MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time and commence the daily routine of business.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have 10 signatures here on letters from employees of the Victoria General Hospital, in this case the Physiotherapy Department. The petition says, in effect, that it is necessary to urge the government to make necessary amendments to include the Victoria General Transition Agreement of May 1992 in order to preserve all of our rights and benefits as future employees of the QE II corporation. I will present these and table these as a group and I have affixed my name to the top copy.
MR. SPEAKER: The petitions are tabled.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition signed by approximately 1,000 persons. The petition reads, "Don't let our community schools become an endangered species.". I would like to table that.
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have approximately 300 or 400 letters from people who are protesting the closure of the Hants Community College and the elementary schools in the Hants West educational system.
MR. SPEAKER: The petitions are tabled.
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Justice Minister yesterday responded to an incident in Sydney where a man, charged with uttering death threats by his estranged wife and having pleaded guilty to a charge of forcible entry, wandered the streets of Sydney on probation only to be found within weeks with a self-inflicted gun wound next to the body of a former girlfriend who died also by a gunshot, by stating, unfortunately these tragedies occur; and
Whereas this same minister, when asked whether it was true or not that the man was ordered to seek counselling as part of a court order for his probation but was on a four week waiting list, had no details on whether counselling was ordered and who failed not to provide that counselling; and
Whereas this minister stood by his government's policy on zero tolerance for violence against women, stating that a coordinator would be in place in January 1996 and the new regional municipality had the issue of police training in the matters of domestic violence high on their list;
Therefore be it resolved that the minister take this situation more seriously than promising to look into the unfortunate incident, that things are in hand, and that he consult now on the matter with his colleague, the Minister of Health, in new charges that this same Sydney man sought psychiatric help but was turned away prematurely.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas ACT! for a Health Sydney have conducted a community health survey and developed a community health profile looking at Sydney's physical environment, socio-economic situation and residents' personal health practices; and
Whereas ACT! are taking their research results and action plan out to neighbourhood meetings where every resident can help develop plans to make Sydney a healthier community; and
Whereas ACT! can provide a model of community-based action to improve health and the environment;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the participants in ACT! for a Healthy Sydney and encourages the provincial government to match its support of ACT! with equivalent support for initiatives needed to achieve a healthy Sydney.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the termination of the federal feed grain subsidy on December 31st will provide many new challenges for Nova Scotia agriculture; and
Whereas the Nova Scotia dairy industry generates nearly $100 million annually for the provincial economy; and
Whereas the President of the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association recently said, feed manufacturers have spent years developing a pipeline for feed grain supplies that will now have to be restructured if dairy feed costs are to remain competitive;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing and officials within his department be prepared to offer support mechanisms to organizations such as the Nova Scotia Feed Manufacturers Association and the Milk Producers Association as they begin looking at new feed sources in 1996 to help remain competitive with other producers.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister responsible for EMO is providing conflicting accounts on when an emergency 911 telephone number will be operational across Nova Scotia; and
Whereas in a recent span of two weeks, the minister provided two separate timeframes as to when such an emergency number will be fully operational; and
Whereas the emergency responders across Nova Scotia have been trying for a considerable amount of time to get a straight and factual answer from the minister on the implementation date for 911;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Emergency Measures Organization advise Nova Scotians whether 911 will be operational by July 1, 1997, as he wrote to me on October 25th, or will it become operational in three regions across Nova Scotia as early as January, as outlined in an information summary put out by the minister on November 8th.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas on August 11, 1995, the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board ruled that a, ". . . `hands-off' approach . . .", to collective agreements, ". . . not only reflects our own historical practices in dealing with successor rights applications but also is consistent with the general approach of labour boards across Canada."; and
Whereas the board's decision stated further, ". . . why should a labour relations board substitute its second-hand and superficial knowledge of a particular successorship for the detailed knowledge and painstaking work and give and take of collective bargaining?";
Therefore be it resolved that this House apologizes to the Labour Relations Board for the consistent and wilful misinterpretation of the board's own quasi-judicial ruling, which have been inflicted upon Nova Scotians by the Minister of Human Resources. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: I think I would have to request the Clerk to take a look at that one before we table it.
MR. CHISHOLM: What?
MR. SPEAKER: Check the propriety of that wording.
MR. CHISHOLM: I am suggesting that it is a misinterpretation that we have been getting from the Minister of Human Resources. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: The Clerks will deliberate. There appears to be a lack of clarity.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas nary a contrary word about the most recent, vicious UI cuts has been heard from this provincial government; and
Whereas this government's own economic bulletin confirms that starting in 1993, Tory and Liberal cuts are pushing more and more of the unemployed off UI, leaving social assistance as the only alternative; and
Whereas this government confirms that 20,000 unemployed Nova Scotians have already been excluded from UI;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the federal government to pursue a strategy of jobs and effective training, instead of simply cutting off more and more involuntarily unemployed Nova Scotians from UI and from social assistance cost-sharing.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Certified Nursing Assistants have waited years for government to introduce new legislation for their self-governing profession, including the expectation among this year's graduates that they will now be called Licensed Practical Nurses; and
Whereas on November 17, 1993, the Health Minister told this House that, by spring we will have this resolved to the satisfaction, I am sure, of the CNAs; and
Whereas the minister went further, declaring, I will give the commitment to legislation covering CNAs and perhaps the entire nursing profession;
Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns those who have sidelined the hard-working CNAs and potential LPNs, who have been without their long-drafted governing legislation, while they are rushing ahead with tax breaks for much wealthier professions.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
Are there further notices of motion? If not, the Clerks have called to my attention the fact that the proposed notice of motion tabled by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, accuses the honourable Minister of Human Resources of wilful misrepresentation, which is contrary to parliamentary decorum and Beauchesne's guidelines (Interruption) and I am not prepared to entertain any submissions on this. The resolution is out of order.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would like to know where the word misrepresentation is.
MR. SPEAKER: It's right there and both Clerks said . . .
MR. CHISHOLM: It says, ". . . wilful misinterpretation . . ."
MR. SPEAKER: I am not prepared to entertain argument on this matter. The ruling . . .
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, it doesn't have the word misrepresentation in it.
MR. SPEAKER: . . . is made. The resolution is out of order. Be seated!
MR. CHISHOLM: It doesn't have the word misrepresentation in it, Rod.
MR. SPEAKER: Wilful misrepresentation, it's right there in black and white.
MR. CHISHOLM: Misinterpretation.
MR. SPEAKER: Wilful misinterpretation, sir.
MR. CHISHOLM: It doesn't say misrepresentation.
MR. SPEAKER: Please, please! (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 55.
Bill No. 55 - Community Colleges Act.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, the floor is open for anyone who wishes to speak to Bill No. 55 on second reading.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure again to have the opportunity to speak to Bill No. 55. I think it is a very important bill. I think it is one that deserves very serious reading by every member in this House. Because I, quite frankly, think that this is a bill that has been brought into this House by the Minister of Education because on one Friday afternoon he was sitting around the office with his staff and he said, well, things are pretty quiet and we are not doing very much around here, let's reorganize the community college system. It seems to be a very popular thing to do, the Minister of Health has gone out and started to reform the health care system, the Minister of Municipal Affairs went out there and started to reform the municipal government system across this province, so the Minister of Education thought he had better jump on board and do something about reforming the community college system.
What this bill does, Mr. Speaker, is absolutely nothing. It does nothing that helps any student in this province to obtain a post-secondary education or something perhaps less than a post-secondary education if they were taking vocational training. This bill sets up a series of boards. It puts in place a process for amalgamating the various unions that are responsible for representing the people working in the community college system but apart from that, this bill does absolutely nothing.
There is nothing in here that says that tomorrow or next week when this bill gets through this House, that the community college system will be better in this province. There will still be thousands and thousands of young people out there, Mr. Speaker, who will be unable to get seats in community colleges. In fact, there will be thousands and thousands plus 800, because what the minister has done preparatory to introducing this bill is to strike 800 seats from the system. From a system that, before he did that, did not have sufficient room for all those that wanted to get into a post-secondary education apart from the university system.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to be left with a gap, a gap that is not being filled in our educational system. That is the gap created from those who have come out from the high schools and have got Grade 10 or Grade 11 or Grade 12, they don't want to go on to university, they want to learn a trade, they don't have the educational background to take - what is the jargon - a high-tech trade, they want to learn something that is going to be useful and promote them to a position where they can gain entry into the job market.
What we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is we are destroying that system. We are destroying it because we are destroying seats in this province that are available. We are getting rid of 150 of the teaching staff that were teaching these people in that educational system, and we are further, as I say, placing the future of these young people in jeopardy.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke last night, and I don't want to repeat what I said last night, but the Minister of Education I think missed a little bit of my remarks because he was out of the Chamber momentarily. But as I said last night, there are tradespeople that are urgently required in this province. There are jobs in this province that are available if people have the skills. But we are not meeting those training objectives of training people to fill those particular jobs. Now, I know the minister says, well, one of the things we are doing with this, is we are going to start training people to meet the jobs that are available out there. But there is nothing in this bill that says that. There is nothing to have prevented the minister from not introducing this piece of paper and going out to the present system and discontinue those classes that he thinks are not meeting the job market and instituting new training requirements to meet those jobs that are available. There is nothing that would have stopped him from doing that and there is nothing in Bill No. 55 which is going to change that, not a thing, nothing whatsoever.
At the present time, Mr. Speaker, as I said last evening, there was a requirement in this province for machinists. If we want machinists in this province at the present time, we are going to Germany to get them or we are going to Ontario, if we are lucky to get them. Even Ontario now has no surplus of machinists. We should be training machinists, particularly on CADCAM. We train a few; nowhere near enough.
We require the basic trades in this province, still. We still need auto mechanics; we still need people who can do body repair on automobiles. We still need people out there, Mr. Speaker, who can do, for instance, agricultural jobs. We need these people, but these people do require to be trained. An auto mechanic when you and I - I shouldn't say when you and I were children - when I was a young person . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I was a young person once too.
MR. RUSSELL: The first car I had was a Model A and you could go out and unscrew the thing, practically, by hand and take it apart and put it together again, you could do that. But you can't do that today, because today a car has very sophisticated systems. But you don't have to go to university to learn to repair a modern car and you don't have to go to a high-tech - well, perhaps a little bit of a high-tech but not too far off the scale - community college.
Those basic trades are still required and there are lots of young people whose ambitions are to do those kinds of jobs. They don't want to walk around in a collar and tie every day. They don't want to go to university. What they want to do is something that they can do with their hands and their minds, and they will do it very well. But if we don't train those people, we are not going to have them, and if we don't train that generation, they are going to be out there on welfare. Then we are going to be complaining about paying taxes to keep people on welfare because they can't get jobs.
Mr. Speaker, I said a few words when I opened, perhaps, that I shouldn't have said about them sitting around over in the Department of Education and coming up with an idea to do something like reform, but I still think that the agenda to put out this piece of paper was not, quite truthfully, a desire to improve the educational opportunities available for that class of people I am talking about. I think it was more to meet what the Minister of Finance was saying to the Minister of Education; look, Mr. Minister of Education, I am going to whack off $5 million or $6 million from your budget this year and I suggest you take it off from the community college system, because it isn't training the people for the jobs that are available. The minister scuttled around and then came up with this piece of legislation.
This reform, like so much reform of this government, is not driven by making the system better or to accommodating (Interruption) I will answer your question in a few moments. The reform going on that was started off by this government is not being driven by improving the system, whether it is Education, Health, Municipal Affairs or anything else. It is being driven by the requirement of the Minister of Finance who said, we are going to balance the budget and, by golly, we are going to do it this year. That is fine; I don't think anybody can argue about that. But, actually, when this government came into power, they said they were going to balance the budget in four years; that was their Government By Design book that they first put out in 1993.
They picked up a couple of hundred million dollars additional each year, except for the first year, in taxes, which has given them the opportunity to bring their deficit down to zero this year. In fact, they will probably come out with a small surplus this year. (Interruptions) That is good. However, I am suggesting, Mr. Speaker, if for the sake of $10 million - and we will have a surplus this year in the operating account of something like about $56 million - if they took $10 million of those $56 million and said to the Minister of Education, leave the community college system alone, it ain't broke, it is working, it is doing fine. The only thing is, we aren't training people for the right kinds of jobs. I agree when the minister says that. Of course that is what we should be doing, we should be accommodating the needs that the employers have out there so that when people come out of high school, they can go out and find themselves something to do. That is what it is all about.
You don't have to do this to achieve that. You have, across this province, facilities that are first-class. The one that is being closed in Windsor, in spite of what this gentleman over here would say, Mr. Speaker, is a beautiful building. It is almost brand new and it doesn't, as he says, cost more to maintain than it does to operate. I went through that budget, sir. I went through it line by line and what you said is not true. In fact, in a cost-benefit analysis . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I didn't say anything about this. You have to address the Chair.
MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Sir. In a cost-benefit analysis, that college out there is the second on a cost-benefit basis across this province and he is closing it. Why is he closing it? I don't know.
He can't tell me it is because it can't get sufficient students because there are more students trying to get in than there are seats available. True. He can't tell me it is because the students who graduate from that school can't find jobs because it ain't true. He told me yesterday, when he was speaking, addressing this bill when he first brought it in, that I think it was 70 per cent of the graduates across this province obtain jobs when they come out from the community colleges. I can't ask him a question. But however, I will tell him, he goes out there to Windsor and there is something just short of 80 per cent that are getting jobs when they come out.
Now why in Heaven's name, Mr. Speaker, would you close the Hants Community College? I will accept a question from the minister.
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the moment to ask a question. He said that this was made up as a matter of reform because the Minister of Finance talked to us about a budget. I have here a report, the Nova Scotia Royal Commission of Post-Secondary Education, 1985, which examined occupational education in Nova Scotia. The recommendations that were made at that time in 1985 are very consistent with, in fact, what we are doing now. Much of what we are doing now is tied directly to that report of 1985.
I am going to ask the honourable member, given what he is saying is true, that we have to train better, we have to train for the work force, why didn't their government do anything between 1985 and 1992 to address any of it and, as a result, we have to do it all now?
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Sit down. Sit down.
MR. SPEAKER: Just a moment, the member for Kings North should please restrain himself. The honourable member for Hants West has the floor. Carry on, sir.
AN HON. MEMBER: Step dancing.
MR. SPEAKER: You are sometimes that too.
MR. RUSSELL: That, Mr. Speaker, is nonsense. Absolute nonsense. That is absolute nonsense. We put in place the community college system and . . .
MR. MACEACHERN: You just changed the signs.
MR. RUSSELL: . . . we just changed the signs.
MR. MACEACHERN: That's all you did.
AN HON. MEMBER: Can you believe that?
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that isn't even worth arguing about because that is what I am trying to tell the minister. What he is doing is he is changing the legislation. He is not changing the system. The system has evolved. It is continuing to evolve, it is continuing to do the job which it was put in place to do. That was to take this class of students and offer them some way that they can get from being a student to being a productive, taxpaying person from Nova Scotia, paying their taxes, supporting everybody else.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister said - at least I think this is what he said - that this isn't being done because of financial reasons. If it is not being done for financial reasons, why in Heaven's sake are we doing it? I suppose everybody, including yourself, sir, have read this bill. What we are doing is we have set up a board of governors for every community college. Of course, we close a few along the way, fire a few teachers, turf some kids out of their schools and tell them, you can't get an education, go down and collect welfare. We do those things. This bill sets up a board of governors for each community college. Can you tell me how setting up a board of governors for each community college and reducing the number of seats, reducing the number of educators in those schools, how that is going to enhance the system in any way, how it is going to improve the kind of training that is being delivered, that is going to train more people? It doesn't do any of those things.
If this minister truly wants to reform the system, I would suggest he say to the Minister of Education, the most important things, because we have two systems that we have to support, health and education but one of the most important things that the government funds is, surely to goodness, the education system. If the education system isn't doing its job, the people that are coming out from the schools, each generation that is coming along, is going to be unable to pay the taxes which are going to keep up in retirement, that is what is going to happen. We have to train people to get jobs.
People that come out of school today at Grade 8 or Grade 9 haven't got a hope of finding a job, apart from some kind of summer employment opportunity, out there flagging on the roads or shovelling gravel around on the edge of the roads, or out picking strawberries or apples or something in the fall. There is no job now which is just a basic labouring job, in essence. The day of pick and shovel and wheelbarrow, those jobs are gone.
We still need people who are bricklayers, we still need people who are carpenters, we still need people who are auto mechanics, we still need people to repair tractors, we still need people that can come in and repair the furniture in here but all of those people have to have some kind of trades training. There are two ways you can get it, you can either have a perfect apprenticeship system, which we certainly don't have, or else you can have a first-class vocational-community college system to provide those skills.
This isn't second-class education. This isn't something that we would say to somebody, well you are too dumb to go on to university, go into a community college. We are not saying that because there is nobody dumb coming out of the schools. There are some people who are better inclined to do one kind of work more than another. There are some people that are very adept with their hands, when others are not. There are some that are more adept with their heads than perhaps they are with their hands. What we have to do is have some kind of an institutional system set up whereby these people can go and take this kind of training.
The community college system as it was, was a combination of vocational and community college in truth, a junior college. There were people in those community colleges who were there banging nails into the wall, there were people there learning auto mechanics and sheet metal work and there were people there who were into some very sophisticated computer technology in those schools, we had a mix. You sure as heck don't have to have a university education to take those kinds of courses. If I have got the minister right, he has said, oh no, we have got to go high-tech, all fancy stuff, great stuff. But there aren't enough high-tech jobs and you can have all the high-tech jobs you want but you still need people to fix the plumbing. You can't separate those two kinds of training, you must have them and you are not going to do it with this system. You are not going to do it with this because this doesn't do anything for the system at all.
If that minister, well, the Minister of Education at the present time has the Minister of Finance sitting next to him and the Minister of Finance is probably saying to him, don't give in, don't give in. (Laughter) Because this bill, I am sure, was that afternoon across at the Department of Education (Interruption) The Minister of Finance, I am sure, had a lot to do with this. As he does with every reform that this government does, because there isn't a reform that they undertake that is not driven by the Department of Finance. What happens? What happens is they just simply are destroying these basic systems that we have in this province all because that minister over there wants to be able to retire in three years and say, look, I balanced the budgets three years ahead of schedule.
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: He is telling me a story and you interrupted it. What's the ending of it.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, the minister shouldn't have been listening to a story from the Minister of Finance, he should have been listening to me because he might learn something. (Interruption) Well, you might be surprised. At least when we were in government, we were interested in improving the system rather than wrecking it. When we were in government at least when you had to go to hospital, you knew if you wanted to go in a week, you could go in a week. If you had somebody graduating from high school and you knew that they wanted to get into a community college, they probably could get in there.
Mr. Speaker, when the minister introduced this bill, the minister indicated that, "The mandate of the Nova Scotia Community College, as a post-secondary education institution, is: . . ., and this is it, ". . . to enhance the province's economic and social well-being by meeting the occupational training requirements of the population and the labour market,". Well, what a magnificent aim to have.
When the minister wraps up debate on second reading, probably at the end of next week or something like that, I hope that he will tell us, Mr. Speaker, quite truthfully, how this bill is going to help the educational system in Nova Scotia. Because, quite frankly, I don't see it.
This bill also does something else, Mr. Speaker, and it is something that, perhaps, because I am not a lawyer I am not particularly qualified to speak on. But this bill is the same as the Education Act that we looked at approximately two weeks ago and is presently in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. It is similar to the health bill that we are presently doing and is certainly the same as this one that I have in my hand. That is, that this bill has, in part, a formula for solving the problems that you encounter when you bring two unions together that have different benefits and different wage scales.
In this bill, as in those other bills that I have mentioned, what the bill envisions is that rather than have the arbitration done by the new employer and the various unions, in other words, a contract negotiation between the bodies, what this bill envisions is that the new employer simply says, well, look, this is a very complex matter, it is one that we are going to be unable to resolve, we are going to turn it over to the Labour Relations Board. Now, I am sure that you are aware, Mr. Speaker, as you are being from Cape Breton, that the Labour Relations Board up there on the amalgamation of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality they took on two pages, anyway I think it is, of different unions and locals. The job was to meld the salaries and to arbitrate the benefits.
What the Labour Relations Board can do, Mr. Speaker, is take the worst parts of each of those contracts and arbitrarily say, this is it for all of the employees. In other words, if one union doing a certain job is receiving, we will say, $15 an hour and another union doing the identical job, their members are receiving $13 an hour, the Labour Relations Board has just struck it at $13 an hour across the board. So that is one item that I am not going to speak on at any length because, as I say, I don't understand why it is in this bill. I don't understand why it is in any other Acts and I am told by lawyers who are competent in labour law that these particular items should not be within not only this bill, but other Acts, as well.
Can I say anything positive about this legislation? Well, I can say one thing, I guess, Mr. Speaker. At least it has brought to the attention of the people of Nova Scotia the importance of the community college system and it is an important part of the eduction system. I tabled a petition this morning which spoke about, in particular, the loss of the Hants Community College. People are aware now of the importance of the community college system. They are aware of the fact, I think, that there are lots of shortcomings within the present system. They are aware that something is happening and they are certainly aware of that in the Windsor area, I can assure you, with the closure of the community college. They are aware that the minister is up to something. They believe honestly, from what they have heard from the minister, and anybody who had not read the bill would believe it, listening to the minister, that something great is going to happen because we pass this piece of legislation.
But, as I have said, Mr. Speaker, absolutely nothing is going to happen. The only thing that is going to happen is that each of the institutions are going to have a board of governors. The board of governors, of course, are appointed in large measure by the Executive Council so I suppose there are a lot of friends of the government who will receive appointments to those particular boards.
There has been no cost analysis done of this change in direction with the community colleges, none that has been made available, anyway, to the Opposition and no indication from the minister that such is coming forward. He has said that something in the order, I think, of $8.6 million will be saved. Mr. Speaker, $8.6 million, to you and to me, is a lot of money, but to a government that is educating the young people of this province, it is virtually a drip in a bucket. (Interruptions) That Minister of Finance should be sitting over there. That Minister of Finance is going to come up with a surplus this year in the operating account of something like $53 million or $56 million. He is going to come up with about that much this year in surplus. Instead of having what he estimated in his budget at something like about a $28 million deficit, he is going to have about a $53 million profit.
Well, surely to goodness he could take that $8 million and give it to the Minister of Education to keep in place a system so important as this. This is the future of this province. That generation that is coming along are the people, as I said earlier, who are going to pay the taxes to support us when we get to our old age and everybody else in this province when they get to their old age. We spend, what, $4 billion, every year, Mr. Speaker. We spend $4 billion. So you take $8 million and you have about one-third of 1 per cent would provide the money for this minister to provide employment for 150 teachers who would be usefully employed teaching approximately 800 students who are losing their seats this year.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure we will have a chance to debate this very important legislation at some future date. I am going to move an amendment to the second reading motion that we have on the floor, because I believe this whole system of post-secondary education through the community college system should be examined.
Mr. Speaker, I am therefore moving "That the words after `That' be deleted and the following substituted: the subject matter of Bill No. 55, An Act Respecting Collège de l'Acadie and the Nova Scotia Community College, be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.". (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: I am open to any submissions and advice from honourable members as to the propriety of the proposed amendment. By precedent this type of amendment is in order, however, the debate on amendments, as we all know, has to be very narrowly focused on those amendments. Do you have a submission to the propriety of the amendment?
MR. RUSSELL: No, I do not, Mr. Speaker. But I wondering if, indeed, I am now entitled to speak for a few moments about the actual amendment that I have made?
MR. SPEAKER: Our practice here has been that, no, you are not. The motion is introduced, then that concludes. That is the precedent we have followed. It is a matter of usage and precedent; I can't quote any specific rule. (Interruptions) I can quote all kinds of prohibitions from Erskine May about even debating these amendments; they are supposed to be put immediately to a vote - according to Erskine May - but, in any event, our practice here has been that you do not speak after introducing an amendment.
MR. RUSSELL: The reason I am still on my feet is simply because my understanding is that you make the motion, then you have the opportunity to speak to that motion for a limited . . .
MR. SPEAKER: That has not been our practice here in recent years, no.
I will recognize another speaker on the proposed amendment; please, just address the amendment, nothing more.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise and speak to this very reasoned amendment and to make . . .
MR. SPEAKER: This is not a reasoned amendment, it is an amendment to refer to a committee.
DR. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, the amendment to refer to a committee. I haven't seen the amendment in writing, but I believe it is to the Committee on Human Resources.
MR. SPEAKER: On Human Resources.
DR. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The amendment is certainly one that I can support. The reason, of course, is that all of us recognize the very important role that the community colleges are playing in the education of young people in preparing them for the job market here in Nova Scotia. The debate on the bill itself is one that has brought forward considerable comment, and I am sure that the minister is listening to the comments about the fact that, again, we have a piece of legislation brought before the House that has received far too little input, other than from the minister and his department.
It is very important that we develop the community college system in the province appropriately, because it will be, for many young Nova Scotians, their vehicle which will enable them to eventually enter the job market successfully.
The recent criticisms brought to our community college system by industry in this province, clearly indicate that the system is not providing the kind of training necessarily required by all employers in the province, that is a question that requires very serious analysis and one, that in the minister's haste to make these administrative changes to the community college, without any real forethought or a provision to provide better training.
What could we look at if, in fact, the bill is referred to a committee? First of all, one of the topics that has not received enough analysis is the integration of the community college system with the university system. I was particularly impressed, when I attended the recent graduation at the Pictou District Community College, with the number of university graduates who are now receiving various diplomas and certificates from the community college system. In other words, they had gone and had academic training and then were returning to the community college system for occupational training. That opens the door, I think, to more analysis of an integration of university and community college training.
It has become abundantly clear that academic training by itself in today's work environment does not prepare our young people for the job market here in Nova Scotia. We all know those stories of many, many young Nova Scotians who are sitting home with Bachelor and Master degrees and unable to find any kind of meaningful employment, so they return to the community college system and receive some kind of occupational training and they are then prepared for the job market.
It would seem that a system whereby there would be a cooperation with these two different approaches, which would open the door to a system of transfer of credits - in other words, certain credits which are available only through the community college system - would qualify in degree training and, as well, the reverse could be true. I see nothing in the bill as it is presented, and nothing in anything the minister has said which would open the door to that kind of cooperation. This is the kind of analysis and inspection which could go on in terms of developing the community college system if, in fact, the substance of the bill was referred to committee.
The minister, obviously, feels that the plan that he has brought forward in his bill has received enough input from others. But you know, one only has to look back at perhaps some of the mistakes that the minister has made in regard to community college training in this province, and the one that jumps out at me almost immediately is the announcement in Truro of the new super-college; that was an announcement that was certainly premature and was generated to try and mollify the community for the loss of the Teachers College. You all can remember those grand announcements when the minister announced, yes, we are going to have that super-college in Truro and we are going to have cutting-edge programs and it is just going to put us well into the next century in terms of occupational training.
The minister's plan has fallen upon hard times and, obviously, didn't have enough forethought, didn't have enough planning and we all saw the results in Truro when, almost immediately, criticism from the community began to be generated. In fact, the minister's early estimates of 150 students the first year resulted in only 87 students and the programs were certainly similar to programs that were available by private educating institutions and, as well, through university programs. The minister perhaps might suggest that that is a harsh criticism. (Interruption) Well, you know it is difficult, Mr. Speaker, when you have an idea, when you are convinced that you are right, to sometimes really be presented with information that others do not agree.
I had an opportunity, just in the last few minutes, to review some of the criticism that was generated by the premature announcement of the opening of that super-college in Truro and it is quite legitimate. The minister obviously is still convinced, despite the fact that many do not agree with him, that his plan to start that institution was a good one. That is the kind of thing you see if you go ahead too quickly and you make the wrong decision without enough consultation then everyone suffers.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important that we progress in this particular matter in a very slow and deliberate manner. The kind of solutions that I would like to see the minister coming up with instead of just simply some organizational change in the way that the community colleges will be administered and, as well, again coming up with a very harsh method of dealing with the transfer of employees from one employer to another, I would like the minister to be introducing with this particular piece of legislation, some new concepts.
What this legislation does, and what should be looked at very clearly, and should be looked at in more depth, is the fact that all we seem to be doing is gradually moving to an occupational training program that will more and more exclude young Nova Scotians. It will exclude Nova Scotians by reducing the number of seats available and it will also exclude many young Nova Scotians by continually increasing entrance requirements. We have to look at this and this could be looked at as we look at the subject matter which is addressed in this particular piece of legislation because we have to look very carefully at what has happened when our vocational schools became our community colleges and gradually the academic requirements for entrance were increased and more and more young Nova Scotians are not now able to access occupational training in this province. I see nothing in this piece of legislation that is going to address that in any meaningful way. In fact, it is not going to address that in any way.
So there is real merit in this amendment to have another body look at the substance of what the bill is all about and I certainly have no trouble in standing in support of that. You know, I believe the minister agrees with all of us in this House that we have to overhaul the education system in this province but we have to do it with consultation and we have to do it with input and we have to do it with input other than the minister's department and the minister himself. The minister is an educator and obviously he comes to his ministry with a great deal of background information. I hope that the minister is not letting his background cloud his better judgment. Because as an educator he has no more all the answers for the education system in this province than I, as participant for years in health care delivery in this province, would have all the answers in health care reform in this province. We must consult and we must have others examine our ideas and we must be open to the ideas of others.
One of the criticisms that has come up on the debate of the bill, which I think could be examined by the committee, is whether or not that the overhaul of the community college system is being driven entirely by the Minister of Finance and it is being entirely driven by the federal government, because the federal government recently announced that they would be withdrawing $9 million of the, I believe, $43 million funding required to run our community college system. It would be nice if the federal government had unlimited funds and would continue financially supporting our community college system to the extent that they had in the past. Well, we probably won't get very far in lobbying the federal government to return that $9 million to our community college funding, but we have to be innovative in looking at providing the kind of service that young people will require.
I haven't seen any indication either in the press or from what the minister has said or from what I have heard by those who are involved in the system to suggest that we are yet meeting the needs of young Nova Scotians. There is room for what the minister says and that is for cutting-edge technology in our community college system and there is room for upgrading of courses. Because recent criticism by Nova Scotia employers indicates that we do need advanced training available in our community college system if we are to provide all of the training that is required by our young people to fill all the jobs that are available in Nova Scotia. It is an absolute tragedy with so much employment in our young people that we have employers saying, look, I had to go to New Brunswick or I had to go to Newfoundland to get employees to work here in Nova Scotia, because I couldn't find a trained Nova Scotian available to fill these positions. I think that is an absolute tragedy in view of the number of unemployed young people in our province.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think this is a good amendment and it is one that I can support. I hope on reflection that the minister will have some second thoughts, will back up a step or two and allow others to look at his overhaul plans for the community college system and will allow the committee to have a look at this. I will be voting in favour of the amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to stand to speak in support of this - I won't call it a reasoned because it is not - but this very reasonable amendment that is before us. Although it is not moved by myself, I have a bunch of them here that had I been the next speaker, I would have been moving as well. I say that to obviously indicate my firm and full commitment to the principles of the amendment that is before us.
Now, what in essence this amendment is doing, Mr. Speaker, is referring the content of the bill, in other words the principles, the suggestions and so on, when we are talking about the subject matter of the bill, to the Standing Committee, which is one of the committees of this House which doesn't have to be struck specially for this purpose, but the Standing Committee on Human Resources.
Mr. Speaker, I have to ask the question. What is more fundamental in terms of a human resource to the development of that human resource than the educational opportunities that are provided not only to our young people? Because a community college system and I will say that there have been some changes to the community college system, I acknowledge that, there have been some positive changes as well made to the community college system since that system was first initiated and I certainly have been in support of our moving away from the vocational system, as it was once described, towards a community college system. So, I support the need for a community college system.
But the Human Resources Committee has the ability to re-examine not only the subject matter of the bill but to look at the principles and all of what is happening with respect to the education and what is going on and what is needed within the community college system and it has the ability to file reports and recommendations that then can be integrated into - the word the government likes to use nowadays is merge - that could be merged into the bill that is before us to make that bill, and the principles of what it is trying to accomplish, even stronger.
The Standing Committee on Human Resources, although it hasn't since this government took office, has in the past held extensive hearings and spent, quite honestly, an entire year looking at certain aspects dealing with education. It has, in the past as well, had numbers of meetings on the community college system, Mr. Speaker, as well as looking at other educational needs of young people in the Province of Nova Scotia, whether they deal with matters of special needs or of those who - some would call the gifted children - have exceptional talents in certain areas and, therefore, special needs as a result of that.
So, the Human Resources Committee does have a history of looking at important educational issues and concerns. It also has a history of going on the road where it needed to do that. While we are talking about the community college system, and we have elements and facilities of the community college system across the province, then I think it would be only appropriate that the Human Resources Committee, with very limited added resources, would be able to go out and hear concerns, issues and so on, as people around the province would like to relate them to the Human Resources Committee, so that this bill could, in fact, build upon the legislation.
There are a number of problems and there are a number of reasons why I think this bill has to be looked at. Certainly the government talks about this as being reform. Anything that happens, that makes a change from one thing to another, governments call that reform. Whether it is an improvement or not, somehow the term reform has been applied to it. So, I guess if I were to go out and take a sledgehammer and beat on the side of my car and knock in some fenders, that is a change and that would classify as reform, the way government describes it.
Tomorrow, if I were to take off the trunk lid, it is change; something has happened. Something has been removed, like the $8.6 million which is being taken out of the community college system. Somehow that change is portrayed as a reform. It doesn't necessarily make the car any better; it doesn't necessarily make the system any better. But it is classified as reform, which I think is a misinterpretation and misuse of the word reform.
That having been said, the community college system can and should undergo some changes. There are a number of key areas, though, that I want to zero in on. The Minister of Education the other day, when I was speaking, had across the floor asked whether or not I had signed the Select Committee on Education report. In truth, yes, I did. As members of that committee will know, my signature went on it - yes, indeed, I am tying it to the need for this, Mr. Speaker - only after a couple of things happened. One, there were some changes put into the report, so that it was made better; and secondly, only after it was agreed that a statement by myself, as an appendix, would be added to that report which indicated that there needed to be a linkage of all of the different education areas . . .
MR. SPEAKER: If the member will for a moment, I am sure those points are interesting and they can well be made at second reading, but I can't see how they are related to this amendment. I would ask the member to direct himself to the amendment.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will try to make everything relevant to the amendment in the Human Resources Committee because those are, in fact, the points that I am trying to get to.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, you must get to them.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I certainly wouldn't want to trespass upon your good graces and your patience. The point is, the community college system is one very important element of the overall education system in the Province of Nova Scotia. Some of the problems with this bill are the failures to have the kinds of necessary links to ensure that we have proper and easy access from one to the other of the different education components, and the Human Resources Committee can look at some of those links.
I am just going to refer briefly, if I may, to one particular article or one particular report: this is the Innovative Approaches to Apprenticeship Reform in Nova Scotia put out by the Nova Scotia Labour Force Development Board in the fall of 1995. In that, Mr. Speaker, they talked about a number of items. When one looks at this bill - and we are talking about how the community college system and so on will operate - there are a number of things that they point out. I will refer perhaps later on to something from the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, a concern that they have, a concern that I have, and a concern that others have, as well, and I think it is something that spreads across.
Now, Mr. Speaker, right now, there needs to be, and the development board, which I referred to points out that they, after their extensive research and survey work and so on, have recognized that there is a tremendous need to expand the choices of apprenticeship programs and apprenticeship programs, of course, are offered through community college type of programs. Right now, according to the work that they have done, there is a demonstrated need and a demand for these new skills by the different industries across the Province of Nova Scotia.
I may make reference to a report from the Federation of Small Businesses as well, which also identifies certain kinds of needs for job training specifically for small business. Not necessarily those large ones that are going to be able to go in, like the shipyards, or a Michelin or the casinos, and book large periods of time, but for small businesses that can't go in and book large areas of community college time. These new programs may include the CADCAM, industrial design, medical, dental, equipment repair, desktop publishing, virtual reality, equipment maintenance and multi-media technologies.
One of the problems that they point out with the community college system is that the minimum educational requirement to enter apprenticeship programs is a Grade 12 diploma. Now, you can say that is reasonable, that is responsible, that you want to make sure that those who are entering these programs have the necessary educational background and also the skills and so on that will be needed to carry forward with the apprenticeship program into which they are going to enrol, as well as perhaps to be able to have the education that they will need to adapt and to adjust in the work place.
We do have GEDs in the province, grade equivalent diplomas; but you can go and you can get a GED and many people do, and many people, Mr. Speaker, I am sure, in your capacity as an MLA and others in this House have had dealings with people - I know I have -who are not 16 or 17 years old, these are adults who have worked hard to go back through night school, through correspondence courses and so on, to upgrade their education and to get that through the GED program.
According to the Nova Scotia Labour Force Development Board, the GED is not accepted as an entrance qualification to enter community college in Nova Scotia. Surely, this, and linkages need to be looked at to ensure that those who are motivated to have completed the equivalencies will be able to move forward. They are recommending that there be an upgrading and that they must become synchronized with community college so that the Grade 12 equivalent diploma is accepted as the entrance qualification. That would help to facilitate a smooth transfer for those who are trying to upgrade and to build. I think that that is just one element that the Human Resources Committee could be looking at and making recommendations on.
Another, if I may just briefly, I want to refer to a press release and this doesn't surprise me at all, the contents of this press release. It came out yesterday from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. It is expressing some of the concerns and this again has to do with linkages and how we can try to build them, so that you understand what I am talking about and the need to have, not separate boxes where it is impossible to get from one box to another but you have to have smooth ways that there can be the integration and the linkages between. It points out in the press release that the community colleges as established under this bill will be establishing post-secondary institutions offering education and training programs of a highly specialized nature.
There is no doubt that these types of programs are needed in Nova Scotia and that is correct, I agree totally with that but what about the students who leave before completing their high school education and are seeking skill training opportunities. Teachers are concerned that these students will be society's forgotten young people. Does the government intend to provide the additional resources to enable the public school system to establish these support services. That was one of the major concerns when we switched from vocational to community college systems. That was a concern that was expressed then, it was something that was supposedly going to be addressed.
The Human Resources Committee needs to be looking at ways that we are going to address and to assure that these young people - I know that the Minister of Supply and Services would know, from his extensive and distinguished career as not only an instructor but then a principal of a vocational school, now community college system, that in the past many programs existed and there were many opportunities for young people who for whatever reason did not finish high school, were able to enrol in the old vocational schools and get a skill development, a training program that would provide them with the skills that were necessary to be able to get out into the work force and be productive.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg on a introduction.
MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member. Up in the gallery I would like to introduce the denturist society of Nova Scotia. These are representatives of denturists from all across the province and they have come in to visit with us for a little while. Will you please give them a warm welcome. (Applause)
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thought that you were trying to get my attention for something like that and I am happy to oblige. Back in the days of the dinosaurs when you and I were young, or at least when I was young, there were different economic situations out there and it never occurred to me when I was growing up - or at least getting older as some people would suggest I have still never grown up - but when I was getting older, as a teenager and so on, it never occurred to me that I would not be able to find employment, that I would not find a job. There was employment and you didn't have to have the kinds of educational levels and training levels that you do today. It was a different world, a very different world.
If you didn't finish high school, in fact I can remember, believe it or not, when I was in Grade 3, one of my classmates - who happened to be 16, mind you - dropped out of school and came back and disturbed the school one day by blaring the horn of the truck that he was driving and he had started a job and he was driving a dump truck and was out making probably more money than the teachers in whose classes he had been in up to that point in time. The point that I am getting at is once upon a time you were able to gain employment and be able to support your family and make a decent living without having a high school degree, a university degree, a vocational diploma or whatever.
Those times have changed. Not only has it changed for those young people, not only has it changed for the kids who are coming out of school today, and if there is anything that I ever try to hammer away at kids whenever I talk to them, make sure, if you look ahead, think about your future, get your education now. There are a lot of people, for a whole variety of reasons, maybe they went to work at a young age in the fishing industry - jobs have disappeared. There are many other kinds of jobs and employment that people had in the past that have been replaced by technology. Those people, not just the young people of today, need to have an opportunity to have their skills and their training upgraded.
I talked earlier about the GEDs. I talked earlier about those who were not able to complete school. The Human Resources Committee can look at these kinds of issues and try to find ways that this bill can be enhanced. There isn't even in this bill, as there was in the Education Act, a statement of purpose. Maybe this bill should have a statement of purpose at the beginning of it, Mr. Speaker. There would be spelling out in the whereas clauses as was in the Education Act, spelling out that the community college system is to be kept and made accessible and that there are to be concrete links developed with the public school system to ensure that it is happening.
Instead, what is being done here by this being hived off in a sense by the Department of Education and be setting up independent separate boards, those boards are going to be working independent. You have the public school system over here working under the Department of Education and the local boards and, you know, when I look at these, and maybe under the members that the minister plans to appoint to those boards, the minister will be saying that there will be representatives from the public school system on the boards so that there can be proper links and so on developed, one to the other.
I am extremely concerned and I believe most Nova Scotians are extremely concerned, and I used that word extremely advisedly because I believe it to be true. They are very much concerned for the well-being and the future of those who are currently in the public school system but who are, for a whole host of reasons, and I am not saying that is because of the failure of the public school system or those instructors, the teachers who are in that system, there can be a whole host of reasons totally beyond the control of the school system, that will prevent young people from being able to be successful.
We have to ensure that there is a way that those people can, in fact, through the community college system, be able to obtain, whether it is immediately or shortly down the road, when circumstances change for them, that they will be able to be entered into the community colleges and to receive upgrading and skill development so they can be successful.
As well, Mr. Speaker, and I am not going to elaborate on this point very much because the same kinds of things apply generally, the Human Resources Committee can also look at ways to strengthen the links, not only with the public school system but also with the other post-secondary branch, the universities, so that we can better utilize facilities one with the other, and maybe even cross-link some of the courses that are offered, enhancing efficiency and the movement of students from one to the other, so that we can maximize training. I don't like, and I think that this is something the Human Resources Committee could look at, the boxes that we are establishing.
Another element that I want to talk about briefly has to do, really, in a sense with one of the opening phrases, the introduction that the minister used and put out with the package. Obviously, I am not going to go through the whole introduction, there is just really one sentence that I want to refer to because it then is relevant to what I think the Human Resources Committee can be doing, and a major flaw and weakness with the bill. In that it says that the mandate of the Nova Scotia Community College system as a post-secondary institution is, to enhance the province's economic and social well-being by meeting the occupational training requirements of the population and the labour market. (Interruption) And it is also in parentheses, yes indeed, but the quotation marks are there as well. And that, yes, phrase is in the bill as well later.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not opposed at all to community colleges being used as one of the tools, and that is what it is, one of the tools, one of the instruments, one of the avenues to try to enhance the province's economic and social well-being. Obviously that is what we all want to see happen. We all want to see the social well-being of this province enhanced and that is going to occur when the economic well-being of the province is also bolstered and when we are meeting the occupational training needs. (Interruption)
Well, the member across says, what about the individual well-being? Well, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister of Supply and Services says that is the primary purpose of education. Bang on, he is absolutely right, I agree totally. I say I am not opposed to what is being done here. Maybe I am not in terms of the principle that is being expressed.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, Oh!
MR. HOLM: Oh, Mr. Speaker, . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I should advise the member that while that is an excellent comment on the principles of the bill and those arguments apply very well to the second reading of the bill, we are dealing with a very limited amendment here. That amendment is to refer to the Standing Committee on Human Resources the subject matter of the bill. It does not suffice to give the pros and cons on the principles and then end the sentence by saying, and by the way that could be looked at by the committee; that won't make the argument relevant. What you have to do is focus your argument simply on what good would it do to refer the subject matter to the committee and not be aligned with the rabbit tracks so to speak.
So I thank the member for that moment.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I want to apologize to you for allowing myself to be sidetracked by the comments that were coming from across the floor because I was moving into my next phrase which would make it relevant, having to do with the Human Resources Committee. I am not allowed to talk, as you say, about the principles of the bill right now, I am talking about the purpose of the Human Resources Committee.
I read that one clause which has to do with the principle, and that is in the bill, that part is of the subject matter that has to be referred. I am not saying, Mr. Speaker - when I am saying that yes, I support that - we have to have the social well-being and we are only going to have social well-being if each and every individual is in fact well-educated and is able to meet their individual needs, social needs, economic needs and so on; that is what makes the body whole, healthy.
When we are talking here about the economic aspects, and that is really what I wanted to zero in on here, and the occupational needs. One of the major flaws in this bill - it is only one of them - has to do with the boards and the composition of the boards and who is and who is not on those boards. For example, when we are talking about social well-being, we are really like talking about communities. The community colleges, each individual ones, that is other than the five that are being shut down, are going to have their individual boards.
Mr. Speaker, a process needs to be looked at and the Human Resources Committee could be looking at suggestions as to how to change the composition of the boards to make those boards better meet the local community needs, and part of the community needs would be the business needs, but only part because under the boards and the way they are to be structured, you have different people being appointed.
I don't think I am allowed to say from which groups they are to be appointed - well, you're nodding your head, maybe I will try to get away with it - students and you have representatives as well as from the educators and the staff and so on. I am trying to read body language here as well at the same time as I am talking. But in that, and there is a provision that the minister can appoint, but there is nothing in that which says that there shall be representatives from the community appointed to that board who would be looking at and who would be knowledgeable of community needs and community training opportunities and employment opportunities in those particular areas.
The employment opportunities in Halifax, Dartmouth, or now I guess I should be - but not until January 9th - I will have to say in the regional municipality of the super-city, but the employment opportunities here and the needs may be very different from those in Yarmouth, Sydney, Port Hawkesbury and so on. There can be different niches, different programs, different course offerings that can be needed; even Canada Manpower in terms of the kinds of programs that they will agree to provide funding and training for unemployed persons to enrol in, will differ from region to region, will differ from area to area. Students who are coming, let's say, from the Halifax area and want to enrol in a particular type of training program can often not receive funding, but somebody who may be from the Valley can not only because of different weeks of employment but because the . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The member must understand and I have asked him to consider it, all those arguments are arguments that should be made at second reading. It is somewhat frustrating to the Chair to have the member go right back and start over with the exact same line that he left off with, after the Chair has intervened. I would ask the member to seriously consider that because there are only so many times that I am going to ask the member to redirect himself.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, what I am obviously failing to do is to be articulating as succinctly as I am trying to, the message I am trying to get across. I am very serious here. I am not trying to be deviating, I am not trying to beat around the bush here at all. What I am trying to suggest is that the Human Resources Committee, and there may be other avenues that could have been used if this was going in another way, if we had had a select committee or if we had had something else, but we are talking about the Human Resources Committee. I believe that the Human Resources Committee should be looking at the element of the composition of those boards. That is the point that I am trying to get at. Maybe now I am hitting it a little bit more directly.
I think they need to look at ways to ensure that the boards for these community colleges have representatives from those who are in, maybe, community economic development within a particular area, and might be able to identify within the community, as the community economic development process is going on, opportunities for entrepreneurship within a particular area, and what kind of specific skill training is needed to meet those needs within that community. We have to be, in a community college system, able to be adaptable. We have to be able to not just take a cookie-cutter approach, saying that here we have welding or here we have this computer course or whatever and we stamp them all out and then distribute them around the province. We have to be able to design the programs to meet needs within identified communities.
I am not saying that I have the exact answer on who or how or what people should be on that board, but surely there have to be mandated, I believe - and the Human Resources Committee would look at this and see if they agree or not and, if so, how it could be done - ways to ensure that there is this kind of representation on the boards to make sure, much like, if I may, the advisory councils in the public school system, something to make sure that that kind of input can be provided.
Another aspect tied in with that . . .
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would entertain a question.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member entertain a question from the minister?
MR. HOLM: Have I enough time left?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, you do.
MR. HOLM: Then I will.
MR. O'MALLEY: In view of the fact, Mr. Speaker, that for the last 45 years of the establishment of technical education in this Province of Nova Scotia, we have had such advisory expertise on program areas, there is a program sitting upstairs that was brought into the institutes in Nova Scotia through such advisory boards and they are here now, certified, expanding their programs, brought in through a particular institution that I was associated with.
The problem that the honourable member does not recognize is that the kind of technical needs evaluation that he is referring to is not the role of the governing board; it is the role of technically competent people on staff, appropriate people who can evaluate economic, social, individual needs throughout the community. They feed that information on to a board of wise and prudent people who put that information into the context of the total program offering of the community college, just as was done for all of these successful people standing behind him.
Does the honourable member not understand that this is the way it should be done? How could one have a competent board of governors representing all of the thousands of occupations that may occur within a community? How could one have that kind of expertise? That is a staff function.
AN HON. MEMBER: Right on!
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, back to the minister, obviously you cannot have all of these individuals from every occupation, every group, sitting on the board, but I would think that those competent, capable individuals would be very capable themselves of selecting among themselves, once they have been identified, one or two members to sit on that board and who, once they are members of that board, could advance the knowledge and advance the kinds of innovative programs that the minister is talking about. So rather than agreeing with the minister, what I would suggest is that those kinds of experts should be given the opportunity, some of them, to be on that board and that they can choose and select among themselves.
By the same token, Mr. Speaker, certainly if we are talking about economic development, there has to be a mechanism established as well to ensure that the business community is able to be heard and that the business community will be able, whether that be through bodies such as the minister just referred to or having a direct member on that board, ensuring that the programs are going to be able to meet the training needs of those businesses, particularly small business because as I said earlier, they do not have the monies like casinos do, to go out and book huge areas of training.
Now, Mr. Speaker, by my calculations, my time is getting down. How many minutes do I have left?
MR. SPEAKER: You have a fair amount of time left.
MR. HOLM: Do I? I thought I started at 8:45 a.m. What time did I start?
MR. SPEAKER: At 9:03 a.m.
AN HON. MEMBER: Well, keep going. Don't stop now.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, that gives me a little bit more latitude to expand upon a couple of points.
One of the things that there have been, when one takes a look at the legislation, there have been concerns expressed about how the community college system is going to be affected by the cuts that are being made and whether or not that is going to be limiting the abilities of . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Once again, I would direct the member, those arguments are best made at second reading. It will not suffice to end the argument by saying, by the way, that is something the committee could look at. That will not suffice. You must state what purpose is going to be accomplished by this referral. If one has made those points, then perhaps it is not necessary to continue to repeat them.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, when one is talking about the referral of the subject matter of the bill, one presumably can talk about what is the subject of the bill and what the Human Resources Committee should be doing with parts of that subject matter because that is what we are referring, is the subject matter of the bill. The Human Resources Committee is talking about, for example, human resources. Human, that means people, and people are a resource, the best resource. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member has the floor.
MR. HOLM: I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I am going to welcome - and I say this sincerely - I am going to welcome the Minister of Supply and Services because we don't hear him the way we once did when he was in Opposition, standing, giving his philosophical speeches. Some of them are great reading so I welcome that minister entering the debate later on to give us his philosophical views about this particular piece of legislation.
Now, Mr. Speaker, one of the major strengths of the community college system is the individuals who are working in that system. That is the instructors, the staff, that is it. The other part, we have some nice, modern equipment, but that equipment is not really of much value unless we have the capable, dedicated staff to be delivering and developing the programs that are to be offered to the students. They are fundamental, they are the core. You can have bricks and mortar, but bricks and mortar are just bricks and mortar. People who were trained at those community colleges or advanced vocational colleges often obtained the skills that were needed to put those bricks and mortar together to build the building but the key is those instructors.
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that this bill is doing is changing the relationship and changing the collective agreements and providing for changes of those who are the workers within the system. This bill is not providing for the opportunity for those who represent the workers to be merged together in these community college systems to sit down and to negotiate and find at the negotiating tables ways to resolve differences in collective agreements. It is the same as is being done in some other legislation which I am not permitted to talk about.
Now, Mr. Speaker, some may say that I am making this up because they have read and they believe the briefing notes that are put forward by colleagues in Cabinet. But I am not allowed to talk about that. The Human Resource Committee can look at how we can best and most fairly deal with what I think everyone in here recognizes is the most important, vital part of any community college system and that is the staff, and make recommendations on how - after listening to representatives of those particularly affected working groups - a respectful process can be put into place that will protect the rights of workers so that those workers who have given many years of dedicated service will be able, not only to feel that they have been well-treated, but to maintain their high morale and their commitment and to be able to carry on with providing the very best in the way of community college education that they possibly can.
I don't think that this is an unreasonable request. I think it is a vital area so that those who are working, whether they be as members of the Teachers Union or whether they be members of the Public Service through the Civil Service, that they will be able to know that they are not going to be ridden roughshod over by the Labour Relations Board, Mr. Speaker, but actually provided the opportunity to have their collective agreements honoured and respected, their rights and privileges maintained and given the opportunity, if there are to be changes, to have that done in a process of dialogue and negotiations between those affected groups.
The Human Resources Committee can look at that, can make recommendations, to ensure that we don't have the kind of upheaval that occurred in Cape Breton when the municipal units were amalgamated and which right now is occurring within the health care system. Surely we want to provide opportunities for cooperation rather than forced confrontation. I believe totally, that those who have served us well and continue to serve us well and who we are counting on to provide the innovative types of programs that the Minister of Supply and Services talked about before, and all other programs - because they all have their innovative elements, they are all very important - those people deserve that, as do the people who have worked as support staffs in those community colleges, whether they be in the clerical end or whether they be in the maintenance end. They are all Nova Scotians who have given very much of themselves, in a dedicated way, to the betterment of our society by making these important training programs and skill development programs possible.
Surely, Mr. Speaker, those individuals need to be protected and treated fairly, not to be laid off after this bill goes through, then given the pink slip when they will no longer be entitled to obtain the protections they would currently have under their existing collective agreements. I think that is a vitally important matter and I am pleased that I was able to touch on that during this. That is crucial to the building of a stronger and more vibrant community college system.
Mr. Speaker, we have had all kinds of assertions about how the community college system is being improved and changed. We have heard how, in the opening of this bill, we have 700 more spaces, 700 more people enrolled in the community college system now than a year ago. There is no mention of the fact that there are 800 training seats to be eliminated, not mentioned with this bill. Of course that was announced after, and before, in fact, the statements were made here. So instead of it really being 700 more, it is going to be less training seats next year. (Interruption) The minister says that maybe next year they will be back again, and maybe they will be back again next year announcing, who knows, more elimination of training seats.
Mr. Speaker, we heard a great deal and all kinds of fanfare about the new centre of excellence in Truro and how there were to be many. I think that the community college system can be examined by the Human Resources Committee to find out what went wrong or what is going wrong there where, in fact, there are only 87 students who enrolled this year. If the Human Resources Committee looks at the process, looks at what did or did not happen there, what went wrong or appears to be going wrong, then they may be able to make suggestions to the minister, to this House, on ways to actually strengthen the bill to make sure that that facility and other facilities are going to be successful, as were promised, rather than having the kinds of statements being made by people like Dennis James, who is the head of the community committee that worked with the consultants . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I don't feel that that is relevant to what the committee can look at at all. I would ask the member not to try and slip these things in after he has heard the ruling from the Chair.
MR. HOLM: So, Mr. Speaker, I think that the Human Resources Committee has a lot of work to do. It has a lot of issues that it can address. There are many principles and concepts in the bill. How are all the linkages going to be developed? What is going to happen to those who are being really sidetracked, who are the forgotten people, because they are not being afforded the opportunities to get the educational upgrading and skill development that they will need; things like how the community will be involved in the development of the programs and so on. There are many issues, Mr. Speaker, and I certainly, as I have said earlier, I don't want to trespass upon your good auspices and don't certainly want to drag on for too long.
I know I haven't used all of my time, but I will say, and I do have to say, as I wrap up, that the community college system must be afforded the kind of detailed study and analysis in this legislation which is going to so dramatically change it. It must undergo the kind of detailed analysis to ensure that the legislation is going to be the best that it can be so that the community college system can be the best that it can be. It is vitally important that we don't just talk about establishing boards, to hive our education department up into pieces. We are individuals, and the community college system and the education system are, as the Minister of Supply and Services says so well, about the individual and making that individual whole and as well - not only in a physical, but emotional and mental and complete way - occupationally competent and so on. As I say, I look forward to the minister's philosophical introduction.
I think that we agree. You don't look at an individual as pieces. You don't hive off an arm or a leg and go and look at that. You look at the whole. What I am afraid of happening here is that we are looking at one piece, one very important piece of the body of education. We have to look, and we aren't doing that unfortunately, at the integration and the well-being of the entire educational system to ensure that that entire system is going to be meeting the educational and occupational well-being and needs of our population throughout the entire process. We are getting into too many boxes. We have that with the Education Bill, we have that with this bill and we have it with the restructuring going on in the universities, not the linkages, not looking at the whole system.
Mr. Speaker, I think that is a weakness and I firmly believe that this legislation, if it is referred to the Human Resources Committee, can look at that broader and try to make sure that we have a body of education that works and functions together as effectively and as efficiently and is as well-coordinated as we would all want our own individual persons to operate.
So, thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward to the comments not only of the Minister of Supply and Services but also of other members during this debate. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, this is an opportunity for this Legislature and the members to make a difference that will be long-lasting to the future education of Nova Scotians. If we refer this bill to the Human Resources Committee for proper study and research and so on, we can do something that we would be all very proud of. I met with a representative of the teachers at a community college about two weeks ago and the representative was very concerned that there was talk and rumour that some legislation may be coming forth in this sitting of the Legislature.
We heard that this bill was coming and it wasn't coming, it wasn't ready and we weren't doing it and we were doing it and so on, like that, Mr. Speaker, and finally with some fanfare and a press conference, the minister announced the bill is coming. A bill briefing was held.
Mr. Speaker, I want you to know, Nova Scotia will survive, community colleges will survive and the students will survive and the teachers will get along somehow. This bill in the form that it is in at the present time will create hardships for several groups of Nova Scotians. First off, the one the minister should have his greatest concern for is the students. That would be of great concern to me if I were he. The faculty of those facilities are undergoing great stress and change. The people who are going to do the hiring, the personnel directors and the managers and the owners of businesses throughout Nova Scotia, are going to be adversely affected.
You see, Mr. Speaker, it just drifts along, because this is absolutely not a complete bill in its present form. This is a bill if the purpose of the bill was really and truly up-front and honest, this is the way to save $8.6 million, this is what the bill should be, Bill No. 55, the method of saving $8.6 million.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We are on the amendment to refer the subject matter of this bill to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. I would ask that the member please develop that argument.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I know exactly and I appreciate you pointing it out. I have it right in front of me and I know exactly where we are. We are on the amendment and I am trying to suggest if we shift this bill to that committee (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. ARCHIBALD: We might bring in a bill that we wouldn't be embarrassed to speak about and we wouldn't have protests from teaching staff and from faculty, from one end of this province to the other. This is what we are talking about, it is trying to make a better bill. Refer this to the committee so the study that should have been done by this man and this minister could have been done and should have been done before he put the bill before the wagon again. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, again, we have another bill before this Legislature that was poorly thought out and there is absolutely no excuse for that. This minister, we should give him the opportunity to refer the bill to the committee for study and recommendations and improvement. There are no people in the province that are lining up and saying, this is going to help. I will tell you what they are going to tell the committee, but I don't know everything they will tell the committee, that's is why the bill has to go to the committee so that we can learn what Nova Scotians are saying. Don't be afraid to listen, you don't have all the answers, Mr. Minister.
Now, the minister in his announcement says we are going to have an independent school system. The committee should really and truly have an opportunity to check that out, is it going to be independent? Because, according to the bill, it is independent up to a point. The budgets are going to be approved by the minister, the course structure, all these sort of things are going to be approved. The minister is going to appoint the first board and he is going to appoint seven members on the board. I mean, is this independent? You know what I mean, 35 per cent of the board. The minister has almost thrown his hands in the air and collapsed. He has said, we have taken community colleges, that is what he has said and I will read it to you, I will table it. He said, we have taken it as far as we can as government. Government has great difficulty competing with other agencies to provide training because they . . .
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On the amendment, again, today I find myself hanging on every word that that honourable member is talking about, yesterday it was on the same bill, on a previous amendment. He was off somewhere not even remotely close to the amendment and the same thing is happening again this morning. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to please ask the member to stick to the amendment, which is to refer it to the Human Resources Committee. He is talking about everything under the sun but that.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's point is noted.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I appreciate the assistance from the member for Cape Breton South. One of these days that member is going to stand in his place and give us all a lesson on parliamentary democracy and speaking in the House and he will be right on point.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is now off the point. I would ask him to please return to the argument.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I was just being helpful like he was, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter) If we don't refer this bill to that committee, we have real problems. Because the committee has the opportunity to examine some of the rules and some of the recommendations that this minister has suggested. Look, if you don't care about the students, Mr. Minister, and you don't care about the training, what about the 303 teachers that are in the system. Maybe we should have an opportunity to find out what they have to say at the Human Resources Committee. (Interruption)
Mr. Speaker, to hear the minister, he keeps heckling and saying, why didn't you talk to them for 15 years? (Interruption) May I answer the minister?
MR. SPEAKER: No, you may not, honourable member. I ask that you please return to the question that is before the House, and that is the amendment.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to follow the rules 100 per cent down the very narrow road to the amendment, but when the members opposite keep interjecting with helpful hints, it is difficult to stay on the amendment. It would be so easy and so tempting to stand up and address the . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, for the second time, I would ask the honourable member to please stop referring to the rabbit tracks and get to the main point that is before the House; that is, the amendment that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you. You know, Mr. Speaker, the role of the Human Resources Committee could be enhanced greatly, and the stature of the chairman could be enhanced - I do not know how it could be any better; I mean, she is from Lunenburg and it is now a historical town and all that sort of thing, recognized by the UN and the Minister of Municipal Affairs - that chairman could be very helpful, I think, because a year ago, the Human Resources Committee spent a whole year, a whole session of visitors coming in to discuss education matters. That committee, and the members, have the groundwork done so that they can really understand education. There are a great many difficulties with this bill that could be solved. (Interruptions)
Mr. Speaker, you have to help me with this. I do not mind staying on the amendment, but you have to ask the rabble on that side of the House not to keep coming across. Look, he won't stop.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has the floor. I call for order, please.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you. You know, one of the things that has changed in the last few years in education is that, years ago, people took training and they learned one job and that was it; that was their entire career. Things have changed, whether you are working for government or for the private sector. This bill is going to hamper the training and the future life of Nova Scotians because the minister wants, according to this bill, a very narrow training schedule. It is almost as though the minister is saying that there is a need in the community for robots that can run a paint gun, or somebody that can run a welder, or somebody that can type on a machine, that is what the person is going to do and that is all the person is going to do, according to the bill.
The Minister of Education, in the community college system, has a responsibility to educate people so that throughout life they are anxious to learn more as time goes on. We do not want narrow-minded people. This bill and the program this minister is setting forward by his press release is certainly, it is not a community college that the minister is speaking about, Mr. Speaker, it is really a community training centre: short courses of three or four weeks, a month maybe, you're in and you're gone. That is not going to be beneficial for a lot of people.
The Human Resources Committee has to look at this bill so they can understand and make a recommendation and help this minister design a bill that will come back to this Legislature with the thoughts and the best interests of Nova Scotians first. You have to think of the students, you have to think of the faculty and you have to think of the employers at the other end. By the time the committee meets with the students, the faculty, the employers and the minister, I think they are going to have a real package, that we can come back and we will be able to train and teach students so that they are prepared for a job that, perhaps, does not last their entire lifetime. Times have changed from when the minister was a young person and his career started out. He thought he would like to teach school and he tried that. You see, learning does not stop the day you get your diploma from the community college; that is what this minister is preparing future Nova Scotians for and that is not right.
I have been to Collège de l'Acadie; maybe some of you other members have been there as well. That is leading-edge technology. We all should avail ourselves of that. The Human Resources Committee should be over there looking at it so they would understand. Collège de l'Acadie is not a room like this. Collège de l'Acadie is very different. How many members of this House even know what it is? Beyond the name, do they know what it is? The Minister of Education says he knows what it is but how many others in this Chamber even have any idea what we are talking about when we talk about the Collège de l'Acadie?
MR. SPEAKER: Please relate this to the amendment that is on the floor.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you. Do the members of the Human Resources Committee understand what Collège de l'Acadie is? Have they been there? Have they seen it? Have they been to any of the branches? Have they watched the courses being taught? Have they seen the students communicate from long distance to their teacher and communicate back and forth to the campuses scattered around the province? Have they seen the people from outside of Nova Scotia and outside Canada come in to look at this technology? I think it is time that we seriously did send this bill to the Human Resources Committee so that the committee could even understand exactly what Collège de l'Acadie is and what it means to Nova Scotia and what it can mean to Nova Scotia.
Since the 1960s and 1970s things have changed but have the minister's ideas changed? This bill does not indicate to me, to you, or to anybody else, that the minister is really in touch with the 1990s. This Human Resources Committee can get itself brushed up on what is really happening in Nova Scotia in this day and age. At the present time, this bill is totally inadequate to serve Nova Scotians, either as students or as employers.
Who are we most concerned about with this bill? It looks to me that our biggest concern in the bill is to get rid of more civil servants. Is that what the bill is about? Let's see if for once we can get the Human Resources Committee to study this and the Human Resources Committee come back and say look, this bill is really intended to do this and it is to save money and get rid of some more civil servants. In a year's time, the government can say we have 2,000, 3,000 fewer civil servants than we did last year. Are we working at cross-purposes.
If you want to get ahead you have got to get along but you have got to know where you are going. We are not sure, we have to find out. The only way we are going to find out where this bill is taking us and where this government is trying to take us is if the Human Resources Committee has a deep, in-depth study of this bill and the relationship to Collège de l'Acadie and the community college structure throughout the province.
The Human Resources Committee should really have a look because times have changed. In agriculture, 20 years ago, anybody that couldn't find a job could go work on a farm. Today, with the technology involved, on a farm you have a tractor that is worth about $70,000, a harvester that is probably worth $40,000 or $50,000 and a wagon behind it that is worth about $40,000. The fellow driving down the highway or across the field with the farm equipment is running along with $150,000 or $200,000 worth of machinery. He needs training, he needs to understand. The next door neighbour that lives beside me down on the farm, he has a university degree and he is an employee of a farm. He is using highly technical machinery but he didn't take a two week course of job training so he could learn how to do it, he took an education because he knows that his future is going to require constant re-education, constant learning.
This bill is not geared for the future of Nova Scotia because this bill does not help our young people get the idea that every day they have to read and learn and advance. This bill is every day you have to learn until we give you the paper and then you can go out and run that little machine that we have taught you how to run and if that quits and that job is gone, then come back and we will train you again to do something else.
The Human Resources Committee had better have a look because that is not the way Nova Scotia developed to the strength that it has today and it is not where it is going to continue to grow. The Human Resources Committee had better become aware of the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology. Has the Human Resources Committee even been there? I will bet the minister has been there and, if he has, he has been impressed, particularly with the computer-assisted manufacturing that was placed there at the request of Pratt & Whitney, to help train employees. At the NSIT most of the entrants studying this computer-assisted manufacturing have an engineering degree from Nova Scotia Tech. This is the outer reaches of manufacturing and working with computers.
The Human Resources Committee could see what is available in Nova Scotia, find out what the leading edge is, the very outer limit of training in Nova Scotia. The Human Resources Committee should be talking to Michelin, MT&T, Pratt & Whitney and IMP. Those companies are very big employers in Nova Scotia. Each of them employ more than 1,000 people. Let's find out what they are looking for today. The Human Resources Committee could arrange meetings to discuss and to learn exactly what they are looking for. Do they want people who are trained in single tasks, busy finger jobs? Or do they want people who are trained to think and people who are trained with an open mind, for new experiences and new opportunities.
This is the crux of the matter. This minister has brought us a bill to teach busy fingers and the busy finger jobs are disappearing. What we need training in today and teaching and education in our community colleges today is an education that equips you to live in the 1990's and beyond. Mr. Speaker, the Human Resources Committee has a role to play. The Human Resources Committee should visit some of our schools; the Human Resources Committee should understand the training that is available. They could go to Kentville and visit the brand new Honda car in the mechanic's lab. The students are learning on a brand new vehicle. Years ago they used to have a 20 year old car with a carburetor on it and spark plugs and wires and all those things. But now they have brand new car, right off the line, fuel injection in it and all the latest things, so that the students are equipped when they go out and are ready to work. They have a Honda motor bike with all the latest technology installed in it, brand new. But, in exchange for taking those two Honda vehicles, the school has made its labs available to the Honda Motor Company so that they can put on courses for their employees.
The Human Resources Committee should be finding those things out so that they could spread the word to other community colleges. Maybe one of the other car companies wants to use a community college as its training headquarters. I will bet the members of the House didn't realize, I will bet that the minister didn't realize that is what is available to community colleges, if they are aggressive and go out and look for the future of the students. That is what is available.
Kingstec is a distributor and warranted repair centre for the Apple computers that are within the Kings County District School Board system. Teaching, allowing the students first-hand opportunity to deal with computers that are brand new, not an old thing that somebody threw away, but brand new, the latest technology. This is what our Human Resources Committee has to learn.
We have a new trend in employment and it is not a trend that is appealing to me or to many others, and I think our Human Resources Committee should have a grasp on this. This new trend in employment is a contract with no benefits. This is the way many companies have been moving; all employees at most companies in this province are now being hired under contract with no benefits. There is no pension, there is no sick leave, there is no contribution to UIC, there is no contribution to Canada Pension, there is no contribution to anything. You are on your own; you get a cheque at the end of the month and, at the end of the year, when you pay your income taxes you have to cover all these things.
Our committee had better find out about this because is this the way this bill is steering the employees of our community college? We had better find that out because it appears to me, under the strength of the labour lawyers that I have been talking to lately, and there is a great deal of interest in labour law all of a sudden and the Labour Relations Board. I think the Human Resources Committee should be meeting to just simply have a look at the latest rulings of the Labour Relations Board. I promise you . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I think that this has little to do with the amendment which is before the House. The member has given us a number of fine examples of what the community college system has been doing and suggesting that the Committee on Human Resources should look at this. Perhaps he might develop a new argument as to why the subject matter of this bill should be referred to the committee.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go clause by clause because that is not what we are doing now but within this bill there is the same language that removes people from the Civil Service. You are going to be amalgamating different bargaining groups in the bill. The Human Resources Committee does not have the current expertise or understanding of the Labour Relations Board discussions and decisions that were made. We need to bring in some labour lawyers, some expertise to tell us because there is a real problem.
The government has been publishing papers that say look, what the union says over here that is going to happen is not right. The union is saying, this is what is going to happen to the employees and what better committee than the Human Resources Committee because we are talking human resources when we are talking about the faculty of community colleges. We had better understand and I think it is our duty as legislators to understand what the ramifications really mean. We have two people saying two different things. I think the committee working as an all-Party committee could maybe shed the light and tell Nova Scotians exactly what is going to happen.
I can bring in four people, labour lawyers, that are earning their living advising unions, advising business on contracts and you are going to get four little bit diverse views on this legislation. They all agree on one thing, this spells a real problem for anybody who thought they had a secure benefit package.
I think that this bill begs to go to the Human Resources Committee so that we could understand better the Trade Union Act in relation to this and the Labour Relations Board. I think if the committee did absolutely nothing else, if the committee would get a grasp on the ramifications that are going to take in Nova Scotia as a result of this legislation and two other bills that have been tabled in the House, then we would be doing a great service to members of this House. I am telling you in all honesty, I think most members of this Chamber were not aware of the implications of the sections in this bill that are causing problems for employees.
The minister is interested in saving $8.6 million. He closed Hants County, Truro, others. Were those the proper schools to close? Is the $8.6 million really a figure that he can say, this is it, it is not $8.7 million, or $8.3 million, or $8.9 million, this is the number he grasps. After you finish paying all your severance pay, after you finish all the problems you are going to have associated with closing the schools. When he closed the schools, did they cut the budget? Well, even though he may not be operating them as schools, the maintenance is going to go on, heat and lights, you have to keep paying your bills, or they are going to fall down. Maybe he is going to tear them down tomorrow morning so that nobody can use them again. What is going to happen to those schools? Maybe the Human Resources Committee could help him find out? Is that the best plan?
The minister indicated we were going to have a super-duper world-class school in Truro. He told us all about it. I bet you, he would be too embarrassed to allow the Human Resources Committee to go to Truro to see what is going on there. Apparently he has room for hundreds of students and he has less than 100 in there. There are about 82 students or 80 students and 8 or 10 students were out here complaining that they paid for a course that was never delivered and the minister wouldn't meet with them until we shamed him into it. I think we have a real job to do, as the Human Resources Committee, and I really think the minister, even though he may let on he wouldn't want us to, I think he really is crying out for the help of the committee because the minister is starting to realize that he has run up against a brick wall and he needs our assistance. I am willing to sit on that committee, to meet with the students and faculty, so that we can bring in a bill that will create an environment where students can learn, an environment where employers can find the employee that they want.
Mr. Speaker, we have to have some care and we have to have some concern for the students and the faculty. We have to allow them to come and talk to us at the committee meeting. I have a paper here from the Labour Force Development Board. They have some recommendations and they have some concerns. Should our community colleges require senior matriculation to get into the school? Is that the best plan? Or maybe they should require university matriculation to get into this school? Maybe, if you haven't got a bachelor's degree, you shouldn't be allowed to go to community college. But, in all those great things, we should really know what happened to the vocational students.
I have a concern for the vocational students and I have raised it and raised it every chance that I have had with this minister. Last year in estimates, I raised it for a day and one-half. I want to know. The Human Resources Committee might be able to find out because I haven't been able to find out a thing from this minister. What is the plan for the vocational students? Is there nobody in government that gives a hoot? Don't you care about the vocational students? Is there no concern at all? Where in the dickens are we headed, Mr. Speaker? The Department of Education under this minister has cast them adrift. There is no community college course for them because they don't have senior matriculation. There is no room for them in the high schools because the high schools have 30, 35 and 40 kids in their classrooms. Where are our vocational students going to go?
The minister will not tell us. The minister doesn't seem to know. The Human Resources Committee could spend months trying to decide where in the name of time the vocational students are going to go. Now we have a member of government who used to be a principal at a vocational/community college. Does the government not listen to him? He knows the students need an opportunity for a vocational school but the minister has forgotten those hundreds and thousands of youngsters. It is pretty near time that the Human Resources Committee met to discuss the future of students in Nova Scotia who would like to have vocational training. (Interruption) No, I didn't indicate that the former principal did, I meant the current Minister of Education has forgotten and I see that you agree with me. That is a very serious situation that we have developed in Nova Scotia.
I don't see a plan. The minister has closed several schools in the province, he has cancelled several courses. Where is he planning to put vocational students? Does this mean we are going to build a whole new structure in Nova Scotia? We are going to have universities, we are going to have community colleges and grammar schools and undergraduate schools. Now we are going to have a whole new structure and it is going to be the vocational schools. Is this what the plan is?
Well look, if it isn't the plan, what is the plan? You see the Human Resources Committee must meet. It is a dire request that the Human Resources Committee meet, to find out if they solve nothing but where are the vocational students going to go would be a monumental task and it would be a benefit to all of Nova Scotia. You may not be concerned about youngsters who are having difficulty making senior matriculation and university entrance level but I am concerned about those kids because I see a lot of them. Perhaps it is because I live in a rural part of the province and perhaps it is because I am out and around and I am bumping into a lot of people constantly, at the rink and everywhere else I can meet people I am there. I talk to their parents. One of the concerns in rural Nova Scotia is the disappearance of vocational schools. Everybody is not going to university but where are they going? I can't tell them. They can't go to Kingstec any more because it is a community college. Where are they going? The minister doesn't seem to know or care, one or the other, because this bill and all the literature indicates lack of interest.
Mr. Speaker, the training culture concepts, training is marvellous for a job but a community college must be training the students for life as well. Students are entering the community college at an older age now than they used to. I think the average age in Kingstec is 25 years. Many of them are parents with children, some of them have several children. Some of them are career people who have gone back to school. But it is not fair to any of the students to simply look at this as a training ground, it has to be looked at as a training ground for life, a career.
Mr. Speaker, this is not what I am seeing from this bill. This bill needs help. I would like to think that the Human Resources Committee could help this bill and help this minister make a decision that will be long-lasting and beneficial to Nova Scotians. The right courses must be taught at these schools, in conjunction with the community. There is no point in teaching people how to make buggy whips. We all know that because there are not many buggies any more, but there are the marvellous opportunities for high end electronic teaching. There is still a marvellous opportunity for farm machinery mechanics. We used to have a course like that in Kentville. We used to have a course for small engine repair. They have the same course now, but they fancied it up. I forget what they call it now, but you are still working with an engine that you can pick up with your hands.
We have an opportunity and we have the people, but we are not coordinated; the plan isn't there. Maybe the Human Resources Committee could bring it all together. If that was set out as the goal to make this bill and make the community college system work, I bet the Human Resources Committee could do it. That is a challenge, and I throw it out to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the chairman of that committee and to the Minister of Education. Let's see if we can meet the challenge.
We are elected, we are paid, we might as well be sitting in the committee and studying. We could visit some of the community colleges. Certainly the committee could go to Collège de l'Acadie, because the head office is just across the harbour in Dartmouth. You could go for a half day and you would get the first inkling of what is happening at Collège de l'Acadie. If it is worth people from China coming to have a look at it and people from Taiwan coming and people from Europe, maybe it is worth having the members of this Legislature have a look, because it is leading-edge technology.
The Human Resources Committee could look at this thing here, too, that I saw in the paper, where Atlantic Canada remains 30,000 jobs short; 88,000 firms filled out a questionnaire and said that we need 30,000 jobs. We don't know what they are because when they filled out 88,000 forms, they didn't fill it out right. I don't know if there are 30,000 jobs out there waiting for trained people or not. Peter O'Brien said there was, but he can't identify them. But I think we can both agree that there are some jobs going begging because they can't find the workers in Nova Scotia. This is surprising, because the community colleges keep in touch with business and the job market and usually job placements from community colleges run quite high in the spring; 80 per cent to 90 per cent from Kingstec, and that is pretty good.
We have a problem; the Human Resources Committee should be meeting with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. Some of the community college teachers were members of that organization. They should be meeting with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union; some of the 300 employees - professors and teachers - are members of that bargaining unit, and the bargaining units go beyond that, as well. The Human Resources Committee should be meeting so that they understand the ramifications and the implications of combining, under one roof, all of the different bargaining units when you have one board of governors, appointed by the minister, to run the school. That is going to take little bit of time for the Human Resources Committee to get that all sorted out.
The Minister of Education, obviously, hasn't consulted a great deal about this bill. But we are going to save him the trouble. He won't have to do this consulting that he hates to do; the Human Resources Committee will do it for him and bring him back a report. They could help the man, help him a lot.
I think that we, as legislators, have a responsibility to allow that committee to bring in a bill that people can support. There is confusion among the people involved in the community colleges at the present time and I think the Human Resources Committee could solve some of that problem.
The minister wants this to be privatized. It is a funny thing, you know, this government will tell you that privatization is the watchword; we have to privatize. At the same time this minister is talking privatization, we should have the Human Resources Committee have a look, because we have the Minister of Education saying he has to privatize the school system and the Minister of Health is going out buying ambulances. The Minister of Transportation is going out and buying backhoes, if you can believe it, so we can't afford health care and to keep people in hospitals, but we can buy backhoes.
AN HON. MEMBER: What are they doing with the backhoes?
MR. ARCHIBALD: I don't know what they are doing. They are putting small business men out of business by buying backhoes.
MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to please relate this argument to the amendment which is before the House.
MR. ARCHIBALD: What we want to do, Mr. Speaker, is get the Human Resources Committee together so that the Human Resources Committee can, perhaps, get some reason for the inconsistencies that are coming from the government, you see. We are not sure exactly what the government is really wanting to do. (Interruptions) That is exactly what this relates to the bill. The minister says that it is going to be better. We are going to train and we are going to do privatization, we are going to pay for the courses. In fact, I think he was thinking that these community colleges may become a money-making proposition. Let us get the Human Resources Committee involved, to find out if the minister is really making the same sort of sense all the time.
The minister says, "The Colleges will continue to be accountable to the Minister and government in areas of public interest.". Well, what are they doing at a community college that is not of public interest? If you can tell me one thing at the community colleges that is not of public interest, I would like to know. So truly, what the minister says on the one hand, that they are going to be privatized and an independent board of governors, but then he says that they will be ". . . accountable to the Minister and the government in areas of public interest.".
AN HON. MEMBER: He did not say that they were going to be privatized.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Somebody just said, "He did not say that they were going to privatized.". Mr. Speaker, is there a better argument? Could anybody, a government member saying that he did not say they were going to be privatized. Well, he did say that they were privatized and I will table his press conference where he said it.
MR. SPEAKER: That is fine. Please relate this to the amendment which is before the House.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I will. There has never been a stronger argument to get this bill to the Human Resources Committee than we just heard. A member of the minister's own Party does not understand this bill. We have to do the government a favour so government members will understand where the minister is going. The minister said privatization. All you have to do is read the press release and you will see. The minister indicates that privatization is where he is headed. When the members opposite do not even understand what the minister is talking about, it is understandable why members of the Opposition and the general public are really confused, you see.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to table it?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I will refer to it and I will table it when I am through. I will give you all this documentation. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North has the floor. Proceed.
MR. ARCHIBALD: You are very kind.
Who is going to be able to attend the colleges? I have already outlined the fact that vocational students are not going to be there any more, because the minister said that he does not want them, he does not care about them any more. We only want these sort of, it is almost like he wants robots. He wants to bring them in, put them in a course and out, put them in a course and out. Really and truly, that is not education. You can build a computer that can do that, but we have to have more concern for people than this government has, or this minister.
I do not want to get into that labour stuff again, but, truly, the Human Resources Committee has a role to play. The only role that this government has to play is to allow the Human Resources Committee to function and to present this bill for them so we can bring it back with a bill that is going to help Nova Scotia. The way this bill is now, it is going to hurt students. The vocational students are history. It is going to hurt the teaching staff because of the uncertainty and the massive lay-offs. The goal of this program is to do away with employees that are receiving benefits now and replace them with contract employees that are cheaper to have around because they get no benefits. Mr. Speaker, that is the truth and that is where this government is headed. They want contract nurses, they want contract teachers.
Maybe that is the way to go but I don't think so. I think that we have a stronger province when we do have people that when they hit retirement age have something to look forward to. Not everybody can save for their pension but that is what the government is going to tell everybody they have to do.
Tuition fees. The Human Resources Committee better have a look at tuition fees. Is it going to be $300, $3,000, $10,000, what are they going to have to pay? If these schools are going to be privatized and self-sufficient, the tuition fees are really going to be high. The composition of the board of governors. Is it fair that the board of governors is going to be appointed by the minister the first trip around? Is that fair, is it good, reasonable? Maybe that is the best way to do it. Let's have the committee tell us. I have more faith in that independent committee than I do in you know who.
There shall be a board of governors, a maximum of 19, seven of whom are persons nominated by the minister. Isn't that great. The minister says they are going to be independent but I am going to nominate the board and then I am going to tell them what they can do if it is of any public interest at all. It just gets more unbelievable all of the time. We have to get the Human Resources Committee involved.
I guess I am about ready to wind up my contribution to this debate this morning but it is not with great happiness that I do take my place because I am not pleased with this bill. This bill is an embarrassment to most people who have had any association with community colleges in Nova Scotia. It should be an embarrassment to this government but you know, the shenanigans of this government for the past two and one-half years, I don't think there is anything that would embarrass them. This bill is just an absolute mockery of education. It should be turned over to the Human Resources Committee for study and recommendation because it truly, really, honestly needs a great deal of help. The Minister of Education is not interested in helping to make this bill better and perhaps the Human Resources Committee could bring back a bill that somebody could support. Right now, I know of nobody except the 40 Liberal members of this House that will stand in their place and support this drivel. Thank you.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite made the reference to a number of documents in his remarks, I wonder if he would table those documents?
MR. SPEAKER: On the point of order, my understanding was that the member did not quote from them but I understand he is going to table them in any case.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker . . .
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I have to rise on a point of order. I tabled that page. I have been waiting three weeks to receive a document that I requested from the Minister of Supply and Services which he has in his possession at his desk and won't table it. For any member of the government to stand and ask a document to be tabled is unbelievable because this government does not table documents. The Minister of Health has been promising for two years and he hasn't tabled anything. The Minister of Supply and Services promised two weeks ago and he hasn't tabled anything yet. This government will not table anything. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Order please. I do not hear a point of order. Order please, will the member please take his seat. There is no point of order.
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member has indicated that he has been waiting three weeks for a document which he will get in the appropriate time. I would like just to remind him that I think it was 14 years ago that I sent him a request for a document and I am still waiting for the answer. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order please. Order. I will not entertain any more discussion on this point. It is not a point of order. The honourable member for Pictou West has the floor on the amendment.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, really, on a point of order. Truly, that man indicated he requested something from me 14 years ago. I never heard of him 14 years ago, I haven't even been in this Chamber for 14 years.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. A point of order is when a member brings to the attention of the Speaker that the order of the House is being broken, the rules are not being followed. These are not points of order. We will return to the debate on the amendment.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. MCINNES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to take a few moments this morning to talk on the amendment introduced by my colleague from Hants West, the amendment which I don't have to read. But anyway, it refers to the bill being sent to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. I think that is a good amendment.
The bill was introduced on Tuesday and today and yesterday the bill was called, so we started to debate the bill. The point I am trying to make is that there was no time, and that is what this amendment says, that we would give it time, let it go to the Human Resources Committee, which is a good committee. I am not a member of that committee but that committee could review the bill, it could go across the province and meet the stakeholders.
It is my understanding that there has been no consultation with the community colleges, with the colleges, the universities, there has been no consultation with the community colleges themselves or the universities and, by doing it with the committee, the committee could take their time and travel the province and find out what the stakeholders' concerns are.
There are all kinds of stakeholders, we know who they are. They are the students, the parents, the community college and also the business people have very great concerns in regard to this bill. That committee could meet with those people and give them an opportunity to have their say on what is going on.
Mr. Speaker, this minister brought in a bill on education and the point I want to refer to the committee, and as a result at Law Amendments Committee he brought in 170 amendments. Before the committee rose he brought in another 30 amendments. Now if that bill had been referred to a committee, which is what we are saying about Bill No. 55, I am sure those amendments would not have been necessary, that the people would have had an opportunity on Bill No. 55 to have their suggestions made and the people would have the opportunity to sit down with the good committee chaired by the member for Lunenburg, who would do an excellent job and give people a fair hearing.
I am not supposed to talk about the other amendment which is basically the same thing, it was a hoist, to hoist the bill for six months. I think that was a good idea, too. It would be the same thing, it would give people an opportunity to have input.
My colleague, the member for Cumberland South, the Honourable Guy Brown, introduced a credit union bill, two years ago I believe, and put it on the order paper. Then the bill came back in six months time. It had been out to the community, all the credit unions, all the stakeholders had an opportunity to review the bill.
The point I am making, Mr. Speaker, is that when that bill came back, I think it took maybe 20 minutes to pass in the Legislature. That is what I am saying would happen with Bill No. 55 if it went out to the Human Resources Committee. It gives the people who are concerned the opportunity to have their say.
I had the privilege, Mr. Speaker, of introducing the Banking Act when I was Minister of Consumer Affairs. We did the same thing; we put it on the order paper and let it sit there until the next session. That was 259 pages, or I don't know how many pages, but it passed in 15 minutes in this Legislature because, again, it had the opportunity, it wasn't through the Human Resources Committee but it did have the opportunity, which would be the same thing as through the Human Resources Committee, to have people to have their input. Isn't that what we are supposed to do, consult? I thought we were supposed to listen to people. That is how some of us got elected, I think, or re-elected. Members get re-elected because they listen to their people. I don't think perhaps that we are listening close enough, I say to the government I don't think you are listening close enough to the people. Now I am sure that I know this bill will get through second reading eventually, some time next week likely and then it will be referred to the Law Amendments Committee and we will see at that point in time dozens of people who are coming in.
For example, on the QE II bill, which has some of the same legislation in it as this bill does, in regard to the Trade Union Act and the Labour Relations Board, there are, I would say, hundreds of people that are going to be at that committee because they are concerned. They are not going in there because they want something to do. The same clauses in this bill are in that bill. People are concerned. They are concerned about their jobs and we will see that the teachers at the community colleges are going to be concerned about their jobs. Now, Mr. Speaker, there are some good things in the bill, and perhaps it should be privatized. I am not saying that, but let's put it out to the public and let the business people come in and talk and see what happens.
We need job training. I have it here somewhere. Peter O'Brien, the Executive Director of Independent Businesses, I happened to hear him on As it Happens, Wednesday night, a very interesting program on CBC. They are very up-to-date and they were interviewing Peter O'Brien and he was talking about an opportunity - if I can just find the quote here - he was talking that up to 30,000 jobs in Atlantic Canada remain unfilled for lack of skilled workers, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said yesterday. I said, I heard him myself on the radio. Now he didn't say where those jobs were, but we do have a press release here and I know all of you saw it because we were all concerned. Pratt & Whitney were looking for 50 good technologists last year and probably won't find them in Nova Scotia. Now those people could come to the committee and explain what kind of programs could be given.
Mr. Speaker, do you know what the average starting salary is out there? It is between $28,000 and $34,000. Pretty good little jobs and we have lots of young people who would be glad to have the opportunities to do those jobs. I give the minister credit. Greenbrier who bought Trenton Works in Pictou County, the rail car plant, and they are building rail cars for the States and whatever, and Canada, but they needed welders. The minister listened and he set up a course and some of them were trained in Pictou. I think that is the right way to go. And by having this committee look at it, I think we would have more of that. We could have more of that.
My colleague, the member for Kings North, talked about courses being offered at Kingstec and he was talking about courses put on there for machinists, mechanics and whatnot. My little neighbour went down there and took a small engine course. Do you know what? He got a job. He had a job all summer because he got that training, and he is busy. That is what we need with our colleges, to give courses so that people can get jobs. Now I don't know if this bill is going to do that or not, I really don't know that, but I think that if the minister would refer it to the committee, I think that we would have an opportunity to have the people have their say.
Things are changing in the work place and one of my other colleagues mentioned this. I really didn't think about it when I was going to speak, I have very few notes to speak on this, but the fact is that two of the large companies in my area, Michelin and Scott, have laid off a lot of maintenance people. What they are doing now is contracting those jobs and they are not paying the benefits. But if they are going to be contracting these jobs, we should have people available and trained. In Pictou County, Michelin has over 2,000 people working and Scott have over 300 and then we have the Trenton Works plant, the Greenbrier plant, that they tell me is now up to 1,000. This minister listened and he trained the people and if he would listen and go out, I think we could benefit greatly from doing this.
Mr. Speaker, I know I am not supposed to talk about clauses and I won't, but I will say that from Clause 41 to Clause 43 or 44, Pages 15 to 17, which refers in the bill to the Trade Union Act and the Labour Relations Board, which is the same as is in the QE II bill and the Education Bill, it is a great concern to people. We have heard arguments in this House between the honourable Minister of Human Resources and my colleagues in regard to what that says. I have had the opportunity to listen to what I would consider are excellent labour lawyers in this province and hear their opinion. It seems that there is a difference of opinion as it applies not only to this bill, but to the Education Bill and the QE II bill, and I think both sides are pretty legitimate on it. But this committee could take the time and meet some of these good lawyers who understand the technical part of these bills, and I am sure it would be of benefit to us all to have that committee look at that I say to the minister, because there is a difference of opinion.
There is no question, there is a difference of opinion between what the Minister of Human Resources thinks and what our colleagues think and there is just no happy medium. There are a lot of people attending Law Amendments Committee on the QE II bill who don't agree with what the minister says. I didn't sit in on all the meetings, but we are listening to them and they are all concerned about this particular part of the legislation; that is their concern. If this committee, under the chairmanship of the member for Lunenburg, could come and go across the province and meet people and let them have their say, I think it would be extremely beneficial to the minister. The bill could then come back to the House with all the proper amendments in six months' time and we would pass it just like that, in 10 minutes, in 15 minutes. It has happened before and you know it has happened before. I don't want to repeat myself, but the Minister of Labour, who was the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs at the time, did that very thing. That is exactly what he did, not quite the same, but it was out in the community.
The financial Act, which I was pleased to present, was out and came back; it was listened to, people had opportunity. The Speaker thinks I am going to start to stray a little and repeat myself. Well I don't want to repeat myself, I think we should just (Interruption) Yes, I did. College draws critics rebuke - now that is because the minister didn't listen again - the Truro campus. Now who said that? That was said by the Colchester County Warden, Tom Donaldson, and I know a lot of you know Tom. When the minister announced this college, it was supposed to be a world-class institution. How many students are there? I believe there are 87.
AN HON. MEMBER: That was before Christmas.
MR. MCINNES: That was before Christmas. It's 20 after?
AN HON. MEMBER: It is 120.
MR. MCINNES: It is 120. Well I hope it becomes a world-class facility, I hope it does. That is why we are here, we are trying to do a job. The students, the young people in this province need to be trained, they have to have work. Mr. Speaker, I just think this bill needs to go back, needs to be reviewed and that committee is the proper place to do it.
I am not supposed to be in clauses but the appointment of the board is a major concern to all of us. I am sure that the Human Resources Committee would also look at that. The minister says it is going to be at arm's length, well, who is going to make the appointments? The appointments will be made downstairs, seven I think is the number and then they are going to appoint five more. So they will appoint their buddies and then the other buddies will appoint five more so who has control? That minister will have control and I know that minister would do a good job but there might be a minister some day that might try to influence them. If the committee was reviewing this, maybe they could bring back suggestions as to how it could be done and how it could help the students of this province, I think I would be pleased to vote for the bill.
As it is, I will be supporting this amendment when it comes to a vote and I would be very pleased to hear other members of the Legislature, especially the government members, whom I know are extremely interested in education and the betterment of the students of this province. I would love to hear any number of them get up and tell us why we shouldn't refer this bill to the Human Resources Committee so that they would have an opportunity to go across the province to meet the community colleges, to meet in the communities. Even where there are no community colleges, they would have a chance to go - I believe the Legislature will likely be adjourned sometime in January or February, the committee could go out after that before the next session and get information, get the concerns of the people and report back to the House.
Mr. Speaker, I will be voting for this amendment and I trust that other members will get up and speak and tell us why they are not going to vote for the amendment. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this amendment to refer Bill No. 55 to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. My colleague, the member for Pictou West was indicating that the Minister of Education was doing these training courses. I think what he meant was the Minister of Education was arranging the training courses and welding, I expect the Minister of Education has many talents but I doubt if welding is one he might have. He is responsible and I acknowledge that he is responsible.
I guess one of the things that I have been thinking about in sending this on to committee is one of the things facing young students today going to community colleges and going to university, we know that the tuition fee at community college is much less than going to university. I guess the question that runs through my mind is, where will tuition fees go if this bill is passed down the road?
As I talk to people and I know we, as MLAs, talk to many people and I don't think that it is difficult to understand that more and more people are struggling financially to help educate their children. I am finding all kinds of circumstances, yes, students are able to access student loans. What is happening to many young people after accessing and I have talked with students who have accessed $10,000 to $12,000 worth of student loans, you come out with the prospect of not having a job and you end up working fast food or something for $7.00 or $8.00 an hour and all of a sudden, you have to start paying back the loans. I am concerned where this is going to lead us.
The tuition fee right now is reasonable, I think, I acknowledge that. I think if we referred this to the Human Resources Committee to make sure that if we do some cost analysis of where we are going with the system, because it is not going to be as government run as it has been in the past, as we see the changes that are taking place, but somebody is going to have to support the community college. In other words, they can't operate without funds.
The commitment of government, I suspect, would be at a certain level and if I understand what the government is saying, there is continued reduction or levelling off of the funds that will be provided for community colleges. If that is the case, Mr. Speaker, then the funds that are going to be needed to come up with the new courses - I think the minister acknowledged they we are continually introducing new courses to meet the demands that are out there in a changing world - where in the world are the funds going to come from? If government only puts in a certain amount, then obviously the student is going to have to put in the remaining amount of money. So I think if we had some time in a Human Resources Committee to do the kind of cost-analysis benefits, a study, that would not only give us the cost of the schools down the road, we would be able to get a picture of what government was putting in and a true picture of what the student may have to incur later on.
Mr. Speaker, a lot of people choose community colleges, not because they don't have the academic ability to go to university, some of them choose it because they think and feel, and I think in a lot of cases it is probably true, that it will cost them less of a financial burden and they can end up finding a job quicker so they can start earning a living. We have to make sure, because over the years, at one point, community colleges were free. I know the government introduced a very reasonable tuition fee and I think that there is nothing wrong with a fee as long as it is within the means of those who want to go to community colleges. I know student loans are available for those individuals. But in most cases, the cost of community colleges for the individual - to sort of summarize this point that we could look at in this committee - is not only the tuition fee. Many of these students either have to travel a distance or they have to board somewhere.
So, right away, not only is the tuition cost a factor in allowing them further education, but a cost of accommodation or travel can become a very large cost. As a matter of fact, I think you will ask students that if they have to take courses away from home, the largest part of their cost is accommodations and food and that sort of thing, for them to continue their education. One thing that we could look at in this committee, by closing four community colleges and there are community colleges the minister could argue within a certain radius. I guess the impact of whether those students. If I happen to live next door to a community college it is going to cost me less and I can stay home than if I have to send my student, either by travelling a number of miles a day, which can be quite expensive, to have a vehicle or to do it that way, or to go some place to stay, so I think somehow we have to make sure that we provide as much equal opportunity.
We can say, well universities aren't that and I do acknowledge that I have always felt that people living in metro had an advantage over some rural people when it came to availability of post-secondary education. Somehow, I think, we have to get our heads around that, as much as possible, that we can allow the rural people an equal opportunity without it becoming a financial burden to many families who want to go on to post-secondary education. Somehow I think we have missed that point because, in public schools, we make sure that the treatment and access is all equal regarding walking, busing and all the rest. We have not quite got there to post-secondary. Maybe at one point it was not, I think, the issue that it is becoming today. It is becoming a greater issue because, I think, of economic times and a greater issue because of costs of post-secondary education.
I think that is an area that, no question, I think the Human Resources Committee could have a valid look at. I think it is an issue that is growing and one that I hear people talk about. I know we could say, Mr. Speaker, that we choose to live where we may. I understand that but a lot of times people only choose to live where they are because of job opportunities and where they have grown up. The committee could have a look at that very broad issue.
The committee also could look at academic standards that are going to be required. In looking at the legislation, who is going to be able to access the system? The elevation of the new community college system, does that mean that we are elevating the requirement for those who might attend such an institution? If we are elevating the requirements, who are we missing, Mr. Speaker? I think there is a whole issue for the committee to look at and that is academic standards of where we are going to go in the future.
The minister would indicate and has indicated that you do not need Grade 12 at the present time. Is that going to stand forever? Is it going to be Grade 10? Are we going to have, Mr. Speaker, cases where individuals who are quite talented, and I think we have all experienced these students in our day as educators, who have difficulty in putting information down on exam time or on a piece of paper, but many of these students, if tested orally, will test very high but because of learning disabilities have some difficulty.
I know that in the past our old vocational schools would review individual cases and if arrangements could be made, arrangements were made. The universities never had that kind of flexibility, Mr. Speaker. I think that the community college has to build in a system where they have a great deal of flexibility. I think a very important issue that this standing committee could look are the academic standards, the kind of flexibility that could be built in and where we are going with this.
I guess another issue that the committee obviously could look at is the best way to set up the board of governors for our community colleges. There are a great deal of arguments about how that process should work and about how most effectively it could represent, I guess, the best interests of the public and those who might want to attend our community colleges.
I think, Mr. Speaker, the board of governors is an issue that the Human Resources Committee could address, maybe not only the size of those who come from various regions -geography is also quite important - as well as how we get those people on a particular board.
I guess that any time we argue about a process, about government appointments, it seems that it is the easiest way to do it, through legislation, is to have government appointments. It is probably not the most effective and I think we would all argue that but it is probably the simplest. It does take a little imagination into how can we effectively set up a board of governors that truly represent the kind of representation that we would want to have?
Another aspect that the Human Resources Committee could look at is privatization of courses and the effect that may have on other students who want to get in. I am not sure whether - I think, as it stands now, private companies or groups can buy courses, seats, or whatever, as I understand it. I do not think that is all wrong, by the way. I am not for a minute standing up here and saying that you cannot do that or should not do that. As long as we make sure that there are opportunities for everyone, I guess that is my real concern; whether your seat is being bought by a company or whether you are a student without it being bought, that there are opportunities for everyone.
I guess over the years one of the things that I have always said, and I hope the minister would agree, is that there is a good possibility, and I believe this to be true, that in some cases, but not all cases, we have not involved the private sector enough in setting up the courses to meet the demands that they require. I think the minister acknowledges the fact that we could be talking with industry to make sure that the courses we offer are meeting what industry needs, because there is no point in educating or training people for jobs that are not there. We are only giving false hope to people who expect after their training that they will end up going out and finding an opportunity. So I think it is important that there be a mechanism in place. I know that in Kingstec over the years there has been a close working relationship with different companies, but I do not know if that was true around the province. I have heard some companies complain about not being able to find trained workers. I also know, Mr. Speaker, this takes some planning.
What I think the Human Resources Committee could look at is making sure that there is a mechanism built in whereby this would be reviewed, obviously on a continuous basis. There would be a real mechanism so that if a company approached me, I would say, well look, there is this group that you can contact. It doesn't matter where you are in the province; they will put you in touch with the right people and you will be heard about the kind of training that your company will need. So we make it known, we make the system simple.
Mr. Speaker, one of the things I often hear when people come to me is that by the time they get through all the levels of bureaucracy, the training they needed has gone by the board. We have to make sure that the bureaucracy is not at so many different levels or so cumbersome that people either give up trying to go through that system to access it to get the courses set up or, in actual fact, it takes too long. We have to understand that most business people are very busy people. They work hard to make ends meet. One of the things they get frustrated over is finding that there are too many levels of bureaucracy. They just say, look, I haven't got time for that, it is easier if I go and bring some workers in from outside the province or somewhere else. I think we have to make sure, and I was hoping that through this committee we would make sure that there is a system in place that does not make it too complicated for people, that they can be heard and actually their concerns can be addressed without a lot of paperwork, without a lot of time spent by the business itself.
Another area that the Human Resources Committee, I feel, could address is an issue on the collective bargaining. We have a number of workers affected, obviously, by this legislation, some of them, again, talking strike. My argument has always been that, yes, we can always have two sides to an issue. I always respect the other side. I have no difficulty in understanding that people do not always agree with my views. I respect that, because I respect, in many cases - and I always do - the views of others. Maybe we can both be right, Mr. Speaker. But, you know, if there is not a way to resolve it by sitting down, then we end up both being wrong. I think that here we are going to have a situation in this bill where we are going to end up with confrontation, whereas if we send it to the Standing Committee on Human Resources - confrontation does not lead us anywhere. Confrontation leads to stalemates, it leads us to saying things that we should not say, it leads us to bad feelings and all those kinds of things.
Then what we would want to do is to find a way, on the Human Resources Committee, to have a look at the collective agreements. We would meet with the NSGEU and the NSTU and find a way to resolve the issues, so that when we go before Law Amendments Committee with a piece of legislation, we are not seeing long lists of people coming in saying, you are taking this away, you are taking that away, and have that confrontation. So I think there is a way, if this was referred to the standing committee, to look at the clauses in this bill. This bill doesn't have to be thrown out, this bill could be taken as is to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, I guess that is what we are saying, and the subject matter that is there, all of it, could be dealt with by that committee.
An area of subject matter that I have not quite fathomed out in this bill that I think could be discussed with the Human Resources Committee is the relationship with the universities. Will ever any of the courses that you take at community colleges count, if you wanted sometime or other to further yourself in university, to get a degree? I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, some courses that are offered today in our community colleges are at a pretty high level. Then when people want to, whether it is in computer courses and they want to go on to take computer science or in the area of business courses or anything else, right now if you take courses from a community college and you decide that you want to go and take your degree at a university, there is no way any of those particular courses count. It is just as if you did not take them. (Interruption)
That is not true, says the Minister of Supply and Services. Well, I haven't been able to talk to people who have been able to. If that is true, then I am sure it is not widespread, that I am aware of. It is probably in a few instances and I suspect it is not widespread with all the universities either. I guess I always tend to think of a university closer to me, and that is Acadia, and I don't tend to think and know as much and acknowledge that I don't know as much about the other universities in the province. Wouldn't it be nice if we had them all the same? If some are doing it, I will give them credit because I think that is a very positive step.
What I would like to see is all the universities having a relationship with the community colleges. I think there wouldn't be a member in here who would disagree with that. I think if we, on the standing committee, could pursue that, we would then be doing a service to the young people. I think that is what the community college legislation is all about, training and educating the young people of this province. You know, Mr. Speaker, if we don't, as legislators and leaders, address the issue, is it going to be addressed? Unfortunately, if a university happens at the present time to have a relationship with a particular community college, it is strictly, I am sure, on an ad hoc basis.
What I would like to see is for us, at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, to meet with the universities and community colleges, find out if there couldn't be worked out a type of relationship so that standards were set and anybody who met those standards and took those courses and furthered themselves at university would actually have those courses counted. So if we truly believe that we are here as educators, to benefit young students in our province, and we are truly here to enhance the community college system, then why would we be opposed to a standing committee to address these issues with the community colleges themselves, with the universities, with the public school system, with students, with parents and teachers, to try to make sure that we end up with legislation that does meet the goals that we would sit around here and agree that we meet?
The Standing Committee on Human Resources, I would suggest, would have to hold hearings. First they would have to meet to decide what its goals were, what is it that we want to accomplish as a committee in the subject matter of community colleges to improve the legislation to bring back to this House a report that we could all support together. There isn't any one of us in here that wouldn't agree that community colleges are a very important part of our post-secondary educational system. There isn't any one of us who fully understands the total impact of this bill. I expect the person who has done the most work on it, obviously, is the Minister of Education.
Many of us, as legislators, see legislation, and we don't have a real opportunity unless somebody has a complaint about a particular aspect of a bill, we as legislators, then get calls from these people who say we don't like certain sections of the bill, this is what it does to us. If we allow people the opportunity at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, I know that the people who sat on that standing committee would end up coming back to this Legislature, everyone on that committee, seven or eight people, would come back to this House with an excellent grasp of what it is we need to do to improve this piece of legislation, what it is we need to do to solve the many issues that I have raised in this piece of legislation and then we could move on.
That process could be done by spring. So in actual fact, we are not having an effect on the changes that will occur next September with regard to the community college system in our province. If we agree with that, I am not sure and I haven't heard the minister say and if I am missing a point, I acknowledge that but I haven't heard the minister say that there is a timeframe that we have to pass this bill on in order for us to meet his goals. He want to enhance economic and social well-being by meeting the occupational training requirements of the population and the labour market together. I think we obviously have two components that we have to meld together. We have to meld the population and the labour market together and that is not an easy task.
We have a changing world that we are dealing with. Young students are faced with the difficult task of choosing occupations today. I don't think when I grew up it was very difficult and we probably were more limited in what we did in choosing an occupation but it sure wasn't a difficult task. It wasn't a difficult task in choosing an occupation that you could find a job. It is much more difficult today when I hear young people say to me that they are having difficulty choosing an occupation, not because they know what they would like to do, choosing an occupation where they are going to find a job. That is what many young people are faced with today.
Most of us and probably all of us, as I look around this room and look at the ages, all of us didn't have to make that same decision as those young people are making today. It is very much more difficult for them, I know that the field is wider but the job opportunities are narrower, so it is much more difficult. Somehow, we want to train people also to stay in this province. So what we have to do is have imagination and have a process whereby we make sure that the kinds of opportunities we give our young people allow them to stay here. So often I hear of people having to leave the province to find a job. If we are ever going to grow as a province and we want to have a vibrant economy, and I think we all want that and there are a lot of factors that contribute to that, but the one greatest factor that contributes to that is putting people to work and providing opportunity.
Governments will say, well, look, we can do this and we can do that. Government can create an environment, Mr. Speaker, but that is as far as they can go. I think if we are going to be successful, it has to be in the private sector. We can't rely on government being the employer that grows. We are in a day and age where the government employment is going to shrink. So what we have to do to offset that is make sure that the private sector picks up the slack. But the environment has to be right and the training opportunities for young people have to be right.
We have a large task before us. I think this legislation has more far-reaching effects than we understand on the well-being of this province. I don't think we get too many opportunities to make decisions that have long-term effects. If we make wrong decisions here, it will take a number of years to know it and then it takes a number of years to correct it. In other words, if we get going down the wrong road with courses, we get on the wrong road, you don't quickly jump back on the right road, it takes a while. So this is why we have a lot of planning to do and it is so important that we make sure we allow the best minds we can find to make sure that this legislation does, in actual fact, enhance the province's economic and social well-being. It has to do that. If we don't do that we are not meeting the goal the minister has laid out or that the government has laid out, which is one I agree with.
The other aspect of job training requirements is so important, it is so important that we make right decisions. So as I wind up, Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that I have no difficulty in the government making changes in where we are heading in community colleges. There is absolutely no question that we can't sit still. I think if someone says, well what worked, worked. Yes, what worked, worked but we are in a changing world but in a changing world we have to make sure we understand that the changes we make have a positive effect on the young people we are trying to make the changes upon. Sometimes in our haste to make those changes, we forget and there end up being holes driven that should not be there. In other words, we didn't fulfil our mandate as well as we could have.
So, Mr. Speaker, I am obviously going to be supporting the amendment. I think there are valid reasons to allow this committee to have an opportunity to help make these changes that the government says should happen, and I acknowledge that many of them should happen. I think there is a better way of doing it, I think there are better ways of looking at the subject matter so that we can come up with a piece of legislation that I can truly say, back home to the people I represent, you are going to have an enhanced opportunity, a greater opportunity than you have had in the past because if we are not going to make it better, we should not be touching it. You are going to have an enhanced opportunity, through community colleges, not only to get your training but to get a job, and not only if you want to choose community colleges before universities, we are going to make sure that somehow community colleges are tied into universities in some manner and also, if you just can't meet those academic requirements, that you are not lost. In other words, we are not going to see you on welfare forever. We have to make sure, even though you have tried your best, you haven't been able to meet the minimum standards that are set by this government to get job training, we have to find a way to either upgrade you so that you meet those standards or find a way to get you into those courses.
If I can go home and say that to the people I represent and tell them that they will have an opportunity, regardless of where they live and it is affordable, then we will have achieved the kind of goals that I would hope we would achieve as legislators. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to speak on this amendment at second reading on Bill No. 55, the amendment that would provide for this issue to be referred on to the Human Resources Committee for examination and review, and for recommendations to come back to this Legislature.
Actually, Mr. Speaker, not only am I going to indicate my support for that and, hopefully, the reasons why, I would also like to suggest that I am much more supportive of this particular amendment than I was the amendment that we dealt with earlier, yesterday, which was an amendment to hoist the bill for six months. When I debated that particular amendment, I talked about many of the reasons why we should take time in order to review this matter.
What I was concerned about was that if there was any framework for carrying out that review, then maybe it would not happen. I really do think it is too important to see the issue killed, you know, to see the legislation or maybe legislating with a principle of adapting our college system for the times in order to be able to provide a better level of service to our communities, to our province. Therefore, I think that we need to examine this bill in its entirety. We need to examine the principle on which the changes that are being proposed are based, in order that we can ensure that our system is, in fact, improved, Mr. Speaker, for the betterment of all Nova Scotians.
I rise with some enthusiasm today to speak on this amendment because I think that the Human Resources Committee is an extremely appropriate forum for dealing with this important matter. You will know, Mr. Speaker, that we had a select committee travel this province a few years ago to deal with the whole issue of education. That, I think, was a forum that worked fairly well in dealing with those important issues. In fact, I would suggest that, probably, the report of that select committee had some considerable influence on the changes that the minister is now proposing on public education in the Province of Nova Scotia. In this case, the whole question of being able to provide specific skills to the business community to industry, provide individuals in this province with an opportunity to be able to develop those skills that are relevant to the job markets, the employment markets that are out there, is extremely important.
The college system in Nova Scotia as you know, Mr. Speaker, has undergone a significant transformation from the days when it was strictly a vocational school to now where it is a system of community colleges throughout the province that work supposedly in concert with the universities to provide educational opportunities, as well as skills training that is more specific, perhaps, to the needs of the local business community and industry. In other words, it plays a very important role.
There have been some concerns raised over the last number of years that in that transformation from vocational to community college, what we have done is, there have been a group of students, there have been a group of young people, there has been a classification of people that have really been left out of the mix, Mr. Speaker, who are unable - because of the fact that they have not been able to achieve a Grade 12 education - are not in a very good position to compete for the positions that are available at the community colleges.
You and I both know, and all members of this House know, Mr. Speaker, that, unfortunately, as a result of life circumstances, as a result of choices that are not necessarily appropriate, many people in this province, as well as across this country and, undoubtedly, around the world make decisions not to continue and complete their high school education, and find themselves in a situation down the road where their opportunities are considerably limited. The idea of our community college system should be in part to be able to respond to that segment of the population.
We see more and more in our public schools, in our high schools, we see mature students going back for upgrading. We see people going for their GED tests, training provided through churches and other private institutions through the public school system, in order to get their Grade 12 equivalency. Unfortunately, the community college system as it exists now, doesn't recognize those equivalency tests which further restrict those people access to the community colleges.
The difference between dealing with those people that need to be upgraded, that have fallen off the track of achieving a certain level of education, the difference between that and the needs of the employment market of Nova Scotia, of business and industry, to have a skilled labour force, is somewhat conflicting. The consequence of that is that the mandate of the community college system, unfortunately, is somewhat unclear and confusing in that the path and the lack of purpose confronting students who do not choose advanced level courses, is somewhat difficult. It is something that community colleges now are trying to address.
We have seen a real turn around in community colleges over the past couple of years, thanks to the people who are administering that system, that are trying their best to respond to the changing needs of our economy and of the community. Unfortunately, there still is that problem of a confused mandate on behalf of the colleges. It doesn't appear to me that that confusion has been addressed at all in this bill.
MR. SPEAKER: In this amendment.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, yes, by the amendment and that is why I am speaking in support of the amendment in order to deal with those questions. I hope to be able to explain that further as I go along. Why I suggested that that confusion has not been addressed yet and is not addressed in this bill and that is why we require some further examination, is that the minister, when tabling the bill and making his announcement as suggested that with respect to the community colleges, that we have taken it as far as we can, the government has done their best and has taken it some distance but they are unable to take it any further. This suggests that we, as government, have great difficulty competing with other agencies to provide training because they can do it quickly and we can't.
Undoubtedly, there is a requirement for that kind of quick change and for smaller institutions, smaller private operations that are lacking the capital and intensiveness that the community college system is. They can turn around from one term to the next in their core selection course offerings. That doesn't mean, surely, that our community colleges aren't responsive and can't be responsive. I think, in fact, they not only can be but are becoming very responsive in the way that they respond to the changing needs out there. What we don't need, I think, is a public system of community colleges that is changing from one term to the next on the changing winds of what is happening out there.
We need to be responsive but at the same time, we can't be running around willy-nilly and showing some considerable instability in terms of meeting the needs. We need to be able to examine and analyze the demands that are being put on the system and what changes are coming down, I think that is important. Surely, it is important and that is the role, I think, that government can provide to show some stability. Now, stability doesn't mean inflexibility. Stability doesn't mean a lack of responsiveness or unresponsiveness. Stability is just that. It is decisions, based on reason, based on plan, based on analysis with a stated objective and a clear purpose. I don't know why the current framework cannot do that. I think it has shown itself to be able to do that.
Therefore, we need to ask the minister, perhaps in more detail, why it is that he feels it is important to turn over control and the decisions with respect to the community colleges to a private board of governors? I think that is an important question. (Interruption) Yes, I realize it is a public board but it is also at arm's length and it is a process of privatization in the definition of the concept, Mr. Speaker, of privatization. I certainly will go into that although I am sure you would probably suggest that I am not focusing sufficiently on the amendment. It is an example, perhaps, of the differing opinions on the impact of this process that we need to examine it more closely through the Human Resources Committee.
We have seen, Mr. Speaker, this same process take place in other jurisdictions and it very much lead to a process of privatization in a number of areas in terms of ownership and control, of course delivery, in terms of the delivery of supply and services to the facilities and in terms of the very provision of the structures and the systems that deliver the service.
Were we to have the Human Resources Committee review this question or entertain representations from people that know far more about this question than I and perhaps other members of this House, we would be in a better position to deal with it. Unfortunately, I am not able to respond in a positive manner to this or any government minister when they say, trust me, it will be okay. I think that we need to go farther than that. We need to examine the concerns. We need to examine the questions in order to provide analysis, in order to provide a rational argument as to why, in fact, this track is being followed.
Mr. Speaker, the problems with respect to the conflict between the universities and the colleges is a serious problem with respect to what I had talked about earlier, in terms of the gap for those people who don't achieve a high school education. But there is another problem which is compounding that problem and that is, that with the increased competitiveness and cost of the university system, there are students who can, under normal circumstances, qualify for universities, they have taken and achieved at that advanced level of program, but because of those other circumstances, they are now turning to the college system to try to get skills and education so that they can participate in the employment market.
In other words, with the changes to the community college system you are having people without a Grade 12 education who can't get in; people with a Grade 12 equivalency, the GED, who can't get in, Mr. Speaker; and then on the other hand, you have more university-qualified students competing for those spaces and are being successful on the basis of those academic criteria, over the people with the lower educational criteria. Then you put on to that mix the fact that decisions like the government made a few short weeks or months ago, to close down five community colleges and reduce the number of spots that were available by 800 spaces, has meant that you have this intensive competition going on and the people who were at the general level, in terms of education, are less likely to be able to attain access to the community college system. I think that is a problem and I don't see that this bill, in any way, deals with that. I think it is important that we examine that question in order to ensure that if that is not the intent, that we actually deal with it through changes in policy.
I would certainly look forward to the minister and other members of the government benches, and other members of this House who have some significant experience in the college system, and have had over the past number of years, and in this issue, to appear before the Human Resources Committee to provide us with some of their evidence, be that through their experience or be that through their research. I think that would be extremely helpful.
Mr. Speaker, the whole question of where we are going to go with this community college system is something that many Nova Scotians are interested in. Many Nova Scotians want to know what is happening with our education system in this province, post-secondary educational institutions. What they see happening is they see programs shutting down, they see costs of being able to attain those spaces increasing, and they are beginning to wonder.
They are beginning to ask the question, how is it that we, if education is one of the main ingredients of being able to compete not only provincially and nationally, but globally, if we make it more restrictive for people to access those post-secondary education systems, how is that going to be benefitting us, as a province, in our capacity to compete internationally? How is that going to affect our capacity to do that? I think that is an extremely legitimate question and I think that is something that this minister and his officials and the other members of his caucus should consider for review by the Human Resources Committee. I think it is extremely important.
Mr. Speaker, you will probably recall - or you may have seen - a statement by the Teachers Union about some concerns that were raised with respect to this bill, not only the issue that I just raised about accessibility, but they also talk about the impact that specific provisions of this bill will have on them and will have on teachers and, for that matter, other unions and other employees are concerned about the effect of this bill on their employment situation.
Mr. Speaker, let's think for a moment about the concern that anybody has when their very employment opportunities are jeopardized. I think any of us would agree that when people's ability to earn an income is jeopardized, then they will respond in a strong and negative way to try to protect their ability to earn an income because, surely, everybody will acknowledge the fact that it is not easy out there right now for anybody who is unemployed.
The unemployment rate in this province continues to be excessive and the job opportunities for professionals, for people looking for full-time work, is extremely difficult; not just for professionals, but for anyone looking for full-time work. In the construction trades field, the level of unemployment in many parts of this province is in the 70 per cent to 80 per cent range. It is extremely difficult, and now with the changes in UI and so on, there is real hardship out there for anybody who happens to fall out of a job through no fault of their own. So, we surely can't be so insensitive to dismiss the concerns that any employee might have, that their job security, that their rights, that their benefits and so on, are being threatened. We can't dismiss that, Mr. Speaker, as being something other than extremely legitimate, especially given the times that we are in right now in the Province of Nova Scotia.
When we talk about Civil Service employees, as we have under other pieces of legislation in this province, Mr. Speaker, when we have listened to Civil Service employees talk about their concerns on losing a number of rights, there has been less than, I would suggest, an adequate response from many about that concern and about the legitimacy of that concern. But think for a moment, in light of the difficulty people have in finding work, in light of the difficulty of people being able to find a job that pays anywhere close to reasonable, in light of the fact that the average weekly income, or weekly wage, for workers in this province continues to decline. Why would we not acknowledge that people's concerns with respect to their employment standing should be considered?
One of the them that has been sort of dismissed, I would suggest, is this whole business of people who are now under the Civil Service losing the right to bid on other jobs in the Civil Service, Mr. Speaker. Now when that particular question has been raised, ministers on other bills have said, there is no question about it, no longer are they going to be in the Civil Service. No longer are they going to be covered by the Civil Service Act or the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act. So, no, they don't have those rights. Well, why would anybody be happy about that?
MR. SPEAKER: Does the member not recognize that those arguments would be better put on the second reading of this bill, not on why the Committee on Human Resources should hear the matter. They are interesting points and they are relevant to the bill, but not to the amendment, I don't think.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that they are important to be made at second reading. I also think, though, that they are important to be made now because members of this House, through the Human Resources Committee, have to consider the fact that Civil Service employees are concerned about losing a right to bid on other Civil Service jobs, and what that means. It is not a frivolous concern and if we had the opportunity to entertain representations at the Human Resources Committee, then maybe there would be an opportunity to impress upon members of government, and the sponsor of this bill, that that is a really important concern and it is relevant to the times that we are in.
Just think about it for a second, right now if somebody under the Civil Service, whether they be employed by the VG or be employed by the community college system, under the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, Mr. Speaker, they have an opportunity to bid on jobs throughout the Civil Service; let's say there are 15,000 civil servants. So had the opportunity to compete on, let's say even 10 per cent of 15,000, that is 1,500 jobs they had the opportunity to compete on, as opposed to being lumped in the small pool which may be made up of one college or may be made up of 10 colleges. The point is that their opportunities to bid on jobs, if their job is in jeopardy, is greatly reduced. So why wouldn't they be concerned?
I am troubled that some members of government do not seem to understand that point. I think that the Human Resources Committee has dealt with some of these questions in the past and would provide an opportunity for us to consider the implications of that. I would suggest that it is inevitable with the change in the community college system. We have already seen five colleges close and we may see further downsizing in the community college system and that means job loss. Those people will no longer have the opportunity to bid on jobs, within the Civil Service, on the basis of the rights and benefits accrued under the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act.
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Nobody will bump them either.
MR. CHISHOLM: So what is the point? The minister says that nobody will bump them either. The whole issue here is that . . .
MR. MACEACHERN: Because it is going to grow.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, the minister says that is going to grow. Nothing in this province has grown, other than the numbers of unemployed, Mr. Speaker, since this government . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The member should know better than to deviate from the argument. We are dealing with the amendment. I am not even sure now that we are not straying from the bill, let alone the amendment. The member knows better than to follow those tracks. I would ask that you restrict your comments to why it would be best to put the matter to committee.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think just the intervention by the Minister of Education indicates the need for this matter to go to the Human Resources Committee. The simple fact that there are a lot of controversial issues contained within this move that need to be addressed with some level of consistency, and where we need to have some research and some facts presented, instead of simply taking the minister's word and having faith. I think that many of us have just about had it in terms of giving this government the benefit of the doubt on anything.
Mr. Speaker, there is that issue and there is, again, the whole issue presented in this bill that we need to discuss, and that is the provisions of the bill that give powers to the Labour Relations Board to respond to the wishes of the employer, to be able to pick and choose through the collective agreements, as was done in the case of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. I think it is important that people recognize the fact that this is not normal, this situation, this power, this obligation in effect that has been presented to the Labour Relations Board in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. If anybody does not understand that, they should read the decision of the chairman of the Labour Relation Board on that matter.
The obligation provided in that legislation - in exactly the same legislation here, exactly the same legislation under the QE II bill - is such that the Labour Relations Board, in this case the chairman of the Labour Relations Board, have done the unprecedented, have inserted themselves in an unprecedented manner into the whole process of negotiations. The chairman indicated and said this in their decision, why should a labour relations board substitute its second-hand, and superficial, knowledge of a particular successorship for the detailed knowledge and painstaking work and give and take of collective bargaining? Well, they did that because they were directed to do that by the legislation; the chairman says that in his decision and I would encourage all members to read it.
The point about the Human Resources Committee is that people in this Legislature, certainly those on the opposite side, do not seem to understand the implication that this government is turning hundreds of years of labour relations history in this country on its ear. They have single-handedly set a precedent in industrial relations jurisprudence, Mr. Speaker, which will have a devastating impact on the rights of unions of working people throughout this province and throughout this country.
I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all members that if we don't get a handle on what is actually being done, what this actually means, then we are headed down the road here in this province, for example, of I think an extended period of labour unrest because at the same time that this government and other levels of government are trying to inject some change in the system, for good and for bad, what we don't need is any more distrust or mistrust, any more anxiety injected into the work forces that are being expected to change and to adapt and to cope. That is exactly what is happening with the language in this bill, the language in the QE II bill and the language in the Education Act.
For those who don't understand the industrial relations process, the fact that the power is there, I don't care how well-minded, well-intentioned the employers are, they will have representing them, in dealing with these issues, labour relations experts whose job it is to make the decisions that the employer will be making as unencumbered as possible. Inevitably that means trying to strip away rights that have been bargained for and that have been won through collective bargaining.
That is the process, that is the game, Mr. Speaker, that is the dynamic that happens. I would suggest to you that it is naive, at best, for ministers in this House to stand up and say, well just because the power is there, it doesn't mean that the Labour Relations Board has to take advantage of it. All it takes is a well-intentioned, committed, professional labour relations expert, and we have a number of them in this province operating on behalf of the employer, who will seize the opportunity provided, as was done in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality situation merger, to use these powers provided by the government to do that very thing, Mr. Speaker, regardless of the intentions, be they pure minded or not, that is what will happen. You know it and I know it and I would suggest to you that this government knows it only all too well.
So we have to consider that and I think before we go any further down this road, we have an opportunity here, through the Human Resources Committee, to consider those questions, to review those issues, Mr. Speaker, and, hopefully, through that process, to ensure that. Let's say, for example, that this is the right way to go in reorganizing the community college system, just like let's give the Minister of Health the benefit of the doubt and say that the vision he has for the tertiary care institutions in this province is to merge them into one. That is the right thing to do. Give him the benefit of the doubt, just for the sake of argument.
What we are seeing happen in the case of that merger, is that because of provisions in the bill that affect those employees involved in an extraordinarily negative and arbitrary manner, Mr. Speaker, that very merger, I would suggest, is under threat, because you need to have the commitment of the people involved in delivering the service to be able to adapt and to be able to make change work. That is no different with the community college system. When this government is trying to work through processes of change, whether it is in the community college or the health care system or the public school system or whatever, what we need to do is what the government promised it would do back in the election of 1993, and that is to work cooperatively with the partners, whether it be education or health care; work cooperatively to consult; stand shoulder to shoulder, and together we can pull these changes together and move forward.
That was the commitment made and I think that the government has lost its way in terms of trying to fulfil that commitment. As a result, what we are seeing is turmoil and chaos, and the changes they are trying to carry out are being less effective than they could be because there are important partners within the process that are not only not being considered and not being incorporated, not being included, but they are actually being treated with disdain - some would say contempt - and certainly their concerns are being dismissed. That, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you, is no way to carry out a change, surely, in anybody's mind.
I think the Human Resources Committee would be a good place to put this legislation. It would be a good place to examine the consequences being proposed by this legislation, Mr. Speaker. If we are going to have change, let's make sure we do it right. Let's make sure we do it together; let's make sure that all of our objectives are the same and that we get the job done.
As we are now going into this process, regardless of the assurances by ministers of this government, there has been enough evidence that employees involved lack the trust that is necessary. If, in fact, those concerns are unwarranted, then let's deal with it and clear it up in the legislation; let's address it.
It is like a comment that was made in the paper, with respect to this. The minister - if I may, it was the Halifax Chronicle-Herald - indicated, "Mr. MacEachern suggested the union stop worrying about what the new college boards might do and negotiate.". He says, "In practical terms, the board will not be selected for at least four to five months. It will take at least six months for them to get command of the operation. I suggest that between now and then, senior management and the unions can resolve almost anything.". Undoubtedly they will and they can.
The kicker is, that part of the legislation gives the power to the Labour Relations Board, so it is almost like regardless of what is done through negotiations, or if anything at all happens in negotiations, the Labour Relations Board because of this bill, because of the language in here, can go ahead and change that. Also, because that is there, it provides a disincentive for the employer to negotiate. It is a disincentive because why would they worry about the give and take of the negotiation process, why would they worry about conceding to any of the unions' concerns, for example, if they knew that they just had to wait until this bill came into effect, refer it to the Labour Relations Board, make an application and have the Labour Relations Board do what it was that they wanted to do because that is here. I would suggest that the minister knows those powers are there, as the Minister of Human Resources and the Minister of Health know, that those powers are not only there but the Labour Relations Board will be at the behest of the employer and will make use of those powers. That is why they have ensured, through that very provision, that the membership of the Labour Relations Board can be expanded in order to deal with the increased demand.
If the ministers didn't think that the Labour Relations Board would be asked to make these decisions, then why are they ensuring that the membership of the boards can be expanded. Why is that in there, if this is such an innocuous provision, if it is normal? It is not normal and that is the point. I think that we need to sit down and examine that and examine the implications of that through the Human Resources Committee and bring in industrial relations experts on all sides, in order to consider that very question.
I think that we have to have the opportunity to hear evidence and submissions from experts in this field to be able to consider the implications of it. From what I can tell, there is advice being presented to the ministers that is to be kind, somewhat at variance with the facts, in some conflict with the truth. That needs to be discussed, that needs to be dealt with, that needs to be exposed.
Ministers, perhaps with the best of intentions, are carrying along with their efforts to bring forward legislation that make unprecedented and wholesale changes in industrial relations in not only this province, don't forget, they affect jurisprudence across this country. It will have a wide impact and if we don't understand the impact, then I suggest we are causing a whole lot of problems here that maybe we don't need to cause. The opportunity, through the Human Resources Committee would be extremely positive and constructive, if we were able to review this matter.
That is probably not even a bad idea. The minister, himself, has said that it is going to take at least six months for the boards to get up and running anyway and he said in an earlier statement that the employees would have an opportunity to discuss some of these questions with the administration. So the minister isn't in a big hurry, so why don't we take an opportunity here to refer this issue and other issues contained in this bill to the Human Resources Committee to take two or three months, hold discussions, hold hearings, either here or in other parts of the province and, at the same time, maybe we can put the QE II bill on ice on the basis that it causes the same kind of concerns, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: We are not talking about the QE II bill.
MR. CHISHOLM: You are right, but I am just trying to be helpful.
MR. SPEAKER: And so am I.
MR. CHISHOLM: I am just trying to be helpful in suggesting that not only would an important purpose be met by referring the contents of Bill No. 55 to the Human Resources Committee but, in dealing with that whole question of the powers of the Labour Relations Board, we could maybe head off an extremely controversial and extremely divisive and destructive confrontation that appears almost inevitable, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the QE II.
I am sure I probably have been as persuasive as usual, Mr. Speaker, as I participate in these debates to try to bring a change to some of this legislation but, nonetheless, I have certainly enjoyed having my opportunity to render my opinion upon the events here with respect to Bill No. 55. I will be supporting this amendment to refer the subject matter to the Human Resources Committee. I think it makes sense. I think that we should perhaps recommend that the government do this more often. The government, in fact, should, instead of pretending to consult and consult on something maybe that hasn't taken form yet, when we actually have a piece of legislation in this case, or a policy or whatever, we would refer it to the public through a standing committee of this Legislature in order to prevent the kind of disagreement, the kind of dissention, the kind of confrontation that has been happening far too frequently in this place through legislation that is, if not badly prepared, badly intentioned.
So with those few comments, I would urge all members to vote in support of this amendment and to refer the subject matter of Bill No. 55 on to the Human Resources Committee. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to stand today before you to speak on the amendment, the subject matter of Bill No. 55, An Act Respecting Collège de l'Acadie and the Nova Scotia Community College, be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. It is a good amendment.
AN HON. MEMBER: The saviour of Cape Breton, you are.
MR. MACLEOD: The saviour of Cape Breton he says. Well, we are not sure about that, but what we are sure about, Mr. Speaker, is that this amendment will make a difference with this bill. What we want to do with this amendment is make sure that we give people an opportunity, because I feel sometimes that some of the people who are located in this House forget why we came here. We came here to serve the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, and some of them have forgotten the intent and the purpose for which they were sent here. This amendment, however, will allow us to get back to those people and will allow us to make sure that there is thought and consideration put into the programs that are being put forward by the government. I believe, genuinely, that people in this House want to make the right decisions.
Mr. Speaker, in my previous life, before I came here, I was involved with the training of adults in a large corporation. Part of what we did to make the programs that we used, we consulted with the people who were using them. We talked to the management, we talked to the workers; we developed the programs with them. We were able to put forward good programs that were meaningful and that would eventually make a difference and have an impact on the economy of our company. We can do the same thing with this amendment by going out and talking to the shareholders, the stakeholders, the people who need this kind of education.
We can go out and talk to the industries and ask them what it is, what kind of training they need, what kind of focus we should be putting on the people. What are we really trying to accomplish with this community college program? Are we to go out and help the people, to make sure that they can find economic renewal through employment, or are we here just to pass a bill because somebody said it was a good idea?
I don't think it is the second part, Mr. Speaker. I really do think that the Minister of Education put this bill forward so that we can improve the education system of this province, but in order to do that we have to consult with the people who are going to be involved. Who is going to be affected?
There are all kinds of things we have to look at when we look at any bill. This one is no different, Mr. Speaker. When we talk about this amendment, the reason we talk about amending it and putting it to the Human Resources Committee is so people can put forward their concerns and their ideas, put forward the concerns and talk to the people now.
It seems, of late, the only way that people will get talked to in this province is if they take a strike vote. That is the only time that this government seems to be willing to listen to them and that is only part of the time. Sometimes they will not even listen to them when there is a strike vote. What we have an opportunity to do is to avoid that, not even get into that part of it. Talk to them now before the bill goes any further, listen to them now, make the right recommendations and people will be much more content, Mr. Speaker. This amendment will allow that to happen. It will allow us to take time to hear what people need, what they want. How are we going to improve their stock in life?
People keep changing jobs, Mr. Speaker, and they need retraining. That is part of what the community college program was put in place for, to help retrain our population. Well, we want it to be done with consultation so that we know what kind of training is going to be useful. Are we going to put a program in place, train people and then ship them out of the province to some other part of Canada? Is that our plan for economic renewal in this province? I hope not. I don't think that is the type of program that we want to put forward. With this amendment we can listen. Listening is supposed to be a part of the job that we were sent here to do. We are supposed to listen to the people who sent us here. Each and every one of us is supposed to do that. We are not supposed to be voting on bills because somebody said, this is what we want you to do. We should be voting on them because it is the right thing to do.
Mr. Speaker, there is an employment crisis in this province. I don't know what the numbers say but they are not correct. The numbers are not the real world. The numbers say that unemployment is lower than it actually is. There are a lot of people falling through the cracks and the reason they are falling through the cracks is because they have not been talked to, they have not been listened to.
When we send a bill like this to the Human Resources Committee, people will be talked to, people will be listened to. We can actually help people help themselves. Isn't that what this process is supposed to be all about, Mr. Speaker? Aren't we supposed to be trying to make sure that we can make a difference and make a positive change in the life of the people in this province?
Of course, Mr. Speaker, we all know that by doing the consultation that this government says they want to do - they have said ever since I have been a member here in my short life - they believe in consulting, I would like them to move forward and prove that by doing it with this bill. Consult with the people it is going to have an effect on. Make it an issue that they can deal with.
There are a number of people, a number of workers who are going to be affected by this bill, people who work for the government, people who are there to help expand the education of our people. Mr. Speaker, we owe it to them to give them the opportunity to come to the Human Resources Committee and have a chat with those people.
Mr. Speaker, the members of the Human Resources Committee are very honourable people. We have the MLAs from different areas of this province who all know what it is like . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: You're on that committee, aren't you?
MR. MACLEOD: I told you, they were all honourable members.
AN HON. MEMBER: Exactly.
MR. MACLEOD: It is an important committee. It is an opportunity to do what is right. I know that is what you want to do, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that is what the government colleagues in this House want to do. We want to do what is right, we want to move forward in a positive manner, not just in a manner of harum-scarum, shove it through and we will deal with the consequences down the road. Let's do it right the first time, let's do it right, right now, and then move on to the proper things.
We have to give industry a chance to go out and identify what it is, what kind of services, what kind of college courses should we be offering that can provide them the opportunity to hire people from the Province of Nova Scotia into their industries. We can do that by putting this bill to the Human Resources Committee and allowing the committee to hear the input from industry.
We talked about public partnerships, what better way to start than right now, in the whole process of building the bill. If you want a public partnership, then use the public to help formulate the legislation that is going to help to develop the community colleges of our province, Mr. Speaker.
There was a study done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and they say there are 30,000 jobs available in Atlantic Canada, but they don't have enough trained people. Do we know what those training needs are? If this bill went to the community colleges, it would give those people an opportunity to come forward and identify the needs that they have, so that we could be working together in the partnership that the Minister of Education talks about so many times.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the community college program that we have in place in this province gives people an opportunity to extend and expand their horizons. As we know, not everybody is suited to go to university but a community college is an opportunity for someone to develop another skill, very practical skills, skills that are important and have been the backbone of this province for many years. We have to identify - I keep going back to that, but we have to identify - and we have to talk to those people to find out what it is.
In my previous life, when I was in the training department of a major corporation in this province, that is how we did it. We talked to the people who were in charge, we talked to the people who actually did the work. From those things, we developed the type of training programs that we put together so that people were learning what they needed to know, not what they thought they needed to know. We cut out the middle part of the process so that when we did get into training, we trained people to do work that was going to be useful, to do things that were going to have a positive impact on the bottom line of the company. When you have positive impacts on the bottom line, more people work.
I am sure that is the intent of this legislation, to make sure that we provide quality education, maintain employment and provide the tools and the needs for people to increase their ability to go out and be active and useful participants in the Province of Nova Scotia and in the work force that they are wanting to join.
We have seen in this House the Education Bill come through and we had 200-some odd amendments brought forward to the Law Amendments Committee. By letting us take this bill to the Human Resources Committee, we can hopefully avoid that because there will be more input. If we have more input, then it will make the process run smoother and ultimately that is what we are all after. A process that runs smoothly is effective and has a positive impact on the Province of Nova Scotia. We, the members of this House, by voting positively for this amendment, will have that ability to let that happen, so that we can do what is right.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that we know and understand that change is always hard. We understand there have to be a lot of changes and there is nobody who will argue that, but we have to make that hard change as effective and as easy and as flowing and as positive as we can.
By allowing the processes that have been set in this historic House, allowing them to operate by using the facilities that are put forward in front of us, by allowing us to use the tools that have worked so many years, tools like an amendment to this bill so that we can put it forward to the Human Resources Committee, so they can go out and talk to people, find out what is important to the people. If we do those kind of things, Mr. Speaker, we will bring in a more effective piece of legislation and it will run and move through the course of needs very easily.
Mr. Speaker, I really think that it is important that we realize what it is we were sent here to do. I can never stress it enough, that we have an opportunity to make the right and positive changes. I have had a very short career in this House but there is one thing that I realized shortly after I got here and that is that everybody would genuinely like to do the right thing. The right thing in this case is to bring this piece of legislation forward to the Human Resources Committee and for everybody who is truly concerned about the people and constituents of this province to vote for this amendment, where we will be referring this to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell you that this is a good amendment. This is a very good amendment and I will be voting in favour of this amendment. I thank you for my time here today.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I certainly concur with my colleague for Cape Breton West that this is a very good amendment. The amendment is to send the bill that is before us, Bill No. 55, off to the Human Resources Committee. The amendment, as I understand it, was introduced by the honourable member, and colleague of mine, for Hants West. I know the member for Hants West has a community college in his constituency, in the Town of Windsor, and he is extremely concerned that that school will be closed. That school is going to be closed because there wasn't proper consideration given to the whole Nova Scotia Community College system.
By sending this bill off to the Human Resources Committee, it will allow and permit for a lot of things. It will enable this government and, more specifically, the Minister of Education and his staff, it will give them an opportunity to come to the Human Resources Committee and listen to what the people in Nova Scotia have to say relative to the Act Respecting Collège de l'Acadie and the Nova Scotia Community College. I understand that there hasn't been meaningful dialogue and real consultation about the intended legislation. For that, I understand, a lot of people are very concerned. They suggest that the bill is quite dreadful. Some of the concerns that deal with the dreadful piece of legislation could be addressed at the Committee on Human Resources.
It seems as though every time we have a piece of legislation that comes before us lately, we, as Opposition members, must try to hoist the legislation in the name of being a responsible Opposition. If we can't hoist the legislation, we endeavour to send it off to a committee where the legislation can be examined and scrutinized and people from the public can come in and make presentations.
Now, interestingly enough, the composition of the Human Resources Committee, and I think we should, if we are going to send a bill off to a committee we should know who the members are on the committee. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, the members on that committee represent a lot of our provincial ridings in the province but the list I have, and I just wanted to point this out and I am sure a member for the Third Party has been appointed to the committee, but the former Leader of the Third Party is still on the Human Resources Committee. I know that member certainly gave a lot to the committee; she was a very responsible member. It is important that we understand we may be sending this bill off to a committee which is, in fact, short one member but perhaps the Third Party will have a member on that committee, so maybe I don't need to be concerned.
The members for Lunenburg, Chester, Colchester North, Victoria, Timberlea-Prospect, Sackville-Beaverbank are on the Human Resources Committee with of course, my colleague for Kings North and the member for Halifax Citadel. The members of the Human Resources Committee, I am sure would like to have an opportunity to go around to some of our larger towns across this province and perhaps we could have a little travelling road show where the Human Resources Committee could get out into towns like Truro, New Glasgow, go into Port Hawkesbury, down to Sydney but if you don't support the amendment that won't be possible.
The member for Sackville-Beaverbank, rather than having the people from Sackville come into Halifax, would encourage some of his constituents to go down to Acadian Hall in Sackville and conduct a meeting there. I am sure that it wouldn't cost a lot to arrange for a meeting of that type. We could have another meeting down in Windsor and so on and so forth. I think there is nothing like consultation and involving Nova Scotians and involving the community.
Members of the public have suggested that we introduce this amendment because the bill is, in fact, quite alarming. A lot of our conversation and dialogue has focused on the students and they are very important but we also have to be cognizant of the fact that what the minister is doing here is setting up a self-governing body. What the province has known as a community college system, up to this point, was a system that was essentially a successor to the Regional Vocational School System. We have a regional vocational school system and we moved into a community college type concept and now the minister is transforming, by this very legislation, the community college system into a post-secondary system.
We have a lot of private schools that are offering courses similar to those that are going to be provided by the post-secondary system and more specifically, the Nova Scotia Community College. I think it is essential that we support the amendment to send the bill off to the Human Resources Committee so employees who are very concerned about their benefits, about pay equity, about the same concerns that employees at the four facilities that are going to be merged into the QE II Health Sciences Centre, the concerns that they have are concerns that people that work in the Nova Scotia Community College system have. If the government supports this amendment, it will be providing an important mechanism to the employees who are concerned about their future.
The subject matter of Bill No. 55 and I know that the amendment talks about sending the subject matter of Bill No. 55 off to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. The Minister of Education has told us that his initiative to form a Nova Scotia Community College system and the Collège de l'Acadie, is essentially to enhance the province's economic and social well-being by meeting the occupational training requirements of the population and the labour market. That in itself is certainly worth supporting and I support the statement but a statement of good intentions is not satisfactory because what we are finding and what we have been told is that there is a very profound gap between what is offered by the training institutions in this province and the skills that the business community needs. Now we have talked about the employees and let's look at the different partners that would be affected by this legislation. You have the employees, the students, and, of course, very importantly, you have the business community.
Now with the business community, I am sure, for example, representatives of Mr. Smith's machinery shop down in Cumberland County somewhere would like to come in, perhaps, and make a presentation to the Human Resources Committee. Now the business community or the representatives of the machinery shop would like to come in and talk about the training institutions, I am sure. They would like to come in and say to the Human Resources Committee, that the training institutions in this province, presently, aren't training employees with the necessary skills to come and go to work for me. That is a very real possibility. So I guess what we are saying here by supporting this amendment is, let's give all the partners - the employees, the students, the business community - an opportunity come in and explain what concerns they have.
You know as well as I know that before you can really produce good public policy and before good public policy is brought before this Legislature, a lot of times, studies are required. We don't want to get off - and I know, Mr. Speaker, you won't let me get off on the casino issue and the fact that there was no socio-economic study, I won't mention that - but what I would like to mention is that there was no study to determine the needs of the business community, the businesses in this province. The businesses in this province are very diverse.
Mr. Speaker, we have a fishing industry in decline, but nonetheless, members of the fishing industry would like to come in, I believe, and appear before the Human Resources Committee. Our community is very diverse and our industries are very diverse. Perhaps members of the forestry in this province and the forestry industry employs directly, indirectly, so to speak, nearly 25,000 Nova Scotians. Now, technology and machinery is becoming very advanced in the harvesting of our forest product and in the manufacturing of our forest product.
Mr. [Acting Deputy] Speaker, I don't know when last you have had an opportunity to tour a sawmill in this province but, I will tell you, you have a very large sawmill in your constituency, in Elmsdale, if you have an opportunity, and perhaps you have toured that sawmill, and please forgive me, and I am quite sure you have, but maybe you haven't (Interruptions) but the legislation would enable people like Mr. Wilbur to come in, make a presentation to the Human Resources Committee. Now I talked a little bit about forestry and I talked a little bit about the fishing industry, but let's not forget the farming industry, let's not forget the Department of Agriculture.
Mr. Speaker, farms today are certainly much different than the farms of yesterday. More and more we are seeing the technology change. You need to be quite skilled. The member for Colchester North, I think, would confirm - although, of course, he doesn't confirm too much that I have to say - that farming today is very advanced. The skills that are required may not be provided by our Nova Scotia Community College system. Now today isn't like it was yesterday. Milking cows. When you get the (Interruption)
AN HON. MEMBER: This has nothing to do with the amendment.
MR. TAYLOR: Well you have to be trained to get the udder ready to be milked today, Mr. Speaker, and I am not sure. I am serious . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the member perhaps could take another turn on this and aim directly towards the amendment. I realize you might connect all industries to the effect that they could come before the Human Resources Committee. That is a bit broad. I think you should stick more to the amendment. (Interruptions)
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I always appreciate and respect your very refreshing rulings. You know, we get lots of assistance here when we are trying to make contributions to a very important amendment. I appreciate all the facilitators in here. It is quite helpful. Milking the cows today is quite different than it was yesterday.
The minister talks about moving the community college system up to a post-secondary system. Now, Mr. Speaker, people have a lot of concerns about that because quite a number of people feel that what we really are doing is privatizing our Nova Scotia Community College system. If we are privatizing the Nova Scotia community college system, don't you think there would be a number of people who would like to come in to the Human Resources Committee and explain their concerns relative to this piece of legislation?
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education has been very ambiguous when he talked about moving to a post-secondary system. I think part of the reason why this amendment should be supported is because the minister has been so vague. If we are going to elevate, if you will, the community college system to a so-called post-secondary system of education, the minister is telling us that it will be in competition, get this, Mr. Speaker; the Minister of Education is telling us that it will be in competition with the existing post-secondary education system. What I believe, and I believe Nova Scotians believe, is that the minister is moving towards privatization so the potential for confusion and the potential for competition is very real. If you have two systems providing the same type of programs and the same type of curriculum is being taught, obviously you are going to have two competing systems.
The minister is telling us that he is not privatizing, but if you are going to be competing and you are going to have money from the private sector supporting the Nova Scotia Community College system, obviously there is room to be concerned and there is very real concern out there. The minister suggests, and it is reflected in this legislation, that the community colleges are now positioned and will, in fact, have the legal trappings necessary to become self-governing colleges. So any way you cut it, Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Community College system is moving towards a self-governed system.
Now, people have expressed concerns to the Opposition about the fact that the board of governors is going to be formed after the legislation is proclaimed. The people that have been talking to us are, for the most part, employees of the present system. The employees are saying, look, if you can get this bill off to the Human Resources Committee, we can come in and we can talk and we can sit down and explain to the Human Resources Committee what our concerns are. Mr. [Acting Deputy] Speaker, there could be an employee drop by who travels through your constituency and, of course, travels through my constituency to his place of work, to the community college in Windsor, who would like to sit down with the chair of the committee. If the employee did not address the chair of the committee, certainly he could address the committee collectively and convey those very real concerns that he has. We will not name employee after employee because there is such a large number; I think 303 are represented by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and 450 are represented by another union.
Just one employee, for an example, would come in and say, look, I have worked at the Hants campus for 17 years. Of course, I am not going to mention the individual's name, but I am by way of describing the events around this story giving the name to the Minister of Education. This employee teaches in the adult upgrading course. Well, don't you think that that employee, who worked 17 years in the college system, would like an opportunity to appear before the Human Resources Committee? Of course he would like an opportunity. He is saying, unlike the QE II employees, I do not have an opportunity to go before the board of governors, because the board of governors will not be formed until the legislation is proclaimed, according to the legislation.
Now that is one concern that could be brought up at the Human Resources Committee, and I think I have identified another concern, Mr. Speaker, as to why this amendment should be supported, and I think there are a number of concerns, but the Nova Scotia Community College Board will have one administrator who is a staff member, but the board of the Collège de l'Acadie will not have an administrator on the board. The bill is in two parts and I know the minister outlined that in the legislation, but shouldn't the boards be consistent with each other? Why are the boards not consistent with each other? These are the types of problems, when you examine the legislation, that you find very quickly.
The board of governors of the college is going to have two students and one staff who is an academic member and a non-academic member and one person nominated from Prince Edward Island. Now . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Great province.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes. Absolutely, we support that, there is absolutely no problem with that, but the bill is vague because it talks about five or seven members are going to be appointed by the minister. Now, what I want to know is, do these five or seven members that the minister appoint, the nominating committee that passes this list to the Minister of Education, the minister is going to submit these names to the board, but is that board going to be official? What is going to be the composition of the board? I know the Minister of Education doesn't follow me, but if this went to the Human Resources Committee, this is a concern that could be brought up, Mr. Speaker. The board is going to decide who the members of the board are going to be, but how can a board decide when the board isn't even formed? That is the point and that is the way the language reads in the legislation. So, in fact, we had no other alternative but to come forward with this amendment.
As I said, the board of governors is ambiguous and quite vague in that the two are inconsistent, they are at odds with each other. They are at variance with each other, the two boards are. Shouldn't the boards be compatible, Mr. Speaker? So, if we have trouble and concerns with incompatibility, we can come and the employees can come and the students can come, members of the academic staff can come to the Human Resources Committee, non-academic staff can come and perhaps even that one person who is nominated from Prince Edward Island, nominated by the Minister of Higher Education from Prince Edward Island, would like to come over to the Human Resources Committee. Then we would have, I believe, by supporting this amendment, a bill that will be consistent, it will be compatible, it will be coherent, it will be undeviating, and it will be uniform. We will have a piece of legislation that the Opposition would be pleased to support but, in its present form, it is too vague and too ambiguous.
Now the ambiguity is found in many places. I am not going to get into the bill and I know you won't permit me to get into the bill, but we have more reasons and more rationale to support this amendment than we have time, and that time permits us to express here, Mr. Speaker. The amendment does talk about the subject matter of Bill No. 55 being referred, of course, to the Human Resources Committee, so I know that from time to time we can touch on the subject matter, but we have to do it in general terms. We can't be too specific because you could name all the industries across this province . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Please just do that, deal with the subject matter and why it should be referred to the committee.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, thank you. It should be referred to the Human Resources Committee for a number of reasons. I can think of 450 reasons; there are 450 employees of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union who are represented by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. Perhaps each one of those individuals could come in and make a presentation to the Human Resources Committee if this bill is supported. I can think of another 303 reasons. So we have 450, and we have 303 employees of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. (Interruption) Yes, Mr. Speaker, and my colleague from Pictou West is quite a mathematician in his own right here; he is telling me the total. But seriously, there is a gap between the training institutions, what the training institutions offer, and the skills that the business community requires and that is a very good reason why we should be supporting an amendment.
Now, there has been talk about a study. I think we have to give consideration to the study that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business conducted. They tell us that there are many shortcomings in the present community college system. They talk about the chance and the opportunity for 30,000 Nova Scotians to go to work if they were properly trained.
One thing, and I am not trying to take them to task and I am not trying to get off topic, Mr. Speaker, but when you are talking about providing 30,000 Nova Scotians with job opportunities, I think the government should listen to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business because I believe they would like an opportunity to come in to the Human Resources Committee. I bet you they would be one of the first ones to make arrangements to come in and appear before the Human Resources Committee. You would have some very intellectually sound people, Mr. Speaker, coming in to the Human Resources Committee. You would have members of the NSTU, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, you could have, as I just pointed out, members of the CFIB coming in, and so on and so forth.
This government should have conducted a study, there should have been a study done. I would ask the minister if he would tell us, when this bill gets further on down the line, when he gives us his summary comments, if he could, perhaps, outline for us if, in fact, there was a study. We all support well-reasoned and well-planned austerity measures. We believe in self-discipline and it is a time of fiscal restraint. Nobody for a minute doubts that, Mr. Speaker, but surely to goodness, this government should be courteous enough to the public to support this amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I have just about come to the end of my contribution to this debate and to this amendment. I would encourage all government members to be very mindful and very heedful of just what the amendment is saying. There is no time limit imposed on how long this bill will be before the Human Resources Committee. There is no time limit imposed, Mr. Speaker. We are not saying, delay the bill.
When we brought forward the hoist, we were told that, well, you are killing the bill. You are taking six months, you are going to put that bill out of commission, you are basically killing the bill. That could be correct. That amendment was defeated. So we came back today, Mr. Speaker, with an amendment we feel that the government could support. I cannot understand, for the life of me, what rationale this government would have for not supporting this bill when the government sits down and looks at the legislation and finds the inconsistencies, identifies the ambiguities that are in this legislation and go to the Human Resources Committee. We are not saying, kill the bill. Even if you gave it one week, and that is being generous, even if you gave this legislation one week, what would be wrong with that?
It is the amendment, Mr. Speaker, and I am talking directly about the amendment. There is no timeframe. We cannot say, go on and on, Human Resources Committee set up travelling road shows and go all around the province.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, we have to address the concerns of the business community, we have to address the concerns of the students and we have to address the concerns of the employees.
The minister is telling us, the Law Amendments Committee. It can go to the Law Amendments Committee and we know what happens in the Law Amendments Committee. Mr. Speaker, I will tell you what, I am not going to get off on the Law Amendments Committee because we are talking about the amendment that is before us today. If we do not support this amendment, if this government does not support this amendment, the potential, and I think it is very real potential, for confusion certainly does exist.
Mr. Speaker, the minister will tell us that he has justification for this public policy shift. There are people in the profession and people who are involved who are going to say, no, the minister does not have justification for the policy shift. There is an argument that the colleges must become more efficient, and I support our community colleges becoming much more efficient. But the minister also tells us - and this is where this amendment comes in - that the community college system must become more competitive in securing - and these are the minister's words, not mine - private sector dollars for customizing training contracts. So, the people who have concerns about privatization will say, well, here is a piece of legislation; we are concerned about the future of our jobs. Give us an opportunity to at least appear before the Human Resources Committee and we can point out to the minister our concerns about privatization.
The minister, I don't think for a moment, will deny that he is talking about securing and getting hold of more private sector dollars to provide for training contracts that are customized. The minister agrees with that and I support that. But the dollars and the finances that the Department of Education accrues through these efforts, where is that money going to be channelled?
MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to please relate this to the amendment as to why this matter should be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am about ready to wrap up my contribution and I just want to say, in closing, that the minister will tell us that self-governance is not privatization. I have some very real concerns that this is where we are going. I know that all of the partners relative to this piece of legislation would like to have an opportunity to come in before the Human Resources Committee. What could be any more important than coming in before the Human Resources Committee? If we don't - and I am going to tell that Minister of Education, and I think he knows full well - we are going to have another conundrum here; we are going to have another problem. When you have problems and concerns, and the Opposition comes forward with amendments that can help the government out of a very dicey and sometimes awkward situation, they should give the amendments very serious consideration. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to offer a few remarks in regard to the amendment which is before your House at the present time. That amendment, of course, is that the subject matter of Bill No. 55, An Act Respecting Collège de l'Acadie and the Nova Scotia Community College, be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.
You will know, from reference to your Rule Book, Mr. Speaker, Page 48, that, "the Human Resources Committee is established for the purpose of (i) considering matters normally assigned to or within the purview of the Ministers and Departments of Labour and Education, . . .", and Advanced Education and Job Training, ". . . and matters relating to the status of women,". So, it is clear that the right place, I think, for the matters which I would like to address and which other colleagues have addressed relative to this particular bill, and the principles which it espouses and which would be enshrined in legislation were it to pass, is clearly the Committee on Human Resources.
I have already had an opportunity to address remarks relative to Bill No. 55 in other and earlier elements of our debate here, so some of the things I am going to say today are things which I have said before. Unfortunately, the earlier amendment, namely the six months' hoist, was not successful. But in truth, Mr. Speaker, my view is not unlike the view expressed by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, who indicated that while he did speak to that amendment, and I did as well, it was perhaps a less effective process or procedure than is suggested here because the six months' hoist motion as you know doesn't carry with it of necessity that there be an analysis or a study or a review of the legislation.
Here we have, in this motion, a precise direction, should this motion pass, that the subject matter, the 39 pages and the 99 clauses of Bill No. 55 would, in fact, be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources and that committee would then be able to undertake a review and an analysis of all of those pages and provisions of this particular legislation. That committee has the capacity to do what, frankly, I don't really believe has been done to this point and that is to engage in a public analysis and scrutiny of the current state of the vocational schools and technical institutes of the community college system in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is really what we, in the Opposition, are anxious to have happen.
We have been hearing from a great many people across the province, from students, from teachers, from administrators and from parents of young people and, in some cases, not so young people who are students in the community college system at present. We have been hearing, and reference and allusions have already been made to observations made by business commentators, indicating a very unfortunate refrain. The refrain that we hear, for instance, and which would be a perfect and, I am sure, most effective element of discussion at the Human Resources Committee, would be the refrain suggested by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
That organization tells us that there are potentially up to 30,000 jobs available in Atlantic Canada. A survey of the members of that federation indicated that employers in all four provinces, Nova Scotia included, would hire if they could find the right people. They said the job figure was extrapolated from the survey to encompass the Atlantic Region's 88,000 small firms. The bottom line and the simple message is, if the community college system of this province and, indeed, other provinces in Atlantic Canada was designed in such a way to have young men and women leave those institutions with the proper skills and the right range of skills, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business - not Terry Donahoe and not the Opposition caucus and not any individual member of this place, but that organization which is dealing with thousands of businesses in Atlantic Canada - says if we had the right programming, if we had our young people leaving the community college system with the right skills, we would have as many as 30,000 employment places available to them. That is perhaps the starting point.
In defense or in support of the amendment which is before your House, that we move the subject matter of Bill No. 55 to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, that affords the opportunity for such organizations as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the boards of trade and the chambers of commerce, individual men and women running businesses in the Province of Nova Scotia, to come to that committee. I happen, by happenstance as opposed to design, to be a member of that committee and I, for one, would relish the opportunity to participate in discussions of the work of the Committee on Human Resources, to hear the representations made by the business community of Nova Scotia and indeed of Atlantic Canada. I offer that first, Mr. Speaker, as explanation of and justification for the referral of this matter to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.
Mr. Speaker, if Bill No. 55 were to pass in its present form, it would, as you know, transform to some extent and elevate to some extent what we have come to refer to traditionally, in the last while at least in this province, as our community college system, to a system of post-secondary education institutions. That process, interestingly enough, follows decisions taken prior to the introduction of this legislation and taken unilaterally by this Minister of Education to close down a number of elements of that community college system. Quite frankly, there are those among us who happen to believe, and we are receiving representation from various people across the province, that it isn't necessarily the case that the minister has made the right choices or the right decisions in coming to the conclusions he did as to which of the institutions in the existing community college system should close down.
Again, the Standing Committee on Human Resources of this House, Mr. Speaker, would have an opportunity to learn from representatives of those institutions which have already been put on the chopping block, which have already been told that their lives have come to an end or are coming to an end, to make their case, which, with respect, I suggest they never really had the full opportunity to do prior to the minister's announcement. I really believe that there are a couple of examples where a very real argument can be made and would be made to the Standing Committee on Human Resources relative to the continued integrity and viability of certain of those institutions.
My colleague, the member for Hants West, has already alluded to the very real concerns experienced in Windsor. There are those in relation to that institution who believe that they have been shortchanged and the decision taken relative to their institution, not to put too fine a point on it, is just fundamentally wrong. That opportunity would be available to those who would wish to come to the Standing Committee on Human Resources and make representations in that regard.
A further element relative to this entire piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, which I think is so important. We just simply cannot pass the legislation without first having an opportunity, and again through the Standing Committee on Human Resources, as I suggest, the most effective forum, we just simply cannot afford, in my opinion, to pass legislation which creates a parallel and, I would suggest, to some extent competing post-secondary education system which will function in competition to our traditional post-secondary education system in the province - and in that latter context I refer, of course, to the university system; that is Dalhousie, Acadia, Saint Mary's, UCCB, St. F.X. and so on - and pass that legislation, establish the parallel and/or competing post-secondary education system without having detailed discussions with the men and women who run the existing post-secondary education system, the university system of this province.
I said yesterday, and I repeat again, Mr. Speaker, in support of this motion, that I have had occasion to speak to presidents of three of our province's leading universities. All three indicate to me that they have had no consultation with this minister or his officials as to what the implications are for their institutions if this particular piece of legislation should pass in its present form. There is, as I know you know, the possibility at least of very real consequences and implications for the province's post-secondary education institutions in the event that this new parallel and potentially competing post-secondary education system were to be put in place.
Mr. Speaker, if we set up this parallel, potentially competing post-secondary education system, what happens between that system and the current university system in our province in regard to a couple of pretty fundamental issues when it comes to running either a community college, as the Minister of Supply and Services would well know, as he did so successfully for so many years, and the running of a university? What about commonality of admission standards? What about recognition of programming and performance by a student at one or other of the institutions?
We have had a very interesting phenomenon occur in this province. The Minister of Supply and Services could perhaps even be more precise in picking a start time for me than even I can be. We have experienced a very interesting phenomenon in this province. The minister might help. I will tell him the phenomenon and he can perhaps put a timeframe. The phenomenon I have in my mind is that increasingly the current community college system of Nova Scotia is receiving and accepting as students men and women - I was going to say young men and women; in some cases not so young men and women - who already have in some cases, very considerable post-secondary education experience in our university system, have been accepting in their student population students who indeed have degrees.
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: In 1970.
MR. DONAHOE: About 70?
AN HON. MEMBER: No, 1970 it started.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member will address the Chair and also perhaps relate this to the amendment that is before the House.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, I would be pleased to do that and my apologies for engaging in dialogue directly and bypassing the Chair.
Well, that phenomenon which has had that life has by my experience with it and by my observation of it increased really exponentially over the recent years. In the last five, six, seven years, it is really very marked.
What am I trying to say in relation to the amendment that is before us? I am trying to say that we are being asked to pass a piece of legislation which sets up a parallel and potentially competitive post-secondary education system, side by side the existing university system. We have a history and an experience of greater and greater numbers of men and women who have post-secondary education experience being admitted into what we now call the community college system, soon to be post-secondary education institutions. Some of them have already, before admission to our community college systems, secured undergraduate degrees in our university system. I begin to wonder whether or not that isn't happening with such frequency that it raises the spectre of two very important issues which I believe would be perfect subjects of discussions at the Standing Committee on Human Resources. Here are the two.
It raises the spectre of the level of programming to be offered at the new elevated, enhanced, expanded community college, now to be called post-secondary education parallel system. I begin to wonder, without discussion with the university presidents, are we going to be moving into a situation where the community college system, the new parallel post-secondary education system is going to be offering a range of programming which is in any way, shape or form in competition with the curriculum and program offerings of the traditional post-secondary education university system?
To me, Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question. To me, the opportunity for that to be fully canvassed, for there to be an open discussion and debate which would describe to all of us in the Committee of Human Resources, through us and through that committee, all members of the House, we could have a much fuller understanding than, I believe, most members of this place have now as to the extent to which that is now happening and as to whether or not there are real or perceived difficulties down the line in the future for either the community college system or the conventional post-secondary education university system. That is a fundamental question which I think can be and should be addressed.
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: A question, Mr. Speaker. I am sure the honourable member will remember, in 1985, he commissioned the MacLennan Royal Commission on Post-Secondary Education. He had three members appointed to that Royal Commission whom I am sure he will remember. I had the honour and pleasure to be appointed by him to serve on the advisory body to that royal commission as a technical representative on that commission. On that same body, he had representation from every university in Nova Scotia. In addition, he had a representative of the medical community and a representative of the engineering fraternity on that same body, he will remember.
In 1985, it submitted its report to him. Does the honourable member remember at that time that the report submitted to him outlined through wide-ranging dialogue and discussion across the province with all university participation over six months of my time, that in that presentation made to him there was an integrated whole with cross-reference of credits from . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could the honourable minister come to his point of the question?
MR. O'MALLEY: Well, the question is, does the honourable member remember what was, indeed, done at that time? He did it himself. He brought about that integration at that time. It was not phenomenal, it was planned and programmed, and brought into fruition.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, I thank the honourable member for the question. If I were a more egotistical person than I am, I would thank him for complimenting me here in the House for being as astute as I was at the time to convene the study and to convene it on as broad a base as I did. Indeed, that I was astute enough to know of the abilities, wisdom and the sagacity of the distinguished Minister of Supply and Services and, hence, invited him to be a very member of that committee. I remember that well.
The difficulty is, (Interruptions) Well, the difficulty is, I will not cast aspersions anywhere but I will tell you this, I will put it this way. I have had a number of tremendously exciting moments in my time in public life and I have had a few real disappointments. One of the disappointments was that just about at the time that that report was being received and being tabled was not very far removed from the time that I went on to do other things in the government and, unfortunately, did not have an opportunity, perhaps, to stay with it.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will allow the honourable member to continue but I think with the question and the answer, we are now diverting a bit from the questions before the House, which is that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, it is. Well, but if I can stay with it to make another reference to . . .
MR. SPEAKER: All right, for a short time.
MR. DONAHOE: I would like, if you will permit me, Mr. Speaker, to make a reference back to that exchange between the minister and myself but on the way to swinging to a comment relative to that exchange and relative to this amendment. The minister rightly points out that such a study was undertaken and the minister also rightly points out that it was broadly based and he also rightly points out that there was, at that time, a fair body of opinion that the integration and the meshing and the cross-pollination of programming at both institutions, the traditional university system and the community college system, was possible, should be promoted, was desirable and that sort of thing.
However, considerable time has passed, relatively little, some has been done but relatively little has been done in that regard. But it brings me full circle to the amendment, because I just said to you and to all members a few moments ago, Mr. Speaker, that with relatively little being done in the intervening years, just 48 hours ago I picked up my phone and I called current presidents of three post-secondary education institutions who are in those positions of responsibility today. They say that they have had no dialogue relative to those matters and how the nuts and bolts and details of those matters would be worked out and they have not heard from this Minister of Education or his officials in that regard.
What I am saying and what I am saying and it is a helpful reminder from the Minister of Supply and Services, is that very study to which he refers is, undoubtedly, a tremendously important base document from which and through which the kind of dialogue that I believe could and should be had at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, that document could be used as the jump-off point.
I tell you here today, Mr. Speaker, as I would say to the Minister of Supply and Services through you, that if this motion were to pass and, as a member of the Committee on Human Resources, I would be the first to acknowledge the study, the importance of the study, the conclusion of the study that such a movement was desirable and, frankly, if he wants it, I would be there to acknowledge as well disappointment and frustration that the government of which I was a member was not at all vigorous in pursuing the recommendations of that study. I agree with him.
But we are here now with many years having intervened, 7 or 8, almost 10 years have intervened. The study is undoubtedly a very important and valuable base document. The reality in 1998 in the community colleges and in our universities is not precisely identical today as it was in 1985 and, I repeat, forgive the repetition and it will be the last time I say it, I hope, my recent conversation in recent hours with three university presidents, they tell me they don't know and want to know and want to have an opportunity to study, analyze and make representations relative to the potential impact of Bill No. 55, as they relate or might relate to the operation of the universities which they run.
So, Mr. Speaker, I offer in support of this amendment the argument that we have a perfect opportunity to avoid doing what not only this government but governments traditionally, or too many governments, do and governments of which I was a member did on occasion in relation to other matters. We have here a perfect opportunity, in the context of and under the aegis of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, to have a really important dialogue between the men and women who run what we now call community colleges, the men and women who run our university system and the minister and his officials, to really hash out and thrash out and work through some of those extremely important questions.
Mr. Speaker, this is another element which really, I think, should be considered at the Standing Committee on Human Resources. You know that the Government of Canada has already said that they are going to send our province less money for the provision of educational service. You know that the Minister of Education has already said that he has less money to provide educational service. You know that the Minister of Finance has already said that across the budget of the Province of Nova Scotia, there will be less money to run education in this province. I think it is important for the universities, the minister and for all of us to understand what the impact is going to be. What is the split, what is the cut going to be as between the extent to which monies are extracted from what I would refer to as the conventional and traditional university system, on the one hand, and the new parallel and potentially competing post-secondary education community college system?
The Minister of Education somewhere along the way used the line that he has every expectation that the system will prosper and grow. It is only going to prosper and grow if considerable amounts of money are expended. I think a very important question, and I know from discussion with people connected with our universities a fundamental question, is, is that money which will prosper and grow the parallel and potentially competing community college system going to come at the expense of funding of our traditional university system? That traditional university system is vitally important. I see an honourable member back in the corner, I think listening intently to what I am saying, and I ask him to think about University College of Cape Breton and how much money is going to come out of University College of Cape Breton that would be funnelled. I am not saying that is the wrong thing to do, but we do not know the answer.
I say to you in support of the amendment, Mr. Speaker, that with the help of - and I guess I omitted him a moment ago in my litany of players at the Human Resources Committee who would be fundamental and important to the issue - the Minister of Finance, aided and abetted by his officials, who are the experts in the province when it comes to understanding the Established Programs Financing and the federal fiscal transfer arrangements and the redesign of that by the current Government of Canada, they too could be part of those financing discussions. I think they are vitally important.
We have business and industry and commerce out there, on the one hand, saying, listen, this system does not send us young people with the right kinds of skills. There are 30,000 jobs in Atlantic Canada and if we had more graduates of our community college system coming out with those right skills, there is readier employment for them. I think it is important that we hear from them and that the officials who are responsible for curriculum design and development and program delivery in the community college system hear that so that they are able to make appropriate adjustments.
We have very serious concerns, I believe, at the universities level, as to what implications does an expanding and growing, parallel and potentially competing community college system have for those universities and I think the Standing Committee on Human Resources is a perfect place for the university presidents and all of those other players to whom I have referred, to have reasoned, rational, quiet, deliberate, informed debate that will address some of those questions before we pass legislation of the kind contemplated by Bill No. 55.
I think we should have a greater understanding for the sake of both sides of the equation, the community college side and the university side, about the question of transfer of credits. I said yesterday that one of the pleasures which I had and at the same time, one of the frustrations I had during much of my time as Minister of Education some years ago was wrestling with the difficult question of recognition of credit and transfer of credit. It is only in relatively recent time and we are still not all the way there yet but it is only in very recent time and it is some credit to the current Minister of Education because he has done considerable effort in the regard but we still aren't all the way to a policy of recognition of and transfer of credit across our existing Nova Scotia post-secondary education system, university system. I can tell you from my own past experiences and I know from discussions with people who are aware of the national scene, we are a long way from a protocol which addresses the issue of recognition of credit on a national basis.
Add into the hopper, the confusion which I believe would be injected into the debate, if we have a new piece of legislation which establishes what the minister calls a growing and prospering community college system which is accepting men and women, some younger, some older, who already have some considerable post-secondary education, university experience, in some cases already have those degrees, if they are accepting those students, I think such a question is a fundamental question as working out a protocol as between that post-secondary education system, the community college system and the province's conventional university system, relative to recognition and transfer of credit is a vitally important issue. We really should not try to do that on an ad hoc basis as we go. I think some fundamental policies and protocols could be developed and again I repeat in support of the amendment before us, the Human Resources Committee of the Legislature is an appropriate place and a very desirable place for that issue to be addressed.
If the community college system contemplated by Bill No. 55, as the minister says it is, going to prosper and grow and I hope it does if, in fact, there are changes made there, if, in fact, it does, it is going to undoubtedly have to revisit its tuition policy. The question then will arise, I submit, again in the context of the impact, if any, that such changes would or might have, relative to the existing post-secondary education institutions. Would tuition policy, whatever policy is undertaken in this new community college system, would that policy, once established and determined, would it be helpful to one side of the equation, the community college side, for instance, and hurtful to the traditional university system or vice versa? I don't know the answer to that but I know from discussions with some people connected with the universities that interestingly enough, they don't know the answer to that either and that is a matter of very real issue and concern. That, I suggest to you is another issue which is ideally suited to be addressed in the context of debate and discussion and quiet and deliberate analysis that could be undertaken at the Standing Committee on Human Resources.
There is some concern raised by certain of the principles which appear in Bill No. 55 in addition to those to which I have made mention, that deal with the issue of the governance of these institutions. I will not harp on this but I think it is important and I think it is an issue that is best worked out in the context of discussions around a Human Resources Committee table as opposed to the Law Amendments Committee process because you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, as will all members whom I know have read Bill No. 55 scrupulously carefully, you will know and they will know that there is an apparent conflict when one reads the provisions relative to governance because we have the minister saying in his own documents that the colleges will continue to be accountable to the minister, accountable to him, and to the government in areas of public interest. Well, for openers, for the moment, the term public interest is not a defined term. Who knows what the public interest is? I don't mean this pejoratively but is it the whim on any given day of the Minister of Education? I don't know. The legislation does not tell us, it does not help us understand what is the public interest. It is not a defined term.
Later, we find that the minister is saying that these colleges will have boards and will be self-governed colleges, as is the case in other legislation, and I won't get myself side-tracked into references to other legislation (Interruption) Pardon me?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. DONAHOE: There is an apparent conflict. The conflict on the one hand is that the minister is going to be saying to the Province of Nova Scotia and the thousands who will be affected by this legislation that we are going to have a system of self-governed post-secondary education institutions and on the other hand, we have the minister saying that they will continue to be accountable to the minister and the government in areas of public interest. Again, I repeat the phrase public interest is not a defined term.
So I think that, too, that whole issue of governance, as I know you are probably aware, Mr. Speaker, and many members of this House will be aware, governance of post-secondary education institutions and the issues surrounding governance of post-secondary education institutions are very difficult questions. I, during my time again as Minister of Education, was engaged in some of the most unbelievable, outlandish, difficult discussions relative to some of those governance issues. We know, from a document issued just very recently by the metro universities, that they, themselves, are just now wrestling with a whole range of issues and some elements of those issues being addressed have to do with governance.
I have reason to understand that the post-secondary education institutions of this province would consider it a great value for them to have an opportunity to have dialogue in an environment such as the Standing Committee on Human Resources to address the question of governance of what may well be, Mr. Speaker, certainly will be a parallel and may well be a competing post-secondary education system.
In the last many, many days in this place, we have heard remarks made - and I contributed to some of those remarks - relative to labour/management issues, labour law and the Trade Union Act, the Labour Standards Code and other pieces of legislation. Well, I think it is appropriate that it be done here again in relation to this bill and again in support of the motion. If this motion were to pass and if this bill were then to be reviewed through the aegis of the Human Resources Committee, it would be possible for us - and by us, I mean the minister, surrounded by competent labour law advice, and others of us - the committee in fact would have the opportunity to call witnesses before it and some of the witnesses which we would be able to call would be men and women who are experts in the labour law field, and we would be able to have a discussion about one of the elements of this legislation which I think is absolutely devastating and offensive to hundreds of men and women who now work in this system.
You will be aware from your reading of this legislation, Mr. Speaker, that there is a provision in it relative to Section 71 of the Labour Standards Code. The implications of that section in that bill - I know you know this - is that it is possible by virtue of the application of that section of the Labour Standards Code to say to a man or a woman who has worked for 10, 15, 20, or 25 years in the community college system, thank you, but no thank you, you are done, have a nice day; it is over and it is history. That can happen as a consequence of the provision that addresses Section 71 of the Labour Standards Code in this legislation.
I think it is absolutely the wrong way to go about the development of public policy, particularly in the context - and I mean this in the best sense and the most positive sense - particularly against the backdrop of a minister who is saying, and I think with some justification and certainly believing every word of what he is saying, that he wants to develop a community college system, a post-secondary education system which will be parallel, I hope not competitive, but potentially competitive with the existing university system, and he wants it to be on a higher plane and grow and prosper.
Well I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that one of the elements that will rip apart the goodwill, the sentiment and the positive community attitude not only within the smaller community of those men and women who will in fact be the professors, the teachers, the instructors, the lab technicians and others in the system as it unfolds, but thousands of other Nova Scotians, the goodwill will be desecrated and destroyed if, in fact, in the process of moving to the new regime, we allow a piece of legislation to pass which does not address thoughtfully, carefully, cogently, and quietly and in deliberate debate the implications of the references here to Section 71 of the Labour Standards Code. As I have said, it is possible for men and women who have served that system already for many, many years, simply to be ushered out the door and that, I suggest to you, isn't right, isn't fair, and it is very, very poor public policy.
Mr. Speaker, I really found it extremely interesting. I was amused and, frankly, somewhat bemused when I read this legislation and I read it, having earlier read, as carefully as I could, the Education Bill introduced by this same minister. What struck me was that in the Education Bill, which purports to be a bill to set the ground rules and parameters for the operation of a public school system in the Province of Nova Scotia, there is mention there of foreign students. Interestingly enough, in this present legislation, there is no mention of foreign students.
One of the things that I have heard this minister talk about many, many times is the potential of a community college system of the kind he is describing in Bill No. 55 being a tool or a vehicle by which Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia institutions may well be able to sell to the rest of the world some of our expertise in the community college system. If we do . . .
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: We do it now.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I hear the minister mumbling over there, we do it now. Well, if we do it now, I am saying to you, Mr. Speaker, and the comment and the concern has been raised with me and hence I raise it here and I raise it in support of the amendment that we refer this to the standing committee, I think we should address as a province, as legislators together, in the context again of quiet, deliberate, thoughtful and researched discussion the whole issue of what we really believe we want to do or should do about the development of a rational, fair, reasonable and sensitive foreign student policy. Here is a perfect opportunity.
Curious is it not, Mr. Speaker, that in the bill that relates to running public schools, there is reference to foreign students and there is a reference to, if memory serves me correctly, the minister - I think he has amended it probably two or three times, he certainly amended it once and maybe a second time - but there was a provision in that bill about how school boards could charge foreign student fees and initially, I think when the bill was introduced, they had to share it with the minister, I think he may now have amended that. No, no, he says I am wrong. Well, when we get to the debate, I will show him that I am right that that is exactly what the bill said when he introduced it. But I know I am getting a little bit away from the document you are about to hold up and remind me I should be a little bit closer to, so I will come back.
I simply say I find it curious. Taxpayers have communicated with me, Mr. Speaker, and they have said, Mr. Donahoe, the Minister of Education, has introduced a bill. It purports to redesign the community college system, enshrine it and elevate it as a post-secondary education system. I have heard Mr. MacEachern - and I certainly related to this observation from the caller - make speech after speech about the fact that we have so much expertise in our community college system which is saleable worldwide, we could do very well, thank you very much, by selling much of the training expertise and the seats in our post-secondary education system and our community college system. Then it occurred to me, I think back to the Education Bill which talks about public schools and we have references to foreign students and foreign student fees and so on, and we don't here.
I think, Mr. Speaker, if this amendment were to pass, as I urge that it do, and we refer this bill to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, we have a tremendous opportunity to sit down and really be thoughtful together about establishing a foreign student policy that we really all would think would make sense to us here in Nova Scotia; a policy that would make it attractive for people from virtually anywhere else in the world to come and study here in Nova Scotia and that has tremendously positive impact for us in Nova Scotia. It has great impact on the institution at which the foreign student studies. It has great impact upon the Nova Scotian students who experience those young men and women from other countries and other cultures and other religions and other histories and other backgrounds. It has tremendous impact often on the economy of our Province of Nova Scotia, because while here not only are they paying differential fees, those foreign students are in many cases blessed by being members of families of very substantial resources and they are great contributors to the economy generally of the Province of Nova Scotia. So I say, Mr. Speaker, that this bill could be very much improved by us referring it to the Committee on Human Resources and addressing an issue such as foreign student policy and foreign differential fee policy. It would be important, I think, in the context of our relationships with other provinces, particularly in Maritime and Atlantic Canada, that we could engage in that dialogue and involve our partners in the Maritimes and in Atlantic Canada, if not even further across the country.
Mr. Speaker, there is in this legislation an issue which I would suggest, although he hasn't yet commented on it and he may, that I would suggest would be of very real interest to the Minister of Finance. I refer in this context to the provisions in this legislation which would make it possible for the colleges to be established in this legislation to have the legal right to raise money on their own credit. These colleges are going to raise money, if this bill passes in its present form, on their own credit, by way of the issuance of bonds and debentures. That, it occurs to me - I may be wrong - is a brand new departure, in terms of the funding of community colleges in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Of course it smacks of a couple of things; it smacks of the Americanization, privatization of the education enterprise. I said the other day and I have seen it, I have experienced it and I am sure many other members have . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The member would realize that that may be of interest to the Minister of Finance but I don't believe that it bears on whether the subject matter of the bill should be referred to the Human Resources Committee or not. I don't think it does.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, with respect, and I don't want to be seen to be attempting to object to or counter your ruling, Mr. Speaker, or not abide by it and, if you are telling me that I can't talk about bonds and debentures . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I don't think so, no.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, perhaps you might help me then, Mr. Speaker, by indicating what it is that one is allowed to talk about when one addresses this (Interruption) Let me finish - what is one allowed to talk about when addressing a motion which says that the subject matter of Bill No. 55, et cetera, be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources? I would offer the opinion that what one talks about is, the bill says this, that is the subject matter of the bill and it is that subject matter which should be referred to the committee and here, Mr. Speaker and colleagues, are some of my reasons why I think that subject matter should be referred. Isn't that how the debate should unfold?
MR. SPEAKER: The member should note that it was his last phrase that is the relevant section here, what could be done by referring the matter to the committee. It is not an opening to discuss the subject matter because the subject matter is basically the principle that is involved in the bill, the subject matter of the bill. That is what we debate in second reading.
One cannot just simply say, well, it is the subject matter so I am going to debate it because all those remarks would be relevant to the bill on second reading. It is a relatively limited, a very limited area that one should be discussing on such an amendment. It is quite limited. It is outlined in both the texts that we refer to, Beauchesne and Erskine May. Both of them indicate that it is relatively limited.
If the members cannot feel that they have anything further to say on the subject matters being referred to in the bill, then the members should cease comments.
MR. DONAHOE: That activity, as some members have come to learn, is somewhat foreign to me, that ceasing making comments part of what you just said.
Would Your Honour be able to help me further by simply referring me to the text of Beauchesne?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. DONAHOE: The text that relates to the extent to which the debate is to be limited?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I could do that. Amendments at Second Reading, Page 200, refers to the three types of amendments that may be proposed at second reading of the bill: the hoist, the reasoned amendment and the referral of the subject matter to a committee. On Page 201 - I hate to use up all of your time because you only have a couple of minutes - it is quite interesting. "(1) An amendment, urging a committee to consider the subject-matter of a bill, might be moved and carried if the House were adverse to giving the bill itself a second reading and so conceding its principle. But where further information is desired in direct relation to the terms of the bill before the House, the advantage of referring the bill to a committee could be explained in the second reading stage. (2) The amendment may seek further information in relation to the bill . . .". This amendment does not. Is that any help to the member?
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, that helps me greatly. (Interruption) Oh, no. I have no trouble using up the time. I have pages and pages of notes. Don't worry about that.
In the context of the helpful exchange with you, Mr. Speaker, the point of my reference to the fact that this bill establishes a principle whereby individual colleges in this community college system, post-secondary education system, would have a right to raise funds on the credit of the college by issuing bonds and debentures, I was suggesting that would be of considerable interest to the Minister of Finance of the Province of Nova Scotia. It occurs to me that the Minister of Finance would be able to attend at meetings of the Standing Committee of Human Resources, with his officials, to offer advice and opinion. I may be the only one of the members of this House who believes this but the Minister of Finance would be in a position to offer advice and guidance and counsel to that committee and to all of us as we craft a bill along the lines of Bill No. 55, as to whether or not the establishment of a principle whereby individual colleges in this province could, in their own right, raise funds by issuing their own bonds and debentures, as to whether or not that would or could, in and of itself, have any difficulties for the Minister of Finance relative to his obligations to raise money for the general purposes of the funding and operation of the Government of Nova Scotia.
I see that you are giving me the sign that my time on the amendment has concluded. I do support the amendment, as I guess you have gathered by now. I really do think we could have very important and helpful debate at the Standing Committee on Human Resources. I support the amendment and urge all members to do so.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I will just take a moment to perhaps add a very brief contribution to this debate and indicate that I am opposed to the amendment to refer. The Opposition seemingly hasn't much changed its tactics from 15 years of their term in government. Whenever faced with the possibility of progressive reform, they would adopt one of the following tactics from their bag of tricks; they would defer, refer or deter.
Those are the three amendments available to them. They made the amendment to defer, that was defeated. They are on to refer, that is the amendment we are voting on now. I am sure we can count on them very soon to address an amendment to deter. However, Mr. Speaker, I think that the time for study, the time for putting off action, is long, long overdue. We must, with some degree of courage, bring our community college system into a position where they can face the 21st Century and the challenges contained in the 21st Century; what we have been doing for too long is trying to meet the challenge of the 1900's.
So I would ask very strongly and urge all members of this House to oppose this attempt by the Opposition, as they have done consistently for perhaps more than 15 years, I would ask the members of this House to resist the Opposition attempt to once again defer, refer or deter reform in Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: The question has been called.
A recorded vote is being called for.
Ring the bells. Call in the members.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?
We are moving now on an amendment to Bill No. 55, the amendment to refer to a committee. The Clerk will call the roll.
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Donahoe Mr. Barkhouse
Mr. Russell Mrs. Norrie
Mr. Moody Mr. Downe
Mr. Holm Dr. Smith
Mr. Chisholm Mr. Boudreau
Mr. Archibald Mr. Gillis
THE CLERK: For 6. Against, 22.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried in the negative.
Before going back to the bill on second reading, I want to recognize the Minister of Agriculture on an announcement.
HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to inform you, sir, and all members of this House, that the former MLA for Clare, Benoit Comeau, who had the privilege of representing the people of Clare in this House from 1967 to 1981 has passed away today in the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. Mr. Comeau was first elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature in 1967 and re-elected in 1970, in 1974 and in 1978.
During Mr. Comeau's term in office Mr. Comeau had the privilege of holding different portfolios for the Government of Nova Scotia. From October, 1970 to 1972, Mr. Comeau was the Minister of Lands and Forests, the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister Responsible for the Emergency Measures Act; from September 1972 to 1973 Mr. Comeau was Minister of Fisheries; from September, 1972, Mr. Comeau was Minister of Public Works and from October 1976 to October 1978, Mr. Comeau was the Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Comeau was also the Leader of the Opposition in this House and Leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party from February to June 1980.
Mr. Speaker, I would request in memory of Mr. Benoit Comeau that members of this House of Assembly pause for a moment of silence to remember Mr. Comeau.
MR. SPEAKER: Before we pause for a moment, I will first recognize the Minister of Labour and then the Leader of the Opposition.
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, today I feel really very sad. It was only about a couple of months ago that the honourable Minister of Agriculture and myself had the opportunity to spend an hour with Mr. Comeau and his lovely wife in their home, which I enjoyed immensely.
The honourable Deputy Premier is not available right now. He said, Guy, you go ahead and do it. Mr. Speaker, I consider myself very fortunate because I served in the Cabinet as well as in the caucus with a gentleman, Benoit, who I consider a great Nova Scotian, a man who I believe always had his heart in the right place when dealing with social issues and dealing with people in this province. He never said much and I think the Leader of the Opposition will likely deal with that at this time. But to serve in Cabinet and caucus the leadership that this individual showed, his commitment to people. I want to tell you, it is hard relating to issues dealing with people.
I recall that when I first got elected, I was appointed by the Premier as chairman of the caucus. In those days, we never had all this staff, all these researchers, nothing like that. In fact, we were in the basement of this building where we would have a girl to do the typing when the House was in session and then sometimes they would have another one. Benoit used to come down and say, Guy, you write too many letters. You write a letter, they write back; you write another letter, they write back. He said, me, I never write letters like that at all.
Benoit was always so friendly. I first came here in 1974. He helped mould many of the politicians in all political Parties. Benoit was not a guy who because you were opposed to him thought you were something horrible. He would sit down with a Tory or an NDPer or anybody at all and try to work with them in the best interests of this great Assembly and in the best interests of all people in Nova Scotia.
So, Mr. Speaker, today, I believe, is a sad day for me and for many Nova Scotians because I personally believe that we have lost a great Nova Scotian, who served this province very well through a long period of time. I just want, on behalf of the Liberal caucus and the Government of Nova Scotia, to offer my deepest sympathy to Benoit's family and his lovely wife. I just think that all of us, if you want to do something, read Benoit's history and believe in what he stood for and what he really believed in and this House will be a far better place and Nova Scotia will be much richer. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure but it saddens me greatly as well to have the opportunity to offer comments on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus upon learning of Benoit Comeau's death just today. Benoit was in the House for very many years with my Dad and for a few years with my much older brother, Arthur, and myself. As has already been said, Benoit was a gentleman's gentleman. He was a kind and gentle person and a very, very fine, fine friend.
He was a proud Acadian. Those of us who knew him and spent time with him here will always recall the wry little smile that he would have on his face, particularly during Question Period, and he was magnificent. He was a beauty in Question Period. Sometimes we get a little exercised at each other and we complain, Mr. Speaker, that these recalcitrant ministers won't answer questions and we get all exercised. That never seemed to be the reaction when the question was put to Benoit. Benoit wouldn't come within a mile of giving an answer. (Laughter)
Benoit had four stock answers, as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker. I will never forget the amusement that so many of us took, the question could be and the series of questions could relate to most anything, and Benoit's stock answers were: no, and he would take his place; or, yes and he would take his place; or maybe, and he would take his place; and finally, the catch-all, he would say, Mr. Speaker, I will check with my officials, and sit down. The reaction was just as we have seen the reaction here, it was, that's Benoit. There was no rancour, there was no ill-will whatsoever, he was a true gentleman.
Notwithstanding what the Minister of Labour said a moment ago about Benoit's advice to him about writing letters, I can tell you and I am sure other members who served with Benoit can tell you, that whether there was any exchange of correspondence or not, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people in Clare who knew that Benoit was there for them and served them well. The letters didn't really enter into it. He did serve them so, so well.
I am, therefore, and I know my father would be, too, pleased that circumstances make it possible for me to make these remarks in tribute to Benoit, to his friend, to my Dad's friend, to Arthur's friend and mine, and a friend of all of us who have served in this place and he was a fine and a proud and distinguished man. I know that the Minister of Agriculture has asked that as remarks conclude that we might take a moment of silence to mark Benoit's passing and we certainly support the suggestion that we do that.
Might I just add to it, that you, your honour, might be kind enough to make arrangements that the copy of Hansard and the tribute paid to Benoit here this afternoon be transmitted to his family with sincere condolences from all of us here and very best wishes to all of his family. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to associate myself with the remarks that were made by all of the previous speakers. I did not have the personal luxury or benefit of having known Mr. Comeau. I was not elected to this House until after Mr. Comeau had ceased to be a member. Whether we were in this House or not, we all know the name, Mr. Benoit Comeau, and the very distinguished career that he did have, and the years of dedicated service to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia and, certainly, the very high regard and respect of the people in his own constituency in the area of Clare is well-known and was demonstrated time and time again on the numerous occasions that they returned him to this House to represent them.
I want to add my voice and that of my caucus colleague, Mr. Chisholm, our words of sympathy, to the family and to the friends of Mr. Comeau, on the deep loss that they are feeling today. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join with other members of this House in observing a moment of silence in memory of his life and his accomplishments.
MR. SPEAKER: We will now observe a minute of silence.
[One minute of silence was observed.]
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, I will also advise the House that the request as outlined, of the Speaker's Office, will be carried out. We are back to second reading on Bill No. 55.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thought that the Minister of Justice, I couldn't hear exactly what he was saying, I thought that maybe he was urging or trying to catch your attention so that he might get up to speak on the bill.
It is a pleasure to have the opportunity, although I wish it was going to be later on that I am standing to speak on the bill, An Act Respecting Collège de l'Acadie and the Nova Scotia Community College. I wish, in some ways, I was not having the opportunity to speak on that bill today, because I wish the bill was going off somewhere else for review. That didn't happen, so I will address the principles that are contained within the bill this afternoon.
As I begin, I want to reiterate, to underscore, as much as I possibly can, that I and my caucus believe very strongly in the need to have a very vibrant, adaptable, credible, effective, efficient, community college system; one that is humane, one that meets the needs of the citizens of this great Province of Nova Scotia, and the needs of the present and also the future. That means meeting the needs of those who are to be the students enrolled in the community college system as well as those who are working to provide the high quality of training and educational opportunities that possibly can be provided.
When I take a look at this bill, however, I have to wonder what this really has to do in many regards with the community college programs that are to be introduced, followed and instructed within the province. I see within this piece of legislation a whole bunch of clauses that deal with structure of boards and what a board may do and may not do. I heard the minister in his opening remarks and in his press statements talking about the goals and objectives of the community college system and about all of the wonderful things that are to happen. I just wish, as I look at this bill, that I had confidence that those things are, in fact, there and are to come true.
When I take a look at this bill, I am reminded of a comment that was made in the Law Amendments Committee by a psychologist who said not very long ago in the Red Chamber words to the effect that one of the best ways to predict future performance is to look at past behaviour, or words with that meaning.
When I take a look at this bill I have to look at it in the context of what the government says it wants to do and what it has announced and what it is doing. For example, let's put a few things in context; the government has said it is reforming and changing the community college system to meet the needs. They tell us that they have the vision, they have the wisdom, they have the knowledge and that, for example, was why they were setting up the Centre for Excellence in Truro.
What was the experience as a result of that, Mr. Speaker? We were told that this program - this community college in Truro, and I hope, by the way, that it should turn around and that it will prove to be extremely successful - was going to have 150 students this year. I will refer to an article when this was announced. The Education Minister said that was supposed to be a world-class institution attracting the brightest minds, offering unique programming and producing students for high growth occupations.
Yet, Mr. Speaker, those who have looked at it and those who are in the area and who are knowledgeable, like the warden of Colchester County, in which it is located are saying that by all accounts it is offering programs that are available elsewhere, is using teacher recruitments from away and preparing students for jobs that may not be part of the new economy. If what we see is what we are trading for the Teachers College and the existing community college that closes at the end of the year, we got "a raw deal". Apparently 87 was the number that I last heard as the number of students to be enrolled. So let's put that one little piece of the pie in there, in terms of past performance and predictability.
Let's also think about what the minister said and the little overview. When you get these bills from ministers these days you get nice little packages. We haven't any money for most things but we have money for this. Certainly it is not expensive but we get these little brochures or packages and we don't only get the bill but all the appropriate propaganda material that goes along with it and tells you what you are supposed to know about the bill, the principles of the bill. (Interruption) In small words, yes, so that I can understand it.
You know that is important because, quite honestly, one of the major complaints that you hear at the Law Amendment Committee, for example, is that bills are written in a way that the public can't understand them. Unfortunately, the handouts that go with the bills don't always represent accurately or completely what is contained in the bill. It is an oversight though, I am sure. I am sure that is because the bill is so complicated that when they were drafting the simplified explanations, they couldn't understand what was happening in the bill, so it just happened to get a really shiny gloss on the apple.
This bill was introduced just on Tuesday, three days ago, and in this little overview, the introduction, they are bragging about how it is that this year's enrolment in the community college system, there are 700 more students province-wide than a year ago. They don't insert a little underscore underneath that, however, the minister has already made an announcement that next year five of those community colleges are going to close and that there are going to be 800 fewer training seats available. That must have been an oversight, Mr. Speaker. They weren't trying to put a gloss on the apple and cover over the worm holes and whatever other little blights that might be on it, that, of course, was an oversight.
I am thinking again of the wise words that we heard with regard to another bill by the psychologist, one of the ways to predict future behaviour is to look at past performance. Sounds like a little bit of make-up is being put on here to cover over some of the blemishes, some of the blotches.
Also, Mr. Speaker, they talk in this bill about the principle, and they do in the little overview, the introduction and all the other little headlines that they have in here as well, they talk about making the community college, or the minister does, or whoever prepared the little write up that came out with it, system more competitive in securing private sector dollars for customized training contracts. They talk about the need to sell seats to the private sector, private business needs. They don't mention what was said, approximately a month ago, I have already referenced the fact that there are 800 fewer training seats, that there are five community college campuses closing, some of which are already selling and making a profit, customized, specialized training programs to private industry as is the case at the Adult Vocational Training Centre in Dartmouth. I don't know if in Hants County they have done any of that or not but I believe they certainly would be willing to look at and be willing to explore whatever community needs or business needs may need to be there as well.
But they don't go in and talk a great deal about what they are really trying to do, that is find a way in part, not only to cut money out, I would suggest probably more than the $8 million of government spending, what they are trying also to do, by this, is to sell off, to turn it into not a strictly privatized community college system, because you cannot and the government cannot legally get away from, even if it wants to, its legal responsibility to deliver education.
I would like to draw to your attention and to members in the House, we have a guest in our gallery today, a very distinguished young lady by the name of Jessie, who just ducked down. She is the daughter of the member for Halifax Atlantic. Let's give her a round of applause. She is checking up to see if her father is in here working.
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. He forgot to tell all the members that she really loves seals and does everything in the world to protect them.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the provincial government here is trying to, in one sense, hive off its direct responsibility through the Department of Education to be ensuring that we do have the high quality of community college programs in the province. If I can expand on this a little bit and see if I can't get myself a little more focused in the way I am trying to address this particular issue and the concerns that I have.
Right now, within the Department of Education, we have several divisions. One, of course, which is dealing with the public school system. Another area deals with, for example, the community college and continuing education and gets into a number of areas. When this bill, if it passes, the way that it will at the present time or the way that it is structured at the present time, if this passes, what in effect will happen is that the community college system is really going to be hived off, basically, from the Department of Education. Yes, technically they will still have responsibilities in a lot of areas and if you actually read the bill, the minister can have responsibility to do whatever he wants, to have whatever control he wants through regulations, by appointing the board, by firing the board, by dismissing the entire board and appointing somebody to go to run it. The minister has all that power if the minister wants. The minister also has the power to duck. He can put that shell over himself and slide it off to the side and say, I am not responsible, I am not accountable, it is nothing to do with me, it is up to the independent board.
Under this bill what is being done is that each individual community college is to have their own board appointed. There will be hundreds of jobs, yes, somebody has suggested for good, loyal Liberals across the province to be appointed to these boards. They are having more trouble, I might add, finding hundreds of good, loyal Liberals to appoint to boards, that has been pointed out by a member of the Cabinet to me across the floor. I think that he was trying to counter my argument, that their wouldn't be patronage appointments because they don't have enough supporters left.
MR. SPEAKER: Order please.
MR. HOLM: However, I will take that from the minister, I will not let him sidetrack me on that point any more and I am sure he would know the validity of that which he speaks far better than I.
When one takes a look at these individual boards and you look at who is being appointed to those boards and you look at the mandates of these community colleges, one has to ask several questions like, where are the links between those community colleges and the public school system? I don't advocate going back to the old vocational school system at all but once upon a time when we did have a vocational school system at least the vocational schools, one advantage of it was that the vocational schools were in the same school board or school district, whichever term you want to refer to, as the other public schools in that area. That allowed for greater links and cooperation between them.
One of the issues, one of the concerns that has been expressed by others, as well as by myself - I have raised it on the floor of this House on many occasions, not only during this bill debate but I have raised it, and I would suggest that this has been an issue, if you want to check the records, that I and my caucus colleagues over the years have been raising for at least 10 years - that is the concern for the literally hundreds of young people who are unable to be successful making their way through the public school system.
Last night the Teachers Union put out a release in which they expressed concern that those students will become society's forgotten young people. If you look at it, if you think about it in the context, today we have a high unemployment rate, we have more people seeking jobs than we have jobs available. So it is not as if we have a shortage of employees.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. HOLM: I think that some of the members opposite, Mr. Speaker, are anxiously looking forward to the opportunity in 10 or 15 minutes to get into their cars to go home.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member will please continue his remarks.
MR. HOLM: However, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your trying to ensure that they will at least have the opportunity to hear my words of wisdom, or lack thereof, for the next 10 or 15 minutes by calling them to order.
Now, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions) Attention spans get short on Friday afternoon. You learn that when you are a teacher as well, Mr. Speaker, and you are trying to . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The Speaker is listening. I would ask the honourable member to please address the matters before us.
MR. HOLM: I am trying to, Mr. Speaker, I assure you that I am trying to.
Now, Mr. Speaker, when you take a look at the reality, the situation out there today, for a whole variety of reasons you have many families that are distraught, that are upset; you have many young people in the school system, as a result, who are having learning difficulty because of a family situation. It could be poverty, it could be the fact that they haven't got a proper place to sleep at night or proper nutrition, proper food, their only parent or parents may not be around in the evening because they are trying to work two or three jobs. It could be the fact that the child has a learning disability and the public system does not have the resources to meet those specific needs. So for one reason or a whole host of reasons I could talk for a full hour just on some of the difficulties that children are having and the public school system is having meeting those needs.
Some children are not successful. That does not mean that those children are not valued and it certainly should not mean that they are not valued. It does not mean that those children do not have intelligence, it does not mean that those children do not have skills and it certainly does not mean that those children cannot be productive, contributing members of society. What it does mean is that we have to provide avenues, we have to provide opportunities to be able to assist those young people to be able to move into training programs, skill development programs, that will help them so that they do not become the forgotten people.
That was an issue, that was a matter that when the Red Team was on the Opposition benches, I invite members of the Government benches to go back and read some of the very impassioned speeches, excellent speeches, given by members who are currently sitting on the Government benches, when they were over here, criticizing the Blue Team when they were over there for failing to meet this known identified need. I take a look at this bill and I have to ask myself, why are those members who spoke so passionately about the needs of these forgotten children, the needs of these forgotten people, why have they not addressed it in their bill?
It is all well and good, and, Mr. Speaker, it is fair ball for this government to stand up and ask the Tories, why didn't you do that when you were in power? How dare you criticize us for not doing something when you didn't do it when you had the chance. That is fair criticism for the Liberal Party to express to the Conservative Party. That is fair and it is valid, but it is equally valid to say now to the Liberal Government, you have the reins of power, you knew then that there was a major flaw, there was a major problem and you now have the power, the tools, the ability to address those flaws.
You still have that chance. The bill has not left this House yet on second reading. This bill does none of that, Mr. Speaker. We have not only young people who are in need of having jobs and skill upgrading and training, we have many adults who have that need as well. Many adults who 10, 15, 20 years ago didn't worry and didn't need to worry whether they had completed a high school diploma or not, didn't need to know or worry if they went on to university or to a vocational school to get job skills, because there were jobs that they could go to, whether that was in the fishing industry, forestry, working driving a truck, or doing a whole host of different things.
There were jobs that could provide them with a decent wage where they could support their families, but those jobs are disappearing just as the fish have been disappearing. The technology that we talk about and you, Mr. [Acting Deputy] Speaker, know a great deal about and have spoken eloquently on, technology certainly has its upside, but there is a downside as well. The downside is that as those new technologies come onstream, those technologies displace many workers who had been providing a service before, and workers who don't have the level of skills to be working and competing in the so-called new economy; at least not working and receiving the kind of wages that they need to survive and support their families.
Community college systems need to be able to address those and many of those individuals are trying to upgrade their education. But, they can go and do a GED, which I am sure you and others know what that is. That is where somebody goes back to night school, or through correspondence courses, studies, writes exams and they get a grade equivalent, like a Grade 12 equivalency. But those Grade 12 equivalencies, obtained by GED are not accepted by community colleges; you have to have a high school diploma, so many of those adults can't qualify.
Some adults have also tried to go back to the public school system. Those numbers are now dropping, as well. Some, particularly women in their 20's and even into their 30's, have enrolled in high school to increase their education so they could build up and go on to other training as well. But now this government has been encouraging the school boards to charge $1,000 per term for those who are returning, and many of those who have low education and who are in need of those upgrading skills don't have that money. So that door is being shut for many as well.
What are we doing to help these people? Setting up a structure, setting up a board where you will have two members elected from the student body, two members I think it is from the teaching staff, another member from another staff and having the minister appointing five to seven to run the school isn't getting at these needs. We have to have linkages, we have to have a philosophy, we have to have a commitment that those persons are not going to be discarded and left behind. That is a clear need.
This bill, I would suggest, is more interested in trying to set up a structure where the province can save money for itself and off-load costs than it is in trying to meet that very real social need. That is wrong. This bill needs to be restructured or reframed in such a way as to provide a commitment to those young people and to those who are not quite as young who are trying desperately to find a way to get the kind of skill training and upgrading they need so they can be productive.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know; should I take my directions from the Cabinet Ministers in the back who are trying to give me the cut sign? I am getting directions from members on the government benches that they would rather listen to me on Monday than this afternoon. So I will move that we adjourn.
MR. SPEAKER: We are approaching the time. You are moving adjournment?
MR. HOLM: Yes, I am, Mr. Speaker, and I will resume my place on Monday.
MR. SPEAKER: The debate on second reading of Bill No. 55 is adjourned.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the members of the House that on Monday we will sit between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Following the daily routine, we will continue with the second reading of Bill No. 55.
I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.
[The House rose at 3:58 p.m.]