Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

















HALIFAX, MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1995



Fifty-sixth General Assembly



Third Session



2:00 P.M.



SPEAKER



Hon. Paul MacEwan



DEPUTY SPEAKER



Mrs. Francene Cosman





MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time to commence the afternoon's business. Are there any introductions of guests before we get underway? If not, we will go directly into the daily routine.



PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS



GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION



INTRODUCTION OF BILLS



Bill No. 52 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 30 of the Revised Statutes, 1989. The Barristers and Solicitors Act and to Amend Chapter 58 of the Revised Statutes, 1989. The Cape Breton Barristers' Society Act. (Mr. Bruce Holland)



Bill No. 53 - Entitled an Act Respecting Marketable Title to Land. (Hon. Sandra Jolly)



Bill No. 54 - Entitled An Act Respecting Cosmetology. (Hon. John MacEachern)



MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.





3841

NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.



RESOLUTION NO. 755



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



Whereas today, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the QE II Corporation have reached an understanding on some outstanding issues relative to the amalgamation process; and



Whereas these two parties have acted responsibly and cooperatively in recognizing serious flaws in the amalgamation process; and



Whereas the Minister of Human Resources and the Minister of Health have steadfastly refused to recognize any flaws with the process;



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Human Resources and the Minister of Health follow the lead of the NSGEU and the QE II Corporation and sit down and resolve the flaws in the amalgamation, which are now perfectly clear and avoid a strike that will impact on thousands of Nova Scotians.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 756



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



Whereas management of the proposed Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre have reached a Transition Agreement with their employees to preserve rights, benefits, terms and conditions of employment during a very complex merger; and



Whereas unlike this government, the hospital recognized the need to preserve the many statutory working conditions of Victoria General Hospital employees; and



Whereas the 83 per cent strike vote by loyal, dedicated and long-suffering VG workers declares that they will not accept any more cuts or threats to their pay, benefits and working conditions;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Human Resources Minister to recognize that his inflexible, incredible, anti-labour attitude is hampering health care and health reform by needlessly antagonizing experienced and committed health care providers.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Premier.



RESOLUTION NO. 757



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



Whereas the Uniform Final Examination is an important component of the process to become a chartered accountant; and



Whereas this year, Nova Scotia writers scooped 3 of the top 10 awards out of 2,947 writers across Canada, including the gold medal for the highest mark in the country; and



Whereas our provincial average pass rate is a full 21 per cent higher than the national average;



Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of the Atlantic School of Chartered Accountants, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nova Scotia, and the CA firms who have all contributed to the success of our students.



Mr. Speaker, I would request 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 Minister of Municipal Affairs.



RESOLUTION NO. 758



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



Whereas a Nova Scotia student has captured the top spot in this year's Uniform Final Examinations for chartered accountants; and



Whereas Blair Cook of Doane Raymond, Kentville, has achieved the gold medal for the highest mark in Canada, scoring 380 out of a possible 400, well above the 240 pass mark; and



Whereas the last time a Nova Scotian writer achieved the gold medal was in 1957;



Therefore be it resolved that this House send congratulations to Mr. Cook for his outstanding accomplishments.



Mr. Speaker, I would ask 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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



RESOLUTION NO. 759



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



Whereas opportunities under Nova Scotia's sport and recreation program offer a multitude of opportunities for recreational enthusiasts across Nova Scotia; and



Whereas there is wide-ranging concern that the Nova Scotia Government is planning to cut up to $1.8 million from the present $5.8 million budget of the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission; and



Whereas the Minister of Human Resources and Minister responsible for the Sport and Recreation Commission recently said, "the regular delivery system will be maintained. Changes will be made but in administration costs at the commission, not in grants to the province's sport governing bodies";



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Human Resources stick to his commitment and not allow funding and organization for amateur sports programs across Nova Scotia to become embroiled in the same chaotic mess that his government has insisted on putting thousands of others Nova Scotians through since their election to office in 1993.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Dartmouth Cole-Harbour.



RESOLUTION NO. 760



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



Whereas unemployment in Nova Scotia has been on a steady downward trend for the past two years, with the numbers of unemployed declining significantly despite the fact that the number of Nova Scotians actively seeking work has actually increased as a result of their increased optimism in our economy; and



Whereas Nova Scotia has been Atlantic Canada's leader in job creation for most of this year, making it one of the top job creation provinces across Canada; and



Whereas 9,000 new jobs were created in Nova Scotia between November 1994 and November 1995, 6,000 full-time and 3,000 part-time, increasing the number of working Nova Scotians by 18,000 since this government took office;



Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Premier John Savage and acknowledge his leadership in working to revitalize Nova Scotia's economy, and urge the Premier and his government to remain committed to their course of making Nova Scotia one of the best places in Canada in which to do business, thus stimulating private sector job growth and putting Nova Scotians back to work.



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



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Queens.



RESOLUTION NO. 761



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



Whereas the Premier, the Minister of Transportation and the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency will today embark on a tour of Washington and New York; and



Whereas much of the Premier's itinerary is based on fisheries issues; and



Whereas it is essential that the viewpoints of Nova Scotia's fishery are advanced with reasoned clarity and vigour;



Therefore be it resolved that the Premier take the Minister of Fisheries to Washington and New York and make him an equal partner in U.S.-based deliberations regarding the fisheries.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 762



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



Whereas DND housing at Roseway Park and Commission Street in Shelburne, valued at $1.5 million, was sold to private developers for $258,000 despite unanimous support from the surrounding communities and the province for use of the housing to meet the needs for low-income housing; and



Whereas the sale is subject to approval by the federal Cabinet; and



Whereas these dozens of houses would go far to help the 157 Shelburne families waiting for affordable homes;



Therefore be it resolved that this House appeal to the federal Cabinet that it reject the sale of DND's Shelburne housing to private developers, and instead cooperate with the province so these homes help meet the need for affordable housing.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable to the House that notice be waived?



I hear several Noes.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Eastern Shore.



RESOLUTION NO. 763



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



Whereas tonight in the community of Moser River a special tree lighting ceremony will take place to celebrate reconciliation, goodwill and joy in the community in this season of Christmas; and



Whereas it is fitting the tree lighting ceremony should take place at Eastern Consolidated School which, under school Principal Kelly Rambeau, serves as a catalyst for change and healing in the community by teaching that violence is not a solution to problems and showing students how to settle disputes in a peaceful way; and



Whereas the residents of Moser River are working together to make tonight a special event for the whole community, with students making ornaments and special covers for carol books that depict what peace means to them, local businesses donating lights and parents organizing a follow-up reception;



Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the united efforts of the residents of Moser River who, through this special tree lighting ceremony, are celebrating the goodness of the community and expressing their commitment to make Moser River a better place to live.



Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Kings North.



RESOLUTION NO. 764



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



Whereas residents of metropolitan Halifax elected Walter Fitzgerald on Saturday as the inaugural mayor for the metropolitan's new regional government; and



Whereas the new mayor has extensive political experience to bring to his new job; and



Whereas the new mayor and councillors will officially become the metropolitan area's new regional government on April 1, 1996;



Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature wish Walter Fitzgerald and the council the very best as they undertake the challenging role of mayor of metro's new regional government.



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



[2:15 p.m.]



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to waive notice on?



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 Pictou West.



RESOLUTION NO. 765



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



Whereas in February of this year, the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia began their campaign to open a small community residence with a rehabilitation component for Nova Scotians with brain injuries; and



Whereas the group initiated the campaign for the supportive housing project because there are waiting lists for current rehabilitative facilities and because there are presently no non-profit services of this kind in the Maritime region; and



Whereas in November - some nine months later - concerned with the lack of response from this government, the association is appealing for concrete answers on the possible future for their project, receiving only vague comments from the Health Minister;



Therefore be it resolved that this minister confirm today that the association and those in desperate need of the facility for which they are fighting, remain true to his word in this House on November 22, 1995 that he "will work very hard to get the program that we will decide on in place as quickly as possible for the benefit of all those affected" and that another nine months will not pass before action has been taken.



MR. SPEAKER: Are you seeking waiver of notice on that?



MR. MCINNES: Hardly.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Hants West.



RESOLUTION NO. 766



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



Whereas the first Christmas Angels Telethon was undertaken in 1977 by the Hants County Family and Children's Services; and



Whereas community volunteers from Windsor-West Hants participated in the 1995 Christmas Angles production at the Hants County War Memorial Community Centre in Windsor yesterday; and



Whereas over $18,000 was raised yesterday to assist needy children and families throughout Hants County this Christmas;



Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend the hard work and dedication by staff at Hants County Family and Children's Services and all community volunteers in the success of the production of the 18th Annual Hants County Christmas Angels Show.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



That would appear to conclude the daily routine. We now advance to Orders of the Day.



ORDERS OF THE DAY



GOVERNMENT BUSINESS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.



PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 47.



Bill No. 47 - Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The debate was adjourned by the honourable member for Halifax Citadel. I see he is not here. Are there further speakers to the amendment?



The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of those who have forgotten what we are doing, we are working on an amendment at the present time, to Bill No. 47, the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Act. The amendment reads, "That the words after `that' be deleted, . . .", that is following second reading be deleted, ". . . and the following be substituted therefor: `this House affirm the legitimacy and advisability of establishing a decentralized, community-controlled health care system.'".



Mr. Speaker, as we are all well aware, this bill combines the four tertiary care centres in the City of Halifax into one. It is a bill of particular significance to those, of course, who are resident in the City of Halifax. But because these are the four tertiary care hospitals serving all of the Province of Nova Scotia and actually in large measure the Province of Prince Edward Island and the Province of New Brunswick as well. It is of importance right across this province to all those who have any interest in health care in this province.



Mr. Speaker, I was privileged this weekend to attend a large number of functions. Quite truthfully, I was amazed at the response of people to this news of the threatened strike by the hospital staff at the Victoria General Hospital. People are truly upset, they are lacking in trust in the medical system in this province and they are afraid for the future of health care in this province. They feel that the present health care system is being ripped apart and they want to know why. They were quite happy two or three years ago with the health care system that we had. There was nothing wrong with the delivery of the health care system through the community and regional hospitals and the tertiary centres in Halifax. They knew they had adequate physicians in the province and they had an adequate number of specialists in this province.



Today they see that doctors are leaving the system, specialists are leaving the system and they see that their community health care hospitals are being downgraded. Mr. Speaker, in my constituency alone we have lost approximately 30 beds in the Hants Community Hospital and we have no other area that we can go to, except to the central area in the city.



Mr. Speaker, people are used to having control of their own hospital in their own community. They have a feeling, although it is not necessarily true, that that health care facility in their small towns belongs to the residents of that small town. In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, in many cases that is true. I know, for instance, the Hants Community Hospital was formerly the Payzant Hospital in the Town of Windsor. It was a hospital that had been established back in the very early 1900's on lands that belonged, I believe, to a Dr. Payzant, who provided the land and some of the funding to start that hospital. The remainder of the funding to start that original hospital in Windsor came from the local community.



During the last Liberal Regime in this province, under Premier Gerald Regan, a new hospital was built in the Town of Windsor. It utilized funds from the old Payzant Hospital, plus funding from the local councils, from the Town of Windsor and the Municipality of West Hants, the Municipality of East Hants and the Town of Hantsport all contributed funding towards the establishment of this new, modern facility in Windsor. In fact, the hospital in Windsor was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975, I believe, when she was on a visit to Nova Scotia, she and the Honourable Gerald Regan opened the new Windsor hospital, Hants Community Hospital. The people felt that was their hospital, it was right in their town, they knew the nurses and the staff, they knew the practitioners who used that hospital and they had great faith in that hospital.



Today, Mr. Speaker, that hospital has been downgraded, it has become a hospital with only 50 per cent of its beds in use, its practitioners have been cut back considerably and there are a number of the specialist services that were heretofore provided by that hospital that are no longer being provided. People understand that system, they know that system and they feel confident in that system to take care of their health needs.



I don't believe that big is necessarily better but there seems to be a strange preoccupation with the present government that we have to make everything bigger, whether it is municipalities, whether it is school boards or whether it is health care facilities. I believe that small is much better than large, because of the fact that when you have something that is small located within a small community, people have a personal interest in that particular facility. They will support it and they know and understand what it is about and they have faith that when they require to utilize the services of that facility that it is there and available to them.



MR. SPEAKER: Excuse me, I would like to ask other members of the House who do not have the floor if they could please try to keep private whisperings to a minimum volume level so that we can hear the honourable member.



MR. RUSSELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What this amendment says is that perhaps we should put this amalgamation on hold and leave things where they are for the present time until such time as the Minister of Health and the Department of Health have time to figure out where they are taking the health care system in this province because quite frankly, I don't know where the health care system is going and the people of Nova Scotia don't know and they are perturbed and they are worried about what the future of the health care system is going to be. This is very apparent, as I say, when you speak to people and the first question they ask you is, what are you fellows down there in Halifax doing with our health care system?



So, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 47 that is before us is a bill that we have debated at great length in this House on second reading. We have had a number of amendments. The Minister of Health hasn't seen fit to inject himself into the bill at all. He gave us a very brief overview of how great the health care system was in the Province of Nova Scotia when he introduced the bill for second reading but he didn't touch at all on the ramifications of this bill, which gets you, of course, into the how, the mechanics of the amalgamation.



So, Mr. Speaker, I will be somewhat reluctantly voting against this bill when it comes to a vote. I am just hoping that by the time this bill gets through the Law Amendments Committee that the minister or perhaps the Minister of Human Resources will come forward with amendments to this bill, it will make it more palatable so that I may indeed vote in favour of this bill but at the present time I will not be voting in favour of this bill.



MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further speakers to the amendment? If not, the question is called.



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



I hear a recorded vote requested by the member for Kings North. Is there another member who requests a recorded vote? The member for Hants West does, that makes it two.



Ring the bells, call in the members for a recorded vote.



This is on the amendment now, not on the main motion.



[2:28 p.m.]



[The Division bells were rung.]



MR. SPEAKER: All right, turn the bells off. The Clerks will now conduct a recorded vote on the amendment, the amendment being, "That the words after `that' be deleted and the following be substituted therefor: `this House affirm the legitimacy and advisability of establishing a decentralized, community-controlled health care system.'".



[3:25 p.m.]





YEAS NAYS



Mr. Russell Mrs. Norrie

Mr. Moody Dr. Smith

Mr. Holm Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Chisholm Dr. Stewart

Mr. Archibald Ms. Jolly

Mr. Leefe Mr. O'Malley

Mr. McInnes Mr. Adams

Mr. Taylor Mr. Lorraine

Mr. M. MacDonald

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Rayfuse

Mr. Richards

Mr. Surette

Mr. White

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Carruthers

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson



THE CLERK: For, 8. Against, 21.



MR. SPEAKER: I declare the amendment carried in the negative.



Now, we are back to the main bill itself and I believe that all speakers who wish to speak have spoken. The question is called on the bill, that the bill now be read a second time.



A recorded vote is being called for.



The Clerks will conduct a recorded vote on the motion that the bill be now read a second time.



AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to ring the bells?



MR. SPEAKER: I am not prepared to ring the bells again for an hour, no. We have just had a bell ringing and everybody is here.



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, not everybody is here.



MR. SPEAKER: All right, I will sanction the bells ringing for one minute to bring back the tardy.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order . . .



MR. SPEAKER: It is at the discretion of Mr. Speaker and we just had a whole hour consumed with bell ringing. I am not going to let them ring another hour. I am supported in this by the majority of the House. The Whips said they were ready to vote.



MR. RON RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I understood that the bells could be rung for a period of an hour to allow members to get here. We have members that are out of the House at the present time and one, in particular, will be approximately 45 minutes before they arrive in the House.



MR. SPEAKER: I have to answer to the public and to the taxpayers of this province for effective use of public money and we are not going to ring the bells here for an hour and then for another hour consecutively, it makes no sense. The bells were just rung, everybody is here that wants to vote. I will let the bells be rung for five minutes to summon the tardy.



MR. RUSSELL: I cannot get people here in five minutes.



MR. SPEAKER: Then we will vote now.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, maybe the member for Cape Breton West is on the road and may be wishing to vote on this.



MR. SPEAKER: That could well be, we just rang the bells for a whole hour and everybody arrived who wanted to vote.



MR. HOLM: He is on his way.



MR. SPEAKER: The bells will ring for five minutes only, until 3:35 p.m., and then will cease ringing.



[3:30 p.m.]



[The Division bells were rung.]



MR. SPEAKER: All right. I said five minutes and I felt that would be a reasonable length of time. The members were here, they have left. The voting will now take place. This is on the motion that the bill be read a second time.





[3:35 p.m.]



YEAS NAYS



Mrs. Norrie

Dr. Smith

Mr. Boudreau

Dr. Stewart

Ms. Jolly

Mr. O'Malley

Mr. Adams

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. M. MacDonald

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Rayfuse

Mr. Richards

Mr. Surette

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Carruthers

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson



THE CLERK: Those in support of the motion, 23; those opposed, 0.



MR. SPEAKER: I declare the motion carried.



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



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 48 for second reading.



Bill No. 48 - Provincial Berry Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance on second reading.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Agriculture, I am berry pleased to have the opportunity to make a few comments on Bill No. 48 that will declare the wild blueberry the official berry of Nova Scotia. The blueberry producers of Nova Scotia requested this and there is recognition and support from the other farm organizations for this legislation naming the wild blueberry as the official provincial berry.





All Nova Scotians are familiar with and have savoured the wild blueberry that grows all over the province. This is a berry that has developed into a major Nova Scotia industry. Not to Bragg unduly, Mr. Speaker, but may I point out that Nova Scotia is a leader in the production of wild blueberries in Canada, producing an estimated 30.2 million pounds in 1995.



During the late 1940's and early 1950's, Nova Scotians marketed hand-picked berries that were growing throughout the province. In order for the commercial development of the industry to take place and to be successful, there had to be a great deal of pioneering research and extension work done in cooperation with blueberry growers and processors in Nova Scotia. Today there are about 1,000 blueberry producers in this province with 28,000 acres in production. This year's crop is close to the 1993 record-breaking year, at 30.3 million pounds. The 1994 crop was worth $11.2 million in farm gate receipts.



A substantial processing industry has developed that creates many products for local and export markets. The blueberry is now the largest single export crop in Nova Scotia, being sold to markets in Germany, Japan and many other countries.



Mr. Speaker, all of us recognize the importance of agriculture to this province and the significance of the wild blueberry to that industry. It is appropriate to have an official berry to market our province and this industry. I trust the Opposition will not accuse us of jamming this bill through. (Laughter)



I would ask for their support and the support of all the House in moving second reading. Thank you.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago, you took a decision to hold a vote on second reading of Bill No. 47. In absence of what I can understand of the Rules of this House, that when the bells are rung, they will not be stopped until the consent has been given by all Whips of recognized Parties in this House and within the limitation of an hour, and because of your decision, you have taken away my right to participate in a vote in this House.



I would like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, under what rules you would indicate that that decision was made, that effectively took away my right to vote on an important piece of legislation in this House.



MR. SPEAKER: If the honourable member had been here in the House, he would have heard the answer to that question. I did not deny the honourable member the right to vote. He denied it to himself by not coming into the Chamber to vote. (Interruption)



The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have read the rules carefully and I would draw your attention to Page 33 of our Rules and Forms of Procedure and that is Rule 38(4), "When a roll call vote is demanded by at least two Members, Mr. Speaker or the Chairman shall order the bells to be rung and shall then direct the Clerk to call the roll when he is satisfied that all Members wishing to vote are in their seats, provided that the bells shall be rung for a reasonable length of time and in no event for longer than one hour.".



I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that in this particular case, the Whips were not in the House to advise you that all members who wished to vote were present, and certainly the bells were not rung for the duration of one hour.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, with the greatest of deference, I have had the very rule that was just quoted to me, open in front of me, here in my place for the last hour. I waited here for the entire length of one hour for the bells to be rung on the vote on the amendment and when that vote was taken immediately thereafterwards followed the vote on second reading of the bill without even any debate, without even a speech by the minister who had introduced the bill. The votes took place, bang, bang, back to back, concurrently, but between number one and number two, a number of honourable members saw fit to leave the Chamber.



The rule that has just been quoted very clearly leaves this matter in the hands of the Speaker. It is not in the hands of Party Whips. That is simply a convention that we have here in the House to try to accommodate all Parties. But where the Speaker is satisfied that all members wishing to vote are in their seats, and they were in their seats, and then they left, and would not come back although I said that the bells would be rung for only five minutes, the rule leaves it up to the Chairman or up to the Speaker in the House, the Chairman in the Committee of the Whole and I am not prepared to entertain a lengthy debate on this.



We are dealing with second reading of the Provincial Berry Act, Bill No. 48, and if there is a speaker on that bill, I will recognize the speaker. I have made my ruling on this already, while the honourable members were out.



MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: I recognize no point of privilege. Yes.



MR. MACLEOD: On a point of order, I would just like to point out that I was not in the House and I did not walk out when the vote was called, contrary to what was just stated. I was not even here.



MR. SPEAKER: I didn't state that to you, honourable member. I stated that in a general sense and it is true. (Interruptions)



MR. MACLEOD: You said all members, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: I agree with you. (Interruptions)



MR. MACLEOD: I wasn't here.



MR. SPEAKER: I agree. Now, we are on the Provincial Berry Act. Are there any speakers or intervenors to that bill? (Interruptions) Please, honourable members, please. This matter is dispensed with. Are there any speakers to the Provincial Berry Act? The question is called?



AN HON. MEMBER: All you are doing is sitting in your Chair, making up your own rules. (Interruptions)



MR. SPEAKER: Are there speakers to the bill? Is this on the bill.



MR. JOHN HOLM: I am on my feet, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: Are you on the bill?



MR. HOLM: I expect to talk on the berry bill. The top priority of this government, Mr. Speaker. The fact that we had to obviously hurry ahead so that we could get to the berry bill, and I am just trying to look for the number here, so I can find this important piece of legislation in my Bill Book so I can then start to debate it.



[3:45 p.m.]



Mr. Speaker, what we have before us is something that, I am sure, this government is going to be very happy to brag about, the berry bill. It is interesting that this is a bill that is so important to this government that it had to precede many other pieces of legislation, that would have done things like modernize and update pieces of legislation that governed all kinds of groups like engineers, architects, hairdressers and so on. So it must be relevant because this government has decided to bring forward the berry berry bill, claiming the blueberry the official berry of the Province of Nova Scotia even before they were able to bring in legislation that would control or put spending limits on those who are seeking provincial office.



I do not know what kind of important implications this berry bill is going to have for Nova Scotia. I would like to have the minister who introduced the bill, maybe he could stand up and provide us with an explanation, a rationale as to why introducing a piece of legislation that is going to proclaim the blueberry the official berry of this province is more important than some of the other things because, obviously, we are very short of time. We do not have time to ring the bells; we have to get on with this.



I would like to know if there has been an economic study done. Have we been able to determine what kind of effect this is going to have on blueberry producers in the Province of Nova Scotia? Is this going to be increasing the amount in the price that berry producers are going to be receiving in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker?



One has to scratch their head and, really, my reason for getting up is not that I am opposed to blueberries, not that I am going to be voting against this bill in the final analysis, Mr. Speaker, but I just think that it is totally appropriate to draw to the attention of members of this government that when they do not have time to sit down and try to resolve important matters and disputes dealing with health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, they haven't got time for that, we haven't got time to allow members, maybe who want to be able to get in to vote on bills, but we do have time and it is a top priority of this government to make sure that the blueberry gets recognized as the official berry for the Province of Nova Scotia. This government is going to go down as being known as the berry government and the one who can introduce the duck tolling piece of legislation; two important contributions of this government while, at the same time, they haven't got the time to sit down and to resolve important vital issues like health care.



We are talking about priorities. We are talking about what is important. Members on the government benches can still say, well there you go talking to the audience again. Well, I am talking to an audience, Mr. Speaker. I am talking to whatever Liberal members happens to be seated in their seats. (Interruption) The member for Hants East says, at least we do not run out. Well, I would suggest they are running out an awful lot. They are running out on their responsibilities and they are running out on the responsibilities that they have to the people of this province.



What people must be thinking. Here it is, a province facing high unemployment, being assaulted by the federal government with the UI changes that they are planning to bring in. Many of those blueberry workers are part-time and casual workers, who, Mr. Speaker, are going to be injured, and their families, partners, children, because of those UI changes. Those businesses that rely on those part-time workers, rely on there being a dependable work force for picking and having those berries, so that those businesses that are involved in packing and using them in value-added processes for longer term employment, they, too, are going to suffer consequences. But, Mr. Speaker, this government, rather than being prepared to stand up and speak out against and to try to lead the charge against what their federal, red team colleagues are doing, this government has more time and more interest for bringing in this bill to proclaim the blueberry the official berry of Nova Scotia.



I hope, Mr. Speaker, when this government seeks re-election, I know that when the Lieutenant Governor comes at the end of this session and he will read off all the accomplishments, all of the bills that have been passed in this House, I am sure that this government is going to highlight that bill and want to ensure that this is one of the key issues and central things that they put down in their campaign literature for accomplishments, at the end of their term.



We have a Nova Scotia duck troller, a nice dog, and we have a blueberry, Mr. Speaker, as the official berry for Nova Scotia. We have record unemployment, we have assaults being made on part-time workers, we have problems in the health care system because this government is too pig-headed, they are unwilling to sit down and try to resolve issues. But, obviously, they are so busy dreaming up the berry bill that they don't have time to address the other crucial issues.



Mr. Speaker, I suggest that this government has its priorities more than a slight bit out of whack. This is something the government may wish to brag about, but it is something that when I take a look at the government's priorities, and I think that most people in this province when they take a look at their priorities, will feel a bit of a nauseous turning in their stomachs when they see what the government does have time for, what they are prepared to put a priority on and what important, vital issues this government isn't prepared, in a proactive and in a way of compassion and caring for the people we were elected to serve, they don't have time for those.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Well my sentiments follow very closely the NDP and, for some strange reason, I must concur with many of the things he suggests, and in the haste with which the government seems to want to get on to the bill to make the blueberry Nova Scotia's official berry.



We were fully anticipating a moment ago that the Minister of Health would be speaking on the bill that he had introduced but he couldn't wait, he didn't have time, he had to hurry on to this. I am not sure whether he is reviewing what was said last week in the Chamber or not; perhaps he is reading Hansard to see what people said and will comment on it later, but it is a difficult situation.



The blueberry industry is important to Nova Scotia but, at the same time, the priorities of this government are most peculiar. I do not want to detract for one moment from the importance of the berry industry. This past weekend - the Minister of Agriculture I am sure could tell you - the Nova Scotia Blueberry Producers Association joined the Federation of Agriculture as a partner, to make agriculture stronger and better in Nova Scotia. In Nova Scotia, agriculture is valued at over $300 million; the blueberry industry is an integral part of that.



We are the world's largest exporter of three commodities: Christmas trees, lobsters and blueberries. We don't have a lot of competition in the exportation of blueberries because blueberries only grow commercially in three locations: the State of Maine, the Province of New Brunswick and the Province of Nova Scotia. Blueberry producers learned a long time ago that if you want to get ahead, you had better learn to get along. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the State of Maine farmers formed an international blueberry marketing association. They have held many marketing events that have helped further the blueberry industry. Maine grows more blueberries than Nova Scotia; Nova Scotia grows more than New Brunswick.



A few years ago there was a very successful sales and marketing trip that took place in Boston by WBGANA, the Wild Blueberry Growers Association of North America. It was an international event with two Ministers of Agriculture and the Governor of the State of Maine promoting wild blueberries.



The wild blueberry is not to be confused with other berries that are blue. They call them blueberries in Saskatchewan or they call it a Saskatoon; it is a very different berry than the one we are growing here. There is a very good high-bush blueberry industry as well and that is a different berry altogether. Many of us see those berries in the fall; they are about three times the size of the wild blueberry that we are celebrating today.



The blueberry industry has been good to rural Nova Scotia, particularly in Cumberland County. In Cumberland County, the member for Cumberland North's family have been involved in the blueberry industry; his uncle, John Bragg, is probably the world's largest exporter and grower of wild blueberries. He has been the inspiration for a lot of people; he has been the innovator of a lot of new technologies, never alone, always working with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, through the Nova Scotia Blueberry Institute. He also has blueberry farms in the State of Maine.



The blueberry industry in North America is as modern as any agricultural enterprise. They leave no stone unturned. The member for Cumberland North's father worked for about 15 years with the Department of Agriculture engineering staff to develop a blueberry harvester that would hook on to a tractor and save people from the back-breaking task of raking the berries by hand. This machine actually will pick berries better and in better condition than you can pick them by hand. Each machine that Doug Bragg builds is a one-of production. You deliver your tractor to the shop and they build the machine around the tractor so that it fits and works the way it is intended. This machine has saved many thousands of hours of labour and saved many thousands of dollars. The Government of Nova Scotia, through some of its innovative programs, has helped farmers adapt their fields so that the fields can be harvested with a mechanical harvester rather than by hand. There are policies to remove big rocks; there are policies to level the fields.



Blueberries are so important to the province that a few years ago the Department of Agriculture recommended and this Legislature passed a bill banning the importation of American bees because of the viruses they contain. They would have wiped out the honey industry in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association and the Nova Scotia Blueberry Growers Association supported that legislation. This government tried to change that legislation, but they had to back down after a study.



We are interested in blueberries; the Opposition is not in any way, shape or form making light of the blueberry industry, nor the importance of the bill, but this Opposition makes light of the government and the priorities that it shows in removing the democratic process from this Legislature and from members. Where are the priorities of this government? That's the question, Mr. Speaker, that begs answering. When legislation is tabled in the House and the minister responsible does not speak to the bill, does not answer any questions, one wonders what is going on. We are the representatives of the people who are here to ask and to seek and to find out. So far, it has been very difficult. We are not alone in the frustration. We are hearing it from our constituents, as well.



[4:00 p.m.]



This blueberry industry worth $11 million a year is quite an industry. It is bigger than the apple industry. Apples used to be more important to Nova Scotia's agricultural community than they are today. The oldest agricultural association in North America is the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association, but markets changed, production changed and the Nova Scotia apple is no longer exported to Great Britain the way it was 40 and 50 years ago. The apple growers in Nova Scotia have changed and they have adapted. They are growing new varieties under new methods.



The blueberry growers have changed from an industry in the 1950's where, if you picked a few berries, you took them down to the corner store or you dropped them off at the co-op and somebody sold them for 5 cents or 10 cents for a little strawberry box. But now the blueberry industry has changed. I was on a blueberry farm a couple of years ago on the grading machine. Berries coming from the field have leaves, they have off-coloured ones. They have developed a photoelectric eye for grading blueberries. They put them on an endless belt and the berries go along faster than the eye can identify that they are berries. The camera is working and it sorts out the berries that it wants and a little shot of air blows and knocks the ones it doesn't want out of the way. You can grade berries faster and more accurately using the high-tech machinery and computers than any group of people ever could. That, too, along with the mechanical harvester and the electronic rating machine, has advanced the blueberry industry a great deal.



The Blueberry Institute, located in Debert Industrial Park, probably is the greatest advancement for the blueberry industry that there ever was. That combines the expertise of the government research specialists from the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. It combines the federal expertise, to a lesser degree certainly than the province, but they are there as well, and it provides a place for the practical application of research information because it is also funded in part by the private producers. The growers of the blueberries take part in the Blueberry Institute.



Recently the blueberry growers had their annual meeting in Truro. They were very pleased that the blueberry was going to join the mayflower, the osprey, the duck troller and the spruce tree as part of Nova Scotia. It is fine, it is great and it is to be saluted that we now have a provincial berry, but, Mr. Speaker, where does that put the government's priorities? The school system is falling apart, municipal affairs is up in the air, the health system is almost totally in chaos and the priority of this government, as we saw today, is to rush through the business of this House, rush through, trample on the rights of the members so that we could immediately move to the blueberry bill.



Mr. Speaker, that says a lot. That tells you . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I doubt very much that the bill now under discussion deals with the points the honourable member is entreating the House on.



MR. ARCHIBALD: No, it is quite surprising, Mr. Speaker. What does it say about the priorities of the government? Because legislation indicates the priority. Yes, I heard the Minister of Education say that education and health care are the priorities of Nova Scotians today. They don't seem to be the priority of this government. Instead, the priority of this government is to name the provincial berry. You have to wonder who is in charge. If there is anybody in charge of government policy . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: In Priorities, where is the P & P Committee?



MR. ARCHIBALD: The P & P Committee, I have no idea.



AN HON. MEMBER: . . . down in the States apparently.



MR. ARCHIBALD: Down in the States, well that could very well be and you know if they are down in the United States I hope that they sell more Nova Scotia products. We do need to trade more and the blueberries do sell in the United States. We could take a lesson from the blueberry growers who realized that trade is important and international boundaries do not and should not hinder the trade in berries. There is no other agricultural commodity that is traded freely across borders as is the wild blueberry.



I am disappointed with the government attitude that we are seeing in the Legislature. I am not disappointed with the blueberry industry of Nova Scotia nor the many hundreds of people that have made the blueberry industry what it is today. The scientists and the dedicated extension workers from the Department of Agriculture, the farmers who are non-stop in their technology advancement - John Bragg in Oxford with his huge freezers for blueberries and carrots - they have made a contribution and I think you can say they made the contribution because they had their priorities in order. They got ahead because they knew where they were going. They had a goal out in front of them and they had a plan.



This bill outlines so clearly and the speed and the haste with which our rights as members are trampled on indicates clearly that this government does not have a plan, they are more interested in what is going to happen five minutes ago than they are with what is going to happen a year from now. Day after day there are telephone calls from constituents wondering what in the name of time is happening. I had a senior citizen call me the other day and they didn't know whether or not they were covered by Medicare.



MR. SPEAKER: This bill does not deal with that subject at all, really, it doesn't.



MR. ARCHIBALD: You are right, it doesn't, but the one is a priority of all Nova Scotians and the bill is something nice to do when you get all of the important, heavy duty things covered and completed. My point is with regard to this bill, I will support the bill and I support the blueberry growers but I certainly do not support nor will I have anything to do with the roughshod manner in which we were treated today. Thank you.



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



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon in support of the naming of the blueberry as the official berry for the Province of Nova Scotia. In the beautiful constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, blueberries are grown for commercial sale; they are grown in communities such as Upper Musquodoboit, Halifax County, they are grown in Dean, Halifax County. Blueberries are grown for commercial resale in Newton Mills, Colchester County and in Upper Stewiacke.



The blueberry industry is very important to the overall Nova Scotia economy. Last year the blueberry industry generated some $11 million and the agriculture industry as a whole is responsible for over $300 million. You can very easily see that the blueberry industry is an integral part of the agriculture industry in this province. I, too, don't intend to make light of this bill because I do support the bill, I think it is a very good bill and we certainly don't have a whole lot of problem with it.



The Minister of Agriculture conducted a study not too long ago, and the study was relative to the bee importation ban that is presently in place in this province. The minister hired some consultants to go to work and study whether or not the importation ban should be lifted. As you know, the domestic bees, the pollinators that we have are parasite free. They do not have viruses for the most part; there may be the odd spot and a few locations where there will be from time to time small flare-ups with parasites. These pollinators work extremely hard and are responsible for the high quality blueberry that we have in this province.



In Nova Scotia there are two different varieties of blueberry. There is the high bush and the berry of the high bush is a much larger berry, but still very tasty. I can only speak from my personal experience and I let my taste buds be the judge. Homemade blueberry pie is extremely hard to beat. I can understand the Minister of Agriculture perhaps let his taste buds come into play when he made the decision to name the blueberry the official berry.



In the Musquodoboit Valley each summer students go to work raking blueberries and let me tell you, manually raking blueberries is a very difficult job. I do not know how many members here have had the opportunity to rake blueberries. (Interruption) It is great to see that we have a fair number of MLAs here who have raked blueberries.



The blueberry industry does contribute greatly to the economy. I understand the Bragg conglomerate, so to speak, does have a machine they developed, manufactured that certainly makes it much easier. I understand the berries are of a better quality than when they are actually picked manually. The Department of Agriculture research staff have always been very supportive of the blueberry industry in this province. The researchers and the developers that work at the NSAC are, as far as I am concerned, pretty much indispensable.



With those few words I want to congratulate the Blueberry Association for recently joining the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. I want to congratulate the blueberry industry as a whole, because it is so important to the Nova Scotia economy. In fact, I would congratulate the Minister of Agriculture for bringing the bill forward. I, too, have concerns as to how the government places or misplaces its prerogatives, but what we are talking about here is Bill No. 48. We now have an official dog and now we have an official blueberry. Without any further ado, I should let you know I will be supporting this piece of legislation.



MR. SPEAKER: Further speakers to the bill? If not, we will put the question that the bill be now read a second time.



I hear only one member requesting a recorded vote. I hear now two. (Interruption) Everyone is in favour of the bill. No one has spoken against it. It is unanimously supported. How can there be a recorded vote on that? No one spoke against it.



"When a roll call vote is demanded by at least two Members, Mr. Speaker or the Chairman shall order the bells to be rung and shall then direct the Clerk to call the roll when he is satisfied that all Members wishing to vote are in their seats, provided that the bells shall be rung for a reasonable length of time and in no event for longer than one hour.". On a bill which is unanimously supported by the House, I see no need for the bells to ring for an hour. It is up to the Speaker; it says so in the rule.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, you just made a statement, you said the bill is unanimously supported by the House. How do you know that that is so?



MR. SPEAKER: Because everyone who spoke on the bill supported it indicating. . .



MR. RUSSELL: But there are a lot of people not here.



MR. SPEAKER: Are there further speakers on the bill? (Interruptions)



If there are no further speakers on the bill, there has been a request for the bells to be rung.



The rule leaves the length and period of time that the bells be rung to the discretion of the Chair, and for a reasonable length of time.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, it doesn't leave it to the discretion of the Chair.



MR. SPEAKER: It does. It is right there in the book.



MR. RUSSELL: It does not, Mr. Speaker, it says when he is satisfied that the members who wish to vote are in the House, but for no longer than one hour. That has been the tradition in this House for Lord knows how many years.



MR. SPEAKER: It seems we have an alternative candidate for the position of Speaker. The rules here very clearly state that the Chairman or Speaker, ". . . shall order the bells to be rung and shall then direct the Clerk to call the roll when he . . .", the Speaker, "is satisfied that all Members wishing to vote are in their seats, providing that the bells shall be rung for a reasonable length of time and in no event for longer than one hour.".



That is what the rule says. The interpretation of it is to the Chair.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, you yourself have said that by convention, the Speaker will ask all Whips if they are satisfied. With basically the utterance of a word, you are throwing potentially decades, if not 100 years, worth of convention right out the window. (Interruptions)



MR. SPEAKER: It is the duty of the Chair, above all, in this House to preserve order and order cannot be preserved when the bells are going to be gratuitously rung for one hour repeatedly throughout a day. That is just a breakdown of order. We cannot have that. The honourable member for Hants East, I see getting up and then the Deputy Premier.





MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker on a point of order. The rule indicates that the Speaker, shall when satisfied that all members wishing to vote are in their seats and the bells shall be rung for a reasonable time. That would mean, to me, if there was somebody outside that said, I want to get into my seat give me some time to get in there that the Speaker would be reasonable and allow. It does not mean that someone could go outside, deliberately leave this House or deliberately leave this Chamber, go up and sit in the gallery and claim that he has not had an opportunity to come down here and vote. I do not believe the rule means that and I can read the rule and the member for Halifax Atlantic sounds like he has been here for years or something. He is not exactly someone with a long beard in this House any more than I am. My interpretation is as good as his.



MR. SPEAKER: I wish to hear the Deputy Premier next.



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, it seems as if the bells are going to be rung, why don't we try ringing them and let's hope that the Whips would make a special effort to rouse those people that want to vote and are entitled to vote as soon as possible and we will see how we make out. That might be the best way to resolve it and get on.



MR. SPEAKER: I think I will support what the Deputy Premier says. Let the bells be rung and we will hope that this can be done in a reasonable period of time. Ring the bells and call in the members.



[4:18 p.m.]



[The Division bells were rung.]



MR. SPEAKER: The Clerks will now conduct the recorded vote on Bill No. 48 to be now read a second time. (Interruption)



All right, the bells will begin again until Mr. Taylor is found.



I take it all members who wish to vote have now arrived in the Chamber. Let the recorded vote be commenced.



[The Clerk calls the roll.]



[4:38 p.m.]



YEAS NAYS



Mrs. Norrie Mr. Russell

Mr. Downe

Mr. Gillis

Dr. Stewart

Ms. Jolly

Mr. MacEachern

Mr. Casey

Mr. O'Malley

Mr. Adams

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. M. MacDonald

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Bragg

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Rayfuse

Mr. Richards

Mr. Surette

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Moody

Mr. Holm

Mr. Chisholm

Mr. Archibald

Mr. McInnes

Mr. Carruthers

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. Huskilson

Mr. Taylor

Mr. MacLeod



THE CLERK: For, 34. Against, 1.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.



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



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



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



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.



[4:41 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]



[4:46 P.M. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]



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



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



Bill No. 34 - Maintenance Enforcement Act.



and the chairman has been instructed to recommend this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.



MADAM SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read for a third time on a future day.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Madam Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.



PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 25.



Bill No. 25 - Government Records Act.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Supply and Services.



HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Madam Speaker, in moving this bill for third reading, I want to express my thanks to all of the members of the Law Amendments Committee and to any who may have presented to the Law Amendments Committee on the content of the bill. On second reading, two or three members did speak very eloquently on the bill, particularly the honourable member for Halifax Citadel who gave a very excellent dissertation on the importance of much of the material contained in the bill and on the necessity of retaining for posterity the backgrounds in history and contributions many of the members have made in this House in their service to the public who have elected them to be here.



With that, Madam Speaker, I want to thank all participants and I would move third reading.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: I want, Madam Speaker, basically to indicate that I certainly do support the legislation, and particularly the aspect of the legislation which makes it very clear that the records and those documents that are maintained within the purview of the various government departments, and so on, are, in fact, the property of the government and that the government has a very clear responsibility to ensure the protection and proper care of those. As we are in the day of increased technology, computers and all kinds of other things, the need for knowledge and security measures to ensure the privacy of those matters that are supposed to be kept privy, indeed, has never been greater and the need to be vigilant on that never greater.



One of the concerns that I have in part with the bill - it is not directly implied in the bill - is that with the government moving more and more to contracting out of these various services to certain private sectors, one of the concerns is, of course, the possibility that some government jobs could end up being lost if some of this record keeping could be contracted out. That is a separate issue which I am not going to go into at the present time, but with that knowledge that that kind of thing can be happening, with the race and the desire of governments to go on-line, so to speak, whether that be through the Internet or whatever, to make certain kinds of records available to the public, it increases the need for vigilance as some - and I don't claim to have the knowledge of how to do it - hackers have the ability by means of going in through one kind of programs that are connected to other kinds of programs within the same hardware or the same software, have the abilities to get their fingers on things that they shouldn't be getting their hands on, Madam Speaker.



So I hope, that as we are moving down this road, that the government will not only take very seriously, but also ensure, that the proper measures are in place to guarantee that not only a system is put in place that protects things according to current standards, but that that is constantly being revised and checked, because as a system is put in place, it is very quick that somebody seems to find a way to break those systems. If they can get into the Pentagon and many other kinds of things, then we certainly have to ensure that those documents that are, in fact, of a personal nature, that contain private information, whether that be of a financial nature or just because somebody may happen to be curious, and you have these people who are curious from time to time, whether the information is of any value to them or not, who do go snooping around and try to get into records.



Madam Speaker, I will be supporting the legislation, but I just felt that since we are talking about the maintenance of government records that it is appropriate, as we are moving into a fast and ever changing world, as the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, I guess the other day in his intervention at the late debate, was talking about all the changes; those can be very good, but you also have to be very mindful and very watchful to make sure that access is not obtained by those who should not have access to those records.



So, in a long roundabout way, what I am saying is that we will be voting in support of the bill.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, this is a bill which is of great interest to all Nova Scotians, save and except those that have already amalgamated.



SOME HON. MEMBERS: You are on the wrong bill.



MR. LEEFE: Oh, that is right. This bill, of course, is of interest to all of us because, although it is a relatively innocuous bill, the disposition of government records can be critical with respect to future situations arising whereby government records are required in order to define the paper trail that may have led to a decision being taken to anticipated or, indeed, an unanticipated result of that decision being taken.



That is why it is so absolutely essential that whenever we talk about the disposition of government records, the storage of governments records, that we ensure that we do not make an assumption that they will not be necessary for future use, but rather that, quite to the contrary, we assume that most government documentation may well be of interest in the future and, therefore, there should be a very systematic process whereby it is determined, not only with respect to quantity, but with respect to quality, what should be saved, how it should be saved, where it should be saved, how it can be accessed. One of the repositories which can be vital to this is, of course, the Public Archives of Nova Scotia.



So I know that this of concern to the minister. He wants to make sure that something does not inadvertently get disposed of and, therefore, it is essential that there be an appropriate system. I am sure that the minister will want to confirm to all interested parties, in his summing up, that all of these considerations have been duly met and covered by him and his department, with respect to the creation of this legislation.



MADAM SPEAKER: Are there further speakers on the third reading? Hearing none, if I recognize the Minister of Supply and Services, it is to close the debate on third reading.



HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Madam Speaker, I would like, for just one moment, to address the comments of the Leader of the New Democratic Party. He makes very serious and very valid points. There is, I believe, and I concur with him, a tendency, with the advancing benefits of technology, the danger of the loss of privacy - privacy from a wide range of applications, but, first of all, personal privacy. Surely, all of us in a society, while we have a lot of rights that vary in intensity with changing technology, the one right that we have is to personal privacy.



As long as that personal privacy is personal, not public, but personal privacy, privacy with regard to the use of documentation in cases of law, privacy in cases of uses of our own achievements and those things that relate to our own personal lives and have no bearing or impact on the public, these are all essential matters to be protected and there is - as he so well puts it - a weakness in technology. The Pentagon has been violated in its attempt to maintain some of its very protected documentation (Interruption) Absolutely, to the detriment of the whole of American society.



All I can say is that we will do our very best. We do also, within our department, have the Department of Information and Technology. We have 110 persons who are highly competent and qualified in the field of computerization to which the honourable member referred. He himself has used these extensively and read and learned a great deal about their weaknesses as well as their strengths. All I can say to him is that we take, very seriously, the adequate retention and protection of that which needs to be protected and retained. I thank him for his comments.



The honourable member for Queens, who has spoken on these documents from more of an historical point of view because he himself is such an astute and outstanding historian, one of record and one of authorship. I recognize his deep interest in the retention of documentation of our history for the sake of our future, the need of retention of our history for the sake of our future. I want to indicate to him, as well, that last night I attended a heritage ceremony in St. Marks Church in Halifax where Mr. Lou Collins, historian, gave an historic dissertation on the growth and development of that church down through the history of this and through the Halifax Explosion. I can assure him that I recognize, too, that our culture, our whole intellectual well-being depends not only upon the information of the future or the information that currently exists, but, more importantly, what has gone on in the past, from which we learn the present and the future.



On the basis of that, I will ensure that to the best of our ability, and the committee, and that was one of the reasons, of course, for putting into place the committee of expertise, the kind of expertise that he himself possesses, so that we can ensure that we retain for posterity the future of mankind, the kinds of things that should be retained. So I thank all members and I would like to move third reading.



MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 25.



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



The motion is carried.



Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 26.



Bill No. 26 - Motor Vehicle Act.



MADAM SPEAKER: Are you moving third reading?



MR. SURETTE: Yes. In the absence of the minister, I so move.



MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The minister, of course, is absent but we have an acting minister apparently who was going to be here and able to address any concerns. In the absence of the acting Minister of Transportation, who has all the answers, maybe we could go on to another bill other than that of the Minister of Transportation.



MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you for the point of order.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader on an intervention on this point.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Yes, Madam Speaker, and I appreciate the comments from the member opposite. We will do our best to find the acting Minister of Transportation, who should be here shortly.



[5:00 p.m.]



MADAM SPEAKER: Are there speakers on this third reading or are we waiting for the acting minister?



The honourable Minister of Education who is Acting Minister of Transportation, I understand is to be here to hear the comments on this third reading of the Motor Vehicle Act. Are there speakers on this third reading?



The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, this bill amends two different areas of the Motor Vehicle Act and thus we must speak to two different principles that actually are represented. The first principle is the removal of something from the Act and vehicle registration and driver's license expiry dates were taken from the legislation and vehicle registration and driver's license expiry dates are put into regulations. Perhaps I could ask the Acting Minister of Transportation when he gives his summary comments, to what end this is being done. We are taking out registration and we are taking the driver's license expiry dates out of the legislation and putting them into regulation.



It could be a case again, with all due respect, of putting the cart before the horse because, at the present time, the government has already been collecting registration fees once a year for two years of registration time. According to the Act, and in some cases five years, as it stands that really is not permissable. So perhaps the acting minister will tell us this is really just housekeeping.



We received quite a few phone calls, Madam Speaker, and we had many inquiries respecting this change. A lot of people felt that it would create a great financial hardship to have to pay two years of registration or five years, whatever it might happen to be. Because, as you know, we are going out of legislation into regulation. The regulations can be changed much easier and that is a concern that we have and that is a concern that the Nova Scotia public have. Many of our people, specifically our seniors, are on fixed income and they do find it is creating a financial hardship. I wonder if the acting Minister of Transportation also might tell us how many letters the Department of Transportation has received respecting this change.



It is hard to agree in principle with something that really has been changed without consultation and this change was made, Madam Speaker, without consultation and it will put people at, I believe, a greater monetary disadvantage, but perhaps the acting minister will enlighten us and tell us they have not received any inquiries or correspondence respecting this change.



There is also another principle changed in the bill, and I believe the municipalities do support the amendment, but the amendment to the Act permits the extension of towns or municipalities. It gives them the ability to restrict parking, and I dare say that the municipalities and the various towns perhaps requested this provision be included or at least be contained in the Motor Vehicle Act.



Some time ago we attended a UNSM meeting in Yarmouth where a variety of resolutions were passed and several of the resolutions pertained to the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act and one resolution in particular had to do with fines for parking violations and the acting Minister of Transportation may know that cities have the ability to have a two-tiered fine system and the towns and the municipalities do not have that ability. They do not have a two-tiered fine system. So I wonder if the government did listen to the UNSM and look at some of the resolutions. I have a resolution here. Actually it is a parking regulation from the Town of Liverpool.



Therefore be it resolved that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities request that the province amend the Motor Vehicle Act to provide towns, municipalities and regional municipalities the same enabling legislation, with respect to the enforcement of parking meter violations, as is available under legislation incorporating regional municipalities.



You may know that, as a result of the service exchange, municipalities are now responsible for many of the roads, in fact, in some cases municipalities are responsible for all the roads in their jurisdiction. I think it is important that they do have the ability and that there be a mechanism, a provision in the bill that enables them to very much be part of the fine system and, in fact, we certainly agree with that.



We agree with the extensions of the provisions applicable in cities, towns and municipalities, but I just cannot help but ask if the government did and, more specifically, did the Department of Transportation listen to other requests that towns and municipalities had on equally important issues and issues that can be resolved by amending the Motor Vehicle Act?



It is not my intention to chastise in any way the acting Minister of Transportation, but it seems questionable, at the very least, why we would come in three different times with amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act. You may recall the Official Opposition put forward an amendment that the Motor Vehicle Act be sent to the Economic Development Committee for their perusal and their study, so we would not be dealing with three different pieces of legislation at one time.



Madam Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute in third reading.



MADAM SPEAKER: The Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. JOHN HOLM: My comments will be quite brief. I certainly am very much in support of what is being done, by and large, by the bill, giving the councils of towns or rural municipalities permission by by-law. Of course, those by-laws would have to still receive the approval of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I believe, before they would take effect, but to regulate parking by means of meters and also to exempt from parking restrictions, the same kinds of things that a city council can do.



These are responsible levels of government and they are directly accountable to their constituents and if they do not get amalgamated into such large areas where the councillors won't be able to keep in touch with what is going on within the communities, I am sure that they will certainly hear from their constituents and they will know what the wishes of those are within their municipal units. I certainly have every confidence that the towns and councils in those rural municipalities will be making responsible by-laws and decisions.



My only question really towards the Minister of Education, the acting Minister of Transportation, has to do with the early section of it. Again, I am not opposed to there being the ability to change the date at which the registration and also the driver's licenses expire. But what I would like to find out from the minister, because if in fact, for example, let's say that they were to be switching them from the current system, which would be at the end of the month when it is registered - for example, if you bought it in a certain month that it would come do in that month - if it is changed to a birth date, or whatever, that a person could end up having a bunch of these fees coming due all at once.



I am wondering if the government has any plans as to how these will be phased in, what kind of lead time will be provided to the general public, in terms of what and how the registration dates would be changed, so that those who are having a difficult time, but who need the vehicles and also their licenses to be able to either carry on their business or just their personal affairs, will have enough lead time to ensure that they are not caught short and placed in a very disadvantaged position because of a sudden regulatory change.



I certainly can understand the logic of wanting to be able to change it so that, for example, if there happens to be a period of time when they know when there are tremendous backlogs normally built up, those can be handled more expeditiously. Certainly, however, with the kiosks and the new methods of registering vehicles and drivers licenses where that can be done right across the province, we no longer have to make the trek into Halifax to Young Street or to the couple of other centres that there have been around the province.



I wouldn't think that the registration backlog would be nearly as severe now as it had been but I could be wrong but I doubt that it is. Maybe the minister, in wrapping up his comments, can address those points again. Really, the rationale for the early part and the kinds of timeframes that would be afforded to the citizens who would be affected by that. Thank you.



MADAM SPEAKER: Further speakers on third reading? Hearing none, I will recognize the acting Minister of Transportation to close the debate.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be responding on the part of the Minister of Transportation. He briefed me on these two bills before he went and they are relatively straightforward.



First of all, the changing of the time for registering your driver's license is simply to stop the backlog in terms of people arriving at the end of the month every year. I am reminded of times in Sydney when I would go to Sydney with this long lineup to get my license renewed. When you go in now, the minister tells me your license will expire when your birthday next comes to the end. Now it is the end of the month and this will be your birthday itself, right on the date of your birthday next time, so it will extend a year plus the number of days to get to your birthday and it is to keep the long lineups down.



Statistically, that will balance out because of the way births occur. There are probably little periods of time in which they are significantly larger than other times but full moons and during the cold winter season you count up the period of time.



The second one as a request, as the honourable member has said from the municipalities that the cities can regulate parking. This allows both the towns and municipalities to do that and it provides a very direct response to what the municipalities have been asking for. It is a very simply bill that allows for those two things.



MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 26. Is the House ready for the question?



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



The motion is carried.



Order that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 27



Bill No. 27 - Railways Act.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, I move that for debate on third reading.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, I just wanted to rise on a point that has been made many times, I think, during the course of this bill through the House and that is that this is an amendment to a bill that we passed back in 1993 which has yet to be proclaimed. I don't know if the minister has advised the House as yet whether or not when this amendment to the bill that has not as yet been proclaimed, when this particular amendment in this particular bill pass through this House at the same time, will the other bill be proclaimed, that is the Railways Act of 1993?



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, the one question has already obviously been asked and that is if, in fact, this is going to mean that the Railways Act that we passed earlier, a couple of years ago, is now going to be proclaimed. I think the answer we had before was that yes it will, that this is now going to be correcting the problems that the government saw in terms of being able to proclaim it.



[5:15 p.m.]



This bill is really, in many ways, a duplicate, I believe, of the federal type of legislation. So it is really taking the federal and putting it down to ours. So I am assuming that the railways that are currently operating here in Nova Scotia are going to be retroactively licensed under this legislation. Maybe I could get clarification from the minister on that.



I guess the final point that I continue to have the greatest amount of concern with is the ongoing and, what is needed, certainly the constant inspection of the rail lines to ensure that the rail lines are at the highest safety standards and levels that are possible. Certainly, passenger lines are not as common as they once were, now only going between the metropolitan area, of course, and out towards the New Brunswick border. There are no longer rail passenger lines going to Cape Breton and so on.



In addition to passengers, it is vitally important to the crews are who are on those rail lines, those trains are often carrying materials that can be extremely hazardous and dangerous and we cannot afford any potential or any possibility of an accident that could result in a major catastrophe or any kind of an accident at all that could result in the loss of life and injury or damage to property.



So my primary concern and the point that I want to really raise with the minister is with reference, if this bill passes, what kinds of regimes are going to be in place and what kinds of regulatory powers will be done to ensure that proper and constant inspections of the lines are being carried out, to ensure that trains that are on the tracks are operating in the safest possible way. One hears of some of the accidents and some spills and so on that we have heard about from time to time and whole communities in other parts of the country and the United States and around the world that have been derailed. You often are thanking the good Lord that the derailments occurred where they did, in a rural area, rather than in a heavily populated or an urban area, because of the tremendous potential for harm that could have resulted from that.



So maybe the minister, when he wraps up, could really address what I see as the safety issues. I think the bill is now going to be proclaimed as a result of this, at least that is the assurances we were given. I want to know what kind of safety regime is in place to ensure that the rail lines are, on a constant basis, being inspected and checked to ensure that everything is as safe as it possibly can be. Thank you.



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



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, it has already been pointed out in here that in 1993, in the fall session of the Legislature, this government introduced a new Railways Act and the Act, if I remember correctly, repealed the previous Railways Act and it was to have effect on from and after October 1, 1993.





I know the question has been put to the Acting Minister of Transportation as to whether or not the Act has been proclaimed. Essentially, when this bill came forward, we mentioned to the Minister of Transportation that, in fact, we are being asked to amend a bill that has not been proclaimed. It is unfortunate that the minister is unavailable. He is a very busy man. But that is one of the questions I know the acting minister will address.



There are also sections in this railway bill that seem to provide the Minister of Transportation and Communications with incredible power. Rather than the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board looking at and viewing applications and permits, the minister has conferred that power upon himself if, in fact, he deals with an application or request. I have to be honest, Madam Speaker, I am not as clear as I should be on that process, whether it is a formal application, a document or, in fact, a construction company makes a request. I would think there would be an application any time you are going to construct a line, be it a short line or what have you. So I am interested in the possible omission of a safety mechanism, as has been outlined by the Leader of the Third Party. I think there is a clause in there that would seem to provide that the agreement dated May 30, 1994, between the minister and the Windsor & Hantsport Railway Company Limited may be considered a license issued under the Act, but I guess my question is if the Act really hasn't been proclaimed, as it was supposed to be, does that make that agreement effective?



There is a clause in there that enables the minister to enter into an agreement with any railway company, respecting the provision of railway service. Again, we just wonder what type of safety mechanisms are in place and if, in fact, it will be the minister in cooperation, in concert with engineers that will be making the decision. It just seems like those sections provide the Minister of Transportation with a lot of jurisdiction. I think we have reason to question as to whether or not the Minister of Transportation by himself is qualified to make a decision relative to constructing a short line or, in fact, a main line. I am concerned.



I am also concerned and interested in the legality of the agreement already entered into between the minister and the Windsor & Hantsport Railway Company Limited. We find that the legislation provides the minister with immense power, with no requirement that decisions are made for or from the independent Public Utilities Board. So I do have those concerns with the legislation. Thank you.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, I just want to say that I really support these regional railroads. The one that is going from Sydney, Cape Breton, to Truro - the Hantsport & Windsor railway - to Windsor Junction, actually that is the one this amendment is about. Originally the bill was brought forward to look after the Cape Breton to Truro railroad. It hasn't been proclaimed, as everybody said. You know, it boggles the mind as to why it hasn't been proclaimed because obviously the railways are working contrary to the laws of the province, if there is not a law that they can operate under.



The railroad operating between Hantsport and Windsor Junction and New Minas, at the other end, is looking forward to an expansion of its rail line. For that we can all be thankful because it is creating jobs.



The difference between the new short line and the former railway is quite amazing. One of the people from CN was saying that what they notice most is that when the rail line rents a car from them, the car is on the track only as long as it is absolutely needed and the demurrage payments are not there. It shows what private enterprise can really do. It is going to expand and bring more business and more jobs to Nova Scotia.



It is puzzling that the government members, when they were in Opposition, every single one of them opposed short line railways; they wouldn't work, they are terrible things. But it is a refreshing thing to see how quickly they could adopt the premise that they are not a bad situation to have operating.



It is good to see this legislation come forward so that we can have the railway operating from Windsor Junction to New Minas. They are doing expansion right now, as we speak, in New Minas. They built a new marshalling shed in Windsor, they have purchased new rolling stock. They had a 1st Anniversary family picnic. It was really refreshing to see the team spirit that exists among the employees and the owners of the railway. The parent company was well represented there. I think the parent company is the Iron Road Rail Company from the United States, but they were up taking part in this great celebration. It is a celebration because it shows what Nova Scotians can do when given the opportunity and the tools to work with.



So I am very pleased that the former government laid the ground work and did all the spade work and got this short line railway ready and we are reaping the benefits now. So I support this. I do not support the lackadaisical attitude of the government in not proclaiming the law after it was passed by this Legislature. Hopefully, they will get around to it one of these days and the railways will in fact be operating within the law. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: Are there further speakers on third reading? Seeing none, I recognize the honourable Acting Minister of Transportation to close debate.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, first of all, I can direct members of the House to Page 2425 of the Assembly Debates of this year where the Minister of Transportation when closing debate on the second reading stated very clearly that it is the intent to proclaim this as soon as the amendments are made.



Secondly, is that it is not acting outside the law, and I checked with my good friend, the member for Colchester North, that in fact presently the railroads are running under the federal Act, that in fact inspections are taking place under the federal Act and they are not acting outside the law. I give that for clarification to members.



Likewise and one of the members mentioned that . . .



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. To make sure that the minister understands exactly the position, the short line railways would not come to Nova Scotia unless there was provincial legislation enacted so they could operate. Now he can willy and nilly around and say that they are within everything he wants. The federal government, even under the provincial Statute, will be responsible for the safety inspections. I know that very well, but I do not understand - and his weasel words will in no way diminish - the fact that the government forgot and neglected to proclaim the legislation after in fact this Legislature passed it. The minister can say whatever he likes, but the province could have and chose not or forgot to proclaim the legislation and the Opposition is quite well aware of that.



MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. I do not believe that was a point of order, but it was an intervention.



MR. MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, I am reassured to know that the member is aware of something. Because we have watched him for some time in this House and his reference to weasel words, probably it takes a certain knowledge of how to use them to identify when they are used, I guess. So I would suggest to the honourable member, there were no weasel words intended. In fact, I remember the debate that took place as we were getting ready for this legislation to come into effect. The Minister of Transportation worked out with the federal government an agreement so that there would be inspections and safety would be there until such time as we were equipped to do this.



The short line railroads that the honourable member for Kings North suggested that we were not supportive of, I speak of this because I was named as soon as the government came in place to ask for stalling of the debate on the short line railroad until Cabinet could make a decision on it. There was no opposition to the idea of a short line railroad. In fact if the honourable member would check, he would find out that this bill is a consequence of the support of Premier Savage and the Minister of Transportation for the short line railroad and it has been a success story, Madam Speaker, as the honourable member suggests.



Secondly, and the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley asked about the Windsor and Hantsport railroad. What this basically does because the agreement has taken place on this line since the law was passed by this House so this just simply brings it into effect when in fact this bill comes into effect. So it includes it retroactively and that will be covered, Madam Speaker.



The idea of inspections, and as I said to the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, the Province of Nova Scotia does not have a history of inspecting railroad lines and so that is being put in place. But, again, with credit to the federal government, they have worked with us on this to make sure that the short line railroads that do exist in Nova Scotia are, in fact, inspected and safe. That is something that is occurring at the time and our Minister of Transportation is learning from that.



[5:30 p.m.]



The idea of the most incredible powers - I have just read the bill - I can't see this as incredible powers, as the member for Kings North has suggested, to bring into being the Windsor and Hantsport railroad, it is just acknowledging that the private sector people are taking these over and working with the Minister of Transportation to get these done, Madam Speaker; it is not the Minister of Transportation by himself. I want to suggest to all members of the House that each of us ministers seek counsel, both from our fellow colleagues, caucus members and from this House as we work our way through these things, and I would suggest that it has been exercised with care and it will continue to do so.



So with those few comments, I think I have answered all of the questions and I move third reading of Bill No. 27.



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Madam Speaker, I think it is important that I clarify a statement made by the acting Minister of Transportation. He concluded that the member for Kings North had insinuated, when he commented, that it was conferring incredible power on the Minister of Transportation when, in fact, it was myself who made those comments. I just would like to have them attributed to me. We, from time to time in here, have comments and statements attributed to each other that in fact we do make but, in this case, we would like to have that one stricken from the record. The honourable member for Kings North did not make the statement.



MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you for the point of clarification. It is not a point of order.



The motion is on third reading. Are you ready for the question?



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



The motion is carried.



Ordered that the bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 28.



Bill No. 28 - Regional Municipalities Act.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs.



HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Madam Speaker, I so move third reading.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, this is a bill which, in principle, I believe, that all of our caucus supports. It is indeed unfortunate that as the bill moves through its various stages, that certain changes were not made to it, such that many of the clauses which appear after the principle is established do not speak to that principle as clearly as they otherwise might.



For example, the minister very clearly has it in her mind, as she should, that this legislation should encourage municipal units, of their own free will, to come together to amalgamate in order to provide more effective and more efficient local government to their ratepayers. Yet it strikes me that there are a number of disincentives that are built into this legislation; disincentives that, in fact, reflect a failure on the part of the government, and of the minister, to understand that certain provisions of the bill do not, in my view and I think in the view of many, comply with the principle of the bill.



One of the basic flaws of the bill is that it is defined on the basis of county boundaries. County boundaries, until this bill came into effect, to all intent and purposes, have been meaningless for a very long time in Nova Scotia. Boundaries that have been meaningful in Nova Scotia have been the boundaries that define the municipal units; in my own case, for example, the Municipality of the County of Queens and the Town of Liverpool. The boundaries of the County of Queens really provide us nothing more than a geographic entity which it is convenient to refer to from time to time.



I do not understand why the bill has not been changed and, indeed, was not initially written to reflect that reality. I can see difficulties arising out of this legislation because of the definition by way of county. I think we should bear these in mind. Undoubtedly the government will have its way and this bill will pass without the amendments that have been thrust on the government, both from inside this place and outside.



It is important that we do not forget how it will impact on various parts of this province. Let us think, for example, of Hants County; East Hants and West Hants really look in different directions, they don't look to each other with respect to the provision of municipal government. For the life of me, I can't understand why the bill is written in such a way that, for example, however unlikely, the Town of Windsor and perhaps the Town of Hantsport might be able to generate sufficient interest on the part of the minister to be able to cause all of Hants County to be drawn together into one municipal unit, when there is no history of community of interest between East Hants and West Hants. It just doesn't seem to make any sense.



The minister has never explained this for me. She can't say, well, gosh, Nova Scotia is such a big place that I never thought of that. Nova Scotia is a pretty small place and I am sure that we have all thought of that. I wonder why it is that the government has chosen to make what has to be a fundamental flaw in this respect.



Another example I would want to use would be Clare in Digby County. Now Clare is very distinctive. Clare is essentially Acadian, in contrast with the rest of Digby County, which is essentially English speaking. The way this legislation is drafted it is very clear that if the Town of Digby and the District of Digby decided there was going to be amalgamation under this legislation, that amalgamation would occur and Clare would have to be lumped into that new municipal unit. That complication is caused as a result of the definition by county boundary. It might well be that Clare and Argyle, with their community of interest respecting the Acadian community, might well make a much more sensible amalgamated municipal unit than would a single municipality based on the county boundaries of Digby County.



I think if there is a danger here to the Acadian community in Clare with respect to the possibility of loss of their municipal government and, of course, becoming the minority within the new and greater municipal government dictated in its structure by the boundary of Digby County. Good Heavens, what happens to the rather smaller Acadian population in Argyle with respect to Yarmouth County if the larger Clare is in risk of being swallowed up and disadvantaged by being hauled into the vortex of a municipal Digby County-wide government, then the impacts on particularly the Acadian population of Argyle I think are potentially even more dramatic as it would be pulled into a newly amalgamated Yarmouth municipality, which would include Argyle, the Town of Yarmouth and the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, all of them within the bounds of Yarmouth County.



I am sure there are other examples but those are three of the ones that most immediately come to mind. Very close to that concern is the concern that the trigger for amalgamation does not have a population-driven base. It is quite possible, indeed, highly probable under this legislation, that municipal units of relatively small population could drive forward an amalgamation within an area encompassed by county boundaries, simply by virtue of the fact that they exist, not be virtue of the fact that their population combined would represent, let us say, 50 per cent plus 1 of the population within that county boundary.



Now it strikes me as only sensible and fair in a democracy that if an amalgamation is going to occur, and especially if it is going to occur in the face of opposition from one or more municipal units within that county boundary, that there should be at least 50 per cent of the population represented in the municipal units which are sponsoring the drive to amalgamation.





Again, we have examples. Let's use Shelburne County for an example. We have the Town of Lockeport, the Town of Shelburne, the Town of Clarks Harbour. We have the Municipality of the District of Shelburne and the Municipality of the District of Barrington. Now Shelburne and Barrington Municipal Districts have between them, by far, in excess of 50 per cent of the population. Yet, by the minister's formula within her bill, those three towns, with a significantly smaller population, could well cause there to be an amalgamation in Shelburne County of all the municipal units, with significantly less then half the population being in favour of it as represented by their councils. That strikes me as a fundamental flaw.



Bearing in mind that this legislation is supposed to provide a system whereby the municipal units may voluntarily come together, not be coerced into coming together, as was the case in Cape Breton and here in metro Halifax, may voluntarily come together, as was the case in my own two municipal units. So I think that that this is a fundamental flaw, one that we would have wanted to see the minister correct. I think that there is a price to be paid for this if, in fact, it does trigger the very kind of situation which I have suggested may well be the case and the government will wear that and must be prepared to wear that.



It is very clear that the government, for some reason, has learned nothing from the Halifax experience, with respect to the Draconian authority available to and, indeed, occasionally exercised by the coordinator in the metropolitan amalgamation. I contrast that with the very pleasant and business-like and amicable relationship within my own units which are going through amalgamation whereby the coordinator is very much a team player and he and those who are on the coordinating committee are very much part of a team which works together and which causes the whole amalgamation initiative in Queens County to be able to move forward in an amicable fashion. That is something which has been entirely missing, entirely absent, in the amalgamation here in the metropolitan area.



Again, we are talking about voluntary amalgamation. I do not understand and perhaps the minister can point out to me where my lack of understanding comes from. I do not understand, if these amalgamations that she proposes are going to occur under this legislation are going to be voluntary and amicable, why the coordinator in these situations would not have the same kind of responsibilities and powers as those which are being exercised by the coordinator who is working, and working very well and very cooperatively, in the amalgamation in Queens. It strikes me that that is one of the ways in which the minister could have encouraged municipal units to come on board, by ensuring that the coordinator is part of the team, but also by ensuring that the rest of the team is composed of people who are drawn from the councils of the amalgamating municipal units.



There was some concern, and I make no hesitation in saying this, when we were working on the legislation for Queens, as to whether or not there would be difficulty as a result of representatives from the two councils having the kind of powers that they do within the Queens County bill and if that might create rather than solve problems. In fact, it has proven to be a very successful experiment. I don't understand why the minister would not have looked at the success of that relationship and applied it to this legislation. Such that whether it be Shelburne County, Yarmouth County, Annapolis County or Kings County, any county in Nova Scotia where amalgamation is going to take place, the councils who have after all been duly elected to look after the affairs of their ratepayers, do not have the right, as of legislation, the statutory right, to participate in a full, meaningful way as part of a coordinating committee, instead of being dictated to by a person who was appointed by the minister. That is the case in Halifax and it is not the case in Queens County.





[5:45 p.m.]



I have to believe that those who have been involved in municipal politics who now sit in this House, were they still in the municipal sphere, they would want very much to ensure that their councils had that kind of role, that is the kind of role that the mayor, the deputy mayor, the warden and the deputy warden have in Queens County respecting the coordinating committee, rather than the kind of situation which has arisen here in metro and the kind of situation which this bill will create whereby the coordinator is the minister's person and the coordinator has authority, if the coordinator so chooses, to ride roughshod over the municipal units that are amalgamating and over those who are on the advisory committee. Notice the difference. We are talking here about an advisory committee, one which just simply provides advice, we are not talking about a partnership, as is in the case with the Queens County bill.



We also had an opportunity in this bill to do something that would have been in the public interest. We have heard debate of it in this House and we have seen some significant debate in the media and I think among the general public and that is with respect to disclosure. We had an opportunity with this legislation, forgetting Halifax and Cape Breton and Queens County, the legislation is already passed there, but with respect to all of the other municipal units which may come together to put in place a statutory provision for disclosure, most particularly, with respect to the disclosure of campaign contributions.



Every one of the members of this House is required under law to provide that kind of information with precision. Every member of the federal House is required to provide that kind of information, with precision, again, under the law. The public has a right to be protected with respect to disclosure and the people running for public office have the right to be protected with respect to disclosure, such that it is abundantly clear to anyone who cares to look, as a result of the transparency of the system, to know who is making campaign contributions, to whom and in what amount. That protects the broad public interest, it protects the narrower interests of the people running for public office and it protects the general public interest with respect to further shoring up the integrity of government, particularly, in a time when that integrity is taking an awful beating because of the libertarian times in which we seem to find ourselves.



So there are shortcomings to this bill. The principle is fine and we all support that. There are shortcomings to this bill that I don't understand, shortcomings that could have easily been rectified by the minister. It would have cost her nothing and, in fact, might well have accrued benefit to her and to the government. As a result of those shortcomings, as a result of those deficiencies which I have outlined and others which I am sure others will outline as well and those to which members have spoken during the various stages of this bill, this bill is far less effective than it could be.



It is much less an instrument which is going to attract municipal units to amalgamation and it just is not going to cut the mustard the way it could have if the minister had been prepared to accept, I think, good and balanced advice both inside of this House and without, which would have resulted in a bill which might well have served the public better and might well have provided greater incentives to the municipal units to come together to amalgamate voluntarily. Thank you, Madam Speaker.





The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I do not know that I want to be quite as kind as the previous speaker was to this government for this bill, because I do not even think that the principle of this bill is fine. I do not think that the bill, in its present form, because of all of the opportunities that were provided to make amendments and changes to the bill to make it accountable and to make it a responsible piece of legislation were voted down by the government members, I just can't - and I say this up-front as I begin my remarks - in all good conscience indicate that I would be voting for this bill. Quite clearly, I will be voting against it for a whole variety of reasons, some of which I will briefly outline this evening.



One of the things that this government, of course, is wont to do is to drive as fast as possible municipal units to amalgamate. It has nothing to do with trying to improve the quality of government, it has more to do with trying to reduce costs for the provincial government rather than for the municipal taxpayers. It is one more way and here the minister and that government talk about how it is up to the municipalities to decide whether they will or they won't be proceeding with an amalgamation and that is partly correct. Of course, they do not need this piece of legislation in order to amalgamate. In fact, there are other pieces of legislation that are currently on the books, like the Municipal Representation Act that municipalities, if they want to amalgamate and maintain some degree of control over what kind of legislation and what kind of amalgamation process they would follow, is available to them.



Given what is happening in Cape Breton and what may be happening in other parts of the province as well, I would hope that municipal units will be considering very carefully before they decide to amalgamate under the provincial model or program that they have put down. Quite honestly, the people in Cape Breton and Cape Breton County and now the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton were given a rather rude awakening when they were told how much their taxes are going to have to be increasing because of the transition costs and the implementation costs. They were given assurances how much money was supposed to be being saved and how they were going to be all better off as a result of that.



Those people had no choice, nor did the people in the metropolitan area which just, of course, held the elections on Saturday past and as a result the new mayor and council was chosen. People in neither of those municipal units were given a choice. It was simply laid on from above by those who think that they have more wisdom and power. In other words, the Liberal Cabinet which, themselves, are now trying to carry out the Don Cameron plan of amalgamation, something which, when they were in Opposition, the Premier referred to as being a crazy idea. The Premier used the word crazy then and some people might suggest that you would be a little bit crazy to buy the Liberal Government's change of heart and to discount the wise ideas that were suggested before.



Under the current legislation and the current regime, one of the ways that the province has to try to force municipalities into amalgamation is by downloading or offloading more of the cost responsibilities of providing essential programs and services to the municipal units. We have already had representation, we have already heard from some municipalities who are being forced, small towns, now to absorb and to bear increased costs that were not promised to them under the service exchange. We have heard of towns being told that their policing costs are going to go up by many thousands of dollars above that which had been laid out in the service exchange. That is just one avenue, one route that the province has to impose very severe financial hardships upon those residents and those municipal councils, particularly small councils.



So the province has a means of inflicting severe pain upon those councils where the councils become, because of provincial governments plans and strategies, non-viable and therefore have to try to find ways to address those. So the province through this strategy has the ability, if they wish, and they certainly do appear to wish it, Madam Speaker, to try to force those towns and municipal units into amalgamating.



Quite some time ago, I said that it was the objective of this government to force amalgamations and that their plan was to get down to 18 municipal units in the whole province. Of course, the government denied that. They said, oh, no, we have no plans. But you note, if you take a look at the legislation that we have before us, the amalgamations are by county, Madam Speaker. When you are talking to people around the province and when you take a look at ministerial statements and press reports from where this minister and others are speaking, it is quite obvious that the intent is, in fact, to drive it down to the point where we would have a mere 18 municipal units.



In addition to that, Madam Speaker, this legislation, the way it is set up is like that in Cape Breton and in the metropolitan area in that there is no accountability to the elected representatives and through the elected representatives to the citizens in those municipal units during the implementation program. Here we have a situation in this bill where the coordinator is picked by the Cabinet. The municipal units to amalgamate have no say whatsoever in who the coordinator will be; they aren't involved in a selection process to select the coordinator who will be doing that. Once the coordinator is appointed, that coordinator who is not elected, and I underscore that because I think that it is fundamental, we still supposedly, in the Province of Nova Scotia, believe very deeply in the principle of democracy and one of the major principles of democracy is accountability and accountability to the public, the voters, the electorate and here the coordinator is picked by the minister and her Cabinet colleagues.



The coordinator is given all powers of council. That includes borrowing, spending, hiring, firing and setting up structures that a new council and also the citizens in that new municipal unit are going to have to live with. That coordinator doesn't have to go to any of the elected representatives for approval. The only controls over that coordinator is the minister, herself. Madam Speaker, to me, that is undemocratic.



Now we have a situation here in the metropolitan area that I will use as an example. We have a new council that was elected by the citizens in the greater Halifax County area, a new council of 23 councillors along with a mayor. But during that process between now and April 1st, the coordinator, even though there is an elected council in place, is not accountable to that council. The coordinator, the person picked by the minister and her Cabinet colleagues, and supported by the Liberal members of this House, still has the power. As a courtesy, he may speak to council members, but the coordinator has the power and that is wrong.



If, in fact, you are to be proceeding with an amalgamation under a structure similar to this, surely it would be reasonable for the existing councils to be involved, first of all, in the selection process that would choose a coordinator. Secondly, it would then make sense to have, Madam Speaker, the Utility and Review Board, in cooperation with that coordinator, to set out and determine electoral boundaries within that municipality and to hold elections for a new council. The existing councils could then carry on their work, continue to work in their individual municipalities up to the time that the amalgamation takes place. But then there is somebody that that coordinator is responsible to, the coordinator doesn't make decisions on their own. That is one way it could be done. Or, Madam Speaker, if decisions are to be made, the decisions could be made by the municipal council, maybe on the recommendations of a coordinator, but the existing municipal councils have the final say.



[6:00 p.m.]



Surely somebody has to be overlooking this who is publicly accountable. Right now the coordinator will disappear, and this is not intended as any slight over any of the coordinators who are carrying out that job. But surely one person who is going to disappear from the process, once the amalgamation and the new council takes over, should not be able to walk away with all of the either credit or blame for what was done during that period of time. How in the dickens can you hold anybody accountable when, under this kind of legislation, there is no accountability built in?



We have seen one of the major issues during the recent election campaign in this area was the fact that there were no expenditure limits and no ability or no requirement that campaign contributions be disclosed. Why, Madam Speaker? Why would those who are contributing to a campaign hesitate to have their names made public? Do they have something to hide? Wouldn't that be in the public's interest? Wouldn't it have been to the interest of the council that was elected to know that they have the confidence of the voters? Because the voters are going to know where contributions to their campaign came from and they won't have to look over their shoulders every time council makes a decision and suggest, well why are you making this decision? Is this because somebody made a contribution to your campaign? What a horrible position to put those councillors in. What a grossly unfair thing to do to the men and women from across this province who are going to seek election to serve their constituents at the municipal level.



Would this government accept any amendments to that? Not on your life. So one has to ask this government, what are you trying to hide? What are you trying to protect? Why don't you believe in the principle of full accountability and disclosure? Madam Speaker, it goes on and on.



This bill, quite honestly, is not needed. What it does is it gives the minister the power to amalgamate municipal units, yes, if the majority of municipal units in an area say that they want it - it has to be a majority of municipal units - and you can have municipal units in a county and the county, let's say, could have the vast majority of the population and you could have two very small towns, each one with 1,000 or so people and, in the surrounding areas with which they are to be amalgamated, you could end up having a municipality with 10 times or 50 times or 100 times that population. The values, in terms of numbers of people, don't come into play at all.



This province has the ability, through the downloading provisions, to force some of those municipalities into a virtual bankrupt situation where they have no choice. Mark my word, these new unemployment insurance changes are going to impose tremendous new hardships on the municipal taxpayers in the Province of Nova Scotia because we already have a cap that the federal government has imposed on transfer to the provinces, under social assistance transfers. There is a cap there now. When they are cutting back on the eligibility for those on unemployment insurance and shortening up the timeframe that a person can claim unemployment insurance, particularly part-time workers and others, that is going to mean that more people and, in fact, the majority of people, Madam Speaker - maybe that is not fair to say - but I would be willing to bet you that a very large percentage of the new recipients on assistance are those who had had their unemployment insurance cut off or because of rule changes no longer qualified. Those costs are going to be passed on to the property taxpayers and the province won't be cost-sharing because the province has capped that as well to the municipal units. This province has the ability to basically bankrupt many of the smaller municipal units and to force them into a situation.



This legislation, if the minister goes ahead with it, the citizens in those communities will have no opportunity to appear before this House to express their concerns. There were a number of changes and amendments made in both other pieces of legislation dealing with Cape Breton and dealing with the metropolitan area, a number of changes came about in the Law Amendments Committee, came about as a result of representations that were made from citizens and workers in those communities to be affected.



Under this bill that opportunity is denied, we have double standards being imposed. So if the people from the Annapolis Valley area want to amalgamate, under this, they are not going to have an opportunity to appear before the Law Amendments Committee to have the bill amended and tailored to meet the needs in that area. Why shouldn't they have the same democratic rights to be heard and to have their issues and concerns addressed exactly the same as those from the other areas? Maybe the government doesn't think they are important, I don't know, it doesn't make sense.



Another thing, when the Queens bill was introduced and the Queens bill is in many ways very similar to this, in most ways it is very similar to this but there are some significant differences. I don't know how much time of this House was spent debating that Queens bill but my guess is, if we were to take a look at the records and take a look at Hansard, that the total amount of time that was spent debating that bill in this House would be under one hour. The member for Queens would know better than I but I would say that in all the stages there was maybe an hour debate, tops. It wasn't held up, this House and the Opposition did not try to be obstructionist but that bill came forward to amalgamate those municipal units as a result of resolutions that were passed by those councils. It was tailored to meet specific needs in those municipalities and the coordinator did not have the unfettered powers that the coordinator has in this legislation.



If other municipal units want to amalgamate, why would we say to the Town of Truro, Colchester County, Truro-Bible Hill and all of those areas, why would we say to those people, when you amalgamate you do it under this bill but we are not going to give you the chance to come and appear before the Law Amendments Committee or to the Private and Local Bills Committee? Why would we say to them that we are not going to give you the opportunity to set up the structure as was done in the Queens and Liverpool amalgamation but we are going to insist that our coordinator has all the powers and can borrow and expend money and make all the decisions and maybe lay on the table for the residents in those communities a huge tax increase in both their residential and commercial property and business taxes? It makes no sense.



We had a very reasonable request as well from the Town of Lunenburg that is very concerned that Lunenburg, which has been working for approximately 20 years, to try to get a special United Nations designation as an historic community that has the potential, if it gets this designation and they hopefully will know very soon but they have to be able to have control over the planning and what goes on in that segment of the town to be so designated or they can lose it, but if it gets that designation, it will be the second community in all of North America. Think of the publicity that that would bring, not only for that town but for all of Nova Scotia, as these international magazines which talk about historic sites would be playing and giving reference to that.



Like the old City of Quebec. How many tourists would that attract to Nova Scotia, not only to that town? How many millions of dollars over the years would be brought to this province and spent in our hotels, in our restaurants, in our craft shops, in our gas stations, to circulate around and create employment? We are prepared to kiss off that possibility with this bill.



The government even voted down an amendment, not that it would guarantee that if Lunenburg was going to amalgamate that the Town of Lunenburg would not be included, but that would give the Cabinet, under special circumstances, the ability to exempt a municipal unit from an amalgamation process, like the Town of Lunenburg. The government votes that down. It makes no sense. It did not mean that the amalgamations could not go forward, it just meant that those particular municipal units, if they have a special circumstance, a special situation that could benefit all, and, hopefully, create employment in Nova Scotia as well, would have a forum in which to have their concerns heard and if they had valid arguments, then they could be addressed, Madam Speaker.



This bill is going to pass. There is absolutely no question about that because it does not matter how you shuffle the deck, the number of members on the government benches, even if one-half of them are not here, can still outvote those of us on this side of the House. Madam Speaker, I say to municipal units that are thinking about amalgamating, I am not saying do not do it and I am not even saying do not follow this model. I believe they are capable enough to find out or determine if they want to do that themselves. But I sincerely hope that they will also look at the other options that are available to them and that they don't just buy the bill of goods that this government tells them.



The Minister of Municipal Affairs, I think it was up in Colchester County - I cannot remember who she was speaking to in the press report that I was reading - where the council was asking for more information scolded them. Someone saying, gee whiz, if you are asking for this information just because you want more time to delay things, she was not very approving of that. Now if you really want some more information because it will help you get on with amalgamating, then she would see what she could do in terms of providing the information. But when they asked if staff from the department could be made available to assist with the assessment and the process, they were told, according to the press report, that the staff is not available. (Interruption)



The minister says that is not true. Hopefully, she will take it up with the newspaper and has written them for a retraction because the newspaper report, which I would be happy to provide to the minister, indicated how the staff in her own department had been greatly reduced so that they were not able to provide the support that they need, Madam Speaker.



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: They cannot even do the reassessment because they are too busy.



MR. HOLM: No, they cannot even do the reassessment this year. That is true.



Madam Speaker, the bill that is before us does not provide for flexibility. It does not provide for any accountability. It leaves power in the hands of the minister and then, of course, the minister is not prepared to exercise and follow through on the responsibilities. Look at Cape Breton and what happened there, all of these unknown costs all of a sudden rolled on to the table. I hope the municipal units across the province will in fact look at other options that are available to them, Madam Speaker. If they are going to instead decide that they are blindly going to follow the advice of this government, I would suggest that the property taxpayers in those areas might want to consider holding onto their wallets very tightly. The examples that we have seen so far from this government in terms of what they say will happen and the predictability in terms of their good advice, has been seen to be wanting on many occasions.



[6:15 p.m.]



So, Madam Speaker, I want to make it very clear that this caucus, the NDP caucus, will not be supporting this bill on third reading. If, however, a municipal unit or units want it, as Queens and Liverpool did, to have a bill introduced that was modeled on this but designed by them to meet their special needs, and the councils in those areas pass resolutions in support of that, then we would support it and we would speed that through the process and that would afford the citizens the right to appear before the committees of this House and to have their issues and concerns addressed. Right now, this is simply giving a blank cheque to the minister and to the government and that is totally unacceptable because somebody has to be accountable to be protecting and looking out for the interests and the concerns of the residents in those municipal units. This government has clearly shown it is not up to that task, nor is it even willing to try to pick up that task. Thank you.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, this bill on municipal amalgamation is kind of voluntary, no more shot-gun marriages and that sort of thing. We were told halfway through the debate that if there was something in the bill that didn't suit, then they would introduce a Private Member's Bill to get around it.



We had many amendments proposed. There wasn't a whole lot of controversy regarding this bill from municipal units around the province at the time of the Law Amendments Committee because people are people. It is human nature. If there wasn't a forced amalgamation in Kings or Colchester or Pictou, well there is not much interest. So there weren't a whole lot of submissions. We saw submissions from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, from Pictou County, from Guysborough County and from the St. Mary's District and several others. Lunenburg was there. There were several groups and municipal units that had arrived but it didn't spark the interest because it didn't affect any one particular area of the province.



However, as time goes on, we see that people are finding difficulties with it and they are ringing alarm bells just like that. They are shaking away and saying we have a problem and one of the problems is, of course, the Village of Bible Hill. I knew it was a village because I went to college in Truro, at the Agricultural College, but how many people realized Tatamagouche was a village? Most of us figured Tatamagouche was a town. It is sort of the shire town for that area, but, in fact, it is the shire village for that area of Nova Scotia. (Interruption)



Was it the only one? I am sorry. Well, it is a pretty big place to still be a village. Well, you drive through New Minas, and New Minas is in the same boat. This bill, absolutely excludes places like New Minas. Over 6,000 people; Bible Hill, almost 5,000; Tatamagouche has probably a couple of thousand in the village. They have absolutely no input. That is a problem and we are seeing it now. Even the Mayor of Truro says that it is unfortunate that in any further amalgamation discussions that go ahead and if they use this bill to become a single municipal unit, as they probably would, then Bible Hill will not be taking part in the discussions.



One of the biggest problems - and it is not too late, Mr. Speaker, you can amend the bill now if the minister wanted to - I saw and all members saw was the lack of accountability for candidates. The amendment I introduced on Page 1 of the bill, Clause 2, would have been subclauses (k) and (l), it would have defined candidate and it would have defined official agent. Then we submitted an entire new clause, or tried to, on disclosure.



One of the big concerns we saw over the weekend and last week was disclosure, so much so that the new Mayor, Walter Fitzgerald, of Halifax, said this is the last campaign that there will not be disclosure for the mayor of the metro region. I think that is good but why, Mr. Speaker, was this government so reluctant to have disclosure? Did the government know something about the contributions that I don't know? You see that is the suspicion, that I have had more than one person who was running for council indicate that there was good reason why the Liberal Government didn't want any disclosure during this municipal election.



All we do is hear innuendo and that is it. I said to them, bring me something in writing, bring me a cancelled cheque, bring something or don't spread the idle gossip. But people are curious. You know you have to wonder, Mr. Speaker, one candidate indicated he was going to spend $200,000 for mayor and another one indicated $100,000. Anybody running for political office today knows that one of the biggest problems they have is trying to raise money in a tight economy. It begs the question, where did the $300,000 come from; and the councillors, where did that hundreds of thousands that the councillors, as a group, would have spent? They must be super-duper fundraisers to be getting money like that. So the question out there is, where does it come from? Each and every person running has indicated they would very much like to have disclosure; they would also like to have some limit on spending.



It is amazing to me the things that this Minister of Municipal Affairs feels are not necessary. A municipal unit the size of Kings County, with 60,000 people, what about an auditor, what about an Auditor General? You see, where are the guarantees for the taxpayers that, in fact, this will save money? Where is the indication that really and truly there will be some advantage to municipal units? Where is the help and assistance?



It goes on and on, Mr. Speaker, but is municipal amalgamation totally and completely as well thought out as it should have been, and is this bill? We proposed amendments that would help and in case after case, the minister said no; simply the appointing of the chief administrative officer, appointed by the coordinator who is appointed by the minister. You know it is frustrating dealing with a government that has all the answers even in spite of the fact that some of the municipal leaders in the province have said, we would like to see a few changes. The response has been, without fail, well, a Private Member's Bill, that can take care of it.



So, Mr. Speaker, this bill is not as good as it could have been if some of the suggestions from members of the Opposition and some of the suggestions from members for the government Party had been adhered to and some of the suggestions from people who are already in an amalgamated municipal unit. Cape Breton, Halifax those people made suggestions, but for the most part they were unheeded by this government and this minister. So it is a great disappointment that this is the best that we could do as legislators because I think we could have done a whole lot better for municipal government in Nova Scotia if we had brought in a bill that had been better thought out, with the input from the municipal politicians and members of this Legislature adhered to. So with those few words, I will take my place. Thank you.





MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few brief comments on Bill No. 28, Regional Municipalities Act. The concern that I have expressed and my colleague, Municipal Affairs Critic, the Leader of the NDP, has been that this is a piece of legislation that was introduced in this House as being the minister's response to municipalities and to the critics of the forced amalgamations that have happened in industrial Cape Breton and here in metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth, that now, through this bill, through this legislative framework, it is voluntary whether or not municipalities are going to merge, are going to amalgamate into one larger municipality.



I think it is clear that my colleague and I have taken issue with this in that clearly it is not voluntary, Mr. Speaker, because the motivation here is pretty straightforward. The minister and her colleagues, through very clear decisions being made around the Cabinet table are basically starving municipal units into a situation where they can no longer afford to pay for the services that are being demanded by the property taxpayer in their communities.



Whether it be in the provision of road maintenance, emergency shelters or social services, Mr. Speaker, or something that was supposed to have been taken over by the province, municipalities are being faced with a downloading that is happening from the federal government through the province and from the province onto their shoulders. In many cases, they are not being given the tools with which to respond and that is a very serious problem.



What we have seen is that in areas like metro Halifax-Dartmouth where they are not faced with those kinds of - the extreme level anyway - of fiscal difficulties, the government forced them single-handedly, basically made a decision completely against the will of the majority of residents in metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth, made the decision that they would in fact amalgamate, that they would in fact become the largest geographic municipality in this country, Mr. Speaker, completely against the wishes, not only of the municipal units, but also of the majority of the residents in the municipality.



Mr. Speaker, for the minister to suggest that this bill provides for voluntary amalgamations, the point that I want to make and I think my colleague in the NDP Caucus has tried to make is that that is merely a smoke-screen. As a result of decisions by this government, they are having responsibilities put on their shoulders, they are basically having the tools taken away from them to be able to pay their own way and they are faced with no alternatives but to amalgamate.



[6:30 p.m.]



I just saw it last week with the announcement on Friday of the UI cuts. The suggestion has been made here in this province that the direct ramification in terms of social assistance costs as a result of those UI changes is an increase in those costs of upwards of 25 per cent. As it stands right now, the majority of that is going to be borne by the municipal units. We are seeing from one end of the province to the other that many of them are having extreme difficulty with the pressures now, let alone when they are faced with not only the reduction in federal transfers through the CHST, but also in the ramifications of these massive and Draconian reductions in UI to people that are, through no fault of their own, forced to be unemployed.



A couple of other points need to be made. This bill basically replicates the whole lack of accountability that was contained in the other two pieces of legislation that forced amalgamation on municipal units. The people in the communities will have very little opportunity. If, in fact, two municipalities decide that they will appeal to the minister in order to initiate the process, they will have very little opportunity to have input, very little opportunity to change the process once it is undertaken.



The whole question of the coordinator, the fact that that is a position that will, again, be appointed by the minister, the powers of the coordinator have gone completely unchecked. We see in industrial Cape Breton, we see here in metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth an individual that is appointed by the minister, that is completely unaccountable to the municipal units, either the ones that are being amalgamated or to the municipal unit that is to be formed, completely unaccountable, it appears, to the Executive Council, unaccountable to the minister. That individual has the authority to borrow, to spend, to hire, to fire, to basically make all kinds of decisions which will have an impact on the new council and will have an impact on the ratepayers, the taxpayers of that municipality and yet that coordinator is completely unaccountable. That person will walk away from the process, hand things over, hand over the keys to the new municipality to the new council and they then will be left with dealing with the results of the process and any costs that were incurred as a result.



We are in the process now of seeing the same sort of thing happen in the regional municipality of industrial Cape Breton where debts are running up to the tune of $15 million plus, which is going to mean that the property taxpayers are going to be facing potential increases of 11 per cent and greater when, in fact, they were sold a bill of goods way back when, when the minister and her colleagues forced this idea on industrial Cape Bretoners and suggested that was going to be a cost-saving and there may even be tax reductions. We are seeing in industrial Cape Breton that that is not the case.



Here in Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County municipal unit that has just gone through a forced election, we are seeing now that the cost of this process, the new CEO and the coordinator still do not have a handle on what the costs are for this whole process. They do not know what it is going to be when the new council is formed. Mr. Speaker, I think as one taxpayer in the City of Halifax, I am certainly concerned about what we are going to be faced with as taxpayers next spring when the new council comes into being. So the whole question of the powers of the coordinator, no controls whatsoever over expenditures, no accountability and the fact that the coordinator has no relation to either the former councils or the new council, I think, is completely unacceptable.



Again, I guess I just want to reiterate as I wind up my comments, Mr. Speaker, that there was an opportunity in this bill. While it did not relate directly to the elections that are happening in Halifax, the municipal elections where campaigns cost for mayor were running in excess of, in one case $200,000, in another over $100,000, it was an attempt in response to a great deal of public concern that has been raised over this issue for the minister and her government and all members of this Legislature to inject in a piece of legislation that affected municipal governments in the future, at the very least, to inject some level of control over the expenditures on campaigns, Mr. Speaker.



I think people that have been involved in the elections here in Halifax-Dartmouth and the greater Halifax-Dartmouth area, Mr. Speaker, their minds are boggled by the fact that these campaigns are spending in excess of $300,000 without any controls whatsoever, no need for accountability, no need for disclosure and people think it is absolutely irresponsible. I think it would have shown that this government recognizes that concern and is prepared in the future to deal with it. We had hoped that initially they would bring in disclosure rules and regulations, but they decided not to do it. We had encouraged, through amendment to this bill, that perhaps they would inject a process, at least in this bill, so that in the future these problems will not arise. But the government saw fit to avoid that.



Mr. Speaker, I think, clearly, the problems that municipal governments are facing are not unlike the problems that the provincial government or any of the rest of us are faced with. What we need to see happen in this province is we need to see more jobs created. We need to see more economic activity. Property values are flat at the very best, if not in fact declining in many areas. Businesses are having extreme difficulties. The ability of municipal units to generate revenue through taxes is declining. The number of jobless in many of our communities is increasing. The demands on the municipal units, in terms of social service costs, are increasing, as well as are the wholesale problems and the very real problems of deteriorating infrastructure.



Municipal governments face those problems in this province. What we need to do, I would suggest, is to perhaps try a process of working together to create jobs, to generate some level of economic activity in this province, instead of simply going through this kind of a shell game, which really just mixes up the cards, shakes things up a bit, but does nothing in the final analysis. At least there is no evidence that municipal amalgamation or mergers of this kind, whether it be in the municipal sector or the hospital sector or in the school boards, that it, in fact, solves any problems at all.



There is no evidence. There is plenty of literature, not only in this country but around the world, that the issue of regionalizing services, coordinating, trying to prevent duplication where appropriate, can solve some problems, Mr. Speaker. But in the final analysis what we need to do is ensure that the services delivered are delivered most effectively and in the most efficient manner that they possibly can be. That is the way to save costs, that is the way to ensure that we can maintain our standards and that it is simply not good enough to shake up the deck and expect that to solve all the problems. I suggest that that is a short-sighted view and that amalgamations and mergers, according to the literature that I reviewed, in more cases than not have ended up costing more money and the chaos that has been generated as a result of this turmoil, this process of change, causes many more problems than it is worth.



So I want to indicate that I am opposed to this legislation. I have opposed it all the way along, as has my colleague. I feel that it solves nothing. It is not voluntary, as the minister indicated and as my colleague, the Leader of the NDP suggested, if municipalities want to come together and combine their services and come under one administration, there is already legislation that provides for that.



This legislation is not necessary, it doesn't solve any problem. In fact, the very way it is set up, in that the process that it offers for amalgamation is one that lacks accountability and it is certainly not one that I am in favour of. I will be voting against this bill in third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: No further intervenors on the matter. In closing the debate on third reading, I recognize the Minister of Municipal Affairs.



HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to make just a few closing comments. There is certainly no question that this is the third amalgamation bill per se that I have brought to the House of Assembly in the last two and a half years, so we have had a chance to discuss amalgamation a great deal.



Some of the comments put forward by a number of the members, and I am just going to deal with them in general, one of them was on the boundary issue of the counties as being a boundary for the amalgamated area and the suggestion that there had been no discussion or no consideration of doing it in any other way, particularly the member brought up examples like Hants and Clare. One I would bring up that he didn't bring up was Barrington. As we all know, in the Cape Breton area we have the Port Hawkesbury area, which is looking at a number of issues.



Mr. Speaker, I would just want to clarify for the House, in fact, initially the discussion we had was amalgamation of regions. But, as I know this House would want, they want to know what a region was. I couldn't define a region because a region would be many things to many different people. So in order to be precise in the legislation, which I knew the House would want me to be, the only boundaries I had to work with were the county boundaries and those are the boundaries I used.



I discussed this with the UNSM when I reviewed the bill with them. They, as well, had concerns about regions because they were concerned that it left it very wide open for the municipalities to know whether they were in or out or what was an area and what was a section and community of interest and all of those things. So we basically, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and myself, felt that county was the most appropriate way to deal with it in this bill. In their presentation that they made to the Law Amendments Committee, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities' presentation on Page 2, No. 2, they deal with that very issue, they said, we understand that the Private Members' Bills amalgamating involving more than a county could be possible that public and municipal leaders need to be properly informed of this possibility, by way of clear communication from the minister.



I have, in actual fact, sent a letter to the UNSM based on that discussion, to say that we would consider other amalgamations and regions and areas. So I clarified that with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. The province will need to deal with other situations involving proposed regional boundaries other than county boundaries. So I did have a discussion with the UNSM on that basis, just to clarify that particular point.



Mr. Speaker, also one of the comments, particularly from the Leader of the Opposition, was the discussion of population, whether population was to be considered or whether there had been any discussion on population as well as the majority of councils. I would refer to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities presentation, again to the Law Amendments Committee, Section No. 1, the UNSM and the government have discussed the idea of adding population as a factor. However, the table officers and the minister have agreed to accept a majority of units which are individual, corporate financial entities as opposed to an amalgamation of population. So, Madam Speaker, I would just mention to the Leader of the NDP that that had been discussed. It had been debated with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and they are in agreement with the way we have outlined it in the bill. So I wanted to deal with that particular one as well.



[6:45 p.m.]



Some of the members say we haven't made changes with regard to the bill. In all honesty, Mr. Speaker, we have dealt with a number of the things that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities brought forward. They have even written a letter that they support generally the changes that we have made, recognizing there are still additional things that we can do, and certainly additional consideration. As will always be the case, consultation will have to go on.



I am surprised that the NDP does not support the bill because one of the things, as I have said, and the last speaker referred to, was the fact that municipalities wanted to know what the plan was, what the game plan was, what the direction would be, if they wanted to look at amalgamations, in actual fact what it would look like? So, Mr. Speaker, that was the very reason we brought forward a general amalgamation bill, because typically we like municipalities to be enacted under one piece of legislation rather than having 10, 5, 6 different pieces of amalgamation on the books. In actual fact, we have three already and this will be the fourth, as a general bill to deal with the general issue.



The final comment that I would make, and it is the question of the Lunenburg issue which a number of members have brought up, I want to say very clearly for the record, Mr. Speaker, I have met, and so has the Premier, with Mayor Mawhinney over a year ago on this very issue. We promised all the support and all the help that we can provide to the mayor and the mayor has been very appreciative of that. The mayor did come to the committee and make some suggestions that under no circumstances should he be dealt with in an amalgamation, or his municipality, because of the possible world heritage designation. The suggestion by the Opposition Members that we as a government would do anything to counter that or to do anything that would in any way make that impossible is quite incorrect.



I have also written a further letter, after Mayor Mawhinney's presentation at the Law Amendments Committee, to tell him that we certainly very much support the future of the town and the historic area. My understanding is that they should have a decision some time in December, this month, with regard to that designation. We have been prepared and continue to be prepared to assist in whatever way we can. There is nothing on the agenda for that area at this point in time, so I think the question of whether the world heritage designation will be there will be settled well in advance of discussion or question of amalgamation.



I do have a meeting set up with Mayor Mawhinney to further go through this with the mayor, to give him an even further sense of comfort. I just would like to confirm to the House, Mr. Speaker, that we would not be looking to do anything to hurt the Town of Lunenburg's chances of being a world designation. It will be important, not only to Nova Scotia, but to the country, to have this area designated and the tourism opportunities and all of those things would be significant, so we certainly in the government are not looking to do anything to hurt that.



I would just clarify for members, it is not the whole Town of Lunenburg, it is a section of the Town of Lunenburg which we could very clearly set up as a heritage designation. Amalgamation would not affect that or would not affect how that heritage designation is run or worked. As you know, in the Hants area, we have in this province done a community as a heritage designation, so this wouldn't be the first time for us to do it in the province. We, in actual fact, have two of them in place now in the Province of Nova Scotia, so we do have some experience and some understanding of how that would be established.



So, Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I am very pleased to move Bill No. 28 for third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 28. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried in the affirmative.



Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 31.



Bill No. 31 - Personal Property Security Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs.



HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the Personal Property Security Act is one that the member for Halifax Citadel and I have had great discussion on, both in the House and in the Committee of the Whole House and this is a very important piece of legislation for the Province of Nova Scotia and one that I think we have clarified most of the issues on it. So I am very pleased to move third reading of Bill No. 31.



MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 28. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 24.



Bill No. 24 - Wildlife Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.



HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I so move third reading of Bill No. 24, the Wildlife Act.



MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?



It is agreed that we hold the question for a few moments.



We will recess for five minutes.



[6:52 p.m. The House recessed.]



[6:57 p.m. The House reconvened.]



MR. SPEAKER: I shall call the House back to order.



I will recognize the critic for the Opposition Party, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank members of the House for giving me an opportunity to just briefly comment on the amendments to Bill No. 24, the Wildlife Act.



I wanted to say, Mr. Speaker, that we did have some problems relative to family pets getting caught up and tangled in snares and traps and things of that nature. Because of the amendments, I feel the minister has very adequately addressed that problem. He met with different private-land owners, I know the Coxs in the Upper Stewiacke Valley area, and the minister also met with the Nova Scotia Trappers Association. I think this bill reflects the compromise that was reached. I just think that any of us that have family pets could certainly empathize and sympathize with the situation that Melissa Cox found herself in. She lost a very valuable dog. Unbeknownst to her, the land that she was exercising her dog on had snares that were set and, in fact, the land was not posted. I think the amendments will address that concern.



The Nova Scotia Trappers Association had expressed some concern that there may be areas where we will encounter some difficulty because, as the minister knows, some of our trappers travel incredibly large distances to do their trapping and snaring. I expect that the minister and his department will be quite tolerant at first, until the trappers become more familiar with the legislation.



With that, Mr. Speaker, again I thank you for the opportunity and I commend the minister for consulting with the partners that were involved. I think it is important that this government, perhaps, does more of this type of consulting in the future. Thank you.



[7:00 p.m.]



MR. SPEAKER: Hearing no further intervenors, are we ready for the question on Bill No. 24, the Wildlife Act.



The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 24. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried in the affirmative.



Ordered that the bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 32.



Bill No. 32 - Insurance Act/Motor Vehicle Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs.



HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I so move for third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved for third reading. Are there intervenors?



The honourable member for Pictou West.



MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to hold up the House at all. At the Law Amendments Committee we had only the one presenter, the insurance people. They were very much in favour and very thankful that the bill was being introduced. So our caucus will certainly be sponsoring this bill.



MR. SPEAKER: No further intervenors on Bill No. 32? Are we ready for the question?



The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 32. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried in the affirmative.



Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 35.



Bill No. 35 - Business Electronic Filing Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: On behalf of the minister, I so move third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: Bill No. 35 has been moved for third reading. Are there intervenors? Hearing none, are we ready for the question?



The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 35. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried in the affirmative.



Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 36.



Bill No. 36 - Arts Council Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, before I move this bill, I would like to draw the attention of all members of the House to some amendments that came back from the Law Amendments Committee. Many of these were mentioned by members as they spoke. First of all, Clause 8(1), "The Minister, after consultation with the Council, . . .". That was added at the recommendation, I think, from the member for Halifax Citadel because it implied that there was to be no consultation. So we have added that.



Clause 10, "Where a member has a direct or indirect interest in an application . . .", that again was brought up during discussion during second reading and when it got to the Law Amendments Committee, it was brought forward to the Law Amendments Committee and that adjustment has been made.



Likewise, Clause 12(2),"The Council may not, without the approval of the Governor in Council, sell, convey or lease real or personal property of a value in excess of the amount prescribed by the regulations.". That is to address something unusual or untoward, Mr. Speaker, so that the regulations could address that.



Likewise, Clause 13(b) previously read, "with the approval of the Minister, establish the policies and programs through which its objects shall be attained;". That was a significant issue of contention during the debate, Mr. Speaker, so the following adjustment has been made; "with the approval of the Minister . . ." has been struck and the council itself ". . . shall establish the policies and programs through which its objects shall be attained;".



Likewise, Clause 13(c), "perform the functions and duties conferred or imposed on it by this Act, the regulations or the Minister." has been struck. So, as a result, it is to give more authority to the council.



Likewise, Clause 15(2), a significant adjustment and it goes back to the endowment question that was debated during second reading in this House. I will read the amended clause, Mr. Speaker, Clause 15(2), "All money received from the sale or lease by the Council of real or personal property of a value in excess of the amount prescribed by the regulations shall be paid into and becomes part of the Endowment Fund unless the Minister otherwise agrees.".



Again, the rule is very clearly that they can do this, but it would require something exceptional for the minister to get involved. It is very important for all members of the House to recognize that this council is something that has been worked on by governments since 1973, so the elements were very well understood. As a result, as the debate ensued, we were able to arrive at agreement very quickly.



Likewise Clause 15(3), and this has been added, "Notwithstanding subsection (2), the Council is not required to pay into the Endowment Fund money received from the lease of real or personal property to the extent that the money is used to maintain the property.". Again, that is to allow the possibility of some of the money arrived at from the sale can be used to preserve the property.



Likewise Clause 17(b), "no later than August 31st of each year, a proposed budget of expenditures for the next fiscal year, together with a three-year plan setting out the policies and programs by which the Council will pursue its objects.". The reason for this, Mr. Speaker, is very simply there was an attempt by the department to get an accountability mechanism. So we proposed one and through the process of the Law Amendments Committee, an alternative was proposed and that has been accepted by the department.



Clause 19(1), "The Council shall annually appoint a person who is a licensed public accountant or a firm in which a member is a licensed public accountant to be the auditor . . .". Again, it is for accountability purposes. Again, on the last page, Page 6, Clauses 20(1)(a) and 20(1)(b), these are new items, Mr. Speaker. Clause 20(1)(a), "prescribing a limit on the value of real or personal property that may be sold, conveyed or leased by the Council without the approval of the Governor in Council;". That is, again, to make it more fluid, and Clause 20(1)(b), "prescribing a limit on the value of real or personal property of which the money received from its sale or lease need not be paid into the Endowment Fund;". That is, again, if you have a very small amount that is basically part of operations. It will be all audited.



Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that this bill has come this far. This is a significant development in the arts and culture section of the Department of Education. There was much concern when culture was assigned to the Department of Education, that, in fact, it would get lost in the very large department. This has been an effort by the department to recognize the need for the culture community to be able to themselves express what needs to be done.



I would recommend this to all members of the House for their consideration because I think this is a significant improvement. So as a result, I introduce it to this House for third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few comments on Bill No. 36. First of all, let me say that I am pleased with the amendments that the minister has entertained. They go very much to the heart of the council being at arm's length, as well as perceiving to be at arm's length being at arm's length. Those were some concerns that were raised earlier in debate in this House. The Leader of the NDP, being the critic for this area, took some interest and raised some of these matters after having consulted members of the arts community that have been involved with the development of the Arts Council.



Let me say that I, for one, was concerned with the assumption of the culture portfolio under Education. We saw that as somewhat of a dilution of the status of culture, with respect to the priorities of government. I am not convinced that it is otherwise at this particular point, although there have been steps that this government has been taking to try to foster the profile of arts and culture in this province that I think are positive. This, Mr. Speaker, I believe is one.



I just want to reiterate what the object of the Arts Council are, Mr. Speaker, Clause 6(a), "make the arts integral to the lives of all Nova Scotians; (b) educate the public regarding the cultural, social and economical importance of the arts; (c) foster artistic excellence throughout the Province; (d) utilize peer assessment in the determination of artistic merit and the allocation of funding; (e) encourage creative expression by funding activities in the arts; (f) strive for regional, cultural and development equity in the distribution of funding; (g) carry out research on matters relating to the arts; and (h) advise the Government, through the Minister, on matters of arts policy.".



Mr. Speaker, I think those are extremely important objectives. It seems to me to be perfectly appropriate that those objectives be in the hands of a council consisting of members of the arts community that will exist at arm's length from the minister and will have these responsibilities. I am aware of the fact that the arts community is very much in support of this bill, especially under the amendments that have been brought in by the minister, from the Law Amendments Committee, and would indicate that our caucus is certainly in support of this bill and, in closing, would encourage the minister to work very closely with this council and continue in any and all efforts to raise the profile and continue to promote arts and culture in Nova Scotia. Thank you.



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



The motion is carried.



Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 37.



Bill No. 37 - Revenue Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to move third reading of the Revenue Act. We had a very detailed discussion of it in Committee of the Whole House where we did clause by clause evaluation and I want to say that I appreciate the contribution made by the various members of the Opposition who participated in that debate. I think there was general consensus that this is a very important step forward and I appreciated the support of both Opposition Parties, I believe, at the earlier stages of this bill. So with those few remarks, I would move third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I just have a few brief words to say on the bill; number one, I suppose, is the matter that was raised by one group of witnesses at the Law Amendments Committee with regard to bad debts. In other words, a person buys an article on credit and at the time of that sale, the retailer becomes bound to pay the health services tax on that purchase. Should the person who bought the good go bankrupt or skip out of the country with the article and the vendor is left with a bad debt, the difficulty with the original wording of the bill was that there was no recourse for that person to then claim back the tax that he had made on this bad debt.



The minister listened to that argument that was made in the Law Amendments Committee and did indeed make an amendment to the bill that does, I suspect, cover that eventuality. However, it is done by regulation and the regulation that the minister has added to the bill is covered under Clause 92(2)(q) which provides for the minister to make a regulation respecting tax remitted on a credit sale which subsequently results in a bad debt.



[7:15 p.m.]



The difficulty that I have heard from a couple of parties is that this is going to be a regulation and we do not know whether or not that tax rebate can go for any particular period of time or in other words, must the retailer notify within a period of 12 months that this person to whom the goods was sold has resulted in a bad debt, what is it four years, five years or whatever. I don't think the minister really answered that question during the debate in Committee of the Whole House on that particular aspect of the bill and perhaps when he wraps up he might explain in essence what the regulation will read with regard to bad debts.



The second matter that I would just like to touch on in passing is that the minister, I know, has on many occasions demonstrated by word that he is in favour of discussion on harmonization of the provincial health services tax and the GST. In the event that that occurred, of course, this whole section on the health services tax would have to be rewritten and naturally, the net cast by the health services tax will increase rather substantially. I take it that when the minister is speaking with the federal Minister of Finance that the agreement that is made does not, first of all, lessen the revenue that the province receives from the health services tax, under the present arrangement. I would also hope that the minister has in mind that the total tax take will remain the same, in other words, it will be an even-steven type of trade off in that the total tax on a purchase will be not the GST plus the PST but will be something less, because of the fact that the net is that much wider and the amount coming into the till of the Department of Finance will be considerably more.



So with those few remarks, I will be voting in favour of this bill. I think that, as I said before, an index might be handy for those persons who have to utilize the bill because a large number of them are very small business people, people who own corner stores and mom and pop type operations. Quite often an Act which has a very severe penalty for violation of the various parts of the Act, they should be aware of the Act and be able to retrieve from the Act without too much difficulty, information that they want to obtain with respect to the Act.



I presume that the minister will still be issuing bulletins to cover all eventualities and changes, et cetera. I do think that the time has come though that bills that are used by the public a great deal should have an index. So, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to vote in favour of Bill No. 37 on third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: Hearing no further intervenors, I will recognize the Minister of Finance to close the debate.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, in connection with two points raised by the honourable member for Hants West. First of all, in connection with the Governor in Council, they make regulations with respect to a tax remitted on a credit sale which subsequently resulted in a bad debt. That would presumably allow the minister to forgive the tax in those situations and, in fact, a refund had that tax been already been paid. Whether or not that would be done in every case, that may or may not be . . .



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: A question for the minister, Mr. Speaker. The question I asked though, would there be a time period that the minister would consider? In other words, could a person go back? At the present time, I believe, he can go back four years on bad debts if you own a business. Would that period still be the same?



MR. BOUDREAU: I am not aware, Mr. Speaker, that any change is being contemplated there. But perhaps that is an item I can take up with the Provincial Tax Commission and pass along the member's concerns. On the other subject, the harmonization and the level of tax, I would think that in any harmonize situation, not only should we not collect more tax, keeping in mind what is likely to be a broader base, but I would think that we should collect less tax. In fact, while that is being done, while that harmonization is being done, the government would not be beyond considering an arrangement or a taxation level which might even bring a little less revenue to the province in the end, everything considered and, in so doing, use that as a directed tax reduction under our program to stimulate the economy. So with that, again, Mr. Speaker, I would move third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? The motion is for third reading of the bill. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call bill No. 43.



Bill No. 43 - Interpretation Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs.



HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I so move third reading of Bill No. 43.



MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 43. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



Ordered that the bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 30, and on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries, I would move third reading.



Bill No. 30 - Fisheries Organizations Support Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few comments at this stage on Bill No. 30 which provides for a process to provide for mandatory dues which, in effect, is what it is. Harvesting organizations in this province have been somewhat interested in coming up with a format whereby each and every harvester would pay into their organization. If they were going to be a participant in the organization, if they were going to benefit from the work of the organization, then they should have an obligation to help fund the activities of that organization.



Mr. Speaker, it has been estimated by some that 70 per cent of fishers in this province either aren't represented by an organization now and/or don't pay into any organization in terms of dues. As you have heard, there are upwards of 50-plus organizations representing inshore harvesters, but yet there are still a great many fishers who are not represented by any one of those organizations.



The intent of this legislation, I think, or the intent of those who have been pushing for this kind of legislation has been twofold. On the one hand it has been to try to get all fishers to be making contributions, to get all fishers who benefit from being represented by organizations, getting them to fund organizations so that the organizations have sufficient resources to carry out their activities.





The second aim, though, has been in the experience of many of the organizations, in particular, the larger organizations who have been attempting to deal with a number of the challenges coming down the pipe - especially from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at the federal level over the past three or four years, of things like licensing review, things like fee increases, things like different management strategies, different management plans, the whole question of co-management, the question of a user pay method of managing - a lot of the organizations have been trying to lobby, been trying to have input in some of these decisions at the national level. What they have found is that they have been participating with fishers organizations from British Columbia, from Newfoundland, from Quebec, Prince Edward Island and from New Brunswick who represent tens of thousands of fishers. One, or two maybe organizations who represent the bulk of harvesters in the inshore are sitting around the table with them, some organizations, some representatives who represent maybe 100 or 200 fishers in a given region within the province and the difficulty has been that the kind of sway or leverage that they have in comparison to an organization that represents tens of thousands of members.



You talk to anybody who is involved, if the Minister of Fisheries comes to town to meet with fishing organizations in Nova Scotia, the minister is sitting down with 50-plus organizations. Some have suggested that that creates some difficulties in terms of being able to lobby the minister, being able to represent the concerns, the interests of fishers in a way that has some creditability with the minister.



The whole business with this legislation, I think, is that it is a combination of those two aims. Let me finish that second aim. That was to get organizations to coordinate their activities to come together, either in one or two organizations representing all of the province or all of a region so that instead of having 50-plus organizations, you maybe had half a dozen. You had half a dozen organizations that were very well resourced and, therefore had the money, had the wherewithal, to provide the skilled staff, the experience staff to do research and to lobby at the federal level representing the needs of fishers around the coast of Nova Scotia.



What we have here, really is a combination of those two things. There has been constant pressure and conflict within that sector of fishers in the Province of Nova Scotia as to what goal is the ultimate and what goal is the best for the industry. Many still say that if you want to be the member of a 50 or a 100 person organization, then you should be able to do that. Of course, there are others who say, the more smaller organizations we have, the more difficult it is to unite.



What this does, I think, is it combines the goals of the those two aims. It provides for all fishers to participate in a mandatory dues situation, yet it allows, basically, as many organizations as the minister accredits in a region to be the official representative. In effect, at the end of the day, once this goes through, in any given region we could still have as many, if not more, fisher organizations being represented.



[7:30 p.m.]



I, myself, have some concerns with that because I find that now the industry is divided up on the basis of differences. Whether that is gear type, geography or the type of fishing, whatever, it is a set-up that is structured on the basis of differences. I feel very much, Mr. Speaker, that what is needed in the fishing industry and, in particular, the harvesting sector inshore, is to build on what is common. Build on the common challenges and the common threats in order to try to be able to meet those difficult challenges that are facing the industry. I do not know that this does that.



I think it perhaps provides instead of one stage, it maybe provides two. It provides a set-up whereby organizations can draw fishers into it and ensure that fishers pay the dues and participate in their organization. While at the initial stage there may be at the end of the day across the province still 50 organizations, maybe once those 50 organizations are receiving funding or resourced through a mandatory dues situation, then maybe they will have the financial wherewithal to come together at a more provincial level to coordinate their activities on the basis of the interests that they have in common.



The interests they have in common, Mr. Speaker, are the interests of the industry, the interests of maintaining the labour-intensive, locally-based, locally-owned and owner-operated system, in particular, in the inshore that maintains, basically, the very livelihood of our many coastal communities. Perhaps that is wishful thinking, but the bill is certainly a start.



I am concerned that it is a small start. I wish that we would have been able to deal with the whole question of the 60 per cent of vote. In other words, a vote will be held in a region, a vote whether or not to have mandatory dues in a region. In order for it to be considered affirmative, there must be 60 per cent of license holders in that region vote. Mr. Speaker, that is a unique situation. In other jurisdictions it is more like 40 per cent in order that an actual vote be held that organizations then are allowed to go out and sign up members and to proceed with that type of certification. I am concerned and somewhat disappointed that those changes were not forthcoming from the Law Amendments Committee.



Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, I think that there is some will within the minister's department. I know that there is a strong will out there within the organizations. I haven't seen the regulations yet, but I hope that the regulations that are developed by the minister's department will facilitate the process of organizing, will facilitate the process of organizations within a region being able to form, being able to pass through this mandatory dues. Hopefully, within the next six months, we will see organizations beginning to receive money and beginning to be able to have the financial wherewithal to fund representation on the regional and the national levels.



Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I indicate again that I am voting in support, as is our caucus, of Bill No. 30. I certainly have some reservations, but I think the organizations have to be given a great deal of credit for the pressure that they have brought to bear on the government and other members of government, as well as the Opposition Parties, to see this bill go through this Legislature.



I would also give credit, Mr. Speaker, to the minister and to officials within his department that have engaged in a very good process of consulting with fishers in this province, identifying the fact that there was a clear demand out there for a mandatory dues system. He has responded to that with a piece of legislation which, while I would suggest does not go far enough, does go some distance to dealing with that and that is certainly positive.



I thank the minister for his commitment and I look forward to seeing the regulations. As I said before, I hope that in six months' time, organizations are beginning to see monies flow in so that they will be in a position to respond, perhaps somewhat more effectively, in meeting the challenges that their members are facing as the whole system of managing the fishery in this country, and certainly in this province, comes under increasing change. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 30, the Fisheries Organizations Support Act. The question is called. Would all those in favour of motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



Ordered that the bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, that completes the Government Business for now. I would ask that you revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.



MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the Committee has met and has considered the following bills:



Bill No. 45 - Brookside Cemetery Corporation Act.



Bill No. 46 - Kings County Development Charge Act.



and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.



MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



The honourable member for Hants East.



MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the Committee has met and considered the following bills:



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



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



and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each with certain amendments.



MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, as I said, that completes the Government Business for now. Considering the fact that the Law Amendments Committee is presently meeting and has been meeting for some time and deliberating on certain bills that we would like to have presented in front of this House this evening, I move that we recess until 9:45 p.m.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House now recess until 9:45 p.m. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



[7:39 p.m. The House recessed.]



[9:45 p.m. The House reconvened.]



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The House was recessed to meet again at 9:45 p.m. and it now being 9:45 p.m., I declare the House back in session.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:



Bill No. 33 - Internal Trade Agreement Implementation Act.



and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.



MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.



MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the members of the House that we will meet tomorrow between the hours of 12:00 noon and 8:00 p.m. Following the daily routine and Question Period, we will go into the Committee of the Whole House on Bills and likely Bill No. 33, I believe.



I move that we adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.





MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon.



The motion is carried.



[The House rose at 9:46 p.m.]





NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)



HOUSE ORDER NO. 67



By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)



I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment:



(1) List of members of the E-911 implementation management team and the terms of reference provided to the management team upon their establishment in July of this year;



(2) A copy of the implementation schedule developed by the management team;



(3) Details on exactly how regional 911 working groups across Nova Scotia will be coordinated; and



(4) Projected timeframe as to when working groups will be in place and meetings held across Nova Scotia so that information can be exchanged on 911 concerns.



HOUSE ORDER NO. 68



By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)



I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Office of the Premier:



(1) Information promised by the Premier in the Legislature on November 2nd and provided to the Premier through correspondence from federal Justice Minister Allan Rock stipulating that there will be no cost to the Government of Nova Scotia as a result of Bill C-68, firearm control legislation.