, who are providing, again, health care services, would, as well, perhaps benefit by coming under this umbrella? You look at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre and the kinds of services that they are providing are as distinct and apart from those that are provided at the VG Hospital and will be provided at the new Camp Hill Medical Centre, are as distinct perhaps as those that are provided by either the Cancer Treatment Centre or the Rehab Centre. So that part of the marriage is less clear.
The difficulty that we have with this is that the marriage that is proposed, in this the marriage of four, is not backed up by any particular information that will guarantee the cost-savings that the minister has indicated on many occasions will be achieved and, as well, that the efficiencies will be achieved. There is considerable merit in this amendment in providing a little more time to look at what can be achieved in terms of cost-saving and efficient delivery of service. The minister might at some point indicate the failure to include, as well, the Grace Maternity Hospital and the IWK in this particular endeavour.
Getting away from cost and efficiency, what could we learn about the health service delivery by way of a referral to the committee? Well, again, other than the obvious, the obvious being the marriage of the adult health delivery services and the determination not to duplicate service, then the amalgamation of Camp Hill and the VG again makes perfectly good sense. I fail to understand in any real way that the health service delivery at the Cancer Treatment Centre or at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre will be in any way enhanced by its involvement under this umbrella legislation and a common administration for all four partners in this association. So there is just that feeling of uncertainty as to the appropriateness of what the minister is planning and whether or not there is real information that will guarantee the success of these mergers.
The third area of interest that Bill No. 47 addresses, of course, is what happens to the health care workers when workers that are represented by different unions, in some cases workers in one institution doing exactly the same kind of work, in the other institution are represented by another union? Over the course of the collective bargaining process, they have arranged for themselves and are beneficiaries of different wage scales, different benefits and different work environments. How do we bring all of this together in a way in which the health care workers are not disadvantaged and don't lose, in fact, what they have been able to win by way of the collective bargaining process, the benefits to which they are entitled under their respective contracts? How do we put all that together when all of a sudden when this bill becomes law, they will be working side by side and being remunerated in a much different fashion and be the beneficiaries of much different benefits in terms of their contract?
It is this part of the legislation that is subject to a lot of misinterpretation, it seems, by everybody who reads it. Certainly the Minister of Human Resources has given us his interpretation, that he feels that Clause 17 and the adjacent sections, in fact, give absolute clear assurance that long-term disability, working conditions, pension benefits and pay equity and all these various benefits in contracts will, in fact, be protected.
But in addition to reassuring us that this was so, the minister also reassured us that there are ongoing negotiations right now that are looking at this and may well result in amendments coming forward that are far clearer and more comforting and more protective of workers' rights than the clauses as they appear in the bill at this time.
Considerable interest has been expressed to our caucus in this particular regard and we had met with members of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and receiving their interpretation of what it is that the clauses in this Bill No. 47 have to say about the transference of their rights into the new organization. They are far less confident than the minister that, in fact, this legislation preserves and protects their workers' rights.
The way in which this legislation has been brought before the House is most unfortunate. We are now faced with a similar situation that occurred with the introduction of the Education Act, in which there were feverish negotiations between the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the Ministry of Education and the minister, in an attempt to patch up the terminology that occurred in that bill which affected in a very substantial way the bargaining process and the teachers, workers' rights which they had negotiated in their contracts.
So this is the kind of process that should have gone on before the bill was tabled in the House and would not have resulted in the extremely demoralizing kind of scenario that this bill has brought to health care delivery in the province.
I think the minister has made reference to the fact that because of the terminology in the bill, that health care workers have been approaching him. I am making reference now to the statement made by the Minister of Human Resources, that in fact health care workers are being demoralized and upset by the terminology in this legislation which does not, in any way, shape or form, give them adequate protection as to their negotiated rights. I don't think anyone would be prepared to debate the statement that health care workers in this province are a very demoralized group of individuals. I don't think it is debatable, as well, that that lack of morale is interfering with their provision of the kind of health care that they would like to be able to provide to Nova Scotians and the kind of health care that traditionally, over the last number of decades, they have provided to Nova Scotians.
So this kind of approach, this brinkmanship of bringing forward legislation that is guaranteed to upset service deliverers, is not without ongoing cost and it is not something that will be patched up in a week or two and the effects will just simply go away because the terminology has been changed.
I have spoken to any number of health care workers recently who said, I used to go to work and feel that I was doing a good job and I was prepared to go out of my way to go that extra mile, in terms of looking after the health care needs of Nova Scotians. How easy it is to destroy that resolve in health care workers. One of the easiest ways, of course, is to bring forward legislation which clearly indicates that their efforts have not been appreciated by those in control of health care delivery at the administrative level in the province. So this kind of approach will have an ongoing cost to health care delivery in terms of the effects it has had on the morale of health care workers and their resolve to do the absolute very best job they can under what often are very trying circumstances.
These are the kinds of things that can be addressed by a referral. We can look at the cost, we can look at the efficiency, we can look at whether or not health services can, in fact, be delivered better under this umbrella and we can also look at whether the rights and the bargaining process, as it relates to health care workers, are being preserved in a fair and equitable fashion.
The Minister of Human Resources has said that this can be handled in the Law Amendments Committee. Well, I would submit to the Minister of Human Resources that perhaps Clause 3 can, in fact, be addressed in the Law Amendments Committee when the unions come and negotiate with the minister's department. It well may be that they can affect the terminology that will result in their particular interests being protected.
There is no process that will go on in the Law Amendments Committee that will guarantee the cost-savings. There will be no process go on in the Law Amendments Committee that will prove the cost-savings and there will be no process go on in the Law Amendments Committee that will, in fact, guarantee that health services will be delivered better by this merger and this QE II Health Sciences Centre concept. So while the Law Amendments Committee process will contribute part of what the minister said, it will not answer all of the questions that are being asked here in second reading and many of the questions that are being asked out there by those who are following this process with keen interest.
Madam Speaker, I will take my place. I will be voting in favour of the amendment.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, in rising to speak on the amendment, which is a referral to the Committee on Community Services, I find that the more I think about the amendment, the more sure I am that this is the way we should be going. We have had a very good instance with another bill that went through the House just recently and is presently in the Law Amendments Committee, Bill No. 39, the Education Bill.
This was a bill that we had recommended at the same stage in this House also be referred to a committee. I can't help thinking that if that particular bill had gone to a committee as we had suggested, those amendments that came forth in the Law Amendments Committee, the number of witnesses that have appeared and are still appearing on a daily basis - probably 11 or 12 today and it is all booked up until the end of the week at least for witnesses to appear before that committee - all of these things could have been done in a standing committee of this Legislature and the chaos that we have with the interpretation of the bill at the present time in the Law Amendments Committee would not have ensued.
I would suggest that Bill No. 47 that we have before us now is also going to make a radical change to the way medical care is provided in this province. There are a large number of questions contained in this bill that must be answered. There are going to be a large number, again, of people appearing before the Law Amendments Committee. I would suggest that there will be a large number of amendments forthcoming from the minister before this bill actually gets on the floor in that Law Amendments Committee. Considering those particular items, I think that this amendment is valid and necessary.
I think everybody is aware that we are talking about the tertiary care in the province, not just in the City of Halifax, because every part of the province is going to be affected by the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. All referrals are still going to come down here, so it is essential, I think, for the general state of the medical profession of this province that this tertiary hospital centre be up and running as soon as possible but, not only that, that it is to be able to meet the demands put upon it.
If we were in committee with this bill, Madam Speaker, I think one of the first questions that would be asked is, are there any cost-benefit studies that have been done before this bill was introduced? I would think that we would ask for them to be made available to the committee for study and consideration during the time that that bill was in that committee.
We have been told that this amalgamation of the four medical centres in the city under the one umbrella will save something in the order of about $50 million. But, however, I think it is of interest to note that there is going to be a large amount of money which is going to be chewed up in the actual amalgamation process, with taking care of severance packages to employees and the transfer of equipment - I understand some of the equipment at the VG is going to be transferred across to the new hospital - and it is my understanding that that is going to amount to some $35 million. So, the net effect of this amalgamation is not going to be a $50 million saving, but a $15 million saving.
That would be fine, Madam Speaker, if we knew that that was, indeed, the actual figure but, as I said before, we do not have any cost-benefit study that would indicate that is the figure; we just have the word of the minister on that and I hope he is right. However, knowing, for instance, what we know about the amalgamation in Cape Breton, we know those numbers can be deceiving.
Madam Speaker, one of the problems with this bill that I think could be examined in the Community Services Committee is, what does it do to health care in the province? Is it a positive thing for the province; is it a negative thing? How many beds are we going to lose with this amalgamation? How many nurses are going to be laid off as a result of this amalgamation? How many other health care workers are going to be laid off because of this amalgamation?
We have a severe labour problem to deal with, Madam Speaker, with bringing these hospitals together under the QE II Health Sciences Centre Act. We have members of the NSGEU who are telling us that, as civil servants, they are going to suffer a change in the rights that they presently have under their present agreement. Will they continue, for instance, to be eligible under the present Civil Service long-term disability program? Will their pension rights be protected? Will their seniority be protected? Is pay equity going to apply? All in all, are the full successor rights going to be available to them?
Madam Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources, a few moments ago, interjected into this debate and said, not to worry, it was all looked after. But, however, there are those, particularly the lawyers involved in labour matters, who will tell you that no, indeed, the rights of some of the NSGEU members are in jeopardy, particularly with regard to LTD, pay equity and seniority. So, that is another item that I think it would pay to have a committee investigate and to call in witnesses from the minister's office as well as from the unions, to see what those differences are all about and whether or not they can be resolved.
When the minister introduced this bill, he stated that this is a clear forward move in health reform and one that impacts on hospitals, including the QE II. One of the items was a province-wide introduction in June of Home Care Nova Scotia. Madam Speaker, with the amalgamation of the hospitals, we are going to lose beds, so home care is going to become more important perhaps than it has been to date. But the problem is right now there is not a home care system right across this province up and running. (Interruption) The minister says, yes there is.
Madam Speaker, in the City of Halifax, that may well be true. In the City of Dartmouth, that may well be true. It may well be true in Cape Breton. But, at the present time, it is not true down where I come from. I mentioned yesterday, when I was on my feet about putting a hoist on this bill, that I had a gentleman 98 years of age, discharged from hospital, and they were going to send somebody out the next day to do an assessment on him. Now, that is not what I consider to be home care.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Would the honourable member permit a question? Has the member opposite not heard of Home Care Nova Scotia which has been up and running and in his very region, the western region? It is up 52 per cent; the home care service is serving 52 per cent more people than it ever had before. Up to 12,000 people in the Province of Nova Scotia are being served by Home Care Nova Scotia. Home Hospital Nova Scotia is up and running and has been since June, pilot projects in four areas, some of which were in his own region. Indeed, they are up and running. Is the honourable gentleman not aware of this?
MR. RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, I am aware that there is a home care system available, but what I am telling the minister is that it is not working the way it should work out in my area. Now it may be in the City of Halifax and in the City of Dartmouth but it is certainly not working (Interruption) Well, I have approached the minister once, I believe, about three or four months ago about a case that I had on home care. I've got in my book dozens of cases at the present time, people who are seeking home care who cannot get home care.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would not be prepared to resolve a dispute of facts or opinions between two honourable members in this House. It is appropriate that we get back to the discussion of the amendment on the floor.
MR. RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, I would suggest that if we had this bill before a standing committee of this House, where people could come before that committee and make representations, and this committee could travel around the province and hold hearings up in Cape Breton, in the northwest, in the southeast and southwest of this province, the minister would very rapidly find out that home care outside of the city areas is not as yet up and running 100 per cent.
So, Madam Speaker, I will be voting for this amendment to refer the bill to the Community Services Committee.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, it is such a pleasure to see you in the Chair and all that sort of thing.
AN HON. MEMBER: . . . much better looking than the previous one.
MR. ARCHIBALD: That's right and she has a new hairstyle.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would just remind the members to restrict their sexist comments. It is quite inappropriate.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Hear! Hear! That's right. I wholeheartedly agree with you. It is hard to keep these people in line, but you do your best.
I was quite surprised yesterday when the minister rose in the House and discussed this bill that we are debating today, because when the minister was talking about his bill and he was talking about the amalgamation of Camp Hill, the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre and the Victoria General Hospital will become the QE II - he spoke about how it was going to be better for health care, going to be world-class health care, we would be known nationally, internationally and even around the world, is what he said. I think it is marvellous but I am afraid, and I hate to disappoint the honourable minister, but that is not what the bill is. This minister will do that time and again. He will stand up in his place and give a speech and it has absolutely no relationship to the bill that he brought before us.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, you are debating the amendment, so I would like the remarks that you make to have a relationship to the amendment.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Ha, ha, I don't blame you, they will.
The minister put this amalgamation together in haste. The minister was more interested in having his picture taken with the Queen to hang on his wall than doing any study or any research or any development. So, now, I want to give that minister the chance and the opportunity to do the proper study by referral to a committee so we can look into this bill and to see if amalgamation is what we need.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I would like to give you the chance and the opportunity to speak to the amendment, not to speak about pictures and other subjects that are totally trivializing the amendment. I would like you to keep your focus on the amendment.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Not the amendment, trivializing the minister.
MADAM SPEAKER: Whatever you are trivializing, it is not appropriate to the amendment, and you are out of order.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, there are many who would agree with me, because we want to give the people of Nova Scotia the opportunity to appear before the committee and tell this minister and tell this government exactly what is happening to health care, in general, and at the QE II, in particular.
We have had representations in our caucus, and I am sure in your caucus as well, from concerned citizens, from interest groups, from lobby groups, from people right across the metro region who are very concerned. They want to be heard and they want a place where they can be heard.
Last week we saw how the Law Amendments Committee works now. The Minister of Education held a press briefing, presented his amendments to the press and then they were forwarded to the Law Amendments Committee. So, you can see the disrespect that this government has for the Law Amendments Committee. So, let's see if we can force the government and force this minister into appearing before the people, where we can have a question and answer, and get the information and table the information.
The minister says there are studies that prove he can save $15 million. You know, we heard before, from another minister, we can save millions of dollars in Cape Breton. We didn't get the studies there either, but we are going to give the minister the opportunity that I know he is craving, to appear before the committee and present the documentation that says, by amalgamating the four hospitals it is going to provide better health care for those living not just in metro, but in all of Atlantic Canada, because this is Atlantic Canada's hospital. It is not just Nova Scotians who have a stake in this. When there is a problem with health care anywhere in Atlantic Canada, they look for this region. So, we must absolutely have the finest facilities available not just for Nova Scotians, but for people from Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick as well, because they come to Nova Scotia for their emergency medical treatment time and time again.
We need the opportunity for this minister to appear before the committee to defend his bill, to tell the people how this bill that he brought in, that is very difficult on the workers in the hospital, come on in and tell us how you are going to save $15 million and how the reputation of this minister and this hospital is going to grow even bigger than it already is. This is what the committee structure can do for us, but you have to go at it with an open mind. You cannot walk into the committee with all of the answers, because all the time he is not right. Sometimes people in society, people in communities do have some good answers.
You know, we want better health care. About 35,000 annually go through the doors at the QE II health facilities, 35,000 are depending on us. There are problems in health care in Nova Scotia, today.
I referred the minister to a letter the other day and then I got a call that was troubling to me and to the minister too. A letter that the minister has in his possession from a father of a 19 year old girl who had a mole removed and it was found to be melanoma. She has got a six week wait before anything can be done. That is just too long. How would you feel with a 19 year old daughter, wait six weeks.
Not long ago somebody was discharged from the hospital in my area, sent home. He needed oxygen. The daughter . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Is this anecdote related to the amendment, honourable member? Because if I continue to find it is not, I will continue to chastise . . .
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, absolutely, and if it was not related to it I would not tell you about it.
MADAM SPEAKER: Well, I am not sure about that.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I will tell you and if I am not, and you will agree (Interruption)
This young person's father was sent home from the hospital. He needed oxygen. The family had to purchase it. You see this is one of the problems because that family pooled their resources and they were able to purchase oxygen for a month. I think it was about $500 in total. They called me and I made some phone calls to the Department of Health, the Department of Community Services and all around and finally we were able to find the right person within the department that said yes, we will take over the expense.
Where, in this bill, do we get into that sort of problem that is arising. If we have 35,000 people depending on this hospital. The minister said that all these good things, you know the things he said were in this bill, 35,000 Nova Scotians annually and their stay is much shorter. They are almost operating on people out in the parking lot. The in and out time is so fast.
I think the people of Nova Scotia have the right to appear before a committee of this House. Is there anything, Madam Speaker, you tell me what it is that is more important to Nova Scotians than health care. When you ask Nova Scotians what is important. They say health, education, community services. The measure of a government is how you look after your sick, the infirm and the children.
People want to be heard when you are talking about health care. To listen to what the minister said about this bill was a great deal less than honourable because he was telling us that this bill was going to make things better at the QE II. I think he needs a little more time to tell us how it is going to be better because when you look at the bill it does not talk much about health care. It is a whole lot of things about labour. It is a whole lot of things about work. It is a whole lot of things about staffing. It is a whole lot of things about removing from the collective agreement the right of a person to stand for elected office. An employee at the Victoria General Hospital can now stand for elected office and return to their job and that same employee if they get hired at the QE II will not be allowed to do that, stand for elected office and have their job back. They have got to make a choice, run for office or get your job back. That is one of the things.
A couple of weeks ago, the Minister of Human Resources had a press conference and a press release about Nova Scotia really out in the forefront because we were recognizing people of the same sex cohabiting, it wouldn't make any difference if they were a girl and a guy or two fellows or two women, it was a family unit and the Minister of Human Resources indicated that this was what our government was standing for.
But you know this bill takes that away from the Victoria General Hospital employees when they go to work at the QE II. We have an opportunity for people to appear at committee and discuss this, to find out if this actually is what it means. Now the honourable member for Hants East said, no, it doesn't mean that at all. But look, I can line up about a dozen labour lawyers who have read the bill and said oh, yes, it does. Now unless this gentleman is a . . .
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: You do that; line up a dozen labour lawyers. I would like to hear you; do it.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, how many catcalls to we have to put up with from that member for Hants East? He always has a lot to say when somebody else is speaking, but he will never stand in his place and defend the legislation that he wants to heckle about. I am not the only person in this Chamber whom he heckles constantly and, every time I speak back to him, you rule me out of order because I am not allowed to speak across the floor.
MADAM SPEAKER: Well, honourable member, the only thing I have been calling your attention to in the last 10 minutes of this debate is that you have been quite irrelevant at times and I am asking you now, for the third time, to focus on the amendment. You are really all over the map at this point in time, so I would like you to get focused.
MR. ARCHIBALD: You very much know of what you are speaking, too.
Now what I want to tell you is that we have the rights as legislators, and Nova Scotians have the right as taxpayers, to look at this bill and examine this bill. The Minister of Health has an obligation to Nova Scotians to present himself before this Legislative Committee and tell us how he could introduce a bill with a flowery speech, with a flowery press conference that had absolutely nothing, not one iota, to do with the bill. So we have to make an opportunity for the minister to convince us that what he wants to do and what this bill intends to do are one and the same. I have not heard any member speaking on the bill who could faithfully interpret all the clauses and all the information. We truly need the committee to look into it.
Now this wouldn't be the first time that a committee of this Legislature looked into a difficult matter facing the government. Several years ago, there was a committee set up to look specifically at volunteer fire services, there was a committee to look into gambling and addiction problems, there was a committee that looked into secondary education; this is not new ground.
MADAM SPEAKER: Now I will just caution you here, honourable member, that you could continue to say a number of committees from the last 10 years and you would be very repetitive and it isn't relevant to the amendment.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well that is helpful, thank you, but what it means is I want to know the reluctance of this government to allow Nova Scotians to come in and look at this legislation clause by clause, and look at the documentation that I am sure the minister can provide to show there is $15 million in savings in health care. We need the documentation that that minister can provide because he said it is there. This hospital is regional and the committee should travel to the regions of the province. We now have a regional health system; were in the midst of setting it up in the western region and there are people with concerns about the new situation at the hospital, from the Annapolis Valley. They need to be heard; they may have some valuable input for this minister.
People from Cape Breton frequent the hospital as well from the South Shore. Would it be too much to ask that the committee travel a little around the province? I am not asking for these KLM airplane tickets to travel to Europe for the committee, you could all get in one car even, maybe two, and travel around the province so that Nova Scotians will have an opportunity to talk to the Minister of Health and tell the Minister of Health and listen to the Minister of Health because he said many things that this QE II legislation and the QE II hospital will do.
So far, he has not had an opportunity to fully explain all of the details but if we had a committee set up, I am sure that the minister would want to attend each and every committee and sit there and talk back and forth with people who are concerned about being discharged from the hospital and when you leave the hospital, what is there waiting for you? Is there home care in your region and if there is, is it fully functional? Now, the minister said that it is and the member for Hants West said it was not. That begs the indulgence of this speaker to support this amendment and allow the Opposition to try to persuade enough backbenchers with a conscience and a concern for the health care in Nova Scotia to vote with the Opposition so that the committee could structure this.
It is not going to be detrimental if the committee takes a month, six weeks, to look into this matter. We are not saying, forget it, never bring it back. All we are saying is give us a little time and we can bring it back in the spring. It is not going to be detrimental to health care in Nova Scotia if this QE II Bill does not become enacted right away. We have had other ministers, from time to time, say we have to get that bill through right now. The Minister of Labour said it once for workers' compensation. We have to do it today, it is costing $1 million every day we don't. You know, it was several months before it was enacted after that. So this is not the same situation like that. It is not costing $1 million every day that this isn't enacted.
We are going to be sitting in the spring, late winter, and at that time we can finish debate on the bill but wouldn't it be a better debate if all members had the benefit of committee knowledge? There are some very clever people in this House but they don't know everything yet. We are still learning, I guess. The committee would be able to learn. The Minister of Health would be able to teach us because he has told us all these fine things about the bill and I know that the Minister of Health has the documentation that says the QE II will be more efficient and be better if only it was amalgamated. I know the Minister of Health, just like that, could furnish the documentation that will show the committee where he can save $15 million because I don't know just where the $15 million is coming from. I added up about 1,500 people who are working there and I thought probably an average of $30,000 and that is only about $4.5 million a year. So it is not all just coming out of labour. So where is it coming from?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Now, again, you are in the area of repetition and this is the third time now you have mentioned $15 million.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, and do you know how many times he said it . . .
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I am just trying to help you sharpen your debate skills here but really . . .
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: . . . I find the repetition is very tedious.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I really appreciate your assistance, too, and I think that by the time you and I get through, I am going to be a pretty darn good debater. What do you think?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I hope so.
AN HON. MEMBER: Don't bet on that.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Don't bet on that, he said. Well, look, I am willing to work with you if you are willing to work with me on this because really I do want to get the Deputy Speaker's seal of approval and then I would be real happy about that.
Now, targeted patient care, health care for Nova Scotians, 35,000 people. We just covered the whole gamut on the introduction to this bill yesterday but we have to find out some answers that we can get only from a committee structure. One of them was the duplication of equipment, supplies and inventory. I am sure this minister has looked into this or he wouldn't have said it, but, darn it, I looked in his bill and I couldn't find the reference to supplies and savings and so on. Obviously the minister has a lot more knowledge, there is a whole lot of things he is thinking about but he forgot to put them in the bill. If he had a committee to look at this, then perhaps he could remember and he could put it all together and the committee could understand. It would really make it a much better situation.
The Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, which represents several thousand Nova Scotians, has some problems. They would like to appear before the committee. There is a great difference of opinion between the union and the Minister of Human Resources. The Minister of Human Resources has disregarded pretty much everything that they said in their letter. However, I think the committee, with the support staff that is available to it, may be able to find the neutral ground. Nobody is always right and nobody is always wrong. This is interesting because this whole NSGEU presentation has been disregarded. We ought to be going to committee so that the NSGEU could go and tell their side of the story, the Minister of Human Resources could defend his. I don't see anything wrong with that. It is not going to tie up the bill for such a long time that it would render it useless, ineffective or anything else. What is the rush? The minister has made his announcement and all of those sorts of good things. Why the reluctance?
The government in 1993 said we want to be open to Nova Scotians, we want to share our knowledge, there is no secrecy, we are going to be transparent. You know, since 1993 they pulled the curtain over the transparent window. Let's open the curtains, let's show Nova Scotians what this government really is trying to do with the QE II merger bill. We need the committee structure so that people can understand. I fail to see the reluctance of the government to deviate from their previous professed place in Nova Scotia's governing. They said they wanted to be transparent and here is their chance. Let Nova Scotians come, let the committee go to the communities. This could only help to make the bill stronger.
If this is going to succeed, the Minister of Health needs the support of Nova Scotians. Up to this point the Minister of Health has very little support for this merger. If he could only have a platform to speak on, something a little closer to the people than a fancy room at the Barrington Inn. He could meet the people, perhaps, in the Red Room. That is where he holds his press conferences, isn't it? You could meet in the Red Room, people would like that a lot better. You wouldn't have to have a secret press conference, we could have this out in the open and people could come in. (Interruptions)
The government is very interesting. They say that we can't have it here because we can't get enough people in because of the fire marshal. Well, we could schedule the committee. You are allowed to have 60 people at a time. There are only, what, 10 people on the committee and two or three staff. The Minister of Health, you would want to be there, wouldn't you? We could schedule them so there was only one group at a time. Then the 60 wouldn't be a problem. Nova Scotians would feel a lot better if they had an opportunity, because they feel let down. This amalgamation must be a new word for the government, I guess, because before they said they were against it and now if there are more than two of them in the province, they are trying to stick them together. That is what is going on in municipal units and in hospitals.
One thing I am very much afraid of, and the minister is probably concerned as well, because what we were told about amalgamation for Cape Breton, every single thing right down the line, perhaps if we had the opportunity to go to committee with that bill, we might not have been in a problem. You see, you have to learn by experience. The experience we had with municipal reform hasn't been great so far, and perhaps we should try a different tack -this is called openness, transparent - and then we would have a much better opportunity to achieve what the Minister of Health claims he can achieve by this amalgamation. There is a lot of convincing he could do at a committee meeting.
I haven't heard anybody yet indicate one reason why we have to do this quickly. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. There have been studies, mostly over the years recommending against, and I think we should be able to review the studies they have done in Ontario that indicate once you get in excess of 500 beds in a hospital in one unit, the efficiency goes downhill very fast. You see, now, that minister hasn't seen that study, but if we took it to him at the committee, he could have a look at it and we could talk to the people who have done the Ontario studies and explain to us what they found in Ontario with amalgamating hospitals and building big hospitals. The minister could explain to them why in Nova Scotia it is different and the 500 bed rule doesn't apply down here. (Interruption) Well, the minister, I bet, has a study.
What could be wrong with trying to do a good job? We have seen example after example, when something bad happens there is a retraction, there is a ducking, there are evasive answers. We are trying to save this minister some of those problems. I don't want him to have to stand in this House and have to duck. The committee would allow him to answer and he would find out a lot of interesting and informative information.
How much time is NSGEU going to have to appear at the Law Amendments Committee? Will it be 15 minutes? They need more time than that and they deserve more time than that. Is the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee going to give them extra time so that they can present their case and present their thoughts on the bill? The bill concerns labour, the bill concerns working conditions and changes to working conditions. It doesn't concern health care; anybody who says this bill is anything to do with health care has not read the bill. The bill has to do with the amalgamating of people, to bring people together to work under one roof. Where are all of those concerned Nova Scotians going to have an opportunity to speak to the minister or hear what he has to say? Will they come to the Law Amendments Committee?
The law amendments structure, we saw how it worked last week . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I am going to caution you one more time to speak to the amendment which has to do with referring this bill to the Standing Committee on Community Services. It doesn't have anything to do with the Law Amendments Committee.
MR. ARCHIBALD: It has a lot to do with a committee, though, I think you will agree with that.
MADAM SPEAKER: Well, I would like you to get the right committee when you are talking about it.
MR. ARCHIBALD: You see, one of the things about a bill, when it leaves this Chamber, it goes to the Law Amendments Committee, that is where they normally go. The reason we want this to go to the committee is because the Law Amendments Committee hasn't been working the same way, lately, as it did even one year ago. (Laughter) Well, they laugh. Where were they last week when that Minister of Education circumvented the Law Amendments Committee by putting all his amendments at a press conference? What disrespect for the members of the committee and the tradition of the House. That is the contempt so we are trying to put a little a bit of transparency and a little bit of people back into governance. You cannot run willy-nilly over people all the time. We are trying to help you out and I think that if we took it to the committee and allowed Nova Scotians the opportunity then we could have a good piece of legislation perhaps.
There are several ministers that should be concerned about this bill and I am not sure that they have had an opportunity as yet to fully understand the implications and ramifications of the bill. I do not know whether it was in caucus. I do not know whether it went to Cabinet or not even, but what I do know is if it went to the committee it would certainly then have an opportunity for each and every member of this Legislature to become fully informed because there is no other health facility in eastern Canada that is as important as this one; 35,000 people are depending on it and thousands more. I think there are about 7,000 people working at the QE II. Have we so little regard for them that we have to rush this through without going to a committee?
I really feel that Nova Scotians deserve an opportunity. There is no reason in this world why two ministers got together and designed a bill that would have such ramifications. The right to retraining, long-term disability, something as simple as mileage, severance packages, those are big changes. These are the things that need discussion at a committee. We have to get to the bottom of it. We certainly are not going to in this Chamber, certainly not at the Law Amendments Committee.
The Minister of Human Resources indicated it was just posturing on behalf of the union wanting to be the representative of the workers. Well, that is his opinion. Some organization has to represent them. Obviously, neither the Minister of Health nor the Minister of Human Resources have a great concern for the workers. We do not even know how many people are going to be laid off nor where are they going to be laid off. He said probably 2,500 people are no longer going to be employed in the health delivery system in Nova Scotia. He needs an opportunity to tell the people of the QE II. Is it 1,000 at the QE II, is it 1,500, is it 2,000? We do not know.
How are we going to find out from this government if we do not hold them accountable at a committee meeting. Certainly, there are lots of vague answers, but let's get some correct figures. Let's really pin him down. Let's get the consultants that told him he could save money by amalgamation. Let's get the people that came in and told him how to do this and let's find out just exactly where he got this idea to pull it all together. I think we have a right to ask that minister to do that.
I think the Minister of Education and the Minister of Transportation are concerned. I can see them and so can you. They are sitting and they are speaking about this bill and they are saying it is a good idea to send it to committee because we do not know all the answers and we want some more answers on this bill. (Interruption)
Do you hear him saying it? I can hear him, Madam Speaker. He is indicating his interests in the committee structure for this bill. I think that is exactly what we should be doing. So I hope that when that Minister of Education has an opportunity that he won't be talked out of this by some other minister because truly it will help a great deal.
MR. RICHARD HUBBARD: Tough decision, that's why.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, here we are hearing from Yarmouth. Yarmouth should be concerned because Yarmouth looks to Halifax for emergency situations as well. I am sure there are people in Yarmouth who would like to have the opportunity to speak to the committee about this bill. Why wouldn't they? It is of concern to them.
Now some of the things that are planned for this new structure are great. The other day we were up and we looked at the new Camp Hill section of the hospital. Before it is even opened they are changing the role because roles in health care are changing that fast.
They changed the hospital in Kentville as well. You see health care is changing and a lot of it is financial concerns and it is finance-driven. But so is the outlook of people; people are better educated, they are more responsive and they want to be feeling a part. With your committee they could be part of it and this Minister of Health could be part of helping to bring in a piece of legislation that will do what he thinks it will do. Otherwise, I am afraid that he can force it and he can shove it around and push people around and make them cooperate. But isn't it a lot better if people are onside right from the start and they are working with you instead of against you? I think we could have that cooperative effort if this would go to the committee structure and allow the people to have some input for a change.
So I am pretty well wound up and I would like to thank the honourable Speaker for your indulgence and your help and guidance in trying to make me a better parliamentarian. I really appreciate your help. I will take my seat and allow another colleague the opportunity to speak on this amendment. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable member, for the kind words in trying to help you make a better speech to the amendment. I will continue to try whenever I can do that.
The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, I think it is true that we live in what one might call libertarian times, a time when citizens not just across Canada but, indeed, across North America have a distrust for authority. There is always value in having a healthy distrust for those in authority but I think we have reached the point where we have developed the capacity for having an unhealthy distrust for those in authority. That matters not whether it is government or the church or the professions, I think that is a statement which is generally applicable.
So it is absolutely essential that as we move forward, making changes to the way in which we govern ourselves, that we ensure that the public has adequate opportunity to participate in the discussion swirling around the changes which will ultimately dramatically impact on them and their lives and certainly upon their families. Of course that is precisely why it is that we are speaking in support of sending the subject matter of this bill to the Community Services Committee for consideration, for what one might call second, sober thought and, equally important, to ensure that through the Community Services Committee Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other are given an opportunity to speak to the subject matter of the bill and to what they deem will be the impact of this bill on them, on their communities and on their health care service.
This bill is very much about governance. It has been made very clear by the minister and by other speakers that the institution which is to be created through this legislation is a provincial institution. It is the provincial tertiary care institution and, for that reason alone, it behooves this minister and this government to ensure that people across Nova Scotia who ultimately will be calling upon the tertiary care capacity of this new institution, have the opportunity to define it in advance of the final definition being created through this legislation.
I would think that the committee, among other things, would want to look at the structure of the board of this new facility. Now it is true that this new facility will not be, according to the legislation, an agent of the Crown; however, one cannot help but recognize the fact that, in the structure of the board, over half of the appointments will be made by Governor in Council. So that if, in law, the new institution is not an agent of the Crown, certainly one could be convinced that with more than half of the appointments being made by the Executive Council that it will indeed be a minion of the Crown. It was Joseph Howe who spoke of those damned minions, and it may well be that those eight who are appointed may be deemed to be damned minions if, in fact, they do not effectively carry out the duties and responsibilities which are charged to them.
Now the reason that I reference those eight people, Madam Chairman - and again this strikes directly at the opportunity available through the Committee on Community Services -is that if this board is going to truly represent the interests of the province, it strikes me that the Committee on Community Services might well want to raise the question with the public across this province. Should the eight persons appointed by Cabinet to the QE II Health Sciences Centre Board all come from the metropolitan area or should, in fact, the board be so structured that by definition certain members, perhaps three of them, should be appointed from outside the metropolitan area, which would still leave five appointments that can be made by Cabinet within the metropolitan area?
For example, it seems to me entirely sensible that one of those board members should be a resident of Cape Breton. We are all well aware that many people come from Cape Breton to Halifax to any of the institutions which are being wrapped up in the new centre, and it strikes me that it would be entirely appropriate and indeed good public policy if the government were to determine that one of those eight appointees should come from Cape Breton. That is something I would think the people from Cape Breton would want to have the opportunity to comment upon in a free and open discussion and in a forum that was conducive to engendering that and, where better than with a Community Services Committee taking the opportunity, as it has the power to do, to go to Cape Breton and hear the people out?
I think it similarly may be said that another member of that board should come from the mainland, but east of Highway No. 102 between Halifax and Truro, and a third member should come from west of that highway between Halifax and Truro. That would ensure that three of the eight government appointees on the board, bring a regional perspective to the deliberations of that board so that we don't get locked into an entirely metro focus and so that the board from the very beginning can demonstrate, through the creation of the policies that it will effect, that this is truly the provincial tertiary care facility responding to a provincial focus, not solely to a metropolitan focus.
Again, have meetings in the mainland and Truro, perhaps and the Antigonish-New Glasgow area and Amherst, could focus on that, as indeed, could people in Bridgewater, Liverpool, Shelburne, Yarmouth and Kentville focus on the opportunity to have somebody from western Nova Scotia, one of those eight appointed by Cabinet. I do not argue for a moment nor do I think anybody across the province argues with the right - whether or not it is wise is another matter - of Cabinet to make those appointments. I think that geography is an important factor here and I would ask the committee in its deliberations to give consideration to that.
This bill, although it treats very little with it during the course of reading the 25 or 26 clauses, is very much about the delivery of health care province wide. Again, this is the provincial tertiary care hospital, always bear that in mind.
Because it is a provincial health care delivery centre or will be, how could it be more appropriate than to refer the subject matter of this bill to the Committee on Community Services which then can hold public hearings around the province and deliberate among its own membership on what views to bring back to House and through this House to the government respecting what the public deems and what that committee deems should be the final substance of this bill. This is a government which has spoken at length about consultation. I think they started out not badly achieving some of that consultative consultation through the establishment of various consulted processing. I think if the government quietly reflects upon more recent times, you will find that it has been less prone to consult and more prone to issue decision by fiat and that serves much of the government ill, but it serves government ill and it only further strengthens libertarianism in our Nova Scotian society. I, for one, think that is very unhealthy.
This legislation, again, should go to the Committee on Community Services in order to give health care professionals around the province, both inside and outside the brick and mortar institutions, the opportunity to participate in defining what the final form of this bill will be. There are health care professionals, doctors of course, immediately come to mind around this province who will be relying upon the institution which will be created by this legislation for the well-being of their patients.
Surely, those health care professionals should have opportunity to speak to this legislation, to speak to those aspects of this legislation which they deem to be in the best interests of their patients, but also to speak to the shortcomings of this legislation; shortcomings which they would want to see remedied in advance of the bill becoming law so that their patients will be positive beneficiaries of this legislation. I think the same can be said of other health care providers, each of whom has an important role to play with respect to provision of health care. Nurses, psychologists, therapists, inhalation therapists, physiotherapists and so on, social workers who work within hospitals assisting patients and making the transition from hospital to home or perhaps from hospital to a home for special care or some other such institution.
All of these people provide a tremendous pool of talent and information, a wonderfully vibrant and vital resource upon which this government can draw, through the Community Services Committee, that committee being given the opportunity, by our passing this amendment, to give those health care providers ample opportunity to appear before it and to speak to the subject matter of this bill. What could possibly be wrong with that? Bear in mind that time is not necessarily of the essence. If that were so, then surely this bill would have appeared before now, because the decision to amalgamate was taken well over one year ago. So, it would appear that time, while always an important factor, is not necessarily the overriding factor and, therefore, there is time for the committee to go out to the public and give them the opportunity to participate.
Madam Speaker, this bill is going to have an economic impact on the metropolitan area, and I think everyone here would agree that to a greater or lesser extent it may have economic impact on health care delivery and associated institutions and organizations throughout Nova Scotia. The most immediate economic impact, in likelihood, here in metro will be - and I don't think I do the minister a disfavour by saying this; he has made this clear himself - as a result of the downsizing of health care professionals and other staff, as these institutions are drawn together into one institution.
So, there will be the economic impact of the loss of those wages into those homes and into the community, essentially the metropolitan community. That certainly has to be a negative impact for them, irrespective of the fact that the minister believes there will be something in the order of $15 million in savings recognized as a result of this amalgamation. So, there is that economic impact which must be measured.
I think we must give those who are potentially going to be most directly affected by that negative aspect of this legislation an opportunity to come forward and to be heard. If nothing else, at least that committee would be able to provide a degree of empathy emanating from the jurisdiction of this House to those who are working and living under great stress, not knowing if they are the ones whose employment will be terminated as a result of the passage of this bill.
There is another economic impact that should concern all of us and, again, it arises out of the fact that this is the provincial tertiary care institution. That economic aspect relates to the spinoff impact on the regions in the province. I wonder, and I am sure many others do as well, what the impact of these downsizings and of this amalgamation will be on each of the regional health boards' budgets and on the institutions for which they are responsible.
These are questions which could properly be raised and discussed in the public forum provided by the Community Services Committee. These are questions which I think it is important, prudent and appropriate that those who represent the regional health boards should have the opportunity to address, as part of a public policy-making process in the public, before the Community Services Committee as it holds hearings throughout the province.
Will some of that $15 million saving from this amalgamation be reinvested in the regions so that they can play the appropriate interlocking role with this new health care institution that is amalgamated? Or, Heaven forbid, will all those savings accrue only to government and the burden of providing health care services, which are no longer associated with the new amalgamated institution, be borne with no budget increase by the regional boards? It is a very great and very real concern and one which I think should be a matter of public debate, so that public policy is finally defined and encompassed in statutory law.
Then we go on again and ask ourselves, what will the impact of all of that be on our local hospitals? At Roseway Hospital in Shelburne, Queens General Hospital in Liverpool, Fishermen's Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg and so on, what will the impact be? Will it strengthen our local community institutions? Will it weaken them? Will it cause their roles to change? If their roles are changed, will it change positively or negatively? How will they interlock with the new provincial tertiary health care institution and the regional boards and the regional hospitals? How will that all lock together and how will it all function as a single unit? It is going to require significant fine-tuning?
We can't wait until after the legislation is passed to find out that the legislation is not sufficiently well thought out and then fine-tune it. We are not talking about putting the family car up in the service station overnight while it is fine-tuned, we are talking about the lives of men and women and children across this province.
Think of that, if we don't get it right the first time, as legislators, each and every one of the 52 of us, our failure to do our jobs may be reflected in worsening the health of a person who comes to one of these institutions or, God forbid, could even in some way be a contributing factor to a death. That is the kind of serious deliberation we must bring to this legislation. That is why we must take this legislation out with the Community Services Committee, to make sure that all those t's are crossed, all those i's are dotted, that everything is well thought out, well thought through, so that we avoid every possible foreseeable problem that could possibly occur with respect to the implementation of this legislation.
Madam Speaker, there has been great talk across this province, in every community, about the human costs of the downsizing of governments and government institutions. We all understand that, yes, the cost of government must be reduced; virtually everyone is in agreement on that. There is some disagreement over how that should be done, and health care is no exception. But those who will suffer most dramatically are those currently employed by these institutions, which are going to be brought together in amalgamation, and who will lose their jobs.
I think it behooves us to ensure that we give organizations and individuals within that potentially affected community an opportunity to come forward and tell us, through our committee, and tell the government through our committee, which will report back to the House, how we can, if we cannot save those jobs, at least modify the horrendous personal impact on those men and women who will lose their employment as a result of the passage of this legislation.
Surely we live in a society which is sufficiently caring, especially if these people who care for us when we become ill, that we would not simply want to give them a pink slip and turf them out on the street. Surely, there is a better way to accomplish a transition from the employment they currently enjoy to the situation in which they will find themselves.
There are, for example, private sector organizations in Nova Scotia and indeed throughout Canada which make it their business to find employment for clients. It strikes me that the Community Services Committee may well want to investigate the potential of accessing that kind of service on behalf of those who will be laid off.
The transition to something other than the current employment opportunity certainly will require or should require some degree of personal counselling. Each and every one of us is well aware of the tremendous stresses that are placed on families when a breadwinner loses their employment and how in this economy, which is a difficult economy for those who are unemployed, it can cause stresses and strains that some families simply cannot handle. It leads to all kinds of problems, not only between spouses, but within the whole family, with children, within the extended family, with in-laws as well. You and I have seen that ourselves among our own constituents. Depression certainly is associated with loss of employment and the inability to find new employment on a relatively quick basis.
Surely, if we are going to let these people go, the Community Services Committee should have the opportunity to ask those who come before it and to invite persons indeed to come before it to advise them on how we can put in place, through the government, the kinds of counselling which will, at least, moderate the human impact of job loss. That is not very likely to happen in the Red Room with the Law Amendments Committee, Madam Speaker, but it is likely to happen around the province and around metro, if the Community Services Committee were empowered as a result of the passage of this amendment to undertake these hearings.
While I have very serious reservations about this bill, and I do not always agree with the policy decisions taken by the Minister of Health - personally, I have an affection for the Minister of Health and I think he is a kind and honourable man and one who would not intentionally do harm to anyone else, least of all to those who will be effected by legislation that he introduces in this place - I would ask him to think upon those suggestions that I have made this afternoon with respect to the activities of the Community Services Committee could undertake in order to provide that kind of moderation with respect to the negative impact with loss of employment that this bill will result in.
Madam Speaker, while it is not referenced in the bill, the minister has made reference to home care. Home care, I think, probably could be defined as a health care delivery institution without walls. The minister has made it abundantly clear that home care will be a vital factor with respect to the provision of the health care services that will flow out of this legislation once it becomes law. So it is absolutely essential that this House, through its Community Services Committee, have the opportunity to hear around the province how well health care delivery is being provided through home care and for us to ensure that we make the kinds of modifications to home care around Nova Scotia which will cause a good, strong, functional home care system to be able to be integrated as part of that linkage to which I referred previously, the linkage of the new provincial tertiary care facility, the regional health boards, the regional hospitals, the local hospitals and now home care, the institution without walls.
If any one of those breaks down then it seems to me the whole system is in danger of breaking down. When the system breaks down, the health of Nova Scotians and indeed many people from all over Atlantic Canada cannot help but be adversely impacted. So the Community Services Committee, by giving Nova Scotians the opportunity to address that linkage and in this instance, to address the role that home care must play within our communities, has to play with respect to the provision of health care as addressed by this bill.
None of these things are separate and as John Donne wrote, "No man is an Island, entire of itself.". I think perhaps we could borrow from John Donne and say that no segment of health care is a function entire of itself. We must ensure that all of these aspects are highly articulated, not as we move into the new regime which will be created by this legislation but that that articulation is available in advance of the legislation becoming law and being proclaimed and being effected in metro but for Nova Scotia.
I believe it is also important for the Community Services Committee to address the question of the costs and the benefits associated with this bill. That committee has full power, if it so chooses, to address that question, as I believe it should and I would encourage any members from our caucus who are sitting on that committee as members to raise this and to pursue it. We have been told that there are going to be $15 million in savings associated with the passage of this legislation and its implementation. I wonder how that number has been derived. I wonder what costs and benefits are associated.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When certain things that have not been done before are done as the result of the passage of this legislation, there are certain other things which will no longer been done. Is the cost of that change a positive or a negative assessment? Is there a positive or a negative benefit accruing to those changes? We do not know. The minister could indeed help the committee and save it a great deal of work if he were prepared to provide it with the documentation which I must assume he has available to him with respect to cost-benefit analysis of the legislation that he has introduced in the House, legislation which is frequently defended by the Minister of Human Resources, the minister responsible for the Civil Service in this province and for many of the people who are going to be effected by this bill.
Surely, that is not too much to ask. The Minister of Municipal Affairs today talked about the importance of a plan. Does a plan not include cost-benefit analysis of what it is proposed that government undertake? Surely it does and surely it behooves the government and the minister to provide that information to the committee and to Nova Scotians.
Assuming this $15 million saving is realized as a result of the creation of this one amalgamated institution, the Community Services Committee must then ask itself, where will that $15 million go? They must ask Nova Scotians to give consideration to that question and come forward to that committee to make recommendations through the committee to the House, to the government and to the minister in particular, or to the ministers, I should say, because this bill seems to have kind of a Siamese twin sponsor in those two ministers.
Will the entire $15 million saving simply accrue to the bottom line of the Minister of Finance's budget so that none of that $15 million will be provided for the new health care system which immediately or by domino effect will accrue to the regions and to the communities throughout this province? Or is it planned that a percentage - we don't yet know what the precise dollar figure would be because we don't know if that entire $15 million can be realized - of that $15 million will be spent to effect this legislation? If that is so, will that percentage be spent entirely in the metro area on these institutions or will it be shared with the regions, and through the regions with the local communities and with other departments which provide ancillary services, to ensure that we simply are not downloading the cost of the provision of health care out of the tertiary care hospital and into our regions and communities and into other government departments?
The answers to those questions are germane as to whether or not this legislation is the right legislation for Nova Scotia to ensure that Nova Scotians have the best health care possible with the dollars spent as wisely as possible. The government does not, and I am sure that government members would readily admit to this, have a proprietary right on wisdom. There is a tremendous body of wisdom in Nova Scotia which can be drawn upon by the Community Services Committee with respect to the financial impacts of this legislation and the financial impacts of the distribution of that $15 million.
Let's give Nova Scotians the opportunity to be heard. Let's give them the opportunity to be heard in their communities, in the regions, not solely in the Red Room in the Law Amendments Committee, which, as we all know, is a pretty fast tracked, formalized process. Let's seek their advice. Let's understand what it is that the men and women across this province, who are pretty smart, think about how these dollars should be distributed and can be best distributed in the interests of health care and health care delivery in Nova Scotia.
Madam Speaker, I believe that as a result of the deliberations of our Community Services Committee consequent to hearing Nova Scotians out, we and all Nova Scotians, the government and the minister will have a better, not just possibility but probability, of understanding how we can devise the best kind of legislation possible, bring these institutions together and make health care delivery more effective and more efficient in Nova Scotia. You know, I know and every member of this House knows from listening to our constituents that there is nothing that strikes closer to home than the question about the future of health care in Nova Scotia and in Canada. Indeed, it is as close to each of us as it is to our constituents.
We have not been pampered with what must be one of the finest health care systems in the world, but we have been blessed with what must be defined as one of the best health care systems in the world. Nova Scotians do not want that standard to deteriorate; they do not want those opportunities to deteriorate; and they want to have the opportunity to participate in the discussions which will lead to the decisions which will impact on the health care delivery system which will serve them and us as we move into the future. The Community Services Committee can expedite and fill out that discussion in a way that is not possible to do either here on the floor of the House or in the Law Amendments Committee, or indeed in Committee of the Whole House.
Madam Speaker, the time is long passed when Nova Scotians are prepared to accept the placebo from one in authority to take two aspirins, go to bed and you will feel better in the morning. Nova Scotians want to know what is in that pill; Nova Scotians want to know what that pill will do for them not just in the short term, but in the long term. They don't want to take that pill if that pill is not going to be of some measurable benefit to them. They want to be part of the discussion.
I anticipate that each of my colleagues in this place who has practised medicine has seen the significant change in the practice of medicine with respect to the relationship between themselves and their patients over the years in exactly that way. I would be willing to bet that each and every one of them, now, finds patients who, on a regular basis, don't simply pick up the prescription and run off to the pharmacist, but ask the prescribing physician, what will this do for me? Will this be good for me? Will it make me better? Are there any side effects? Are there any negative aspects to this prescription which you are providing for me? I would be very surprised if that is not a day to day occurrence for those who are still in the practice of medicine.
So, why would we not ask, through the Community Services Committee, that the people of Nova Scotia be given that very same opportunity with respect to questioning the prescription which the minister provides us in this legislation, a prescription which he says will make them feel better when they get up in the morning, a prescription which they want to understand fully and one in which they want to participate with respect to its final wording.
Mr. Speaker, this is a bill which is more important that just metro. This is a bill which is of vital and central interest of health care across this province. We absolutely must get it right the first time. Everything hangs on it, perhaps even people's lives hang on it. We must ensure that we do not make haste when we should invest even the modest amount of time which would be required for the Community Services Committee to hold hearings in the metropolitan area and throughout the province, to give Nova Scotians from all walks of life the opportunity to address what, for them, is central to their well-being, the continuing provision of the finest health care that we can possibly provide to the people of this province.
Mr. Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to think on these things and to give support to the amendment which is currently before the House. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased this afternoon to speak in support of the amendment that is before us, an amendment that was introduced and presented by the honourable member for Pictou West.
The amendment is basically sending Bill No. 47 or at least the subject matter of Bill No. 47, off to the Standing Committee on Community Services. When one examines and looks very closely at the amendment, it is very easy for one to realize the rationale behind the amendment and, in fact, why it should go off to this very highly reputable committee, the Committee on Community Services. I happen to know that the Community Services Committee has, in the past, travelled around the province and held hearings relative to different important public matters, and when we are talking about merging four facilities into one and welding them together to provide health and health care for a good number of people, perhaps some 35,000 to 40,000 people in this province, we are talking about a very important issue here.
The minister told us in his statements relative to Bill No. 47 that this will be the largest adult referral centre in Eastern Canada and that statement is something, I think, all of us should try to digest and internalize and really get a grasp as to what it means. Many in the medical fraternity have some concerns about this legislation and some of those concerns are very grave. In this province, for example, as I understand it, we only have two neurosurgeons. If this bill and this amendment is to be successful and does go through the House, it will enable people to come before the Committee on Community Services and express their concerns relative to that particular subject matter that I have just identified. The amendment clearly states the subject matter of Bill No. 47 and we know that the subject matter in the legislation is very broad-based.
Whether or not the Community Service Committee would hold its hearings in Halifax . . .
HON. RONALD STEWART: A question, Mr. Speaker. Does the honourable member opposite know the complement of neurosurgeons currently at the hospital, at Dalhousie University and the recruiting efforts of that department?
MR. TAYLOR: If I could, I would like to answer the question this way. I received a call on Monday morning from an individual out in the Meaghers Grant area of Halifax County. An individual received a call from Dr. Langille who, I believe, is an neurosurgeon, and she had been experiencing profound headaches. She believes she has a pinched nerve since late August.
DR. STEWART: Please answer my question.
MR. TAYLOR: I am going to answer your question. The neurosurgeon had his office - she was not speaking directly with Dr. Langille, but she was speaking to Dr. Langille's office - (Laughter) It is not a laughing matter, the lady has been experiencing very severe headaches since the end of August and she cannot get in to see her neurosurgeon because she was told -and I am answering your question now - from the doctor's office that the reason she could not get in until some time in January 1996 was because there are only two practising at the present time. There are only two neurosurgeons.
That is the information I have heard from a constituent who is (Interruptions) Well, perhaps the minister would like to confirm that there are only two, or perhaps he would like to state that there are more. I would be very interested in hearing what the minister has to say.
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, on that point. I have had calls from the Department of Neurosurgery. They are quite upset at the suggestion that the honourable member makes, in terms of having only two people to see patients, and that the recruiting efforts which will bring the complement up to six in the coming year has not been recognized by the honourable member. I am only asking you, did you not know this? If you did not know this, I would suggest that the honourable member find these out before he starts to make statements in this place which would cast aspersions on a division of the university.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe at all that I am doing a disservice to Nova Scotians. When you have a constituent who phones you with a very serious concern, and quite clearly her concern is that since August she has been experiencing very terrible headaches and back pain, I guess what I am trying to point out is that she has been told there are only two neurosurgeons at the QE II who can see her and their work load is very large; the work load of the two doctors is extremely profound. So, obviously, somebody is misleading somebody here; I am certainly just conveying the information that I have received.
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, just a very short question. I am not trying to be political or funny, but what the honourable member has stated is very serious when it gets out into the minds of the public. I wonder if the honourable member would tell, sir, through you to all members of the House, the name of the individual who said we have only two in Nova Scotia?
MR. TAYLOR: Well, I am pleased that the minister asked that question, Mr. Speaker. This seems to be Question Period in reverse order, but I certainly have no reservation or any hesitancy at all. (Interruption) The individual who phoned me, his name, and I told him that it may come down to my having to divulge the individual's name, and he said he have no problem with that. The individual's name is Mr. Ronald Clarke and Ronald lives in the beautiful community of Meaghers Grant and his wife's name is Pat Clarke. Pat has been experiencing very severe headaches since the end of August and she had an appointment to go in to see the neurosurgeon, Dr. Langille, tomorrow. I am advising the minister that she had an appointment to go in to see him tomorrow and she was told that she couldn't go until January.
MR. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of clarification. I would like to know what person told Mr. and Mrs. Clarke that they could not get in, that there were only two in the Province of Nova Scotia? I don't want Mr. and Mrs. Clarke's name discussed, I want to know what medical person or what doctor told them there were only two in the Province of Nova Scotia?
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that we all, not just in Opposition, act responsibly in here. I think we all have a certain accountability, if you will, to the public. I do not know who was speaking to the Clarkes, but - and here is the answer for the minister - the phone call came from Dr. Langille's office. These people didn't just phone me because they had nothing else to do, they are phoning because they are very serious. They are saying that they were told there are only two neurosurgeons in the province to serve the patients and the waiting list is very extensive, the list is very long. I am just telling the minister what I heard. So the poor lady will suffer and suffer as she had and it is terrible.
MR. SPEAKER: I want to draw the attention of all members and I don't mean this just directed at the member speaking, but I just want to remind everybody in the House that we are speaking on an amendment and that amendment is to move this matter to a standing committee of the House. So all comments, be they questions or answers or comments, all should be directed on the pluses or minuses as to whether this matter should be sent to this standing committee.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, thank you for those very wise and refreshing words. People like the Clarkes, if this amendment lives so to speak, would be able to come in and appear before the Community Services Committee. They could express from personal experience some of the concerns they have relative to the health care or the lack of it in this province. Neurosis is a very serious concern and I know our minister is very busy but abnormalities and things of that nature, people with acute and chronic illness also would like the opportunity, I believe, to appear before the Committee on Community Services.
The honourable member for Halifax-Bedford Basin, the Chairman of the Community Services Committee, not too awfully long ago did go out and hold hearings relative to another matter but if we look at that as an example and I think it is important that we do look at that as an example as to just how beneficial the Committee on Community Services is. We know that the recommendations that the Chairman and his committee, with members for Annapolis, Yarmouth, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, Sackville, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Pictou Centre now, Hants West and, of course, now Cape Breton West, when those members came back with the recommendations, obviously they weren't all adhered to. But a good number of them were so it is important that we give that committee, that Community Services Committee, a lot of credibility and a lot of support because I think that is a mechanism or vehicle that is not utilized as much as it could be.
Here is a piece of legislation, some 26 or 27 clauses, that certainly needs further examination, it warrants it. If we are really going to better serve the needs of the community and the needs of perhaps New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, I think it is important that we support this type of an amendment. I think it is important that we do look at the presenter of this amendment because the member has extensive experience here in the house and he didn't come forward with this amendment just for something to do. He is acting extremely responsibly, he is a conscientious MLA and he feels that he has a duty to put something on the floor that will make this legislation more doable and palatable for the people of Nova Scotia. I commend the member and I just wanted to briefly digress and do that and I thank you very much for affording me that opportunity.
We are talking also about job displacement here. I know there are perhaps 1,000 people who are going to lose their jobs. These people are no different than you and I. Most of them, hopefully, have two arms and two legs, they also have families to feed, bills to pay, financial commitments. Don't you think they would like to have an opportunity to appear before the Community Services Committee. Absolutely. I haven't had the opportunity, I have been extremely fortunate and lucky in my employment career, so to speak, that I have never been discharged or sacked. But it is not a very pleasant feeling I can certainly attest to that I think without having to experience the sensation. So if all employees are going to be treated fairly and all employees must be treated equally, I think we have to support this amendment.
You are not only going to have the health care provider come in and appear before the Committee on Community Services, you are also perhaps going to have the public as patient come in. The minister gave us some numbers of 35,000 people on an annual basis who have been or will be patients of the facilities, so out of that number, surely to goodness there are some people who are very concerned about the type of treatment that they are going to receive at the new QE II. If this amendment is to survive, again, it is people like that who will come in and express their views so you might have a health care provider sitting beside a patient. You could have support staff, you could have clerical, you could have all these types of people from all different walks of life coming in and appearing before the Committee on Community Services.
Now all the expressions and opinions that they put forward, I don't believe they are all going to be the same. They are going to come from different backgrounds. They are going to give this government and this minister a whole new perspective on just what is going on out in the Nova Scotian community. Now the Rehab Centre, the Cancer Research facility, the Victoria General Hospital and let's not forget, Mr. Speaker, the Camp Hill Medical Centre are going to be merged and it is going to be done properly. It has to be done properly. There are some individuals, perhaps from Yarmouth, who would like the committee to go to Yarmouth and conduct hearings.
The member for Yarmouth who is also a pretty good hockey player, Mr. Speaker, perhaps he would like the opportunity to talk to some of his constituents. From time to time, there are cases where people suffer very severe medical illnesses in Yarmouth and the Yarmouth County area and from time to time they are flown to the Halifax International Airport and then, of course, transported in to Halifax. People with families who have experienced that type of need and that type of service, perhaps they would like to have an opportunity to go and appear and give the committee their viewpoint. How could you argue and speak against something like that? Perhaps in the County of Annapolis there are some individuals who would like the committee to go to Annapolis. I believe, if my memory serves me well, the member for Annapolis is on the Community Services Committee so I think it is really important that the amendment does receive support from the House.
Now there will be areas of course in the metro area where you could have one or two hearings. But when you are making a major change and you are developing public policy that hasn't had and hasn't received the necessary input from all the partners - we won't call them stakeholders - I think then there is something missing. There is something lacking with the legislation.
Now I did note that when the minister made his comments relative to the legislation that when he was prefacing, so to speak, moving the bill to second reading, the minister took what appeared to be great care not to address the legislation. The minister talked in generalities, very little specifics, and I think we need more detail. Again by going to the Community Services Committee, we can receive some of that much needed detail.
Now, I suggested yesterday, when I was supporting an amendment to hoist this bill for six months, that there has been no cost-benefit analysis provided. The minister has told us again, in a general sort of way, that we will be saving, or at least the province will be saving $15 million. Now $15 million is a substantial amount of money, but you know what, Mr. Speaker, the minister has not forwarded any documents, no documentation to support that type of statement.
If I went out on the street and told somebody that I had $15 million, they would tell me I was a fool. They would know darn well that I did not know what I was talking about and that I do not have that type of money. Well they would tell me to produce something to state that I had that type of money. If, on the other hand, I said, Mr. Speaker, that I had $5.00, I could probably reach around and find that, but I could produce something that would represent that. If the minister is going to talk in terms of generalities, he better have some documents to support the detail because he has not explained them. He has not articulated the details. No, the minister has not done that. So I think all members of the House should support this amendment. It is an extremely good amendment.
The minister has asked us to have confidence in him. Mr. Speaker, having just asked the question, perhaps we could have confidence and support the Minister of Health, but we are talking about things here that could have the potential to affect the lives and the health of everyday Nova Scotians.
The minister tells us, again, that he can produce a list. Well, if the minister can produce a list he should in fact come forward with it. Why would he hold back if he has a list to support his contention that he can save $15 million? We also have no assurances, no guarantee. We have not been told as to whether the new hospital will be under the regional board. Now you and I both know, Mr. Speaker, that the new board, whichever board that looks after the new QE II, is going to receive a budget from the Department of Health and of course from the Minister of Health. Essentially, what this does is allows the board to look after things like lay-offs, address things like pay equity, collective bargaining, benefits and things of that nature.
The labour package, as I understand it, does not deal with many situations that are critical to a smooth transition. So if we are really going to have a smooth merging of these facilities, let's put the Community Services Committee to work. Now, I understand the committee members have, especially the chair, an incredible work load now, looking after two constituencies, but I do not know. I think he might be able to stretch another hour out of his day.
Something we should note, and I think it is very germane, Mr. Speaker, is when we look at the composition of the Community Services Committee that we find that the former member for Halifax Fairview, if you will, is still listed as a member of that committee. Now that could create, it will create a shortage unless the Third Party put forward another name to take the place of the former Leader of the Third Party and member for Halifax Fairview. That is one shortcoming that committee may have because I think you do need input from the Third Party on that committee.
Now that was just a little housekeeping, Mr. Speaker. I thought it was important to clear up because when you look at a committee, you have to look at the composition because the minister has spoken in general terms relative to the bill, I think it is time that we got a little more specific here and dealt with the particulars.
MR. GERALD FOGARTY: Mr. Speaker, on a point of clarification. If I might just point out since the member for Halifax Atlantic was engaged in conversation with another member of the House, I think I should clarify that, as Chair of the Community Services Committee, I had been notified that there is a replacement for the former member for Halifax Fairview, of course, who is no longer a member of this House. I just want to make that clear.
AN HON. MEMBER: Who is it?
MR. FOGARTY: That is the member for Halifax Atlantic who is now the new member of the Community Services Committee.
MR. SPEAKER: I want to thank the member for that point of information.
MR. TAYLOR: I thank the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin. He is certainly a very careful individual when he deals, I am sure, with his committee and now we know that they have a full complement, all the more reason to support this amendment.
But, Mr. Speaker, a lot of the employees who are going to be displaced will want to go and appear, I believe, before this committee. There is nothing in here that guarantees one worker's job. The Minister of Human Resources, yesterday, pointed out a couple of clauses in the bill that provided some nebulous type of job protection, but there really was no guarantee. If you look at it closely, you could read it probably three different ways and come up with 10 different meanings.
Now, when this government came to power there was a lot of fanfare about jobs, jobs, jobs. But what we are seeing on a daily basis is people from the public sector in Nova Scotia lose their jobs. How can anybody, in good conscience, support a Nova Scotian losing their job? You know, the 30-60-90 initiative, we heard about that at first on a daily basis, but I like to refer to it as 90 minus 60 minus 30. That equals zero, Mr. Speaker. That is what this labour package equals, a big fat zero. It does not give the employees enough protection. It gives them some protection, but there will be 800 to 1,000 people replaced.
So did the government, the question begs to be asked, and did either or both the Minister of Human Resources and the Minister of Health, . . .
HON. JAY ABBASS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite might be talking about the labour adjustment strategy that was announced about one week or one week and one-half ago. I believe we are dealing today with second reading of the QE II bill, are we not or an amendment thereto? In fact, there is no problem with us going on and talking about the labour adjustment strategy because it was something that was much awaited by the employees of the health care system. It was worked upon by union, management and government. It was a good package that people were glad to see. If he wants to give us some credit for that, that is excellent, but I think we are not talking here about a policy or a package that is called the labour adjustment strategy, but rather about a bill called the QE II bill, I think.
MR. SPEAKER: I think that the minister's point of order actually is in order. I have allowed this to go fairly wide, due to some earlier questions. But, certainly, the labour strategy is going a touch too wide. Mind you, we have allowed some lenience here, but I think the minister is correct and I would ask the member to direct himself to the amendment.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am getting very near the end of my contribution to this debate. I hope I have provided all members with some useful thoughts to give some consideration to. If the amendment is supported, of course the different unions, and there are many unions down at the different facilities that represent the employees, it would give the unions who feel that the legislation does not reflect their concerns and that is a consideration that I think all members should give when this amendment comes up for a vote.
We do have to be careful every time we put people out of work that we have to look and see what the alternative is. If those people were allowed to come into the Community Services Committee, I am sure we would hear a lot of opinions and views and ideas that, probably, are quite different from those of the Minister of Health and those of the Minister of Human Resources. Now, the Community Services Committee could go down and, in fact, set up shop, hold a hearing in Truro. Truro is a beautiful little town, it is centrally located. The hospital in the Truro area is the Colchester Regional Hospital.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that members of your constituency - and I really believe that this is relevant because a lot of citizens from your community in East Hants, specifically along the corridor area, would like to be in the Central Health Region. It seems like a very reasonable request. Over 2,000 were signatories.
MR. SPEAKER: I am afraid I am going to have to stop the member. We are dealing with the bill with regard to merger of these four units. While I have great sympathy for the subject the member is discussing, it is not relevant to this amendment and I would ask your indulgence in that regard.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You are quite right but I am just hoping that somebody will give that petition a lot of consideration.
Now, Mr. Speaker, people from all different communities in Nova Scotia, be it East Hants or Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley or Kings North or any of the 52 different constituencies (Interruption) Yes, absolutely, Shelburne. They might like to have an opportunity to come in before the committee. Granted, you are right, the bill doesn't essentially distinguish the different health regions but the bill does talk about providing a referral service for adults. That represents, we are told again, some 35,000 people. So just based on some of the information that I have and based on some of the information that I know other speakers will have relative to the amendment, I encourage all members in this House to support the amendment. We have a lot of people in this province. I believe that next to our families, we consider health and health care and the provision of that service to be very important. We certainly don't want to hasten it, but we all may find out from time to time that we may need some health service. So let's do this right, let's do this bill proper. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have again an opportunity to address certain elements of the legislation which is before us and, more to the point, the amendment which is before us. The amendment calls for a reference of this particular piece of legislation to study by committee.
There are many issues relative to the bill and, may I say, the shortcomings and failures of the bill, which are, indeed, in some cases taken by themselves but certainly taken as a collectivity are sufficient, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, to justify the reference of this particular bill to that committee. May I start with these. This bill has the effect of bringing together what are probably the most significant, with respect to every other hospital and clinic and health care facility in this province, are probably the centrepiece of the health care delivery system in this province; indeed, may I say, in Atlantic Canada.
We are told by the Minister of Health and by others that what will happen here, should Bill No. 47 pass, is that we are going to have a situation where we will have something in the order of $50 million of the taxpayers dollars saved as a consequence of this amalgamation or merger.
That is a wonderful statement, it pleases me on a personal basis as the MLA in which all of these institutions happen to reside and in whose constituency hundreds of the health care staff, be they doctors, nurses, technicians, whatever, happen to reside, that is wonderful news that the Minister of Health and others would stand up and say do this, pass Bill No. 47 and we are going to save the taxpayers $50 million. The difficulty I have with that is, as I know you know, that at no point, despite repeated requests, there is not one single document before the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that addresses the question of the savings, if any, and the particulars of any calculation made relative to alleged savings in regard to this amalgamation or merger.
On that account along, I suggest to you, it is completely legitimate, more to the point, completely appropriate for us on the basis of having the taxpayers have an opportunity to come to an understanding of the financial implications of the effect of this legislation to refer it to a committee so that we can have the Minister of Health, the financial people from the Department of Health, the financial people from all of the various institutions which are to be merged under this bill, indeed, the Auditor General, come to that committee and provide the taxpayers of Nova Scotia with a detailed and reliable financial analysis.
Is it really reasonable for us, as legislators, to come into this place one day and say, we are going to pull together four of the most significant health care institutions in Halifax, in Nova Scotia, in Atlantic Canada and it is going to save the Nova Scotian taxpayers $50 million and, at the same time, never ever see a document, a financial statement which comes within life years of addressing that particular number. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that is not proper procedure or policy or public policy-making to say nothing of proper legislation-making.
The first order of business that is available to us as legislators and, more to the point, available to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia if this amendment were to pass and I urge that it does, it would put around the table the men and women who could make a legitimate detailed, precise analysis of the financial pros and cons of the merger. I address that issue, because you will recall that when the minister rose here in his place to address this particular issue, he made particular reference of the fact and I made a couple of notes as he said the words. He said when he moved second reading of this bill, ". . . will generate savings and operating funds that will be put to the . . ." care of people". Well, if that is so and don't I hope it is so, if it is so, and the result therefore is that the quality of care provided to all Nova Scotian taxpayers is even greater health care provided, is even greater, more effective and more helpful than is now the case, then I would be the first to applaud and support this initiative.
The frustration is, and others of my colleagues who have watched the Minister of Health and dealt with him and have tried to get answers from him in Question Period and so on, they may feel perhaps different than I do, I do not know. I believe the Minister of Health is a man of very fine spirit, of very real good intention, is able when it comes to his ability to articulate his position, I might say able on occasion, when it is his view and when he is so minded to respond to a question which, if he were prepared to be more direct and straightforward and more forthcoming with us, he could because he has the considerable skills to do it, he could be direct in his answers with us and provide us with some detail. He can be, on occasion, the master of obfuscation and he has demonstrated that in relation to questions put to him relative to this particular piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I say to you that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia cannot be faulted to have some of us rise on their behalf in this place and say, don't pass Bill No. 47 until we find out that Dr. Stewart, the Minister of Health, is telling the truth when he says it is going to result in $50 million worth of savings. That is a completely legitimate question for every single one of your constituents to ask you and probably many have. I will tell you that many of them have asked me that question.
Therefore, I say to you in support of the motion which is before the committee, that vitally important financial detail, analysis, result and potential is one of those, if not among the first of those, which could be addressed in the committee process. It can't be addressed and you know the process, it can't be reasonably and fully and appropriately canvassed in the Law Amendments Committee process. It just simply can't be done but in the Community Services Committee it can. I offer that to you, if I may, as one reason, one element of my argument which I suggest to you and to all colleagues justifies the referral of this bill to the committee as is recommended by the amendment which we now debate.
Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you as a second element or public policy issue principle, vitally important matter, which cannot be adequately addressed here - well, I will take a little, as an old deputy of mine used to say, I will take a little bit off that fast ball - it perhaps could be addressed here but we have not seen any evidence of a willingness on the part of the members of government to address it here and that is this.
The merger or amalgamation or coordination or rigging together of these health care delivery processes haven't really been the subject, and because of the system we have here and the way rules allow us to engage in debate here and because on occasion we don't seem to get from my good friend the Minister of Health terribly straight answers, I don't believe that there are three Nova Scotians, and I include the 51 men and women who are members of this House, I don't think there are three Nova Scotians who understand with any degree of clarity or precision at all, what the likely health care delivery reality will be in and from and through the QE II Health Sciences Centre, if, as and when it comes together as is proposed in this legislation.
How can we, in good conscience, pass legislation on the basis of, sort of, well trust me, kind of comments from the Minister of Health, trust me that I am following the Blueprint document. I will say to you that there is evidence, after evidence, after evidence, day in and day out that this Minister of Health while he stands in his place and says, I am following the Blueprint, the evidence is to the contrary. One of the organizations, interestingly enough, that occurs to me that indicates on a regular basis that this minister is not following the Blueprint is the very organization which is attempting to emasculate and cut the legs out from under and that, of course, is the Provincial Health Council.
How can we allow this minister, this government, to introduce legislation which brings together four of the most significant health delivery institutions in all of this province and tell us here and say on the public platform, it is going to provide better medical health care to Nova Scotians and, indeed, to Atlantic Canada? When we asked specific questions on that issue of this minister, indeed, we asked questions of that kind of the distinguished Premier, who either does not know anything about what goes on in health care or anywhere else in the government, but he proceeds constantly to refer them to the ministers, always prefacing his reference by my very able minister of so and so. Well, if the Minister of Health is half as able as the Premier believes him to be, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health would have long ago answered, here in this place, in some detail, what is going to be the health care delivery system through the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.
We have asked this minister, on behalf of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia repeatedly, please, Mr. Minister, if you do not want to stand up and talk about the health care delivery process, please put on the Clerk's table, a document, an analysis which is done by medical practitioners, the men and women who know what is going to happen, or believe they know, or at least have heard you say to them - you, the Minister of Health say to them - what the health care delivery system will be through the new amalgamated system. Put that in writing and put it on this table so that all members of the Legislature and through us, every Nova Scotian taxpayer, can understand how the health care delivery system is going to function through this new Health Sciences Centre. That minister has failed or refused to do that, despite repeated requests.
Mr. Speaker, I go back when on an earlier and a previous incarnation, and I wrote on Leader of the Opposition letterhead to the Minister of Health as far back as July 28, 1994 and I will table this. I wrote to Dr. Stewart at that time, and I said, "I am writing to you to express my caucus's concern with your proposed hospital merger in the Metro area.". Mind you, July 1994 and this is November 1995. It is almost one and one-half year later. "The following queries are not only those of the Opposition, but follow conversations with health providers and employees affected, as well as those in the community who rely on the services of the institutions in question.".
I will not go through the whole letter, but I do say, reference the Blueprint Report, the Blueprint Report which the Minister of Health constantly cites. The Blueprint Report states, "`because provincial and tertiary programs are a resource for all of Nova Scotia, . . .'", so it is not just constituents and taxpayers in my constituency, Mr. Speaker, they are your constituents and the constituents of all 51 of us here, "`because provincial and tertiary programs are a resource for all of Nova Scotia, they should be delivered in a way that is responsive and accountable to all regions . . .'".
Listen to this, "`The Provincial Programs Advisory Committee, with a representative from each of the four regions, the Department of Health and others should plan, coordinate and deliver these programs.'". That is a quote, not from me, but from the Blueprint document which the Minister of Health constantly tells us he is following. I then said to the minister, "Perhaps you could explain whether the PPAC", the Provincial Programs Advisory Committee, "has been set up and if it was truly involved in the process on which this decision", the decision to merge the four units, "has been based.". Then I wrote, typical of me, some other things.
I write this letter in June of 1994 and I write it to the Minister of Health and I expected that I would probably would get back an answer, Mr. Speaker, from the Minister of Health that would answer the questions or respond in a meaningful way. One more quick quote from my letter because it relates to a matter which is fundamental to what a committee can do and will do and should do, must do, upon reference of this bill to that committee. I asked back in July 1994, "With regard to the employees, the blueprint outlines the need for a Labour Adjustment Subcommittee. This subcommittee would be `mandated to develop and implement a comprehensive labour adjustment strategy that addresses the needs of employees in the reformed health care system during the transition period.' Areas which should be addressed are listed as `continuing education, retraining, relocation assistance within the system, early retirement packages, employment network, counselling? The blueprint suggests that to support labour adjustment during the reform of our health system, a transition fund should be established. Can you inform our caucus and the affected workers whether these are principles of the blueprint which are being followed in the looming amalgamation?".
I wrote that letter in July 1994, and I got a letter back from Ronald D. Stewart, M.D., Minister of Health, September 1994, a couple of months later. He thanks me for my letter of July 28th, detailing the many concerns that my caucus and I have with the proposed merger of the Victoria General Hospital, Camp Hill Medical Centre, Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre and the Nova Scotia Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation into a new organization called the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.
"As you are aware", says the minister, "the need to streamline health services within the Metropolitan area has been a top priority with this government. The intent of these initiatives has been to avoid duplication of service and to generate administrative saving. . . This restructuring has taken place in the spirit of the Blue Print Recommendations for Health Reform.".
Then he gets into talking about home care and so on. On the bottom, he says, "In the meantime I thank you for your interest in health care reform and for raising your concerns about the creation of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.".
That is September 1994, and I wrote this minister in July 1994 and I asked him a couple of fundamental questions. We are now asked to debate a bill which would bring together and merge these institutions and this minister has not answered any of those questions. The questions are fundamental because the questions relate to what is the health care delivery system going to be under this new arrangement. Second, and I asked him - I am not a johnny-come-lately on this question, I am dealing with questions that I put to the same minister over a year ago - I asked on behalf of the employees, what happens to the employees? Well I will tell you what is going to happen to the employees - and that is another reason, Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you why it is appropriate that this amendment be supported and why this bill be referred to the committee - to put it in the vernacular, the potential is very real that somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 men and women who have worked long and hard at the Victoria General Hospital are going to get it in the neck if this bill passes in its present form.
Why do I say that? I say that because there are in this bill a number of provisions which establish public policy principles which (a) run counter to existing collective agreement rights enjoyed by 2,000 to 2,500 men and women; and (b) there are provisions in this bill which have the effect of in fact ripping up certain elements of the collective agreement rights which pertain.
HON. JAY ABBASS: I know that I would be intruding upon the honourable member's time if I were to intervene in this matter, only if he wishes me to rise and engage in debate will I do so.
MR. DONAHOE: The member is perfectly able to make comments and if he wants to, I will do my best to respond to any comments he makes and then if he wants to debate the amendment then he will get up later and engage in the debate.
MR. ABBASS: The honourable member opposite gives the impression that collective agreements are being ripped up or that salaries, benefits or entitlements under collective agreements are being ignored. The member opposite is a lawyer, and, I believe, he probably has practised labour law at one time or another in his career and I know he has a full grasp of the various clauses of this bill. So maybe I could point out a few clauses and maybe he could address himself to those clauses.
MR. SPEAKER: I think we have to understand that you can speak generally about the content but not specifically about the clauses.
MR. ABBASS: Okay, very well. That is quite valid. We shouldn't, then, go into detail clause by clause at this point.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Just so that we are absolutely clear, I have no difficulty at all with this debate and engaging in some dialogue with the minister. In fact, this is the democratic process at its finest. Well, that is not quite true; if somebody more able than I were a participant in this debate, it might then be democracy at its finest. However, this is exactly the kind of thing that Legislatures are supposed to be all about.
However, Mr. Speaker, on the point of order. It is really a question to you but I rise on a point of order. If this minister invites me to address specific provisions of this bill, I then ask of you the permission that after my dialogue with him is finished, I have the opportunity to address any and all of the specific provisions of the bill which occur to me as supportive of the argument which I make relative to the amendment we debate.
MR. SPEAKER: I understand the point of order. I had made comment on it earlier, but I will make it very clear. I have no right, as the Speaker of this House, to change the Rules of this House or even suspend them without unanimous consent of this House and I am not asking for that. I would advise that the minister must not speak to particular clauses in the bill because we are on an amendment in second reading. I would direct that, I would direct the response, keep that in mind, and all the debate thereafter, keep that in mind. So no, there must not be reference to particular clauses in the bill. General reference is in order.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Well, I think we should adhere to the general principles of the bill. Therefore, I will simply state that the intent of the bill, the principle to which it adheres, is that successorship should be respected and is under the bill, that salaries and benefits, entitlements under collective agreements are respected and extended to employees of either the VG Hospital or the other three institutions involved in the amalgamation.
The wording is clear. I know the member is a lawyer and would fully appreciate the full meaning of Clause 20(1)(a), which says in a very straightforward manner that, "the Corporation is bound by successor rights as determined pursuant to the Trade Union Act;". There are other clauses, of course, including Clause 17(2)(e), which do talk about the guarantee of salary and benefits to the employee but I won't stray any further into a clause by clause.
It would be inappropriate for any member of the House to either give the House or people who might be viewing the proceedings here, members of the general public or members of one or the other unions involved in this, the impression that collective rights or entitlements, salaries, benefits are being overridden in any way, shape or form. The bill is very clear, readable and understandable by anyone who is capable of reading a clause as straightforward as Clause 20(1)(a). It is there in plain black and white.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, you have heard the old line, that is one man's opinion. (Interruption) One person's opinion, thank you very much.
It is interesting that now that we are looking at the bill, we find references in this bill to persons who are, Clause 17(1)(b)(ii), "employed by the Board of the Victoria General or by the minister as provided by the Governor in Council, . . .". We have a real problem. Then it reads, Clause 17(1)(b)(iii), "otherwise employed by the Board of the Victoria General or the Minister.". There is a real problem with language, talking about people employed by the board of the Victoria General Hospital, because the fact of the matter is that the employees at the Victoria General Hospital are not employees of the board of the Victoria General Hospital, they are employees of the province and there are some very tricky and complex and almost mind-boggling legal issues that have to be resolved here.
I simply say to you, I am going on advice that I am given, I do not profess to be a labour law expert. I do not know that the Minister of Human Resources is a labour law expert. He may be, he may have a very extensive background in that field of law, of which I am not aware. If he is, I bow to his superior knowledge, I do not know that he is. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, I have to be, as I am sure the minister does, guided by advice in council which takes from Deputy Ministers and labour law experts retained by himself and his deputy and the staff and P & P and everybody else over there who retains these people.
I say to you that the organization which represents 2,500 of the employees makes an exceedingly strong case, as far as I am concerned, that if this bill passes in its present form, there are very real implications. Collective bargaining rights are set out in 9 or 10 collective agreements or more, the minister would perhaps have the precise number at his fingertips. The Minister of Health, as I said a moment ago when he raised this issue, talked about equity and fairness. However, I say to you and say it to you, Mr. Speaker, as justification for the value in the reference of this bill to the committee. that I want to point out while, as an aside or an editorial comment on the way through, I know you understand and I think all members do, that if this motion passes and if this bill were to be referred to this committee, the committee could be functioning almost immediately (Interruption) Yes, there would be some functionaries there. We do not have to waste undue or unreasonable amounts of time.
The Education Bill is going to be in Law Amendments Committee for days and days. The Education Bill when it comes back here is going to be subject to debate and clause by clause review for days and days. We are going to have a considerable number of days in a committee environment where the kinds of issues which I am raising and others have perhaps, more adequately than I already raised, would be able to be reviewed by such a committee.
The Minister of Human Resources has just stood up and he says to you, well all I have to do is read Clause 20(1) (Interruption) and I do read that and it talks about successor rights. I guess I am almost tempted to say, so what? Because, what the minister does not read is a whole bunch of other clauses - which I am, in this phase of our procedure, not allowed to read and I am not going to do that in here which, if they were read, clearly and fairly would indicate that the collective bargaining rights of members who are now employees of various . . .
HON. JAY ABBASS: Just to intervene, the member opposite is quite right that it would be inappropriate to stray into it clause by clause at this point, but there is definitely a procedure of this House that has been used for many years and that, of course, leads a bill through first reading, second reading and the member opposite is certainly more familiar than I am with it. After this, hopefully the bill will go to the Law Amendments Committee and then after that we will have a clause by clause, presumably.
That is exactly the process that we should be following with this bill. That is exactly what I have been saying in this House for quite some time now in the last several hours and days. The Law Amendments Committee process and the process on third reading is exactly what we should be pursuing.
AN HON. MEMBER: On a point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I take it that the minister is on a point of order, it sounds like; (Interruption) a point of privilege then.
MR. DONAHOE: I took my place seeing the minister rise on the understanding that he was going to carry on the debate and dialogue that your predecessor in the Chair had permitted us to embark upon, Mr. Speaker.
If the minister is now wanting to talk about why this amendment should not pass and part of his argument might be that we have the processes that he was starting to describe, then, with respect, I suggest to you, since I have the floor or had the floor I thought, if the minister wants to get up and engage in this debate and debate the amendment before us, when I finish my remarks and relinquish the floor, he has every right to stand up and talk about Law Amendments, and clause by clause, and third reading and anything else he wants to. But with respect, I would prefer to continue to attempt to make my argument in support of the amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: All right, very well, carry on. If I could just respond, I would say that our tradition here perhaps, for want of a better term, is that when a member has the floor, he may yield temporarily to another member who wishes to make an intervention. I don't want to be too strict about that but it appears the honourable member for Halifax Citadel wishes to continue his remarks, so he may continue.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is my contention that this bill, Bill No. 47, contains within it a number of exceedingly complex and threatening provisions relative to the rights and privileges and responsibilities of some thousands of employees of the institutions which will be merged if this legislation were to go forward.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, is this a point of order?
HON. JAY ABBASS: No, again just an intervention only at the pleasure of the member opposite. If he is going to raise the spectre of several threatening clauses, we should at least be sure to which clause he is referring or which principle, at least, of this bill is repugnant to him. Is it the one that guarantees pension benefits to the employees or LTD or successorship, or seniority, or service? Which one of those terribly repugnant or threatening benefits does the member find difficult to deal with?
MR. DONAHOE: I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, as best I can in response to what the minister raises with me, that there are clauses in this bill which will, in fact, have the effect that employees who are at present civil servants are transferred out of the Civil Service, they will not be transferred out with all of their existing rights intact and the union which now represents them has no assurance that they will be the bargaining agent for that union. I refer the minister who now waves his hand at me as if he doesn't want me to give him the answer to the question he thought was so important when he put it - so he can leave if he wants - but Clause 17 is highly significant in the area that I am now describing.
I have concerns, as do others, about the fact that this bill overrides collective agreement right existing . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Is this a question or a point of order or what?
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, what is this?
MR. ABBASS: An intervention, Mr. Speaker. If the member is going to refer to Clause 17 and say in a very vague way that it gives him concerns, well, please point out which of those subclauses gives him the concern. I think he is actually mistaking Clause 17 for Clause 20, which is the one which guarantees successorship to the employees and the union that represents them. Maybe we could stick to that clause, if he has any concerns.
MR. SPEAKER: All right. Now I want to state this before the member answers. The member is not required to yield the floor except to a point of order or privilege. He is entitled to entertain a question but that is by agreement. So if any interruptions take place, they presumably would be questions that the member agrees to accept, and if he doesn't wish to accept them, he doesn't have to.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, if the minister opposite wants to simply suggest that all is sweetness and light relative to collective agreements and the rights and status of employees in this legislation by virtue of a careful and an appropriate reading and interpretation and application of Clause 20, then he can say that all he wants. I am saying to you, Mr. Speaker, in support of the argument that this matter go to committee and be addressed there, is that I happen to think and, indeed, those unions which represent 2,500 men and women who work in these institutions happen to believe that Clause 20 does not do that at all. In fact, I know I am skirting the rules a little bit by making reference to particular clauses, but Clause 17 and a few other clauses to which reference I will make, do otherwise. Clause 20 is not the saviour and the salvation section which this minister suggests.
There are real problems, Mr. Speaker, with this bill in regard to overriding collective agreement rights. There are problems in connection with this bill regarding Public Service long-term disability plans. There are problems in this bill regarding existing grievance procedures and adjudications.
MR. SPEAKER: A point of order is called by the honourable Minister of Human Resources.
HON. JAY ABBASS: No, it would be incorrect to call it a point order. Only if the member is willing to yield the floor will I intervene. So that is up to him.
MR. DONAHOE: He is on a point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: He said it was not a point of order, but if you were willing to yield the floor, he had a question.
MR. DONAHOE: Oh, a question, yes.
MR. ABBASS: On a question, Mr. Speaker, I have said, at various points in the progress of the debate of this bill, that every time someone asserts that collective rights are being overridden, I will rise, as I am now, and reassert that collective agreement rights are not overridden. In fact, one of the fundamental principles of this bill is that benefits and salaries, collective agreement rights are respected. It is misleading of anyone to assert otherwise.
Now, if the member opposite is going to refer vaguely to any clause of this bill and pretend that it says something quite opposite to what it does, please, could he flesh out his argument. Because the Clause 17 to which he refers is one of the ones that assures that salaries and benefits are extended to the employees that we are dealing with here.
MR. DONAHOE: Well see, Mr. Speaker, my response is, that is not right.
AN HON. MEMBER: Well then sit down.
MR. DONAHOE: Well you tell me how. The difficulty I have, Mr. Speaker, and you know my difficulty. You cannot allow, you should not under the rules, allow this minister to stand up and cite to me, as he wants to do, Clause 20 or any subclause of Clause 20 and say, that does this and that does that. Because if you do that, you must give me the right to read line by line other elements of this bill and that is not the phase that we are in, unfortunately. We are talking about the principle of the bill and we have a fundamental disagreement. The fundamental disagreement is on the principle of the bill. This minister suggests that the principle of the bill, to paraphrase him, preserves and saves those rights for those workers.
I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is clear on my analysis and it is clear in the opinion of unions who represent the men and women, that their rights are not preserved. And because that is what they say to me and because having walked me through the legislation carefully and having done some independent analysis of my own, I share the view. I use that argument in support of the amendment which is before us, that we could and we should and we can, in a better fashion then is possible here or in the Law Amendments Committee or in clause by clause, we have a better chance if we were to refer this to the committee recommended and this minister could be present, the Minister of Health could be present and the appropriate experts in labour law - and this minister and I are not in that category - could make representations to that committee and the difficulties which many thousands of men and women who are scared to death what the implications are of this legislation for their jobs could have their representatives make their case, which has not yet been able to be made and this minister and his officials would be there and they would be able to respond and simply indicate you are wrong and you are wrong because of clause whatever.
MR. SPEAKER: Would you permit an introduction?
MR. DONAHOE: Surely, would permit an introduction.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention and the members of the House, a distinguished group of people from Cape Breton who are visiting the Legislature today and appearing before the Law Amendments Committee. We have, from Local 781 of the Cape Breton District School Board, Judy Martell, Patricia Day, Maurice Farrell, Sandra Muise, Liz Mulak, Florine Larade, Millie George, Bruce MacDonald, Janice Mader, Shirley Sampson and the Canadian Union of Public Employees representative, Barbara Kowalski, is here with them. So I would ask that the House afford them the usual welcome. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Now, we are going to return back to the amendment. The amendment is that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. It is not a clause by clause examination of the bill. The honourable member for Halifax Citadel has the floor and is entitled to be heard without interruption except by agreement on his part that he is willing to take the question.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Human Resources has been quick to take me up short on those occasions when I have been bold enough to suggest that the language in Bill No. 47 does some of the terrible things that I suggest and others suggest that it does. He responds to me by saying and he has responded to others by saying, but that is not right because if you look at Clause 20, and I am not going to get into clause by clause, but if you look at Clause 20 which is the place he continues to refer, that is all answered.
I note it is interesting that the minister has not made reference to the fact, nor has the Minister of Health to my knowledge made any reference to the fact, that what I believe to be some very important language which appeared in the Transition Agreement dated May 29, 1992, which was the subject of discussion between the NSGEU and the Minister of Health and Minister Norrie and her capacity at that time as Minister of Human Resources and a commitment was made. A commitment was made by those ministers that the language which appeared in that Transitional Agreement would in fact appear in the legislation when introduced and it has not. The minister is on his feet . . .
MR. SPEAKER: But, you are on your feet and you have the floor, sir, unless you wish to allow a question.
MR. DONAHOE: Is the minister on his feet to ask a question?
HON. JAY ABBASS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, on a question. The member opposite is asserting something that just is not true vis-a-vis his assertion that some agreement was made to incorporate directly into a bill a Transition Agreement. One of the key things that the bill does though is incorporate one of the fundamental aspects of the Transition Agreement which was of such great concern to especially the NSGEU, and that is that successorship is extended to the employees, to the union involved and to the unions involved and that the salaries, benefits, entitlements under collective agreements are respected and extended to the employees.
Yes, that is a fundamental aspect of this bill and I know that eventually this will sound like a bit of a broken record because, you know, this bill is so short it is a mere 10 pages, very few clauses and is so clearly written that the members opposite and myself are finding it hard now to find things to debate because it is so clear that pension, LTD, successorship, seniority, service are all extended to employees. So we are running out of things to debate here.
MR. DONAHOE: My goodness, Mr. Speaker, the fact that this bill is as short as it is, if I may be so bold, underscores the point that obviously the minister just missed that I attempted to make. It is so short because they left out some things they promised to put in and that is the point that I was attempting to make. They promised to put in provisions which, in consultation with the representatives of some 2,000 to 2,500 men and women who work in these institutions, were promised would be put in. So I say, I am told that they were promised that language.
This minister stands up and says, well he doesn't know that any such promise was made. As a former deputy of mine again might have said, we appear to have a squabble among monks, he has got one view and I have got another view.
AN HON. MEMBER: Well, he is a minister.
MR. DONAHOE: Well he is a minister, right. My mother spent her life hoping she might have me end up being a priest and all she got was a minister. (Laughter) So we have had some of those in our family too and the fact that he or any of you over there are ministers doesn't in any way, shape or form have any particular impressive impact upon me, our family knows all about that, okay. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, now, order.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, perhaps I might, picking up on remarks from my good friend, the Minister of Human Resources, make this comment in support of the motion. If, as the minister suggests, this bill is so short, so clear, so precise and almost impossible to be misunderstood, I suggest to you that that is a wonderful justification for having the committee have a look at it. Because if it is all those things, it is only going to take this committee a matter of a very short time, a day or two, to come to the point of view that the minister has suggested. If it is that short, clear, precise, if it has all of those protections, then surely it will not take more than a few hours of discussion for this minister and his colleagues to satisfy that committee and the report would be back to us and we would really be in business. As I said a while ago, while all of those good things were happening, Bill No. 39, the Education Bill, would be back and here to consume our time and while we were doing that the negotiations and discussions on Bill No. 47 could be undertaken.
I guess what we are really dealing with here along with or in addition to some fundamental differences of opinion, legal opinion, opinions of interpretation and the like, I think we are really dealing with a matter of trust and we are dealing with a matter of whether or not, as those people in the community who contact me in relation to this piece of legislation have indicated, we are dealing with, unfortunately, God love us, unfortunately again, we are dealing with exactly the same kind of foolishness that we were required to subject the taxpayers to, relative to Bill No. 39, the Education Bill, we are dealing with problems that are the result of a lack of communication and consultation in advance of the introduction of the bill. There are some very well-meaning and intelligent men and women in our community who would have the opportunity, if we had this bill before a committee, to come in and offer opinion on some of the fundamental questions.
The fundamental question is - I don't think you were in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I just make reference to it by way of introduction to a couple of other concluding remarks I want to make - there isn't, I said earlier, I don't believe there are three Nova Scotians who understand the effect or the impact on the delivery of health care through the QE II Health Sciences Centre if, in fact, it comes to pass and it is put together in the form proposed by this legislation. Frankly, I really am scared to death that we would here, as legislators responsible for the health and the delivery of health service and health care to every resident of Nova Scotia, indeed, by virtue of agreements with the other Atlantic Provinces responsible for the delivery of health care across Atlantic Canada, that we would allow ourselves to pass legislation which merges and brings together institutions which are vital to this province and to Atlantic Canada, and not have a sense and an understanding of the potential impact on the way in which health care would be delivered in such a merged organization.
Mr. Speaker, there was an article produced and which I had occasion to read, it is entitled Creating Excellence Through Hospital Merger. It was published by Health Management Forum, Summer, 1986, Volume 7, Number 2. If you will permit me a brief quotation, I promise I will not, by my standards anyway, be unduly long. There are a couple of lines I would like to read and if you feel I am a little long, please say so, as I know you will, Mr. Speaker. My time is just about up.
The article talks about proposals to attempt to merge or amalgamate a couple of hospitals, Royal Jubilee Hospital and Victoria General Hospital in Victoria, British Columbia. This is an analysis and - in the hospital there, were you, Mr. Minister - in the proposed merger or amalgamation there there were some difficulties with some of the early merger and amalgamation processes. This treatise or critique of some of that did appear in Health Management Forum, Summer 1986, Volume 7, Number 2, and some things like the following were said:
"The early phases of the merger were not characterized by concepts of excellence. Rather, poor communication gave rise to tremendous insecurity, stress and poor morale. The reasons for the merger were not appreciated or accepted by many. Many changes resulting from restraint, were perceived as a threat to programs. Relations between the two hospitals grew worse. The physicians perceived the corporate structure as creating an extra layer between them and the board, hence weakening their input into the decision-making process.
Since the amalgamation process coincided with the implementation of government policies of fiscal restraint", which is our environment here in our province, Mr. Speaker, "budget cutbacks", our experience, "and staff reductions", our experience, "these policies were viewed mistakenly as a consequence of the amalgamation. This contributed to attitudes of cynicism, apathy, fault-finding and negativism.
When the corporate structure was established, staff tended to perceive `the corporation' as an elite executive layer existing above and apart from them. They did not view `the corporation' as all the members of the organization and felt alienated from the administration.".
Well I have been in conversation, Mr. Speaker, with a number of men and women who are now employed by the institutions which are to be brought together or would be brought together by this organization. I can tell you without any question that the words cynicism, apathy, fault-finding and negativism are rampant out there. I believe they are rampant because this minister has failed, here in this place, or failed outside of this place, to outline the financial implications, the implications for the individual staff members, the men and women who are now the employees of the organization, the medical staff, and the way in which health care will be delivered.
So the same article - if I just make one last brief reference to it and then I will conclude my remarks - talked about the model that ultimately they attempted to move toward in the amalgamation in Victoria, to which I am referring. They said as follows in this critique or treatise on that whole exercise, "Shared values are at the core of the model. They are the single most important factors in determining the relationships between the technical factors; strategy, structure and systems and the human factors; skills, staff and style3. The factors may be briefly defined as follows:
(i) Shared Values: the philosophy and culture of the organization . . .;
(ii) Strategy: the plans for achieving the organizational goals;
(iii) Structure: the working relationships and the organizational design;
(iv) Systems: the methods for moving information through the organization;
(v) Skills: the abilities of its members to carry out the work;
(vi) Staff: the policies regarding its members; and
(vii) Style: the orientation or approach used by managers in carrying out their roles.".
Mr. Speaker, you and the House have been tolerant of me and I appreciate the dialogue and the exchange which I was able to have with my friend, the Minister of Human Resources, but unfortunately we have a fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is that much of what the bill says is troublesome, the fact that the bill does not say many things is troublesome and I say to you with great sincerity, Mr. Speaker and to all of my colleagues here, particularly, if I may, picking up again on what the Minister of Human Resources said just a moment ago, this is not a big, long bill. It is only a few pages and it is only 20-some clauses. I sincerely believe that if we were to refer this committee, as is recommended by the amendment which is before us now, we could have - I hate the term but everybody uses it - the stakeholders involved, including the government, at the table reviewing the elements of this bill which so many have in the last while said to us are just simply very problematic.
For those various reasons, I will support this amendment. I would hope that all members really understand the long-term implications to Halifax, to Nova Scotia and to Atlantic Canada of merging the institutions that this bill would merge. I would hope wanting to be sure they understood as much as they possibly can about every single element of what really will happen if we do this. I would hope that all members of this place, would join me in supporting the amendment and in voting for it. I appreciate your indulgence. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome the opportunity to stand this afternoon to make a number of remarks with respect to the amendment that is before us and to speak in support of what, I think, are very powerful arguments that had been put forward by some of the other speakers who have spoken already this afternoon in terms of this amendment. I confess that my presence was required at the Law Amendments Committee much of this afternoon, so I did not hear all of what the previous speakers had to say, but the parts that I had the advantage to hear, certainly I would suggest, warrant a great deal of consideration by all members of this House. I am quite confident that those others whom I did not hear also made equally sound and reasoned arguments.
AN HON. MEMBER: You can read it in Hansard when you go home tonight.
MR. HOLM: It has been suggested that I can read them all in Hansard tomorrow and I may just want to do that. I think that it is very important that all members of this House keep an open mind and that all members of this House, regardless of where we may happen to sit, regardless of which political Party we may happen to represent, that we bear in mind that our primary concern is to be looking at improving the quality of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia rather than just simply supporting as lemmings a piece of legislation that may have been introduced by the government. Sometimes it is important to question so that we can, indeed, be moving forward with the best piece of legislation that we can possibly can have.
The amendment that is before us is a very simply amendment in terms of understanding. I see that you are looking at the clock, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes. You will have shift gears now, because you won the debate for the Adjournment motion, which begins now.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am going to defer to my colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. SPEAKER: All right. We will hear then from the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic on the motion:
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency respond positively to the IMP Cape Breton workers who want to keep and manage in Cape Breton the public funds spent on their high-tech plant and the jobs it can secure.
At 6:30 p.m., we will go back to the debate on the amendment we were just discussing.
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak for a few moments this afternoon about the situation at the IMP facility in Cape Breton. When I introduced my resolution earlier today, at that particular time, workers at that plant had occupied the facility, had closed off access to it by other employees, in particular management, and were calling for a meeting with both the president of the company and either the Premier or a representative of the Premier.
In case some members are not aware, Mr. Speaker, there has been an agreement reached. The workers met with Mr. Rowe, the President of IMP earlier today. They reached an agreement that would see the workers back in there tomorrow. There will be no disciplinary action against the workers. Mr. Rowe has agreed that when they return to work, he will work with them directly on a business plan to ensure that the plant is a success. He has committed to keep the plant open for a short while, at least.
The workers, I understand in speaking with them, feel that they will have genuine input and that he has heard their complaints about the failure of the plant's management to promote the business and that he will work with them in order to make the prospects of that facility remaining in operation in Cape Breton, on the Northside, a reality.
Mr. Speaker, I raise this issue today, and I have raised it over the past number of days when it became apparent that there were serious problems there, because I think it is another example of where the government participates in loaning money or, in other ways, financially giving benefit to a company to set up operation in an area like Cape Breton in response to problems that a previous company has had. Then when difficulties arise, the tendency is for that company to withdraw its resources, whatever it is that it owns, to another location, whether it be somewhere else in the province or somewhere else in the country or, in fact, out of the country, leaving, basically, the workers and the community left holding the bag with further contributions to unemployment.
I have said in this House on many occasions, as have my colleagues over the years, that this province, the provincial government has a responsibility, not simply to bail companies out, not simply to loan out tens of millions of dollars, many of which are not collected at the end of the year. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Speaker, with both Liberal and Tory Governments, we have probably spent billions of dollars on bailouts to corporations in this province that have not turned out very well at all.
The issue that I am raising is that I think that this government could play a more proactive role in working with the community to try to keep an operation going in the community. We see, for example, that the Scotia Ropes facility, Mr. Speaker, in North Sydney was closing. The owners of that equipment were going to ship it out to parts in the States and the workers and members of the community took it upon themselves to stop that equipment from leaving. The efforts that were employed by the community were so successful that a locally owned community business, BCA Holdings, was able to work with the employees to set up a situation where that facility is now operating in a profitable situation, employing dozens of employees and producing a great product that is generating some significant wealth for that community.
We know that in recent months the radio station CHER was in financial difficulty, went bankrupt, and was going to be picked up by Maritime Broadcasting, I believe it is, out of New Brunswick, who were going to - or at least the fear was - that they were going to shut it down because they owned the other AM radio station in Sydney and that the eventual outcome of that purchase would be the shutting down of another radio station, another business in Cape Breton. So what happened, through efforts, in this case again, of BCA Holdings, by members of the community, was that they interjected on behalf of the community and tried their utmost to keep control of that business in the hands of Cape Bretoners, in the hands of the community. After submissions to the CRTC and other efforts, Mr. Speaker, they were successful in gaining control of CHER and have now turned that operation around, have changed the format and I don't believe any employees ended up being laid off. In fact, in speaking with some of the former employees of CHER, they are extremely pleased with what has happened.
I think that on a number of occasions when these kinds of difficulties arise, the community is there and people within the community are there to try to salvage something out of those kinds of situations. I have suggested to ministers responsible, the former Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, for example, that if his department would at least participate on a proactive basis in trying to facilitate the community and community organizations, becoming involved in those kinds of situations. I think that the government has a responsibility. It is not simply good enough to loan hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars to corporations and then when that money is paid back, walk away because I think those companies enjoy a very large benefit by the province giving them a hand.
What community development businesses like BCA Holdings say and complain about, for example, is that the provincial government is awfully quick to provide guarantees for the IMPs and Premium Auto Parts and other companies, some of them successful, some of them not, but they are less willing to participate in assisting these community-based organizations, Mr. Speaker, that are there to operate on behalf of the community in order to ensure that the wealth that is generated, the jobs that are generated, benefit that community.
In my resolution, and I will just read it for you again: Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency should respond positively to the IMP Cape Breton workers who want to keep and manage in Cape Breton the public funds spent on their high-tech plant and the jobs it can secure.
Even though things have turned around there already and the owners of IMP have seen the commitment and the resilience of the workers and has responded to that, I think it is important that representatives of this government through the Economic Renewal Agency attend that facility, meet with the workers, meet with IMP and lend their considerable expertise and resource in terms of experience and knowledge, Mr. Speaker, at assisting those workers and that community and trying to keep that facility operating in a way that benefits that community.
Mr. Speaker, I think we have to learn from these cases, not just to throw money at them, but to provide the human and intellectual resources that we have at our disposal, in order to assist our communities to develop the economic base of this province because I believe in the final analysis that is what truly is going to make a difference. I realize my time is up and I will now listen intently to other speakers. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I am pleased to take part in a resolution like this this afternoon because I think it gives us the opportunity to put on the record where we are coming from and where we are going. So I thank the honourable member for opening the debate with regard to that issue.
Community economic development is all about our new philosophy, the new direction. We have worked very hard in the last year or two to really develop that. I want to say that the Honourable Ronald Stewart, the Minister of Health and the member for Cape Breton North, and other Cape Breton members such as you as well, Mr. Speaker, and the Premier have talked over the last two or three days because we share the concern that the workers have with regard to losing their jobs, although we have one positive thing, that the company had agreed to hire them in Dartmouth or in Amherst. So we are talking about community economic development.
I totally understand where the workers are coming from, Mr. Speaker. I see my own family in Springhill who had to pack up and move away, so I understand that. I want to tell you, this government understands that and we do have compassion and we do care about people in these circumstances. For instance, my department officials talked to people at IMP. The honourable Minister of Health this morning talked to people at IMP about this situation. But there was no point in debating it outside and in public because the way this was handled -maybe it got started off bad, but that is what management and labour relations are all about, people sitting down.
Ken Rowe went down there today. I stand here tonight and congratulate Ken Rowe for going to North Sydney and sitting down with those employees, but I also congratulate the employees for taking the time to sit down and discuss it. What do we have now? We have the resolution to the situation on the short term. Not on the long term maybe, but on the short term, so people will understand the situation a lot better.
Both parties deserve a lot of credit. I am pleased that the Province of Nova Scotia has handled it the way it has to this point. I think the moves we made were accurate, I think they were right. Both parties have agreed and it is time that all Nova Scotians get behind both parties and try to resolve this situation and make it permanent.
I would just like to go through it for a second. Three years ago IMP bought that plant at a public auction. Yes, they borrowed $5 million from the Province of Nova Scotia, only it wasn't our government, it was the former government. I supported that at that time because that was a vacant plant that went bankrupt. They called tenders on it at the time. All the applications they got were refused. The Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation bought the building and turned around and sold the building at the highest price they could get, which was $5 million at the time.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, we did lend the company $5 million. Well, we didn't, but the former government; we are in government today. The taxpayers lent the company $5 million. You know what? That bill is totally paid off, with interest. That is what it is all about. We helped North Sydney in the short term. (Interruption)
If you want to talk about some other things, I am prepared to do that, but I am talking about a real issue here in North Sydney, in Cape Breton Island. I am just so proud to be in Nova Scotia when I see management and labour, the employees - who are not unionized, by the way, let's not forget that; those employees are not unionized - at that plant who sat down and tried to work out their differences. They will be back to work tomorrow morning and all of us, as elected people in this province, should be very proud of that fact. Let's hope that we can carry on.
What happened there? You know, North Sydney survived largely because of the space agency work from the Canadarm to Micronav that was there. What happened like companies have gone through and the employees have gone through a lot in the last couple of years, Micronav system went down. We all know that was cancelled so they lost that. The Canadian space agency cancelled the second generation of the robots so that was cancelled. The company lost that, but imagine the high-tech people, Mr. Speaker, we have in this province - those employees down there - imagine the ability they had and it is no fault of theirs but the contract is cancelled.
This government since it came in, we see a lot of potential, we think, in the aerospace industry. So what did we do? I was Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency when we initiated it and I supported it that we put together in this province an aerospace industry committee where 18 members who are involved in the aerospace industry in this province come together on a regular basis.
Robbie Harrison, Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, set up meetings and these people have been in Ottawa in the last two or three weeks trying to secure aerospace industry. So what is going to happen now, instead of 15 or 18 companies going to Ottawa to try to tender on something for Nova Scotia and they all end up and lose it pretty well, we have the whole 18, the whole industry now, which will go and bid on those jobs and try to bring high-tech jobs like that and get contracts in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I think that is a major breakthrough for the Province of Nova Scotia and also for Atlantic Canada because some of them had plants in other countries. Here you have a group of manufacturers that employed 2,500 people in this province that have come together with one united voice and will now negotiate, for instance, if IMP in Amherst can do one thing, if Pratt & Whitney does something else and another company does something else and all those three things are in that one tender, these guys will sit down and send in an overall tender to do that work. I think that is a major breakthrough for the people in this province with regard to that. I congratulate these individuals who initiated it and I congratulate the Economic Renewal Agency for continuing to support the activity with regard to that.
There are a couple of other things I will want to mention. I know that we do not have much time. Labour and management relations. As Minister of Labour, I would like to be able to go on a national platform and say that in Nova Scotia we have the best labour and management relationship there is in Canada. Because when we can do that, we are going to attract more jobs. I think over the last year that we have come a long way. I think the people in my department, the Department of Labour, since I have been there, I personally believe they are really committed. I think we are coming up with a lot of good reforms. We have signed an agreement with no arguments where those in the forestry industry have sat down together.
The honourable member shakes his head and disagrees. We have seen what Bob Rae did in the Province of Ontario with regard to labour relations . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: We are not talking about Ontario, we are talking about Nova Scotia. We'll see what happens to labour relations here (Interruptions)
MR. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, let me tell you that we will learn from the good points of other provinces and we will work with all governments. Two weeks ago I called the first meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Ministers of Labour, which we held here in Halifax, that they have had in the modern day. The four of us sat down, and you want me to tell you something? We all have about the same concerns and about the same problems. It does not matter if you are a government in Newfoundland, which is a little bit worse right now; P.E.I.; New Brunswick; or Nova Scotia. I am telling you that we are going to come together and work as a unit in the best interests of Atlantic Canada and in the best interests of the Province of Nova Scotia. With that sort of partnership and with labour and management working together, we can accomplish an awful lot.
In closing, I realize my time is about up, I want to go on record as a minister in the Government of Nova Scotia, of congratulating the employees at IMP in North Sydney, to congratulate Ken Rowe for taking the time to go and meet and also for the efforts of the honourable Minister of Health, who took some time and contacted the people in that department. I believe that things have come together. I make this commitment on behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia. We will work with both groups, and we will do whatever we can to give the leadership to see if we can have contracts there. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, being born and raised in Cape Breton, I have seen the devastation that has hit many families. I have seen how communities are affected by job loss and I have seen how families are ripped apart when they have to move. I have seen far too many young people have to head down the road, leaving their families and their communities behind because there is no hope for them at home. In my own case, my own family has all moved away. They all live in a different part of the country because there are no opportunities for them on the Island of Cape Breton.
I am very angry, Mr. Speaker, when I hear the Premier of Nova Scotia say, as he did this afternoon in Question Period, that this government has lowered the unemployment rate in Cape Breton from 25 per cent to 18 per cent. Unemployment in Cape Breton has not been as low as 25 per cent in a number of years. The Premier and his spin doctors like to try the old smoke and mirrors trick of distorting the real numbers, but there are thousands of Cape Bretoners without work, without benefits and with little hope of finding anything in their own community. But if the Premier really believes those numbers, I believe he needs a reality check. I am sure that the workers of IMP Aerospace in North Sydney could provide the Premier with the reality check he so badly needs.
I don't think that the Premier is the only one who needs a reality check, Mr. Speaker, because I understand that the Premier relies on the information he gets from the other members for Cape Breton. The other members for Cape Breton are known to a lot of people in the community as the choir that does not sing, the ones who do not tell the Premier the real story about what is going on. I spoke with some of the workers in the IMP Aerospace plant today and they told me that they did not get one single response from one of the government members.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, go on.
MR. MACLEOD: That is what the workers have told me, Mr. Speaker. The workers themselves told me they had not got one response. But something tells me that maybe the Premier is only getting the information that is good, because the last member that said anything bad is now looking for another job.
There was an Order in Council approved and passed by the Liberal Government 18 months ago. It provided the IMP with $4 million worth of financial assistance. Now, of course, only the government would know the specifics of that deal, but nevertheless, $4 million of the taxpayers' money was spent on IMP and it was good.
AN HON. MEMBER: That is more than they give to the golf course down there, isn't it?
MR. MACLEOD: The Premier says the matter of the plant in North Sydney is none of his business and he absolutely refuses to take the time to even listen to the concerns of the workers. These are workers whose livelihoods are being threatened, Mr. Speaker. You know, the impact of losing just one job in Cape Breton has the same impact as losing 10 or more in the metro area. The fact is, the loss of 30 jobs in Cape Breton translates into more than 300 jobs when you consider the economic devastation this can unleash in the industrial area, and this Premier will not even listen.
This afternoon, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ken Rowe and 13 of the workers at that plant sat down for over two hours and they talked and they listened to each other. I commend both parties for doing that because they did the right thing. Both sides knew that there were problems and they knew that they must work together to overcome those problems. Together, they developed a plan which was probably very workable. But where is the Premier? He will not even talk or listen to those workers. This Premier does not want to be part of the solution, he wants to continue to be part of the problem.
What of the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia? They have a right to know what has become of their investment. The Premier is not trusted with that task and for that reason alone, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and he should have been on a plane to Sydney to ensure that the interests of the taxpayers were well protected.
The Premier may not understand some of the history of the plant in North Sydney but I would like to pass on some of the information that I understand to be correct. It was originally erected at a cost of some $30 million. Of that $30 million, $18 million came from the Enterprise Cape Breton fund, from the taxpayers, from you and me. That $18 million was the largest single contribution ever made by Enterprise Cape Breton. So, $30 million later we had in North Sydney a state-of-the-art, high-tech plant which a few years later, with the assistance of this government, IMP was able to take over and put 30 unemployed Cape Bretoners back to work and that was good government.
Now what did this plant in North Sydney do and why did IMP think that it was so important to get it back on track? There were a number of contracts and potential contracts that this plant would be working on. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, who has the floor here? Things looked pretty good at the plant, they were working on the space arm, for instance, and they would be building components for Micronav and they would be manufacturing parts for the EH-101 helicopter agreement. But then what happened? All Nova Scotians saw for themselves how hard the Premier worked to save the EH-101 contract when the Prime Minister cancelled it. Our Premier made a telephone call. (Interruption) Was it two minutes, five minutes? We will probably never know. This is what is so puzzling about why this government would provide $4 million worth of assistance to IMP several months after the Prime Minister cancelled the EH-101 contracts.
The workers and the management in North Sydney came together around the table today. The one person missing that the workers wanted there was the Premier and the interests of the taxpayer could have been portrayed through the Premier. Shame, shame. I want to give the Premier a little advice. I want to recommend to him to come to Cape Breton, I would be more than welcome to take him around the riding of Cape Breton West and I will personally take him to meet the people who he says aren't unemployed, the people that have fallen through the cracks, the people that have no benefits, the people that have no hope, the people that aren't going to be able to live in Cape Breton much longer because there are no jobs for them, the people who have been let down by this government and its election platform. Maybe if the Premier did that he could see the reality that is striking the lives of not only Cape Bretoners, but people in many parts of the province.
He could start today by living up to his responsibilities to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, to the people of Cape Breton and to the workers of IMP. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I also would like to encourage the Premier to go down to Cape Breton. We all know that the by-election down in Cape Breton West is over and it would be perhaps advantageous for the Premier to go to the riding. The Minister of Transportation and Communications, I am told, was visiting on different occasions the constituency of Cape Breton West and he was going in and out one of the seniors complexes and the honourable member for Hants West was coming in and being very well received, in fact, in the entrance while the minister was exiting.
More importantly, I heard some of the comments from the Minister of Labour and I certainly agree with him that management and labour in this province must work together. It is important that management talk to labour, it is important that government talk to labour. The members for Cape Breton have been accused of being the choir that never sings. By golly, you know when the member for Cape Breton West was making his contribution to this debate they were doing a little bit of singing then.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I clearly want to place on the record that the member on his feet talking about Cape Breton is the member that has so vigorously, for at least six months, opposed the Fleur-de-Lis Trail development in Cape Breton.
MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the late debate has expired. There is now a point of order being raised but we are back into the regular debate now on the amendment to Bill No. 47.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation and Communications tried unsuccessfully to play Cape Breton against the mainland and the election in Cape Breton West represents that.
MR. SPEAKER: This is not a point of order. There is no point of order.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
Bill No. 47 - Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Act.
MR. SPEAKER: This is now on the amendment to Bill No. 47, that the subject matter of the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Community Services, lest any be confused.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: I may be confused from time to time, Mr. Speaker, but I will try not to be confused and I will certainly recognize, appreciate and know the topic that we are dealing with. I began my remarks in a very preliminary fashion just before the moment of interruption. I was at that time just about to move into what the actual amendment that is before us has to say and then try to put forward what I hope are saleable arguments that may persuade some members of the government benches either to take to their feet to explain why it is not necessary or, even better still, to indicate their willingness to support this very responsible and reasoned amendment.
Mr. Speaker, what the amendment simply says, is "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.". So, in essence, what the resolution that is before us is simply saying, that the subject matter, in other words the content, the principles about which we are dealing, that those principles should be referred to the Community Services Committee and that would then give the Community Services Committee the opportunity to examine the bill, examine the premises upon which the bill is based, as well, I might add, to hold, as need be, hearings to enable expert witnesses to come forward and to question those witnesses, as well.
One of the advantages of standing committees of the House is that those witnesses who appear before the committee can speak openly and candidly. They can make their statements known and they can't even be retaliated against for coming forward to speak the truth. So, for example, members of the minister's department or the public who may know some information, if they wish to, certainly would be free to come forward and testify and would be bound, in fact, to testify completely openly and honestly with regard to the proposed bill.
It would not be establishing a precedent for the Community Services Committee to hold broad hearings. That has happened before and of course we know that the government is not bound to accept the recommendations of a report that is filed by a committee. We have seen that already. For example, the Community Services Committee held extensive hearings on gambling. Madam Speaker, that committee was provided with the resources that it needed; expert witnesses came forward; they made their presentations to the committee; the committee went out and met with citizens who had views that they wished to express, concerns - those who were in support, those who were opposed - tried to seek expert advice; and then did submit a report.
As I said, Madam Speaker, that will not mandate or tie the hands of government. They don't have to follow that because governments make their final decisions on their own. They have to receive the report but it does provide an independent and an open forum for discussion.
What is more fundamental? What is more getting to the heart of what is Canadian and Nova Scotian than the quality of the health care that we afford to our citizens and that we provide them. What is it that distinguishes us, as Canadians, and as Nova Scotians as a proud part of the Canadian tradition, than our support for a non-profit, affordable, but top quality health care system that ensures that citizens in need do receive the kind and quality of health care service that they need and deserve?
Madam Speaker, when one takes a look at the legislation that is before us, Bill No. 47, one has to ask the question, what does this, at all, have to do with quality health care. Does this bill really have anything to do with improving the quality of health care or does it have more to do, unfortunately, with fiscal controls by this government, trying to find ways to reduce costs at the expense of the workers and, unfortunately, at the expense of the quality of health care?
We have been told and maybe the minister in my absence today has provided it when I was in the Law Amendments Committee, but I have not heard that that has been done, but we have been told that this merger is supposedly going to be saving $50 million. In some regard, over a period of time, especially if this bill is followed the way it is and the unfair elements of that, some of that saving may actually occur. But at what cost and in terms of what fiscal costs?
Where, for example, are the plans? Where is the financial analysis and the detailed work plan and strategy which is going to be showing how this merger is going to be carried out and what the costs of the various elements of that are going to be? We have already heard that the costs for merging these hospitals in terms of the physical restructuring of the buildings that will have to be done, in terms of moving of equipment - and we just had this Camp Hill Hospital, this new structure that was built to the tune of approximately $150 million - they are going to have to go in and rip out major sections of that, remodel it, redesign it for these new functions that are going to be assigned to parts of that. The same will be true of the other hospital facilities that are going to be amalgamated.
We are told that those costs will be anywhere from $12 million, maybe $50 million, maybe $100 million. Where are the figures? (Interruption) The Minister of Health says, well, where am I getting these figures. The minister is showing shock at the figures that I am putting on the floor. The minister may, and correctly so, say that those figures are inaccurate. The minister can only say that those figures are inaccurate and off the wall if the minister is prepared to table a detailed plan indicating what the costs are according to what his department is projecting with the plan. Those cost-benefits or those estimates have not been in a detailed form and provided.
We heard, in terms of the Cape Breton amalgamation, what costs were going to be. We were told what the savings were going to be and we learn today that the costs for the implementation of that and the transition costs, you combine those two, are actually higher than the accumulated deficits of the municipalities we joined together. Is that the kind of planning that this government has done, Madam Speaker? If the costs are running, as it is projected by people who have looked at the modest figures that have been suggested by the Department of Health, if those costs exceed - as people project, those who are in the know and look at these kinds of things - are much higher, where are those additional monies going to come from?
Is the Minister of Finance going to be providing additional funds to the Department of Health? I think probably not. Maybe he will; maybe he is going to transfer the monies that are saved in terms of the interest on the bond issue that he just announced that he is selling today and we will be, I don't know how many millions of dollars, but we are going to be saving about 6.25 per cent (Interruption) We are going to save $25 million over five years? Well, maybe there is $25 million, the minister - and I appreciate his answer across the floor, that is the Minister of Finance in response to a question that I had asked before - is going to save $25 million over five years. That is wonderful.
Maybe the minister would like to commit that money, this $25 million, he will earmark that saving for the Department of Health to take care of any overrun costs for the merger, so that additional monies won't have to come out of the health care budget, or out of the salaries and benefits.
Talking about, supposedly, quality health care, I have not yet heard anybody who is saying they are opposed to health care reform. But before you shut something down, before you remove an essential health care service, you have to have something in its place; you have to have something that is going to fill the vacuum being created. You know, according to the estimates to the projections that are being provided, there will be another 800 to 1,000 health care providers in the hospitals and so on in the metropolitan area who are going to be laid off as a result of this so-called health care restructuring and reform.
Well, Madam Speaker, how many more people can you take out of the health care system without the health care that is provided in those vital institutions that serve us all so extremely well, how many more can you take out before, as the saying goes, you break the back of the system? Already the health care system in Nova Scotia and the hospitals are experiencing extremely long waiting lists. The waiting lists continue to grow. How much longer will that waiting list continue?
Now maybe, Madam Speaker, the Minister of Health and his colleague, the Minister of Human Resources, can provide us with details about what other programs will be put in place in advance of these cuts and reductions, so that when people are being released from hospital a little more quickly, that they will have the iron-clad assurances that those services for those patients in need will be in place, on the ground, before that happens. I would like to see the full detail and the timeframes that outline all of this because I have not seen that full information yet.
Now, Madam Speaker, another very important element of this bill and, quite honestly, and it is very clear, as I was saying in my opening remarks, that this bill, and it doesn't refer really at all to health care. The Minister of Health, in introducing it, indicated that supposedly it had to do with improving the quality of health care in Nova Scotia. However, when one takes a look at the actual legislation, you can understand very easily why it is that it is not the Minister of Health who has been standing on his feet to interject, to ask questions, to rise on points of order, to argue with speakers on this side of the House, but rather the Minister of Human Resources. It is easy to understand when you read this bill because this bill is not really about health care at all. This bill has to do with the human resources policy of this government.
If you take a look at the Education Act, which we are not debating here tonight, but when you take a look at that and you take a look at the commitments that were made, not be overriding collective agreements, and the statements that have been made to be protecting workers and workers' rights, those statements are made outside of the House, but when you examine the legislation, the reality is that those rights are not being protected and, in fact, collective agreements are being overridden.
Madam Speaker, when one takes a look at this bill, you see that exactly the same thing is happening. The rights and privileges and benefits of workers - and we should not just call them workers, we should be identifying these people. I am guilty of doing this as much as anybody else - we are talking about the people who are preparing the food for the patients in the hospital. We are talking about the individuals who come along and provide us with the nursing care. We are talking about those who are doing the tests and analyses, the technicians. We are talking about people who are keeping the hospitals clean and safe. In fact, we are talking about all of the high quality - and I will not try to go into mentioning them all - working groups within the health care system who have served and continue to serve us under very adverse situations extremely well in a work place that, unfortunately, is being made ever more stressful because of the cutbacks and also because of the uncertainties with regard to their future employment.
Madam Speaker, surely to Heaven, there has to be a way to be looking at all of these elements, to take a look at how this bill is or is not going to be affecting health care, to take a look at how this legislation is and is not going to be affecting the workers who work in our health care system. Surely what affects the workers is going to have an impact on the quality of health care that is being provided in the institutions.
Now, Madam Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources consistently tells us that all the rights and benefits and privileges of workers are being protected. Last night, in an earlier debate, responding to things that I had said, the Minister of Human Resources suggested that anybody with a Grade 2 education could read certain clauses of the bill and see that what I was saying was wrong. Well, I would love to have the opportunity, through the Community Services Committee, for other people, many of whom - in fact, probably all or most of whom - have a higher education level than what the minister is referring to that is needed to supposedly understand what the legislation says, but people who violently and vigorously disagree with the assertions this minister is saying.
For example, a letter was sent today to Mr. Abbass from the President of the Federation of Labour in which he pointed out that in terms of the comments and so on that he has made, ". . . that we are more than somewhat disappointed in your apparent lack of openness . . .". He pointed out that, ". . . it would now appear it had been the clear intent all along of this `tightly crafted' piece of legislation to override the collective agreements and thus threaten the terms and conditions of employment of the employees who currently work at the Victoria General Hospital.". He went on to say that, "This type of misleading relationship between a Minister and a Union which represents employees of the Government is inexcusable and one must question if you should even continue as Minister of Human Resources when it would appear you do not know how to deal in an open manner with those who represent your employees.".
Surely, Madam Speaker, (Interruptions) I hear certain members of the government side automatically trying to discredit in their comments or undermine the comments made. I would point out to members of the government benches that the President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, the President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and others who have expressed very serious concerns about this, Madam Speaker, that those people, and it is an insult to suggest that anybody would be placing any more than it would be an insult to say about government people who support the government side, that just because they happen to carry a red card that they are going to put their red card preferences ahead of what is in the public good and the good of the people. (Interruptions)
Madam Speaker, I would suggest that is inappropriate.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, on a very slight point of order. The Government House Leader is making so much noise with his heckling, I cannot even hear the gentleman trying to speak. Could you try to quiet down your Government House Leader.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable members, there are times when levels of provocation occur in this Chamber that require intervention from the Speaker's Chair, but this is not one of those times. Now the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party has the floor.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I can hardly hear him.
MADAM SPEAKER: Well, you will have to crank up your hearing aid.
MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I will, if need be, try to elevate my volume slightly, my tone, so that my colleague to my right can hear me over the comments from those across the way.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I just would remind you it is not necessary to crank up your volume there are hearing aid devices in the desks if the honourable member would like to use one.
MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I have to tell you, just if I may, just as an aside that it is wonderful that these hearing aid devices are not tuned into the heckles because we certainly would not want to hear them with any greater clarity than we do when we are speaking. However, that is one advantage of the selective channel in here.
One of the important comments in that letter and the kinds of things that I think have to be discussed and considered at the Community Services Committee and a reason why we have to be looking at this in a very serious manner and give the thought and consideration that is needed. One important paragraph says that, "The only conclusion one can draw from this type of action on your behalf", and that is referring to the Minister of Human Resources, "is that it is a feeble attempt to divert attention from the serious issues in question and your inability to deal openly with the Unions which represent these workers.".
Pretty strong terms, but I think that they describe, quite accurately, what has actually been going on in this House because the minister, and surely to Heavens, the Minister of Health and his colleagues have looked at the relevant legislation. Surely to Heavens, Madam Speaker, they not only have looked at the relevant pieces of legislation, not only the bill that is before us, but that they have studied the implications of what they are doing. It is not good enough research for members on the government benches to only read the press statements that are put out by a particular minister. I know that there are briefing memos and notes sent out to people telling members of the government caucus how to answer questions.
AN HON. MEMBER: What is that note you are reading from?
MR. HOLM: There are those that go out and they give you the question and they give you the answer, but I am sure that government members on the benches know enough and have enough spunk, if I might say, to look beyond just the questions and answers that are given by a particular ministry for the spin to put out the message that they want, but to actually go and to inquire. When constituents and members of their communities contact them and raise questions, they actually research to find out if, in fact, there is any substance to what is being said.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I am having a problem with the line of debate here because there is an amendment on the floor to refer it to the Standing Committee on Community Services. If you could focus your remarks on that amendment to refer, I would appreciate it very much. If you cannot, then you may want to yield the floor to somebody else.
MR. HOLM: The member for Lunenburg said I was not listening. I want to, through you, in a very respectful way to the member for Lunenburg, tell her that in my previous life before being in the Legislature, I was a teacher in a classroom where you sometimes learn, as I am sure the member herself will know from speaking to her husband, that you can sometimes be listening to several things going on at once. I want to assure the member that I was listening, that I did hear the Speaker's comments about returning and being sure that I am on the amendment that is on the floor, so I want that member to know that, in fact, I did hear.
SOME HON. MEMBER: Oh! Oh!
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, the member has the floor.
MR. HOLM: I have a captive audience, I guess, Madam Speaker. Now, if I may, in terms of the kind of things that I was talking about and you are quite correct to remind me that we are on an amendment. My point in getting at the topics that I was, dealing with things like the need to look at what is being said, is that at the Community Services Committee, we have the ability to call before that committee, as witnesses, those who are knowledgeable and who can speak to the other side of what is being said or given out in the way of questions and answers to government members.
Quite clearly, under this legislation and if we are interested at all in terms of ensuring that the legislation is the best and fairest that it possibly can be, then we have a responsibility, I would suggest, to ensure that we examine all of the issues so that we do it right the first time. The Blueprint Committee made a number of recommendations and it would be very interesting to have come before the Community Services Committee representatives from that Blueprint Committee and to take a look at and have them give their advice and their views on what is being done.
One of the things that the Blueprint Committee had suggested was the establishment of a human resources advisory committee before the merger takes place. When one takes a look at this legislation and one takes a look at the layoffs that are being proposed, that are going to be coming about, and when one takes a look at the need to be retraining and transferring employees from one section into another and to ensure that the training allowances and so on are there or the opportunities, many of those benefits that would exist under the collective agreements will be removed. (Interruption)
Many of the benefits and, surely to Heavens, despite, and if he doesn't, then maybe he needs an extended course and could actually be a member of the Community Services Committee, but to be suggesting that the benefits, all benefits and rights of the workers under this legislation are being transferred, as the Minister of Human Resources has said, are wrong. The minister will know that many of those conditions of contracts are not negotiated for government employees who are civil servants in the collective agreement because they are included in statutory provisions.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Will you take a question?
MR. HOLM: I will be happy to take a question from the minister.
MR. ABBASS: As was the case last night, it would be helpful if the member opposite, when he claims that certain rights are not being respected, perhaps he could lead us through some of those items. Is he talking about, and let's go through some of them. Check off rights, the rights of stewards, perhaps, time off for union business, hours of work, overtime, standby and call-back or vacations or holidays, which one is he talking about? Is it special leave or transportation or safety and health, or sick leave, as he claimed was not in the collective agreement last night, or is it employee performance review, employee files, or discipline and discharge, notice of resignation. Any of those that he could lead us through? Here is a collective agreement, this is what has been enshrined in the QE II bill, this is what is respected in its entirety. (Applause)
MR. HOLM: Oh, I am hearing wrong again and I am sorry that the Minister of Transportation and Communications is saying that the Minister of Human Resources is wrong again.
Madam Speaker, if I may, in the simplest of terms, maybe I will read one more statement, if I may, in a letter that was sent to the Honourable Jay Abbass, Minister of Human Resources, today. "You once asked me during a meeting shortly after assuming your current Cabinet position how you can better labour relations between workers and their Union and your Government.".
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I fail to see the point of this at this moment as it relates to the amendment. If I permit you to read multiple letters, how does that relate to the amendment? I am having a real problem with that, so I would want you to focus on the amendment.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am trying to focus, with a slight rabbit track or a slight diversion from the minister on the need to have a fair and open process where not only the propaganda that the minister is trying to put forward, but that the complete and openness and frankness and fairness are going to be dealt with because the minister is misleading in his statement. The minister has correctly . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I will go back to last night's record on the word "misleading". I fully expected after last evening that that would start to enter into a lot of debates, and I mentioned last evening that "deliberately misleading" is not parliamentary. There is a section in Beauchesne that misleading is unparliamentary and misleading is parliamentary, but I did clearly state on the record that it wasn't the kind of wording or language that I wanted used.
Both times I have been in the Chair I have commented on that, so if you wouldn't mind withdrawing the word misleading and find another way to express your point of view, I would appreciate it. I want that on the record because I don't want people to start playing games around that word from here on in.
MR. HOLM: Well thank you, Madam Speaker. I didn't know I was playing games around the use of that word.
MADAM SPEAKER: I didn't say you were, honourable member. I am cautioning that I don't want to see people playing games around that word.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, and I am sure I didn't use the word "deliberately" in front of it.
MADAM SPEAKER: No, you did not.
MR. HOLM: I didn't think that I had. Well, maybe if the word misleading, although it is not in Beauchesne, is not really what I should be using, what is another good word? I don't have a thesaurus here that I could be using. I don't know if "hoodwinked" is parliamentary. That is stronger, I think, so I won't use that. Maybe say that he is leading them down the garden path, unintentionally possibly, but the information that the minister is trying to portray as being total and complete is less than total, complete and accurate.
The former Minister of Labour and now Minister of Human Resources should know that there are differences. The minister himself should know that many of the provisions, rights and benefits that civil servants who are working at the Victoria General Hospital enjoy are not included in that collective agreement that the minister stood up and waved. There are add-ons, Madam Speaker, that are statutory. (Interruption)
Now I am not going to risk being sat down by you, by being sidetracked by the minister, but I will say this, if the minister and his colleagues not only believe that I am wrong but say that I am wrong, all they have to do to ensure that any concerns - I know they are not worried about me, I wouldn't expect them to be particularly worried about my agreeing with them or not. If they are interested at all in providing the security and putting to rest the tremendous anxiety that many workers feel, all the minister has to say is that he guarantees not only their collective bargaining rights as contained in their contracts but that they also will maintain their statutory rights at the level that they currently have, guarantee that their statutory rights - those aren't the rights contained in the collective agreement but which were not negotiated into it because they are part of their statutory rights - guarantee that those are there once they cease to be involved and are members of the Civil Service.
HON. JAY ABBASS: A question to the member opposite, Madam Speaker. I have the Civil Service Act here. I have the general regulations made under Section 45 of the Civil Service Act. I have the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act in front of me. Would the member opposite please lead myself and the members of this House and, for that matter, the public and members of the concerned unions through the provisions which concern him?
MADAM SPEAKER: I am going to rule on this question. I think that kind of leading through the process would rightfully belong in the debates in second reading but doesn't necessarily rightfully belong in this debate on the amendment. I would really highly recommend to the Leader of the New Democratic Party to speak to the amendment on the floor.
MR. HOLM: I have my clear instructions, Madam Speaker, my marching orders. I will abide by your ruling, but I will say, if I may, by way of a very short comment, that if the minister wants a listing of a lot of those statutory benefits and rights, I would suggest that he not only read the correspondence that he has been provided with by those who are prepared, who are very knowledgable of this. Maybe the minister says that those legal people, those labour lawyers who know the Civil Service Act, the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, the Trade Union Act, who know what is and isn't covered, maybe it is this minister's learned view that they don't know what they are talking about. But I would suggest that the minister is of a very small minority that believes that his interpretation is correct.
I will say, Madam Speaker, however, and at the Community Service meeting, if such a thing is held, that is another opportunity, an excellent opportunity through that committee process to have each and every one of those kinds of details examined. Of course, that kind of thing will not be necessary for that kind of analysis if, in fact, the minister guarantees that those rights and benefits under that legislation, those acts and regulations that he held up are, in fact, going to be carried forward. Because that was in the Transition Agreement and surprisingly, that was left out.
One has to ask the question, why? This government and the legal people who work for this government and draft things, Madam Speaker, they are very capable people. That was not left out by accident. It was not a big typo that all those provisions, that those paragraphs were left out. They were left out for a reason, for a purpose. I certainly would love to know from this government, a very clear, unequivocal statement as to why, if it was not aimed at reducing financial costs for this bill. The minister and his actions, quite honestly, are pulling the wool over people's eyes because I cannot use a word.
Another important thing that could be looked at in the Community Services Committee.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Well, we need not go back concerning the member's last comment, pulling the wool over anyone's eyes. The member opposite has been asked, on several occasions now, I have pointedly asked him, please, tell us, even in broad terms, which benefits or entitlements are not being extended to these employees. Please. This is his opportunity because the member opposite has repeatedly, in the past, challenged various ministers, including myself to rise and defend the bill. It is not enough for him to refer to a nameless, faceless lawyer, who is advising him through probably two other people, that there is something maybe, possibly, alarming or wrong with this bill. It is incumbent upon him and every member of this House to represent their constituents and the public as best they can, whether in Opposition or on this side of the House. If the member opposite is unable to delineate his concerns a bit more in-depth then he has to date, I am not certain that he is discharging that duty.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party may wish to phrase his response in a way that relates to the amendment.
MR. HOLM: Well, Madam Speaker, here comes a challenge . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Yes, that is right.
MR. HOLM: . . . to be able to respond to the minister and not be sat in my place on the basis of the kinds of things that are, in fact, dealing with the specifics and not getting into the broader issues. Maybe if I could, there are a number of provisions under the Civil Service Act, for example, providing the right to leave of absence, including the right to return to work and entitlement to benefits while on leave on absence, right is not included in the collective agreement and would be eliminated if this bill is enacted.
There are provisions in the Civil Service Act which have been found to be significant in various adjudications in determining the rights of employees on layoff and the obligation of employers on layoffs. Section 25 of the Civil Service Act limits the grounds on which a layoff can validly be undertaken. If the proposed bill is passed, this limitation will be removed.
Do you want me to continue on reading and going through other sections, Madam Speaker? Obviously, there are many areas and many more that one can deal with in terms of the statutory provision. Those and all of the others can be addressed quite simply.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, as the member did last night his very long list was all of three items and it is headed to almost none. Let's take, for instance, the right to have a leave of absence to pursue public office. He is presenting it as a right whereas in fact, the Civil Service Act requires, rather than permits the employee to take a leave of absence to run for political office. Could he please clarify what exactly his concern is here.
MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, quite honestly, my biggest concern is the shell game that the minister is trying to play. The minister is trying to pretend and I invite him to take his interpretation before the workers and the people who are being disinfected . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Not disinfected, I think you are looking for another word.
MR. HOLM: I am, Madam Speaker, very much a different word. Disentitled if there is such a word but who are losing benefits from this.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: That is the trouble with that spell-check.
MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I appreciate that helpful intervention from the member for Halifax Citadel and it is a very appropriate one. It is very clear to everybody except this minister, I would gather and members of the Government benches, that the Trade Union Act doesn't protect those benefits.
Before I wrap up and I am looking at the time, I want to touch on one (Interruption) Well, I have to hurry because with all of the helpful interventions that I have had, I haven't had the chance to get through to a number of items that I want to touch on. There is another very important principle that I think has to be looked at and through the Community Services Committee process it can be looked at and that is the whole issue of pay equity.
We even had commitments once upon a time that pay equity was not only going to apply to provincial employees and to provincial corporations, agencies and boards, extended to hospitals and to universities and so on, once we even had a . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Would the honourable member permit an introduction, please?
MR. HOLM: Yes, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Eastern Shore.
MR. KEITH COLWELL: Madam Speaker, as the member of the House of Assembly for Eastern Shore it gives me great pleasure this evening to welcome to the House of Assembly, members of the 2610 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps of Sheet Harbour. (Applause) This year, the Sheet Harbour Army Cadet Corps is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. The Corps enjoys an illustrious history of awards and citations, including seven years in a row winning the coveted General Amey trophy for skilled rifle shooting in Nova Scotia. The Corps is sponsored by Branch No. 57 of the Royal Canadian Legion and is the only Army Cadet Corps in the Maritimes to have the honour of being affiliated with the famous Princess Louise Fusiliers.
The Corps has 42 cadets and 8 staff members. Although it is not possible to introduce all of the staff tonight I would like to make particular mention of the following members: Captain Vance Thompson, the CO; Cadet Officer Scott Wilson; CI Shirley Scrivens; CI James Scrivens, and Jeff Currie. Also in our group this evening is Captain Gary Scrivens, the former CO of the corps and presently director of the Army Cadet League of Nova Scotia shooting program. I would like to commend each one of the cadets this evening for a very good turnout and excellent dress.
Madam Speaker, on a personal note, I would like to tell the House that as a young man I was also a member of the Princess Louise Fusiliers and I am very proud of its achievements. I would ask this House to give a warm welcome to the members of 2610 Royal Canadian Army Cadets of Sheet Harbour. (Applause)
MR. HOLM: I certainly want to add my welcome to that already extended. The cadets certainly are a fine organization. I know one of my sons was involved for a while and the benefits that young people receive are tremendous. All those leaders are to be commended for their dedication and assistance.
If I may, I want to go back to pay equity, which, by the way, is a statutory benefit because anybody who is employed and falls under the Department of Human Resources is entitled under Section 20, I think, of the Pay Equity Act to pay equity. Under this corporation there is no mention that the pay equity provisions . . .
HON. JAY ABBASS: I would only to point out that the Department of Human Resources does not administer the Pay Equity Act, that is the Department of Labour. I would point out that pay equity increments which have been given in the past are preserved and respected by the QE II bill and no employee need fear otherwise.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would declare that to be a point of clarification.
MR. HOLM: If the minister had allowed me to continue with my statement, maybe the minister would understand where I am coming from. I never said that the Department of Human Resources administered the Act. I never said that those who are employees in the Victoria General Hospital who currently have benefits under the Pay Equity Act are going to lose those benefits. I did not say that. What I said is that the Pay Equity Act is not going to be applying to the new corporation, so you are going to have two sets of employees working for this one corporation. One set of employees had their wages adjusted to end sex discrimination that had occurred in the past, where it was determined in the past as a result of the pay equity process that they had been discriminated against. As a result of that they had their pay levels elevated. Now they are going to be working side by side with other employees who had not been under the Civil Service before and who had not had the benefit of that pay equity. So we are going to have two groups: one group of employees, women who by and large, will have received benefits and had their pay adjusted upwards; and other employees who are not going to have that same benefit.
HON. JAY ABBASS: The member opposite has kindly been allowing me to intervene quite regularly and I want to thank him for that. Only to clarify that workers at the Camp Hill Complex and the VG Hospital did go through the pay equity process. Although the Pay Equity Act, unfortunately it worked better at the Victoria General Hospital than it did at the Camp Hill just for the sake of accuracy. But I do not think we are debating the Pay Equity Act in this particular case. I believe we are debating the QE II bill and other than reassuring employees of the Victoria General Hospital or otherwise that their pay equity increments are being respected, I am not sure where we are headed with this. Are we debating the Pay Equity Act or are we dealing with the QE II bill?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It is second reading of the bill and I did not think we were debating the Pay Equity Act. I thought we were debating an amendment to refer a bill to the Community Services Committee and obviously, I guess, we are seeing a procedure here on second reading that is certainly foreign to my seven years in here. I would ask the Speaker to rule on the propriety of the procedures that seem to have developed here.
MR. SPEAKER: I must state that the honourable member's time is almost expired so I do not know where we are heading, but the honourable member has several minutes left to make his case that this bill should be referred to the Committee on Human Resources.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would appreciate ruling on the propriety of so many interruptions when somebody is trying to give their remarks that I do not have any time left because close to half of it has been used up by members of the government benches with their interventions.
Mr. Speaker, if I may, I started off by saying that this, quite clearly, is a matter that should be considered at the Community Services Committee. We should be looking at the implications of this legislation and this merger and of the pay equity and how it is going to be affected.
It is not good enough for this minister or any minister to say that certain members of this new corporation are going to have received benefits as a result of pay equity. So in other words, the discrimination that they have endured in the past based on sex was corrected. But other employees working shoulder to shoulder side by side who did not have that same benefit are now going to be denied that opportunity to have the same sex discrimination in terms of wages undone and corrected. That is the point that I am trying to get at.
Mr. Speaker, surely to heavens, the Community Services Committee should be looking at the appropriateness of providing, not just pay equity to those and allowing it to continue for that number of employees who benefitted, but to ensure that if you are having fairness or if you are having justice that those kinds of provisions would apply to all. That was, when these employees when this is under the Human Resources Committee, a statutory benefit.
The minister has been nagging and started talking about, name some of these primary statutory ones. That surely is one and it is one, in fact, that this government once talked about extending pay equity to ensure that it went right across, not only the government sector, but also the private as well. We were even supposed to be having contract compliance to ensure that those who are doing business with this government follow such practices as well.
Mr. Speaker, I see that you are indicating that my time is up. I want to say that I hope some time that the minister takes part in the debate in a constructive way and gives a speech and I will look forward during his speech to rising about a fraction, about 10 per cent of the time that he has been this evening.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.
HON. JAY ABBASS: I want to thank all members opposite who have had the patience to allow me to intervene in the course of their own addresses to the House. My comments will be very brief only to again say that our debate, here in this House, takes place against the backdrop of a threatened to strike and we have to be mindful of that.
The bill is very much a balancing act amongst the interest of all employees affected by it, amongst all unions who have an interest in seeing that the QE II works as best as it can in the future. It is with a view towards ensuring that balance and that equity that I would strongly urge upon all members that we consider any amendments to this bill before the very public forum, that is the Law Amendments Committee, another standing committee of this House, but equally, if not better, outfitted to within which a truly public debate can take place.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: I wonder if the minister would entertain a question. (Laughter) I would be curious (Interruption) Yes, I know, I am curious. I would be curious if the minister, Mr. Speaker, through you, might indicate to this House why it is that all of the language which appears in the May 1992 Transition Agreement does not appear in the legislation which is before us now. The minister will recall that information made available to me indicated that commitments and undertakings to the effect that it would be there in its entirety were made by this government and yet it is not all there. Can the minister offer an explanation as to why that is so?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, if I might just intervene before the minister answers, the motion under debate is a referral to a standing committee. Now with the greatest of deference to all concerned, I fail to see how the question or any answer that could be offered thereto relate to the amendment.
MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, if I might, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Forgive me for having made that observation.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to, in a way, be helpful in terms of your ruling, and suggest that maybe it is answers to questions like these that would determine or help to determine how members on this side would be voting, relative to the motion to refer this to the Standing Committee on Community Services.
MR. SPEAKER: I thought that honourable member had his mind made up.
MR. ABBASS: The question just asked, the quick answer is simply that any discussions surrounding a Transition Agreement were in anticipation of the privatization of only the VG Hospital, not the amalgamation of four facilities: Camp Hill, the Rehab Centre, the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation and the VG Hospital. The member opposite knows that. There is no mystery here. We are dealing here with one of the fundamental reasons for this bill, the combination of those four very important facilities into one single entity called the QE II. So that is clear.
Returning to my very brief comments, the very fine balance that we have struck here between the interests of all employees, all unions, all facilities, must be respected and very carefully respected, Mr. Speaker. I would maintain that we have to be very careful not to skew the interests of any one particular union or one particular group of employees to the detriment or possible disbalance or imbalancing of this fine, carefully balanced bill.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On that point, I wonder if the minister would entertain a question. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The minister at some length and, well, perhaps repeatedly, I should say, has made the suggestion that he wants to ensure that all of the unions involved here, all the bargaining units, are on an equal footing as they appear before the Labour Relations Board.
I wonder if the minister could address the concern that has been raised by others, perhaps by tabling some authority here in this House, to support his contention that in fact the NSGEU, under this current bill, would, in fact, have standing as the bargaining unit representing those VG or other Civil Service employees that it now represents, once that collective agreement is transferred to the Trade Union Act. I wonder if the minister could confirm that and could provide authoritative evidence of the fact that supports his claim.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I fail to see how that question could in any way relate to the amendment.
MR. ABBASS: Actually I had finished my comments. The easiest answer to that question is simply to refer any member who has that doubt in his mind to Clause 20(1)(a). It cannot be put any more clearly than it is in that clause on Page 8 of the bill. "For greater certainty, the Corporation is a transferee for the purpose of Section 31 of the Trade Union Act . . . ", a copy of which I sent to the member earlier this afternoon, ". . . and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, (a) the Corporation, . . .", that is the QE II, ". . . is bound by successor rights as determined pursuant to the Trade Union Act;".
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.
HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the east gallery this evening, two Boy Scouts, Devan Arnold and Hugh Stewart. They are here earning their Citizenship Badge and they are accompanied by Scout Leader David Stewart. So I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Now I hope that we here in the House can earn our Citizenship Badge and we will do so if we stick strictly to the amendment and not get distracted by questions that could properly be brought up at another stage but not at this stage. This question is going to have to deal with the amendment.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think these questions are as relevant on this amendment as the many questions and interventions that the Minister of Human Resources has made throughout my . . .
HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, just so I can try to figure out where we are in this, the Minister of Human Resources has concluded his remarks. Have all the members opposite spoken? Has the member for Halifax Atlantic spoken yet on the amendment?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes, yes.
MR. SPEAKER: Has the honourable Minister of Human Resources concluded his remarks? He has. All right. There is no further opportunity for questions. Is there a new speaker on the amendment.
MR. CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, while we have been engaged over the past considerable number of hours in debate on the principle of this bill on the one hand and on amendments to the principle on the other hand, the Minister of Human Resources has been permitted at some length to engage in this kind of question and answer dialogue but when one of the Opposition members rises to do the same, to try to seek some clarification on the points that the minister is making, you are suggesting that we are not allowed to do that? I am looking here for a ruling with respect to . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The ruling is that you have had your turn in the debate and so has the Minister of Human Resources. Now I will recognize another speaker.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to be able to speak tonight on this amendment to 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: . . . be referred to the Standing Committee on Community Services. That is what we are debating, that.
MR. MACLEOD: . . . to be referred to the Standing Committee on Community Services, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Right.
MR. MACLEOD: That committee is a very useful committee of this House, as the honourable Minister of Transportation knows and it is made up of members from different parts and different Parties in this province. They go around the province and they meet with the public to find out what kind of input the public wants on a bill so that there is something they can bring back and so that the legislation can be suited to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. That is what that committee does, Mr. Minister, and it is a shame you didn't know that before now (Interruptions)
That being said, Mr. Speaker, it is important that the people of the Province of Nova Scotia have as many opportunities as possible to have input into the bill that is before this House. We are here to make sure that the legislation that this House passes is legislation that is good for all Nova Scotians. We are talking about a major amalgamation of health services in this province. This amendment will give the people of this province a chance to say what they feel should or should not be done with this bill. It is a very important bill that we are talking about and this amendment will give the people of Nova Scotia, from all parts of Nova Scotia, an opportunity to have input. These facilities not only service the people of Halifax and metro but they service people from all across this province and other parts of Atlantic Canada and we want to be sure that what we are doing is going to serve those people with the best quality care that this province can receive.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we do things like this, not for the sake of making change, but for the sake of making better health care, making a positive change, a change that will affect the quality of health care of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is a chance for the people of the province, the people who are paying the bills, the people that we are responsible to; it does not make any difference what political Party we are from, we are here to represent the best interests of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia and that is what this will do if we allow it to go the committee. We will be doing what we are sent here to do; we will be providing responsible government. We will be providing the kind of government and the kind of leadership that the Province of Nova Scotia requires and wants.
You know, we have gone through amalgamations in other parts of this province and there have been problems; we did not have the luxury of going to the Community Services Committee with this. This is an opportunity to make sure that we don't make the same mistakes that we made in the past, Mr. Speaker, a chance to show that we are progressive in our thoughts, that we are progressive in our ideas, and that we are progressive in the way that we are going to govern this province. But, at the same time, we have to be sure that we conserve the values of the health care system that people so dearly hold in this province. We have that opportunity by allowing this amendment to be voted on positively and allowing us to take this to the Community Services Committee.
Mr. Speaker, there are many people who have concerns about health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. There are many people who have concerns about a number of issues, but our concern here tonight is to make sure that the people have the input and in order to have the input and, in order for them to make a difference, we can take this and we can allow this bill to go the Community Services Committee.
There are many people worried about their jobs. We have heard many people wondering what is going to be in store for them. If there is a problem, if there are concerns, it is an opportunity over the next period of time to clarify things so that we do not get in a situation like we recently had with the people in the education system who are talking about going on strike, because that is not the solution. The solution is to give the people the opportunity to communicate; give the people the opportunity to have their input; give the people the chance to help make a difference with the health care system in their province. By sending this bill to the Community Services Committee, we are able to do that; we are able to make things happen.
There are all kinds of people we are dealing with; there are people who are in unions and people who are not in unions. There is confusion, rightly or wrongly, Mr. Speaker. There is confusion and it is our job as legislators to make sure that that confusion is straightened out, to give them the opportunity, to give them the chance to make sure that they come forward and bring forth the ideas that have made the province so great.
I feel like Santa Claus, all the notes I am getting here. (Laughter) Mr. Speaker, I know I am shaped like him, but it ends there, guys. On a more serious note, when we are dealing with health care, we are dealing with the very fabric of Nova Scotia politics, with Nova Scotia life. We are dealing with the thing that makes us so different from so many other parts of the world and we are dealing with something that everybody has a stake in. We are trying to make sure that those people feel that they have had their chance to communicate.
It is not just about bricks and mortar and joining this big building together. It is not about making a big building that looks fancy, so people can come and see a fancy name. It is about quality health care. Mr. Speaker, you and I both know, as do all the members of this House, that that happens and people are worried about it only when it involves them and only when they end up at the door and they wonder what kind of service is going to be provided to them.
Mr. Speaker, there have been a lot of issues and concerns raised over the last couple of days. There have been people from the health care industry who have said they are worried about what is going on; we have an opportunity to let them speak. We have an opportunity to make sure that they get their words out and are allowed the input. They want to have some reassurance, and by allowing this bill to go to the Community Services Committee, it will allow them to have their input.
There will be communication, there will be a chance for people to have a say in how their tax dollars are being spent. That is what this is all about, an opportunity for Nova Scotians to take charge, take direction of where we are going with health care and be part of the process, part of the solution and not be the problem. It will give the opportunity to this government to make everybody feel like they are being heard, they are being communicated to and it is an opportunity to make sure that the people of Nova Scotia have the finest health care system that we can allow.
There is talk of many job layoffs. We are not sure if that is right or wrong, if it is real or perceived. Perception is reality in people's minds and the reality out there right now seems to be, from the people I have spoken to, that there are going to be people unemployed. We are going to have a lot of people off. We are going to have people who will not know over the next six months what their future is and that is not what we want to do. I certainly hope that the members of this House are more concerned at making sure that the things we are doing have a positive effect not a negative effect on the population of Nova Scotia.
There are many other things that I could go on and talk about but I will tell you that it is important that each one of us here, regardless of our political stripe, make sure that we do what is right for the people who sent us here and not just follow Party lines for the sake of following Party lines but to actually vote the way that is going to be the most important and the most significant thing that they can do for their people. We should have a conscience about the decisions we make, we should be accountable for the decisions we make and by sending this to the Committee on Community Services, we are going to be accountable and we are going to listen to the people and we can make a real informed decision when the time comes.
With those few words, I would like to inform the House that I certainly will be voting on behalf of the amendment. I would hope that the other members of the House will vote with their head and speak with their heart.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I want to say a bit about this amendment before, obviously, we have an opportunity to vote on this very important amendment. I think it has been said how important this bill is. It is important because it is amalgamating four institutions. I guess the question that was given by the minister that maybe the committee could address, was that by amalgamating the four institutions, we were going to see duplication disappear.
In the case of out-patients between the Victoria General Hospital and the Infirmary that duplication will end with one out-patients. I fail to see the duplication and maybe this is where the committee would come in, is where is there duplication on the services provided by the Rehabilitation Centre, for instance? To my knowledge, no one of the other three institutions are providing any of the services that the Rehabilitation Centre is providing. Also, when the minister spoke about duplication, where is the duplication regarding the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation? My understanding of the cancer treatment facility is that it is providing the services that I know that none of the other three institutions are providing.
When the minister stands up and says solely that we are doing this for duplication, one has to say, is that true? One of the things that I would like to see the committee look at would be in the area of services so that we could, in actual fact, be given a document and have people appear before the committee so that we could purely and understand what duplications the minister is talking about that is not going to happen. If we are going to save $50 million as the minister has indicated, he indicated that many months ago, I think he indicated that in June 1994. Since 1994 we have not had an opportunity to be given any information by the minister to show us exactly where those savings are going to happen.
We do know that with the merger there will be 800 to 1,000 jobs. We are not sure where those jobs are going to be but I think one of the things that the committee could look at is how this merger is going to affect the quality of health care. I think every one of us understands that every one of those four institutions, as they were prior to the merger, provided tertiary care. In other words, they provided care for Nova Scotians from around the province, as well as, in metro.
I think this is where the Blueprint Committee came in when it talked about where the government was going with the institutions, that obviously we have to treat tertiary care institutions differently than the other institutions. We obviously could find out, through the committee, whether or not - and we keep hearing and I hear this from the minister, we have two other tertiary care institutions, obviously, in Halifax, the IWK and the Grace. I understand that these provide services to young people - there is any duplication there? So I think what we are trying to do, through this committee, is in actual fact, try to find out and get some information regarding natural studies that we hope that could be given to the committee or individuals who could come before the committee so that the rationale that the minister gave for combining these four institutions that we, as MLAs, would have actual facts in front of us and not take somebody's word that a merger is automatically going to be cost-saving and actually provide better health care.
I think the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is the services that are going to be provided to all Nova Scotians and that is an area which I think the bill does not really talk or answer many of those questions. I know a lot of the debate and the other area that the bill does talk about that we have had more than one opinion on and that is whether it protects the workers who are civil servants. I have heard more than one opinion on actually what this bill does.
The committee would have the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to bring in witnesses who have studied labour law and we would have the opportunity to assess, in actual fact, labour lawyers' interpretation of the bill. We, as members of this Legislature, can read the bill, there is no question. Some people have an easier time with the language than others, but so often, Mr. Speaker, you cannot take one clause of a bill in isolation and say that clause looks after everything, because the other clauses have an effect as well as a particular clause on the legislation. This would give us an opportunity to bring in these people, to go through the bill clause by clause and find out, in actual fact, whether some of the Statutes regarding civil servants, who I acknowledge and as the Minister of Human Resources acknowledges, the day after will not be civil servants any more.
I guess what we are trying to find out, Mr. Speaker, and the debate has been raging on now for two days, is to, I know that we all want to achieve the same goal but, unfortunately, where we are in debating this Bill No. 47, it is very difficult for us to get that kind of information because, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, for me to vote for the bill or not vote for the bill means I have to understand what it is those clauses do to the civil servants. If I feel in any way that in actual fact they may lose some of their rights or benefits that they would have, without going through the bargaining process, I would have to vote against the bill.
Now if I was convinced by labour lawyers, after hearing everyone speak to a committee, that in actual fact my fears are unfounded, then I would have to support the bill. So I am in a quandary, Mr. Speaker, and that is why I think if we go to a committee, in all fairness, I imagine many members of this House are having some difficulty on their own, trying to figure out in this whole debate whether some labour lawyers are correct or the lawyers and the Minister of Human Resources are totally correct.
I am not casting any doubt on any of them, Mr. Speaker, and their abilities. I guess I am a bit confused to know exactly what it is this bill does with those rights. By going to a committee I would hope that we could bring in some impartial people. I know that the Minister of Human Resources indicated that one of the labour lawyers that yes, happens to be NDP, was maybe making those judgments, based on political background. I don't believe that to be true but that was the perception. So we would have to find people who were not connected to any Party or, if they were, all Parties that would agree on the interpretation because I have a great deal of respect for the labour lawyer who wrote the letter questioning many of these issues.
Yes, I know that person's political background but I know I am going to be treading on time. I do have, Mr. Speaker, a few more comments that I would make on another day, not a lot, but a few more. If it is your wish and the wish of the House, I would adjourn debate on the amendment on Bill No. 47 for this evening.
MR. SPEAKER: The debate on the amendment is adjourned.
Now tomorrow is Opposition Members' Day so I will call on the Opposition House Leader to indicate the order of business.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we will be calling Resolution No. 464 and then Resolution No. 100 and then we will be doing some House Orders.
MR. SPEAKER: All right, very well. The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will sit tomorrow from the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 2:00 p.m.
The motion is carried.
[The House rose at 8:00 p.m.]