MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time. Are there any guests members wish to introduce? If not, we will move directly to the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of tabling a petition today which has been organized by the Christian Education Organization and perhaps I should have, by way of your invitation to make introduction of people in the gallery, indicate that Mr. Donald Wearen, who is the Policy and Legislation Subcommittee Director of the Christian Education Organization, is, in fact, in your gallery and was kind enough to deliver to me this petition. It contains some 6,864 signatures and I won't, by any means, go through the litany of the locations across the province in which all of the petitions were signed. Suffice it to say that as members take a look at the petition, they will find that the petition was signed in most areas of the province ranging from metro to Yarmouth to Liverpool to Shubenacadie, Lantz, Glace Bay, Port Hawkesbury and, as I say, virtually all the communities of the province.
Just as a final comment to make the point of the petition, you will recall that when the Education Bill, Bill No. 39, was introduced, the Christian Education Organization was very much concerned about the change that would have taken out the language relative to encouraging in the pupils, by precept and example, a respect for the principles of Christian morality. Then the petition indicated to those asked to sign it that the safeguards that were left or placed in the bill were, in the opinion of the organization, inadequate - and I share that view.
Therefore the petition asks to add a new clause to the bill indicating that, "Parents have a right to cooperation from the school in their efforts to provide for their children's religious and moral education, and this right shall include the use of school facilities within school hours for religious instruction in accordance with policies established by the school board which recognize this right. and we petition you to transfer the following item from the list of what a school may do . . .". to what a school shall do.
The bottom line is that the petition calls upon the government to ensure that the ". . . amendments would safeguard the right to have religious/moral education offered by religious bodies at the behest of parents - and without cost to the school. No religious body or parents would be required to utilize the right. Where religious education programs are offered, children whose parents do not wish them to participate continue with their other learning activities during the time allocated for the programs.". The organization suggests, "This is a workable arrangement, as illustrated by long-standing practices in Halifax and other parts of the Province.".
So, without further adieu, and with those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I take pleasure in tabling this petition of 6,864 signatures on behalf of the Christian Education Organization. I have signed, in the manner required by the Rules of the House and take great pleasure presenting the petition for tabling at this time.
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.
HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a report of the Public Review Committee for a Proposed Systems Plan for Parks and Protected Area Systems in Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.
HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise members of the House of a major announcement made earlier today by officials of Stora Forest Industries Limited.
The company has announced that it will build a super-calendared paper plant at its Point Tupper location in the Strait of Canso. The super-calendared, or SC paper, is a publication quality product used mainly for catalogs, inserts, flyers and magazines. It will be marketed chiefly in North America. The new plant is estimated to cost $650 million, making it one of the largest capital projects ever undertaken in Nova Scotia. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, Stora will not be asking either the provincial government or the federal government for any financial assistance in the construction of the plant. The major project will employ up to 800 people during construction, scheduled to start in May of the new year. In addition to the new jobs created during construction, the project will secure newsprint and SC paper production jobs for the long term. The new plant will start production in mid-1998. When in full operation, it will produce 350,000 tons of SC paper per year, which represents about 20 per cent of the North American market.
Mr. Speaker, since taking office in 1993, our government has worked hard to create a climate that encourages investment and economic development in Nova Scotia. Today, that work is paying off for Nova Scotians and for this province. (Applause)
This major investment by Stora is a great vote of confidence in this government, in this province and in the economy of Nova Scotia. It is also a vote of confidence in our people, our resources and our future. Most important, this project secures the long-term viability of Stora in our province.
Stora has operated in Nova Scotia for about 35 years now and has always been a good corporate citizen. The company has made a very real contribution to our province and to the communities and the people of the Strait of Canso area. This is a great day for Stora Forest Industries Limited and a great day for Nova Scotia.
On behalf of our government and all members of the House, I congratulate the company on its decision to proceed with a $650 million project, a project which represents a big vote of confidence in the economy and secures the long-term viability of Stora in Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, this is a Christmas gift to Nova Scotia, two weeks early. Thank you very much. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely delighted at the minister's announcement today. I think it is a very positive one. I think it is one of the initiatives that we can certainly congratulate the government on, any participation they have had in Stora deciding to provide this facility which will provide added value to our forest products.
We must look at all of, I think, our resource-based industries and look at them in terms of how we can add value to those resources before shipping them out of the province. This is indeed a great day for Nova Scotia and for that end of the province. For as the minister and all of us know here, there is not a great diversity of economic activity in that end of the province, so any good news down there is certainly welcome.
I think, too, I would be remiss in not pointing out to the minister, as I am sure he is very aware, that Stora Forest Industries was one of the initiatives of the Stanfield Government many years ago, bringing that very important industry to eastern Nova Scotia. An industry that has survived through the good times and the bad times of the pulp and paper industry.
I am absolutely delighted, as I have said. It is an excellent announcement and will bring increased prosperity to that end of Nova Scotia. So I congratulate the minister on his announcement today.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, this is indeed very good news for Nova Scotians. I want to congratulate and thank Stora Forest Industries for the confidence that they are, in fact, showing in Nova Scotia. I think we in Nova Scotia have a work force that is second to none and our location is excellent.
I can assure the minister and all members on the government benches that the jobs are extremely welcome, certainly not only the jobs that are going to be created in the plant that is going to be built for the SC paper but also, I would suggest, for the construction jobs which are desperately needed, where there is very high unemployment in the building trades. Also, for those who are involved in the harvesting of the forest products. It may also mean that some of the private woodlot owners may be able to have a better opportunity to sell their resource and, hopefully, with the increased demand that that may actually lead to a slightly higher return for the private woodlot owners as well as they are marketing their products. So this is extremely welcome news.
I note that the minister in his statement said, however, that there was no financial assistance in the construction of the plant, and the word construction was in there and I don't know if there are any other kinds of agreements that the provincial government has entered into with Stora to give them greater access to any kind of resources, whatever, if there are, I would welcome getting that information later on.
I can't just help but make one observation, Mr. Speaker, where the minister is saying that the government created the climate for this to happen. One of the things that I don't think the government will want to take credit for but certainly would be one of the major pluses to attract Stora to expand here is the low value of the Canadian dollar. That certainly will be helping us and helping Stora to be selling the product into the U.S. market.
So, Mr. Speaker, there are some days when you want to say yes, that it is a good day. Certainly the $650 million investment is extremely important but I am also looking at not only the dollar value but I am looking at the importance of developing and strengthening this industry that is key to this area and, hopefully, the spinoffs will be felt in a very positive way not only by those who are going to be able to obtain employment at that plant but also in the entire surrounding community. So it is a good day and I very much welcome the minister's announcement this afternoon. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond. This announcement affects his constituency directly.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe it is the custom of the House that each of the Opposition Parties get an opportunity to respond to a ministerial statement, also the member to whose riding the announcement pertains is afforded an opportunity for a brief comment. Since the Stora Forest Industries pulp and paper mill is located in Point Tupper, Richmond County, in my constituency, I am absolutely delighted to stand here today to offer very brief comments on the announcement made by my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources.
Mr. Speaker, this morning I had the opportunity to attend the press conference where this announcement was made. One learned journalist commented to me that the media, at times, like to be very picky and look for both sides in a story and, lo and behold, in this one they could not seem to find a negative side. I was delighted to hear them say that.
Mr. Speaker, the benefit to the entire Strait area from this project, I believe, is immeasurable at this time, an investment of $650 million, 800 construction jobs, spinoff benefits and jobs which will be created through the provision of goods and services will significantly rally the economy of the entire Strait area.
Mr. Speaker, for 17 years I was an employee of Stora Forest Industries which is, arguably, the finest corporate citizen that the Strait of Canso has ever seen. During those 17 years and 8 years subsequent to those, I have been part of and have witnessed ups and downs in the pulp and paper industry. Yet, throughout those ups and downs and throughout all of those years, the company and the strong unionized work force have worked together to survive and, indeed, prosper. Today I think of my many friends at Stora who have been given this wonderful Christmas present. Today, after an extended period of uncertainty, they can breathe much easier, as can all people in the Strait area.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure I speak for all members of this House in extending sincere congratulations to Stora President, Jack Hartery, to Union President, Ron Beaton and to all employees whose collaborative efforts have paid dividends. I also say that I am extremely proud to be a part of a government which has worked so well with Stora to assist in making today's announcement possible and which has worked with others to help create a climate which does appeal to investors. Whether it is a cooperative government, a stable tax base or stable energy costs, it all works to send a strong positive message to investors that Nova Scotia is open to business. Today we see the testimony to that climate which has been created. Thank you very much. (Applause)
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 61 - Entitled An Act to Amend Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Gaming Control Act. (Mr. John Holm)
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Ati Consulting Corporation, Inc. has clearly identified in a very thorough study that the Canadian economy will be made worse if winter ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine is terminated; and
Whereas the federal Minister of Transportation, after asking local officials to prove their point by a study, has decided before reading it, to offer his own analysis of the report and the impact such a closure would have on the economy in southwestern Nova Scotia; and
Whereas the closure of winter ferry service, according to the Ati study, would mean the loss of 793 jobs in Nova Scotia;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister of Transportation, who spent last week in the United States promoting the Port of Halifax, take some time this week to reason with the federal Minister of Transport and attempt to have him understand the severe economic consequences facing southwestern Nova Scotia if ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbour is cancelled for the winter.
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 the 1993 Liberal election platform stated that violence against women is patently unacceptable socially, personally and morally; and
Whereas Nova Scotians have been shocked by the murder of Janice Clements of Yarmouth County, the second murder in two weeks of a woman by a man with whom she had a relationship, plus the other violent deaths in a house with small children; and
Whereas there is no room for delay or half measures in confronting the morally unacceptable and repugnant violence against women in our society;
Therefore be it resolved that this House observe a minute of silence to honour the memory of Janice Clements and the others who died Saturday in Yarmouth County, and to affirm the urgency of strict enforcement of all laws regarding spousal assault.
Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
It calls for a moment's silence in honour of the victims.
[One minute of silence was observed.]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas yesterday the world celebrated the 47th Anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
Whereas while we in Canada take many of the 30 articles contained within the declaration as a given right, many around the world are faced with great struggles to ensure that they too have access to those same rights; and
Whereas Canada plays a key role helping others see that the principles are secured and maintained;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House, and all Nova Scotians, commit to do our part to ensure that on the anniversary and year-round, we secure universal and effective recognition and observance of the principles of the agreement.
Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.
MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas today, Jack Hartery, President of Stora Forest Industries Limited and the Honourable Donald Downe, Minister of Natural Resources, announced the expansion of the Point Tupper operation to include a super-calendared (SC) paper line which will produce 350,000 tons of SC paper a year when in full operation; and
Whereas this addition, estimated at a cost of $650 million, will employ 800 people during the construction and secure 200 newsprint and SC production jobs for the long term; and
Whereas over the years Stora has received excellent support from employees, suppliers, woodlot owners, contractors, truckers, the community and the federal, provincial and municipal governments;
Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the management and employees of Stora Forest Industries Ltd. upon the announcement of a new super-calendared paper line which will result in many benefits for the company, workers, community and province.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Creelman family from Otterbrook, Colchester County have quickly made their mark in the international show ring for world-class champion draft horses; and
Whereas at six major shows in the United States this year, including the World Percheron Congress in Kansas City, the Creelman family finished first 23 times, including six firsts at the Congress, while placing second 13 times; and
Whereas the American Percheron Association has labelled the Creelman operation as substance with style;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature extend the very best to Mr. Ken Creelman and family for their dedication in making Nova Scotia a recognized international entity in the showing of draft horses.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for 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 this province witnessed a double murder-suicide at the hands of an intimate partner, within a week of a similar event in Sydney; and
Whereas both men accused of the murders - one dead, one hospitalized - had been in court over the charge of uttering death threats, but both roamed free following their trials in possession of a firearm; and
Whereas the Judge in the Sydney case, Lewis Matheson, allowed the man free on probation with the dismissing comment that, "I don't know whether it's your own fault or you happen to have a very sensitive mate who is easily rattled", mocking the seriousness of the situation before him;
Therefore be it resolved that this Justice Minister, who has heard complaints against this judge just one year ago, not simply wash his hands of the matter this time, and that he examine the decision of the Chief Judge once reached and, two, look into the reason both men accused were allowed to remain in possession of a firearm following their day in court.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I am going to allow that notice of motion to be tabled, but I think it lists one and then two in the resolved part. If it does, that is a double-barrelled resolution and we shouldn't be having those here.
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 the Justice Minister has primary responsibility, under the Provincial Court Act, to request a Judicial Council investigation of any matter relating to Provincial Court judges; and
Whereas Judge Lewis Matheson's recent comments during sentencing of Colin Boutilier are offensive, run counter to sound public policy, undermine protection of the public and raise questions about the effectiveness of warnings or partial suspensions of a judge; and
Whereas it is intolerable that women and children are placed at risk by judges who display bias against women and against minorities;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Justice Minister to forthrightly take up his responsibilities and immediately request a Judicial Council investigation of Judge Matheson's most recent behaviour and its apparent tragic consequences.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas considerable concern is being expressed about safety at a railway crossing just outside of Brookfield because of accidents involving narrow brushes with death; and
Whereas this railway crossing does not have flashing railway safety lights; and
Whereas there appears to be a great deal of confusion over exactly who is responsible for safety at this railway crossing;
Therefore be it resolved that as a result of last week's meeting between officials from Canadian National, Transport Canada, Canada LaFarge and the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation, Nova Scotia's Minister of Transportation play a lead role to ensure there are no more narrow brushes with death at this railway crossing.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
Are there further notices of motion? If not, that would appear to conclude the daily routine. We will now advance to Order of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business. Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 55.
Bill No. 55 - Community Colleges Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The debate on Bill No. 55 was adjourned by the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, who has approximately one-half hour remaining.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will try to keep my thoughts focused so that I don't stray too far back into territory I had covered on Friday during the second reading debate. (Interruption) Somebody wants me to repeat them but I shall try not to, given the shortage of time.
Mr. Speaker, the piece of legislation that we have before us is indeed a very important piece of legislation. As I said on Friday and not wanting to repeat, just doing exactly what I said that I wasn't going to do, but in opening my remarks I have to say that in examining the legislation, examining the minister's comments when he introduced the legislation, one can't help but notice that there are some fundamental discrepancies between the two. If, in fact, the legislation was able to achieve and did achieve and accomplish all of those things that the minister said in his statement, the bill certainly would be far more palatable as it sits, however, it doesn't do that.
Now, there are a number of items that I want to touch on very briefly before I get into the main thing that I want to talk about this afternoon, with the few minutes that I have remaining. Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns that I have when we are talking about whether it is a community college system, whether we are talking about universities or whether we are talking about the public education system or the public system for Primary to Grade 12, I sometimes wonder if we don't lose sight of the focus and the primary principle of education. When we take a look at this bill and when we take a look at what is being said about this bill by the minister, it would appear that the primary function of this bill, although it is an important function, but the primary thing that is trying to be done is supposedly to meet the needs of industry. In particular, the way it is read and the way we look at it, that would appear with regard to large industry.
Now, maybe, Mr. Speaker, a very valid use and some very valid programs that may be able to be offered, for example, at the Nautical Institute - which is going to become the Nautical Community College system when the two are amalgamated in the Strait area - one of the things that may be able to be offered in that community college will be programs that are going to be training people to take the new jobs that are going to be available at Stora. Maybe Stora Forest Industries will be providing some of the costs or paying for the costs of the training programs that would be offered at that community college system. I don't know if any such agreement has been reached, as it was with the ITT Sheraton, although I don't want to compare the two as being the same, because training somebody to be a blackjack dealer and training somebody to work in a pulp mill are very different things. But they have been used and the community college system can provide very valid, very important links and training.
When one takes a look, too, at what, for example, the Nova Scotia Federation of Independent Businesses are saying, they, supposedly, are identifying thousands of jobs that exist in Nova Scotia, but for which there are not people trained. Surely, Mr. Speaker - and in this legislation, the way it is set up, there aren't those kind of links - there should be links with the business community where those business communities are directly plugged in to the community college system to ensure that those, in small industry, small business, who don't have the resources and wouldn't be able to put on major programs in the community college system, their needs are going to be met as well.
In addition, there needs to be, as I said earlier, links between the public school system, and the university system, to ensure that there is an easy flow of individuals from one to the other and to ensure that those who are often referred to as the forgotten people, those children who are unable to be successful in the public school system will be able to receive skilled development and training in the community college system because there aren't the resources available to provide that in the public school system.
The minister, in his opening statement, said that one of the things the government is going to be concerned about is accessibility and therefore tuition fees are not going to be able to increase without the permission of the Governor in Council. Well, that, I am afraid, does not really give tremendous comfort, I am sure, to many people when one takes a look at how this government considers accessibility when it comes to university and other programs and when you take a look at how the costs for those kinds of programs have been going up when one takes a look at what little this government has done to try to fight the major assault on these programs in Nova Scotia by the federal government in their CAP and in their cutbacks under the transfers which are coming down the tubes to the tune of $328 million.
Now, there are many other items that I could talk about but the last thing, really, that I didn't deal with on Friday and other times that I spoke that I want to touch on briefly this afternoon, has to do with workers' rights. Now in the statement that the minister made, the minister said that the final principle, and this was in the outlined, four main guiding principles to the bill, "The final principle is: fairness to employees. Government has developed a consistent, reasoned approach to labour relations. We believe this approach treats employees fairly by protecting collective agreements, salaries, benefits and other important employee rights.". So said the Minister of Education. So also had said, not in those exact words but in essence, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Human Resources with respect to the merger that is to take place with the metro area hospitals.
Do you know, through tremendous hard work, negotiations and openness on behalf of the board for the new QE II and the unions that represent the workers (Interruption) Yes, it is, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Minister of Education. Through their hard work and their efforts, they were able to actually iron out agreements that will, in fact, protect the rights and so on of workers to the greatest degree. You know when one takes a look at this bill and the way that it is currently written, it resembles very much what was done in the other pieces of legislation like what was done in the Cape Breton Regional Municipalities Bill which ended up causing so many hardships and problems for many of the workers in that area. One of the fundamental things that obviously has to be changed here, in this bill, is to make the bill match the minister's words because at the present time, this bill does not treat all employees fairly. It is not a reasoned approach. It may be consistent in terms of what has been done in other pieces of legislation but it is certainly not a reasoned approach to labour relations.
I would welcome the Minister of Education making an interjection some time in this debate to indicate whether or not the Minister of Education is prepared to have this bill amended or to set up a procedure or structure where there can be or there will be, binding upon the new employer, the new boards, provisions similar to those - or the same as those but obviously making them appropriate for the particular institutions, but similar to those - that were worked out with civil servants at the Victoria General Hospital.
There are a number of major difficulties here. For example, on the QE II board merger, there was a board already in place that was able to enter into discussions with the representatives of the workers. No such boards currently exist in the community colleges. So, obviously, that board was able, through the eight memorandums, to agree to transfer - and it is going to become binding on the new board, according to the memorandum they signed -to the employees, once they go to the new board, the rights that civil servants had, as civil servants, those are going to be transferred, according to that agreement. That board agreed to it.
Here in the community colleges, we don't have such boards at the present time. So, they can't enter into negotiations, because they don't exist. But the minister does and the current structure does. So, surely to Heavens, Mr. Speaker, if we are going to try to have a system where we are going to have a reasoned approach and a consistent approach to labour relations in this province, that is going to treat employees fairly and protect their collective rights, benefits, salaries, et cetera, this bill needs to be amended or changed in such a fashion that it is going to provide the NSGEU members, NSTU members, the CUPE members, and other members of collective bargaining units and employees who work within the community college system, with the same kind of level of protections of their rights and benefits - and that means all of them - that the QE II board was able and willing to negotiate with their employees.
Another very important thing that was signed over the weekend, which I think in this bill should be changed, has to do with a particular clause, which I won't mention because we are not in clause by clause debate. Right now you would have matters dealing with the contracts and the merging of those contracts referred to the Labour Relations Board. Now in the new agreement that was reached between the board and employees of the QE II, the agreement will mean that those matters would not be referred to the Labour Relations Board unless there is a joint application. The agreement that they signed is to become binding upon that board as soon as it assumes office.
I don't know if all government members have had a chance to read that memorandum of agreement. If all have, then hopefully, Mr. Speaker, there will be support on government benches to ensure that we do, in fact, have consistency across the board and to ensure that this legislation is amended in such a way to reflect a consistency and equality.
Right now, in the minister's statement, he said in his statement when he announced the bill at his press conference, "Provisions in the bill allow for a smooth transition for employees to their new employer, the colleges. But let me state again, Mr. Speaker, all collective agreements, all salaries and benefits, all successor rights, all seniority, all pension plans are fully protected.". You don't need to, ". . . take my word for it, . . . it is imbedded . . .", right in the legislation in black and white.
Those kinds of words we heard before. It was found in another situation to be very wanting, that in fact what was said wasn't the case, and that corporation recognized it. That corporation was willing to work with the employees and their representatives to ensure that there was no disruption.
What I would seek from the Minister of Education is a kind of assurance, a commitment that this bill will be changed, to ensure that the workers in the community college system, regardless of which campus they may happen to work at, regardless of what bargaining unit they may be under, ensure that this legislation will be amended to provide them with the same level and degree of protection, at least that is being provided by that corporation, through the agreements it was able to work out through good faith discussions with the workers.
Now obviously in this bill I still question, I don't understand why there has to be the section in here about referring matters to the Labour Relations Board in any event, Mr. Speaker, because there are the opportunities now for joint applications. What happened, in effect, in the negotiations in the agreement was to say that regardless of the clause which says that that will happen, our agreement with you is that it won't happen unless it is by mutual agreement.
Mr. Speaker, that whole clause could be taken out, it is not needed. I would sincerely hope that the minister will signal his willingness, his eagerness to provide for consistency in this. The Education Act, I can't get into that but that hasn't gone to the Committee of the Whole House stage and amendments can even be made there to provide for consistency and protection for workers who work in those. But even if you take a look at some of the stories that have appeared in the paper, the last thing we need if we are going to try to attract businesses and industry to this province, and we need to attract those, we need to encourage and promote those that exist, to expand, to create more employment, good paying jobs, we have to have, or try to have, labour stability in the province.
Nobody wants to talk strike, nobody wants to talk job action to try to obtain the right to maintain only that which they currently have. Those who work in the community college system, I am sure, Mr. Speaker, will not be coming and looking for any added rights and benefits and privileges beyond what they already have. We never heard that from any of the presenters who appeared in Law Amendments Committee so far on the QE II bill, not one asking for more, only to maintain that which they already have.
Surely to Heavens, Mr. Speaker, that is a very legitimate and very reasonable request -develop a consistent, reasoned approach to labour relations. The opportunity is there, the bill just simply does not do it.
The government says we believe this approach treats employees fairly. Well, let's make sure that we treat employees fairly. If you are a member of the Civil Service, working for a hospital, working for a government department, working for a community college, people deserve to be treated fairly, as do the support staff, as do the teachers, the members of the NSTU who work in those colleges. I don't know the total number of employees who work in the community college systems, from support staff, through instructors to administrators. I think there are in the range of about 400 members of the Teachers Union and about 250 or 260 under the NSGEU, plus all the other support staff. We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of people who have a very critical and crucial job to do to ensure that those businesses, whether they be Stora or some other businesses, like those that Mr. O'Brien and independent businesses spoke of, where there are so many thousands of jobs looking for training, those individuals who are providing this training are crucial. If we are going to maintain high quality people and maintain the morale and the sense of enthusiasm, they ask to be treated fairly.
We are told that there is to be an assessment and it will be determined which programs will be continuing and which ones will be eliminated. That is going to come about early in the new year, January, February, March, some time, Mr. Speaker. I think the minister had said in February when he made his announcement about closing the five campuses and eliminating 800 training seats, but announcements tend to get bounced back. Once this bill is proclaimed, those, for example, who are government employees, if they have not been given their notice by the time those new boards are set up, once they cease to be civil servants, they will lose their ability to move into or apply for positions within the Civil Service as those positions become vacant. One has to wonder if the timing of one was intentional to ensure that those people would lose their benefits, lose their rights, to be doing such applying.
So, in keeping with what the minister had said, I want to move a reasoned amendment and I think a very reasonable, reasoned amendment. This one is modelled after one that was accepted by yourself, Mr. Speaker, not too long ago, so hopefully it will be in order today. What I am going to move is as follows: "That the words after `that' be deleted and the following be substituted therefor: this House affirm the legitimacy and inviolability of signed and existing collective wage contracts resulting from collective bargaining with workers in Nova Scotia.". I so move and I have copies to provide to other members of the House.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, the House will be recessed while the Clerks and I retire to the ante-room here and study this proposed amendment. Then we will issue a ruling as to its admissibility.
The House is recessed.
[2:52 p.m. The House recessed.]
[2:59 p.m. The House reconvened.]
MR. SPEAKER: Honourable ladies and gentlemen. The Clerks at the Table and I have had an opportunity to canvass this proposed amendment with reference to the provisions of Beauchesne. Beauchesne is the only textbook we can appeal to. There is no provision for an amendment of this type in Sir Erskine May's treatise nor in the rules of this House. Beauchesne establishes, at Page 200, Paragraph 670, "It is also competent for a Member, who desires to place on record any special reasons for not agreeing to the second reading of the bill, to move what is known as a `reasoned amendment'.". However, debate on the bill and amendments to the bill are governed by the overall principle of relevancy. Debate on a bill has to be relevant to the contents of the bill. Proposed amendments have also to be relevant to the contents of the bill. The amendment must strictly relate to the bill that the House is considering and not just some side aspect or side issue.
Now we consider that the amendment proposed deals with a side issue and not primarily with the gist or essence of the bill. We consider that the bill deals primarily with the establishment of a stand-alone system of community colleges and that that is the subject matter of the bill, not collective bargaining which is a side issue and not the main principle of the bill. Therefore the amendment is ruled out of order as being irrelevant and not meeting the necessary requirements of relevance.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 55, the Community Colleges Act. The Minister of Education has stated essentially that the principle of this bill is pretty much as follows, that the Province of Nova Scotia and its community college system, up to this point, has been a system which has been a successor to a regional vocational school system. Now we are transforming, by way of this legislation, the community college system into a quasi-post-secondary type of institution.
Now in the minister's introductory remarks, when briefing on this bill, the minister indicated that, "The mandate of the Nova Scotia Community College, 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.'". Now, that introductory statement by the Minister of Education is, in itself, commendable, Mr. Speaker, and we don't have a whole lot of problem with trying or with the minister's efforts to enhance the province's economic and social well-being by meeting those occupational training needs of the population.
Now the Collège de l'Acadie shares this mandate but with the focus on the training needs of Acadians and francophones. We certainly appreciate and support that concept. But I guess what occurs to me as being very problematic with this piece of legislation, and one of the first questions that I have, has to do with dialogue and consultation. Now I am not sure if the minister has had a great deal of consultation relative to the legislation being introduced, if, in fact, he has any. I say that with all respect, Mr. Speaker. The minister and his officials talk at great length about existing post-secondary education systems that we have in the province. The minister tells us, by way of the very language during his introductory remarks, I believe we are to take that the Nova Scotia Community College will become part of our post-secondary system of institutions.
The minister, by way of a news release back on April 10th of this year, talked at great length about the new Truro campus and the Nova Scotia Community College. The Truro campus is going to be part of the Nova Scotia Community College. The minister tells us that the Nova Scotia Community College system is going to link training and economic development by offering totally new - and the key word, the operative word, Mr. Speaker, I believe, is totally new - programs in ways that respond to the needs of employers, and I think the minister told us of students and, of course, to the needs of entrepreneurs. We have many entrepreneurs and many aspiring entrepreneurs in the province. So we support the concept, if you will, and the principle of what the Minister of Education is saying but, in fact, you know as well as I do that talk is cheap. Why I say that is because the Truro campus at the present time has the capability and the capacity to service more than 1,000 students. We are also told that that institution, the Truro campus, part of the Nova Scotia Community College system, also has the capability to service countless more public and private sector clients.
Now the minister says yes, but the problem at that particular institution, Mr. Speaker, is that at the present time I believe there are only 87 students enrolled at the Truro campus. Now the Truro campus, which is part of the Nova Scotia Community College system, provides training, and we support providing training and development of our young people and, of course, developing our mature students. We have no problem with that. There are programs that the new Truro campus is providing, such as computer information systems and recreational leadership, which are also being provided by some of our private facilities. That is why I asked the minister if he feels that he has had enough consultation with some of our private facilities that are providing similar programs.
By way of the minister's introductory remarks, he stated that he has had consultation. I am wondering how meaningful it was, when you have a new facility, such as the Truro campus, in direct competition with some of our existing private facilities, such as in the community of Truro, the Success Business College, for example, provides computer and recreational courses. So I am hoping the minister had some real good consultation before he came forward with this legislation and isn't waiting to come in with a whole bunch of amendments, such as we are seeing with the new Education Act.
Now if you have facilities in competition with one another sometimes that can be in the best interest of the public, but when the government is involved you have to question as to whether or not competition, in this case, is good for Nova Scotians. Now my expectation is that the minister's offhand response to some of the concerns I am trying to put forward here today would be that the government and the Nova Scotia Community College are not in competition because the community college and that system plays a different role and, among other things, it meets the occupational training requirements of our people.
The minister will tell us that the labour market, perhaps he could tell us is distinct from the role and function of the courses and programs provided by our present post-secondary education system. We have a number, Mr. Speaker, and I won't even try to name all the existing post-secondary education institutions we have in the province. They are more academically oriented than occupational training oriented.
The fact of the matter is, and notwithstanding what I have said, I still believe it is worthwhile for me and for the Official Opposition to raise the concern of a potential confusion in competition between the two systems; the academic system that is in place and, as I pointed out, our existing universities provide academic oriented education and the Nova Scotia Community College will provide occupational training.
Now a second principle that the minister suggests, Mr. Speaker, and I welcome the new Speaker, the second principle in the Community Colleges Bill suggests that the community colleges are now positioned and will, in fact, have the legal ability, so to speak, or the legal trappings necessary to become self-governed colleges.
Now the minister tells us in his justification or defence of that argument that this public policy shift will enable the colleges to become more efficient and perhaps more competitive in securing private investment and bringing the private sector dollars in for things such as customized training and contracts to ensure strengthened growth, in terms of the independent business community. That is commendable, too I think we can support that. We have some very real concerns, or at least the Official Opposition has some very real concerns about just how competitive the Nova Scotia Community College will become when compared to our existing facilities and the programs that they provide and even our academic institutions, who are also very interested at least in how this legislation is going to affect them down the road, so to speak, and their ability to provide the courses and curriculum that they presently are.
The minister points out further that the boards will ensure training decisions are directly linked to economic opportunities and the needs of the people the colleges will serve. That is quite a mandate for the board to have. Again I point out that this board will become effective after the legislation is proclaimed. I am hoping that sometime the minister will tell us what the rationale for that is. We have seen other legislation come forward, which I shan't mention at this time, that provides a board is formed, in fact, before the legislation is actually proclaimed. All of this having been said by the minister, I think it is very interesting. I think most of us in Opposition are clearly trying to determine where the Minister of Education is going with our community colleges.
I know the minister is going to stay very involved and have close contact with his board of governance. In the legislation the minister's own document says that the college will continue to be accountable to the Minister of Education and government in areas of public interest. I think that is well-reasoned and I think that should be supported. I hope the minister doesn't leave everything in the hands of this new board that is going to be created.
There is a very distinct difference between the two boards that are going to be formulated. The Collège de l'Acadie board actually doesn't have a member from the administrative staff within its composition but the board of the Nova Scotia Community College, as the legislation points out, will have a member of the administrative staff. I asked the minister the other day during debate on an amendment if perhaps he would enlighten us as to why that feature is included in the legislation and perhaps he will.
I think that we do have a problem because I don't know if the boards, which are described and certainly will be well-established in this legislation, are going to really run these community colleges. Or will they be simply doing things that are at the whim of the minister of the government of the day? It states very clearly in the minister's own document that they will be accountable to the minister. We are encouraging the minister to keep close contact with the board and the board does have a very broad base, when you look at the composition of the board, very intelligent people.
I think it is important that the minister stays at arm's length but certainly he must continue to always be very cognizant of just what the board is doing. That minister by way of this legislation is conferring a fair amount of power upon himself; it is very important that the Minister of Education keep an eye on the board, keep an eye on the workings of the board, but it is important that he doesn't become over-bearing. I know that sounds a bit ambiguous; well, the legislation is a little bit ambiguous. We are talking about a board, we are talking about a minister being involved, we are talking about a minister not being involved.
I have some very serious concerns about the rationale behind forming a board after the legislation is proclaimed. The legislation talks about the board deciding who will be members of the board. Well, where is the point that the board becomes the official board, Mr. Speaker? That is a question that I know the Minister of Education will let us know.
Now, the Minister of Education, I think, should clearly describe for us what his definition of public interest is. He talks about the board being accountable to him when it is in the best interests of the public. I hope that the minister's interpretation and description of public interest is similar to mine. I know that some of the adjectives and some of the nouns are described under the definitions but I don't think, unless I am mistaken, and perhaps it is in Part II, because it isn't under the part referring to Collège de l'Acadie, public interest isn't included when we are looking at the different descriptions of words that are very operative relative to this legislation. No, it is not described at all. So I think the minister perhaps should outline a few areas or he is going to keep an eye on that board.
You can't have it both ways, of course, and we don't want the minister to be in there in a dictatorial fashion but we do want to know what the minister means when he says the board will be accountable to me. That is essentially what he is saying when it is in the public's best interests. So, Mr. Speaker, I think I perhaps have overstated that concern but it is very important that we all have a clear, concise understanding of what the minister is talking about.
Now one thing we don't know - and I did run through the legislation a couple of different times, Mr. Speaker, - who will be able to attend the college. In fact, we don't know who can attend Nova Scotia Community College at the present time. I suppose the minister considers this an elevation, so to speak, moving, elevating the community college system to a post-secondary system. We have to know more precisely who will be able to attend. I don't think the minister is going to put in some experimental system as far as academic entrance requirements and things of that nature. That is not what I am suggesting. But the minister has been a little ambiguous himself and a little vague on this legislation because the admission requirements and things of that nature have not been clearly spelled out.
The minister may interpret his language and the language of his legal beagles, Mr. Speaker, that helped him put this forward, and I say that with no respect. The legal people who put the legislation together, I am sure they understand very well what they are saying but it is difficult for some of us. I thought perhaps the minister, again, might enlighten us a little bit relative to that concern.
Now there is a clause in the bill that states that the college is a post-secondary education system and another Clause 54 (2)(a) points out that the board established under the legislation, shall ". . . establish programs of study for the College consistent with the mandate of the College; and (b) establish guidelines for the establishment, expansion, suspension or transfer of any program of study, service or facility of the College to ensure the orderly growth and development of the College.".
Now, it should be noted with considerable interest that there is a clause in there that says that, "(3) The programs of study and the guidelines referred to in . . ." another section, Mr. Speaker, why I mention these sections and not name the clauses is because they must be approved, these guidelines that are going to be established, by the Minister of Education. So already, I believe, we have identified a number of problems and the potential conundrum, I think, that I am identifying here that may develop, is the fact that the minister could essentially disapprove or discredit an established guideline that the board recognizes but, if the minister doesn't recognize it, the minister could go in and essentially omit some of those guidelines. So that is another concern that we have relative to the legislation.
Now, the minister has said, and if I might, I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, the minister had a handout relative to the legislation and it has to do with public policy principle, and it is enunciated in the legislation. It seems to run somewhat counter with what the minister actually said in one of his handouts. If I just might, and the minister has I am sure ample copies of this handout and to quote the Minister of Education, back on the occasion that I am referring to, the minister said, "Obviously a Board of Governors puts the Colleges in a much better position to link training to economic needs and opportunities. But the needs of the business and industry can change rapidly. If we expect the Colleges to serve these changing training needs more effectively, we must allow the Colleges to operate more like a business.".
Now, that is what the Minister of Education said, Mr Speaker. Yet, the minister is telling us, by way of this legislation, that he will have the ability to approve these guidelines, programs, things that talks of expansion, things of that nature. So, what I am suggesting, and very respectfully, is that it is going to be terribly hard for the Minister of Education to have it both ways. It is going to be extremely difficult for the Minister of Education to have it both ways.
Now, I believe that government, per se, is too large and quite awkward and cumbersome to try to deliver a flexible, germane, relevant-type training. I think it is going to be difficult for the government to try to deliver that type of training and those types of programs. So, the minister came forward again with some statements along the lines, like, we don't run our public schools or our universities from within government because it wouldn't make sense; but then we go and look at the legislation and we find where the minister has the ability, by way of this legislation, to disapprove established programs if they don't meet the minister's idea of just what a good quality program should be. So there are areas in this bill that certainly need to be more clearly understood.
I think it is important that our colleges, our Nova Scotia Community College system does have freedom and I think it is important that the Nova Scotia Community College system should be able to respond quickly to the needs of business and the needs of industry. But the minister talks about customized training opportunities that make money and I agree, I believe it is time that we did go out and conduct more meaningful consultation with our businesses across this province. I mean, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you can think of businesses, and I am sure each and every MLA in this province can think of a business, that probably, if given the opportunity to expand, would do so, but it is extremely difficult to find the right person trained to meet the needs of the particular business that you might have in mind.
So I think we should reduce our reliance on public tax dollars by encouraging some of our entrepreneurs and some of our businesses and some of our industry to become involved with our Nova Scotia Community College system. I see it as a positive step, a step in the right direction and, for that, I commend the minister.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I do have some concerns about some of the sincerity and some of the effectiveness of the language that is in the bill, contained in different sections. I have concerns about the board being able to get itself into a position to better link training to the economic needs and opportunities. When those needs are changing rapidly, it is important that that board has the mandate to address those concerns.
You know the minister still has clauses in there that confer an incredible amount of power on the minister. So I hope he gives the board a free hand when it comes to dealing with the private business and the private industry in our province because I think our small businesses - businesses of all sizes, small, medium and big - can use a boost. If the businesses in this province are given the opportunity and given the right tools to operate, I think you will see this province prosper. We need a shot in the arm.
Today, Mr. Speaker, we had a very positive announcement, a big shot in the arm, yes. We had a major announcement and I think Stora Forest Industries will, in fact, rely on our Nova Scotia Community College system. I might just digress a little bit but I think we are talking about linking things together, it is important that we do talk a little bit about Stora and our Nova Scotia Community College system. One thing we did mention during that announcement, and I was, of course, very pleased with the announcement, I think the announcement also underscores how important our natural resource known as the forestry is. We have to be very concerned about the sustentation of the forestry in this province because if the forestry doesn't sustain, it is going to be extremely difficult for Stora to produce that 350,000 tons annually of the, I guess it is soft calendered, SC paper, or whatever it is called.
I am very supportive of Stora and I congratulate and commend Stora for coming forward. We should note that Stora is doing this, as the minister indicated, without provincial and federal dollars. For that we should commend the good neighbour, Stora.
I would like to talk a little bit, Mr. Speaker, about the admission standards - yes, we have to talk about the bill here. I would like to talk a little bit about the admission standards that are going to be required when one does go into the Nova Scotia Community College system. Now as I said, we read through the bill and I am still extremely concerned about the admission standards. I think that is going to be a policy issue, admission standards and just what is required to enable a student to be able to enter into a program offered by this new, what is really, I call it a quasi-post-secondary system because it deals more with occupational training than academic studies and training of that sort.
The policy that is going to be developed respecting admission standards is one that many students, I would say thousands of our students across the province, are waiting, and some of them are waiting impatiently for that policy to come forward.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there are many, in fact thousands, again, I say of our young people here in Nova Scotia who are at an age where they are legally entitled to leave school but at the present time they don't have the necessary marketable skills, so to speak. So those are some of the people who are waiting very eagerly for the minister, for the board, I am not sure who will develop the policy. The minister talks about approving different programs. I know the board, based on the composition of the board, that they will have the expertise to come up with admission standards.
I am hoping that the minister doesn't use, if I may, his veto power, Mr. Speaker, because it is important that these admission standards be produced and certainly put forward as soon as possible. A very high percentage of the group of thousands and thousands of Nova Scotians have not attained, perhaps we could call it a report card or a transcript of academic performance, but just because they don't have the necessary report card that will enable them to gain access to the existing post-secondary system, perhaps this minister and his board will give some consideration to those people who don't have that transcript of academic performance.
I know that it wasn't too long ago that our vocational system was replaced by this community college system, and some of us have some very serious concerns about the vocational system. I guess you can call a Nova Scotia community college whatever you want, but it is going to, hopefully, provide training and programs for our, I was going to say, young people, but for our mature students, for all our people who enrol. It is going to provide programs that our people need.
Now, that academic transcript that I talked about and performance generally may not be sufficient. That is a concern. The admissions selection committee is really going to have to look at the programs that they are going to provide. If you are going to be offering a program at the new community college, that program better reflect the needs of the business community and it also should be geared, if you will, in such a way that students, irrespective of their academic background, should be given an opportunity, because we have the existing post-secondary system in place that provides for our students and individuals who are perhaps what some people see to be more intellectually sound than others. I don't subscribe personally to that theory, but I do have some very serious concerns about what programs are going to be offered at the Nova Scotia Community College.
Now, will non-academic - I guess the question I am trying to raise with the minister and I hope that they will qualify - and mature students be able to qualify, will they meet the admissions standards that are going to be set? Many of us can recount stories - and I think we all could if we reached back a little bit - we could reference stories and situations where hundreds of young people have not been able to gain access to the community college system as it has been run to this point, because a very high percentage of the enrolment at our community college system is already young men and women who do have post-secondary education experience. They have received that post-secondary education experience at our existing post-secondary education systems, so we do have some concerns as to who will meet the admission requirements of the new Nova Scotia Community College system.
We don't want to be turning too darned many people away, Mr. Speaker, if there is a very good reason to train and enter into a program, if somebody has an aspiration, I think it is important that we, as legislators and lawmakers, try to provide programs where all Nova Scotians can attain the goal that they so desire. I know it is extremely difficult, and it is extremely difficult when you are trying to be financially responsible. I am not suggesting that we be all things to all people, that is not what I am saying, but I hope that the admissions standards at the Nova Scotia Community College system are not so restrictive that many of our young people have to walk away and, in fact, look elsewhere and maybe even have to apply for some social program in order to continue to live in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Now, I think it was another section, maybe Clause 63, I am not sure but, nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, there is concern about the tuition fees and just what the charges will be. There should be a very clear tuition schedule, I believe, and a policy, again I believe, that must be very clear and it must be very transparent for all our students to understand what the costs are going to be not only for the students, but in a lot of cases, the parents; it is important that the parents of students understand too what the tuition fees are going to be at the Nova Scotia community colleges.
So I am asking the minister if he will come forward with some guarantee that admissions and tuition fees will be crafted in such a way and designed in such a manner that they will enable those who simply will never make it to our existing post-secondary education system. It will give them an opportunity to learn, Mr. Speaker, and learn a trade and learn to be an integral part of our whole Nova Scotia economy. We do not want our young people to walk away feeling disenfranchised or disaffected. We want our young people and mature students to have access to this new community college, quasi-post-secondary education system.
I touched on the composition of the board of governors as referred to in the legislation, and I hope the minister perhaps will make a few comments relative to the composition of the board. We do have that concern that the board that will represent the Nova Scotia Community Colleges will have an administrator sitting with the other members and the board of the Collège de l'Acadie will not have somebody from the administrative side. I think it is important that you have all the partners represented when you are going to have any given board, if you can.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know if we are talking about, I guess even if it is a volunteer board or a board that receives a stipend. It is still important that you get as broad a base as you can. So all areas of the particular concern, initiative, organization are represented. So I am asking the minister to give some consideration to permitting a member of the administrative staff to become and be permitted, as a member of the board of the Collège de l'Acadie.
Private trade schools do offer courses, I know most of us are aware that some of our private trade schools are going through some very difficult times. They do not need another facility with the government's blessing, so to speak, that will be in direct competition with them. So I hope the minister looks at the programs. I hope the board looks at the programs as they develop them and make absolutely, positively certain that they are not in competition with some of our existing private facilities.
Mr. Speaker, we have taken a close look at the legislation and our concerns are somewhat similar to the concerns we had relative to the Education Bill and the QE II Health Sciences Centre Act. There is a clause in the bill that provides that the Labour Standards Code will not apply. Again, it will not apply to a period of employment with the predecessor college and that is very unfortunate because some of our present employees, who work within the Nova Scotia Community College system, perhaps would like to apply for a job at the Truro campus. The Truro campus is non-union, as I understand it, and here we have 450 employees of the NSTU. We also have 303 employees of the NSGEU. If this provision stays intact, in my opinion, it gives the minister, for that matter, it gives the board the right to do away with employees, if you want, even employees that they keep. The board and the minister will have the right to strip them of some of their severance rights as set out in sections of the Labour Standards Code.
The Minister of Education is shaking his head but the legislation provides that the Labour Standards Code does not apply to the period of employment with the predecessor college. So the time you work for a predecessor college, as I understand in the legislation and the minister is shaking his head, I wonder if the minister would care to respond to that comment. What we have read is that the Labour Standards Code does not apply. If the Labour Standards Code does not apply, the minister will know full well that the board can go, again with all respect, cherry picking if they like. There is nothing in there to enshrine the rights of the employee and there is nothing to guarantee the rights that people have attained through collective agreements.
A collective agreement must be and must continue to be, a well respected document. The Minister of Education knows full well that the same provision is in this bill that was and as far as I know, it is still in the QE II Health Sciences Centre Bill. In fact, even though there was an agreement reached I see some concerns and similarities between the two pieces of legislation. In fact, I had an employee who is a constituent of the riding of Truro-Bible Hill, who commutes through my constituency, through your constituency, over into the constituency of Hants West and that individual has told me that he has worked 17 years with the Nova Scotia Community College or the vocational school system and because of this legislation and by way of this legislation, he has the potential to lose any right pertaining to employment that he has achieved and any right that he will achieve in the future, if the board of the Collège de l'Acadie or the Nova Scotia Community College deem fit by way of Section 71 of the Labour Standards Code.
I know the Minister of Human Resources would certainly love to respond but I know he is too busy doing other things at the present time. As I understand it and as people with legal minds understand it, the Labour Standards Code, if not recognized, gives an employer or the board or the minister the right to strip away, if they so desire. In fact, it gives them an unfettered hammer, if you will. One of the chief heckle-berries of the Legislature is back this week but look, we can't get caught up in the rabbit tracks but that is a concern we have.
The work load of the Labour Relations Board, and we can't get into the different pieces of legislation but what I am saying is, the provision is in here, it is in other legislation and the employees are concerned. Why wouldn't the employees of the Nova Scotia Community College system be concerned too? I thought I should raise that, we have been throwing around a few kudos relative to the legislation but we can't be too complimentary because we have to be concerned about our employees. We can't afford to have one more Nova Scotian thrown out of work because of some dastardly deed done by this government and we have seen a few dastardly deeds. It is not intemperate or anything of that nature, although if you go to the dictionary and look up the word dastardly, you will find that it means cowardice, malicious. A deed, of course, is an act or something somebody would care to do.
I know it is not the Minister of Education, I would never insinuate that this Minister of Education would try to throw a Nova Scotian out of a job but that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is this legislation, by way of the language that is included in it, enables the board and the minister to delete whatever privileges . . .
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No, no.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it is important. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
AN HON. MEMBER: The fear-mongering is over.
MR. TAYLOR: That is not fear-mongering. I think it is important that the Minister of Education, I asked the Minister of Education earlier on in this debate if he had had any meaningful dialogue on consultation with the employees. I am led to believe now that he hasn't, because the employees don't know. What is going to happen? I will ask the Minister of Education. If he won't respond now, maybe he will at a later time. What is in this legislation that prohibits the board of governors from stripping away, from ripping away, collective agreements if the Labour Standards Code doesn't apply? That is the question.
AN HON. MEMBER: What is the answer?
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, what is the answer is what we would like to know. Obviously the government doesn't know what the answer is. It is unbelievable.
Mr. Speaker, just in concluding my contribution to second reading, I have talked about the principle of the bill and I feel there are two principles here at work. I have talked about consultation and I have asked the Minister of Education if there was meaningful dialogue and consultation. We are talking about a major change in governance. You know, any time you talk about change in governance of a facility, obviously employees have to be very concerned. We talked about who will be able to attend the college system and just how the policy is going to be crafted relative to the admission standards. We brought forward some concerns about the Minister of Education having a little bit too much power in here because the Minister of Education has the ability to approve and, of course, disapprove, perhaps, some established programs that the business community may identify as being very important but the Minister of Education may, on the other hand, not be as disposed as the business community.
We also wondered if non-academic and mature students will qualify and be able to attend our Nova Scotia Community College. A lot of mature students, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you know some, in fact there are quite a number now attending the old Colchester Community College. In fact, some of them came down here last year because they were taking a business information technology course, or a BIT course, and they found that the course and the programs and the education and the curriculum that they received was nowhere close to being adequate to meet the business demand, to meet the market, if you will, out there.
We had a discussion with the minister. That in itself is quite a story because the students were very concerned for their future and very concerned about the training that they were receiving, or lack of training that they were receiving, met with the minister and the Leader of our Opposition at that time. The Minister of Education sent representatives up to the Colchester Community College. To my way of thinking, after the consultations and after the talks were held, by everybody's admission, the school was not providing the necessary training and programs that were required. It wasn't really a question of liability as much as a question of settlement at the end of the day. Now we find that those students are in a quandary. They went out and hired some legal counsel and as we are speaking, as I understand it, they are taking their concern further and perhaps it will end up in the courts.
So I guess it is important when you are coming in with legislation and you are coming in with new programs and you are giving a board the approval to establish programs, that those programs darn well better provide the necessary curriculum that the students believe they are signing up for.
We have talked about private trade schools and the courses that private trade schools offer. We know there are some at the present time, that the Truro campus is offering, that are in direct competition with private enterprise. That is a travesty, Mr. Speaker. That is a travesty in itself.
Now collective agreements are extremely important, tendering and so on and so forth. (Interruption) No, there is not too much that seems to get the Minister of Education very concerned about this bill, but he should look at it and realize that there will be a number of presentations made to the Law Amendments Committee. I still want to make it clear, in closing, that there is a very real gap between what the training institutions offer and what the skills of the business community are. So the needs of the business community must be given very careful consideration when this board and that minister are preparing programs for the Nova Scotia Community College system. I thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, what a good opportunity this is to discuss this bill, An Act Respecting Collège de l'Acadie and the Nova Scotia Community College, Bill No. 55. This is a very important piece of legislation for Nova Scotians. The minister is very pleased and very proud of himself for bringing it forward. The legislation will help the community college upgrade for jobs by directly linking training to Nova Scotia's economic needs and opportunities. Well, this is what the minister said upon introduction of the bill.
The bill creates boards of governors for colleges to help them become more competitive, cut through bureaucratic red tape, and provide better quality training to support economic development. If that is really what this bill did, I don't think there would be a discussion on it. I think we would say great, go for it, because we want better quality training to support economic development. But is that really and truly what this bill does, Mr. Speaker? I think not.
However, the minister says the bottom line is that better training means graduates are more likely to find jobs. Well all the training in the world as a buggy whip maker, you may be trained as the finest maker of buggy whips in the whole world but, Mr. Speaker, nobody is using buggies much any more and you don't need the whips. So I think the minister must be very well aware and be made to be very well aware that this bill - although the minister is trying - really and truly we must make sure that education and job training are in the fields that are most required in today's economic environment.
You know, what is ready to roll in today's economic environment may, in fact, not be where the jobs are in two years, five years or ten years. Ten years ago, how many members of this Assembly had a fax machine? Probably not very many but, five years ago, several did and, today, I bet every member has a fax machine. You see, technology has changed and caught up with us and it has surpassed the goals of the Minister of Education if his goal is, training means graduates are more likely to find jobs. What I am afraid this minister is headed for is, training means graduates are more likely to find part-time, dead-end jobs because this minister wants to open up a series of community colleges, as he is going to call them, that are really operations for delivering short courses.
Years and years ago, the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro used to offer short courses in the winter and they would have one on bookkeeping. The farmer and his wife would go, or the farmer or his wife, but somebody from the family farm would go to Truro and they would learn a little bit about bookkeeping. Then they would have one on beekeeping and they would have one on animal husbandry, and these short courses would operate for a couple of weeks, for a month through the winter, and there would be various topics throughout the season.
They were very task oriented, but they were not what we would call education, because education and what we are looking for, I would hope, in a community college is to instill in the minds of the students the desire for continued learning throughout life. But, Mr. Speaker, this Minister of Education has decided he wants to have a bunch of short courses. If he gets a call on the phone from somebody who says, look, we are going to be painting the side of a building using some kind of paint, he is going to train them. Or if he has somebody call in and say, look, we need a bunch of people who can run a computer, he will train them. But that is all they are going to know how to do when they come out of this minister's course. You see, that is not education and that is not a college. That is a purveyor of short courses.
He wants our colleges to respond quickly to economic potential. But, you know, the minister says we don't run our public schools or our universities from within government. Well, the minister is correct; the government, perhaps, doesn't run our public schools, but the government certainly sets standards.
The standards, Mr. Speaker, for our public schools were a mockery last week when our Leader brought in the requirements of a Grade 12 graduate, that he must be able to read at a Grade 9 level. If you want to get out of Grade 9, you had better be able to read at a Grade 6 level. But, you see, the standards of public schools, the core curriculum is dedicated by the Minister and the Department of Education. But he wants to stop doing that and he does not want to acknowledge, because without thinking, he says, we don't run our public schools. They don't run the physical plant, but they do the important subjects in the schools of deciding what is going to be taught. They should not disappear from their responsibility of deciding the standards of community colleges.
They indicate, no, they don't run the universities; they fund universities and the board of governors and the senate of the universities, and they also take part in the operation of the universities. But there is a very high standard, an international and national standard for which universities strive. Because as soon as your university stops producing the kind of graduates and stops offering the kind of courses, and the professors and teachers stop publishing and writing, they darn soon find out that this is not the university way.
The minister says he wants to get out of the responsibility, likening it to the public schools or the universities. But this community college he is setting up is not in the same vein as exactly - I cannot figure his logic, Mr. Speaker, because I think it defies reason. The community colleges, are we going to set them adrift, as he would suggest, and simply when they get a call from somebody in business saying, look, we need somebody to learn how to be a pipefitter, we need a few welders, just rattle them out and send them over? That is not education. Truly the community colleges owe more to their students. If you are going to a college, you have to instill the desire for continued search for knowledge, that is part of the college system. If that part of the college system is eliminated in favour of simply making them job-specific, we, and Nova Scotians, will be the losers in the short run and the real losers in the long run.
Tuition increases are possible if recommended by the board of governors of these new colleges and approved by Cabinet. How much are the community college students going to be paying? That is a part where he wants to get rid of the government. He wants to take no responsibility for the increases in tuitions. He doesn't want the responsibility for the course work that is being done. What, indeed, does the minister want to be accountable for?
Government has developed a consistent reasoned approach to labour relations, the minister indicates in his press briefing. Well, anybody in Nova Scotia for the last six weeks who thinks the Nova Scotia Government has developed a consistent, reasoned approach to labour relations would have to be living under a barrel, Mr. Speaker. When the minister was indicating that, I think every government employee was trembling and fearing for their lives and their livelihood because this government has obviously taken aim at removing as many people from the Civil Service list as possible.
This bill is no exception. The minister didn't realize it at the time because surely no minister would say, and I will quote him again; "We believe this approach treats employees fairly by protecting collective agreements, salaries, benefits and other important employee rights.".
Mr. Speaker, the Teachers Union and the NSGEU threatened strike action. It was averted only at the last minute. The Minister of Education says that the government has developed a consistent, reasoned approach to labour relations. Truly this Bill No. 55 is no different than the Education Bill, nor is it any different from the QE II bill because right in there, the purpose of the bill is to eliminate as many government employees as possible.
I am sure we will hearing from the NSGEU and probably from the Teachers Union again because the Teachers Union already has a mandate to strike, if there are not changes to this legislation. It is not fair. The rights and privileges that these employees have become accustomed to over the years are suddenly taken away, simply by legislation, when neither of the ministers involved, Human Resources nor Education, really called that to attention. In fact, both of them said that is really not what this legislation means. Well, when it comes to legislation, what is the written word and what is passed through this Chamber is what really counts. A side agreement between employers and employees doesn't cut it when it is contrary to the legislation.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think the minister should really rethink his thoughts when he says the government has developed a consistent - well, they are consistent all right, they are putting the wood to every employee they can find - reasoned approach to labour relations. It is hardly a reasoned approach and it certainly isn't a reasonable approach to labour relations because employees are not being treated fairly. Government employees, members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the NSGEU, are concerned about their future livelihood. Why wouldn't they be? This legislation has the potential to make most of them or many of them, in fact, any number at all, become unemployed, without any recourse, because the legislation makes that possible.
You know, Mr. Speaker, we have to have a real concern for community colleges and the future growth of Nova Scotia. We want to enhance the province's economic and social well-being. Those are the lofty goals, the overview in the introduction to this bill. I think they are marvellous and I think they are something we should strive to attain.
We have to meet the occupational training requirements of the population and the labour market. You know there is not a thing wrong with that, but what happened between the bill and the words? You cannot read the words of the introduction to the overview that the minister presented and read this bill and, in all fairness, come to the same conclusions that the minister would have us come to. We have a real serious problem with this bill. It is not just the fact that 303 workers for the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union are involved, not just that there are 450 Nova Scotia Teachers Union employees involved and a very large number of other union and non-union employees throughout the community college system involved; we are not just speaking for them when we opposed some sections of this bill. We are speaking on behalf of the students in the schools today and the students that are coming to the schools in the future. We have to try to put ourselves in the place of those students and set up a system so that future generations of Nova Scotians realize exactly the path and the course they want to take for their career and for their employment.
We seem to be operating down a peculiar road at the present time with this Community Colleges Bill because rather than clarifying the waters of education, this bill totally and completely muddies the waters and it confuses the future students that may be thinking of community college. It does not give an opening or it does not give an avenue for vocational type training. The minister has not indicated that he is going to be bringing in a vocational training bill or anything close to it. There was nothing in the Education Bill, there is nothing here. Where are the students who are expecting to take vocational training courses going to go? That is the question that should be uppermost in the minds of Nova Scotians.
Those of us who have operated in the agricultural sector of the province meet with and work with people constantly who have at one time or another experienced vocational school training. Today, most of the people that I used to meet that had studied at the vocational school in Kentville, either welding or plumbing or pipefitting and so on, those people would not be attending that school today because it required senior matriculation to get in and most of them went from Grade 9. They took the General Grades 10, 11 and 12 along with their trade preferences, but now that avenue is closed to them.
I have a real concern for this bill. There is a real weakness, I feel in the bill and a real weakness in the community college system when we bring about deliberately to exclude vocational training from our schools. Sure there is a certain snob appeal for some of the people that are closely associated with the community colleges to have an upgraded standing and they can say, no, you cannot come in without senior matriculation. In some cases, no you cannot get in here unless you have a university degree. That is all well and good and maybe they feel nice saying that, but where are the young people going to go that need the benefit of a vocational-type training. Every student is not an academically inclined student. One way or another, we have to provide training and opportunities for those people, as well.
We heard a great deal of chit-chat a couple of years ago about the apprentice-type training program and they were talking about the apprentice-type training that they have operating in Europe and so on and other foreign countries and that is fine and perhaps it works. We are not sure, we have not seen it started up here yet and we do not see any legislation talking about it here, in particular. I feel let down by this bill because when I think back about all the times that I have gone to the community college in Kings County and met with the students and the parents and talked to them and seen how proud they were when their youngsters graduated from, what used to be, Kings vocational school and then it became the technical school and then the name was changed again to the community college.
There were students in that school who could not make it in any other school, but they did bloom and blossom at the community college in Kentville. That avenue is no longer open to those students. We have shut the door on the faces of all those youngsters who would like to have vocational-type training and who are qualified for vocational-type training but, for one reason or another, are never going to make it in the academic world. Where is the care and concern of the minister and the Premier for vocational training within this province? So education is more than training for one job and this Community Colleges Bill doesn't acknowledge any more than it is training for the immediate job at hand.
One of the schools in Kentville was geared up and developed just for task training. The Nova Scotia Institute of Technology has one of the highest standards anywhere in North America in some of the very specialized avenues of training. Some of the work they are doing at NSIT with computers you couldn't find on any university campus in the country. They have three-dimensional computers and if you are doing design work, they can turn it upside down and you can look at the bottom; you can turn it the other way and then you can cut the thing in half. They can do things with computers that a draftsman couldn't do if he spent his entire lifetime working. They can do it in a matter of a few minutes. They have computer-enhanced manufacturing courses.
You know we have some very specialized training that was developed in Nova Scotia for Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, this is the sort of training that must be developed and continue to be developed. Now the minister is going to have boards of directors in each campus around the province, operating all of these community colleges. For a government that says we want to get closer to the people and do away with all the bureaucracy, I think he is, in fact, setting up more bureaucracy than he has at the present time. Each community college will have its own little bureaucracy and its own little board of governors, or not little, 19 on each board, so it is a pretty good sized board. So we are really developing something bigger in the bureaucratic red tape than we have at the present time. This bill is full of peculiarities and things that just don't add up.
Collège de l'Acadie is one of the highlights of Nova Scotian technology. It was developed by MT&T and the Department of Transportation and Communications in their specialized field of communications. There isn't anybody else doing it, Mr. Speaker. They figured out how to take a copper wire message and put it on a microwave. Nobody else had done that, they have done that. The students are busy working . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: George, explain that.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I just had a request, Mr. Speaker, to explain it. I am afraid that the engineering talents I have certainly are not able to explain that. When it was explained to me, I am not even convinced that the person who was explaining it to me completely understood how to do it and I know they couldn't build it. That is the very point, we have people in Nova Scotia who can do things that are unexplainable, but they work. We want to encourage that continued development but this bill, I am not sure exactly if this bill is intended to do that or is it intended to remove from the wages and salaries of the Province of Nova Scotia more civil servants.
You know if we want to be up-front and honest, I think we should, now, for example, the Minister of Health said look, I am laying off 25 health care workers this year, get used to it. Now the Minister of Education perhaps should have stood up and said, look, I am going to remove 1,000 people from the community college faculties or 500 or 1,500 - I don't know what his number is, pick a number and then the Minister of Health brought in the QE II bill that will enable him to do that and the Minister of Education brought in a bill that will enable the Civil Service to become smaller; however, he didn't give us a targeted number of employees that he is going after, so we will just have to wait and see.
We do know that five community colleges have been closed this year, some of them -I guess all of them, probably - without much fanfare, study or community involvement. Certainly the one in Hants County was rather unceremoniously closed, to great consternation within the Annapolis Valley. It was a tragedy to close it; however, the minister has closed it and it won't open again. We are hopeful that it will open again.
The Collège de l'Acadie, Mr. Speaker, is a triumph for Nova Scotia and actually for Canada, North America and the world, nobody else. Distance education is becoming kind of a buzz word these days. Collège de l'Acadie is at the forefront, the technology that has been developed and will continue to be developed at the Collège de l'Acadie is the type of technology that is not just for Nova Scotia. It is the type of technology that can be marketed throughout the world because there is interest in making more and more students come under the influence of one teacher.
If you have an exceptional teacher that could meet hundreds of students in hundreds of locations all at the same time and each student and each classroom scattered in a wide area then distance does not make any difference. They can be in Ecum Secum or Edmundston, New Brunswick. They can communicate right back to the teacher in the classroom and the teacher can communicate with them. They can have their tests done and then send the tests into the central marker. It is limitless the opportunities that the Collège de l'Acadie system provides. Will Collège de l'Acadie continue to grow and be at the leading edge of technology in teaching under the new system? We cannot say for sure exactly.
Collège de l'Acadie is two things. It is a place to teach, but it is also a place to develop more technology in distance education. Those two things go hand in hand and side by side so we really have to make sure that Collège de l'Acadie does not stop growing in the technology field in distance education. They cannot rest on their laurels because today, Mr. Speaker, we are seeing more and more distance education opportunities coming to the fore. We see these little 18 inch dishes for television communications. Collège de l'Acadie can use that same technology and the dishes are going to be even smaller within years. So Collège de l'Acadie has an opportunity to take part in communications advances and it should do that as well as its role as a teaching facility.
What happens to the existing collective agreements of the teaching staff at the Collège de l'Acadie? I ask you the question, Mr. Speaker, and you generally do not reply in debate unless somebody gets out of order, but to this question there is not a member in this Chamber who can tell me or tell you exactly what the relevance is of any collective agreement within the community Collège de l'Acadie system in the province today. That is a peculiarity of the legislation that we have seen coming through here in the last 6 or 8 weeks and that is certainly one of the driving forces for the QE II bill. I believe it is the driving force of Bill No. 55 and that is to reduce the number of civil servants within the province.
Hopefully, Mr. Speaker, the government will honour the collective agreement that employees have. Certainly, they have said they were going to honour the agreement and they said this bill does not really take away that opportunity. However, we both know exactly what happened to collective agreements in the amalgamation in Cape Breton and there is no reason to suspect that the same rule of thumb would not follow for here.
So we are all watching and worrying and are concerned. Certainly, you saw on the weekend, at the last moment, the NSGEU called off the strike at the hospital. The strike was based on the same legislation, the same clauses, the same wording that is in this Bill No. 55. So the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the NSGEU again are going to have to be busy and concerned because this legislation is still there.
The new trend in employment is really a scary one that the government and most businesses in Canada are following and that is for contract agreements. Is this the way the government is planning to send the community colleges the message to the board of governors, everyone under contract, no benefits, no pension contributions. You know, it is cheaper and if that is the role of the government to dictate that is the way business is going to carry on, well they should say it.
The Minister of Education has indicated quite profusely that he is going to save $8.6 million by having this bill go through the Legislature. I don't know how he could say that. He is going to have a board of governors in each community college spending money, on his approval, but yet he says he is going to save $8.6 million. Mr. Speaker, we have heard those words before from other ministers. The Minister of Municipal Affairs indicated we were going to save millions by amalgamating Cape Breton and we have already seen the $30 million bill after just five months of operation. So these words of saving money just haven't materialized, as yet.
The Truro community college is not working according to the chief administrative officer that was appointed by this government. He said they are having a real hard time getting that thing off the ground. It is peculiar that the minister is already moving to amalgamate more and to have community colleges operating and he is having difficulty with his super community college in Truro. Short courses seem to be the order of the day. Fourteen campuses around the province. You see, this is peculiar. The minister said it is going to be cheaper to have fourteen community colleges operating around the province, making up their own rules as they go along than it is at the present time.
Well, he has amalgamated school boards, he is making them bigger, but a smaller number, so that will run cheaper, and at the same time, rather than have one community college directorate in Halifax, or wherever the Department of Education office happens to be, we are going to have four of them, fourteen head offices scattered all around the province than having one in Halifax. So, sometimes he is a little bit inconsistent so I really think that this minister is going to wind up with more red tape, more bureaucracy, than we have ever had before.
Where does the minister plan to put the vocational students? Until the minister can tell us what is happening with vocational training, it would be interesting to see this bill put on hold. I think the minister has a responsibility to those children. I know the minister takes his job very seriously. He has been an educator all his life and I know he has a plan for the vocational students and I wish he would share it with us. It would create a lot of good feeling and a lot of warmth and understanding from the parents and students throughout Nova Scotia. Certainly parents in Kings County are indicating to me the loss of a vocational school and they want to know. I don't think that it would be too much to ask the minister to tell us, to share with us exactly what the feelings are with regard to vocational training in the province.
Mr. Speaker, the minister chitchats about a lot of other stuff. Once you've asked him a question in Question Period, the Speaker, himself, has trouble to get him to stop telling us what he is doing sometimes. For once, I would like to hear him pontificate at great length on the future role of vocational schools and vocational students. But there is silence. I will take my place and he can answer now if he wishes.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we are not going to hear from him on vocational training today and perhaps I have missed something. Perhaps he did tell us what he is going to do and I just missed it, but I would hate to think that, and if I did, I would like to have a little review on it because the number of parents who have asked me, indicates that I am not alone on wondering what is going on.
The Minister of Education talks about the principle of this bill. What the province has known as the community college system up to this point is going to change. The post-secondary system of institutions, to enhance the province's economic and social well-being by meeting the occupational training requirements of the population and the labour market. When the minister decided how he was going to make the changes, and when he was going to bring in the bill, who did he consult with? Was anybody consulted with? He talked to the Minister of Transportation, the Government House Leader. I am sure they did cover this back and forth a little bit but I hope that he spoke to more people that just his colleagues in the House. I mean he has got a wise person and a famous baseball player but I would certainly like to think that the minister spoke to more than just his colleagues. I am sure that he did.
Really and truly, there is no evidence that he has spoken to anybody else prior to bringing in this legislation. That is unfortunate because there are educators in this province that have worked within the community college system and there are people in the province that have gone to, attended the community colleges that really and truly could have helped him a great deal in his decision-making. However, the minister, I guess, up to this point really is keeping his counsel to himself. At the present time, the confusion that is out there is really running rampant. I don't know just when the minister will straighten out all the misconceptions and the confusion and tell us exactly where we are heading with these community colleges, because nobody seems to know.
One of the minister's main thrusts is to make the colleges become self-governing. That is really when you raise your taxes and do what you like and away you go down the highway. They are not self-governing because the minister and the Governor in Council are going to continue to approve all the decisions that the board of governors of these colleges put forward. The boards of governors are going to sit and spend a couple of days at meetings. They will make decisions like what we are going to charge next year for tuition. Then they are going to say, what standards? You have to have your senior matriculation with an average over 75 per cent or maybe you should have a couple of years in university. That board of governors can decide that. What we are going to charge for the meals in the cafeteria? Are the students going to have to bring their own paper or are we going to supply the paper? Should we rent them a computer when they are in the school and what is the charge for computers?
The board of governors are going to be making three, four or five pages of decisions and then they are going to bundle them up in an envelope and probably send them by courier to the minister and he will say, hm-mmm, this is what they did in Kentville and that is good but it is not what they did in Truro. I am going to have to call those guys in Truro because I think what they did in Kentville was a little better. By golly, do you know, what they did down in the Cape Breton campus is the best I have ever seen. So he says, I am going to kind of put all of these together and run a line through this one and make a note in the ledger and send it back. Who is going to be running the community colleges? Well, you see how ridiculous that is. That is ridiculous, but how in the name of time is there going to be any consistency within the community college system if there isn't somebody that is setting a standard? The minister says that they are going to be self-governing but not privatized. Who ever said it was going to be privatized?
The college will continue be accountable to the minister and the government in areas of public interest. Well, what the dickens does that mean? If this minister wanted to confuse people in Nova Scotia, both taxpayers, students and faculty, he has done it. I don't know anybody that fully understands the direction the minister wants to take us. As soon as you think you understand what this bill does, you read on to the next clause or you read the next press briefing that the minister gave and then you are really confused all over again. What in the name of time is he trying to do? Self-governing but not privatization and they are accountable to the minister. Well, what is the point of the legislation, how is it going to make it better? That is the question we should all be asking. Is it going to save money and educate the students better?
The minister said that it is going to be better by $8 million. Well, let's see his numbers, let's see where that comes from. We want to see the $8 million but it is not there. He can't show it to us because nobody sat down and did a study for him and said this is how you can save $8 million. By instituting a board of governors, this is what it is going to cost you. The numbers aren't there. Now his staff, I am sure, put some stuff together for him and said, $8.6 million, that sounds better than $5.2 million and it is more believable than $10.9. So try $8.6 million and see if they will buy that. Well, we are not buying it. We want to see his numbers. If he had them, he would show them, wouldn't he? But he hasn't shown me. Did he show you, Mr. Speaker? You see, I think that is a fact. He can't show them, he hasn't got them. It is just a number they pulled out of the air and they said, well it sounds like a number that might fly, so away they went with it.
There haven't been any discussions with the post-secondary educational community to find out exactly what is the definition of public interest. I mean, that is what these community colleges are going to do. He said it, well I guess he said pretty nearly everything in the world. Government and areas of public interest, accountable to the minister; what in the name of time isn't public interest when you have the concern of the government. I mean, the government is the public. Who writes this stuff for the minister, Mr. Speaker? I mean, truly, who does because it certainly is confusing? The press briefings are confusing enough and then they bring in the legislation. If you read the legislation and the words he spoke, it is two different things because the goal of the bill, never lose sight of the fact, is to reduce the number of civil servants in Nova Scotia. Boil it right down to what you are left with, is less employees. If you looked through their microscope, it is less employees in the government service of Nova Scotia.
That is the whole goal of this legislation, by setting up independent boards of governors, it is not going to be the minister that is laying the people off. When they come down and pound on his door and say you son of a gun, we are laid off, and he'll say, not me. It is that independent board of governors that's operating your community college that is laying you off, not me. Golly, if I could, I would hire you myself because, he said, you are good. But that is what the scheme of this thing is and that is the reason for the board of governors set-up so the minister, the unpleasant task that he wants laid out, will be handled by somebody other than himself or officials within his department. They will be told how to do it and they will be told the reason you are doing it is we are giving you less money and they will say, these are your choices, go do it. So all these independent board of governors are going to be the bad guy and he will be the good guy pleading with the board to rehire and to reinstate the benefits that these people have lost because he has changed their legislation.
Mr. Speaker, there are students who want to attend community college and the interesting point of the community college is the average age has gone up dramatically in the last 5 or 6 years. The average age on the Kingstec Campus in Kentville is 25; 10 years ago, the average age was probably 7 or 8 years younger than that, but now it is older students. The board of governors of each college is going to set the standard for applying. So perhaps I could apply. I lost my transcript from high school, I don't have it. It has been 15 or 20 years and maybe the school is closed, dear knows, but I can't find it. So this board of governors can tell me, oh well you can come to our community college, but the one in the next county, no we have a different board of governors, our standards are a little higher. We want to see the proof of record and that you did excellent studies in mathematics, physics or something like that and we don't want any of these general high school equivalency things.
So the standards are going to be all over the map on community colleges and I am concerned about that. I don't know about you, Mr. Speaker, but I am concerned. I think that we all should be concerned in Nova Scotia. I mean, we are paying the fare, we should have some idea so that we can have a feeling of comfort that these schools and colleges are going to help our young people attain an academic learning and a skill that can be marketed today.
The older student is becoming a driving force and it is not just in community colleges, it is universities. Half the student population today is considered a mature student. They are not the freshmen right out of high school any more. Even universities have gone that way so that the mature students are making up a great part of university life today. They do have non-academic and mature student entrances for university programs. But what are they going to do with an older, mature student wanting to go to community colleges? Are they going to be accepted? We don't know that. I guess this is sort of a thing that you pass the bill and the details are to follow; legislation comes first and the details will - trust us, though, we are really not bad fellows.
Tuition fees, how much is it going to cost to go to a community college? Nobody knows. All we know for sure is it is going to cost a heck of a lot more than it costs now. The board of governors, a maximum of 19 members. I don't know if even General Motors has 19 people on their board of governors but we are going to have these community colleges in a county and there are 19 on the board. That will save a lot of money, Mr. Speaker. I assume they are going to be volunteers but there will be 19 of them. How does the minister think 19 people are going to get along running the community colleges?
Who did he talk to? Who did he ask? Is 19 the right number? My gracious, Mr. Speaker, I would hate to be chairman of the board of any community college and try to run a meeting with 19 members on the board. However, I am sure the minister will be very skilled and he will pick the best 19 in the province.
So I guess the minister pretty much has all the answers. All the minister has to do is give us the answers and we will all be happy and pleased and excited and we are just kind of waiting for them, as all the others are throughout the province, particularly the people who are planning on attending a community college, sort of the forgotten people in this discussion with this minister; and the employees, the people the minister has set his sights on, targeting, all these community colleges around the province are going to be right up this government's alley because there is nothing in here about public tendering, so they will be able to do their favourite game now, which is call for proposals, Mr. Speaker, if you hadn't followed it lately, call for proposals from half a dozen of your friends and then you have to pick one of your pals to do it. But, you see, no tendering in these community colleges. The bill tells us how we are going to get out of labour negotiations but it doesn't say anything about tendering. So you know what is important with this government, break all the collective bargaining agreements but do nothing about tendering.
Where are their priorities? It is help your friends because there won't be any tendering but don't do a thing for any employee. We know who comes first with this government and it surely isn't the Civil Service in this province; the government employees come last, as far as they are concerned.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I can't really understand why the minister didn't bring in a bill that was understandable. If the bill had followed what the minister was talking about when he made his press release, if it had even been close to the discussion he held when he announced this bill, I think we could have supported it 100 per cent. But really and truly, when the minister brought in a bill that bore absolutely no relationship to his press announcement, it is not fair. You have to understand one of two things, either the minister did not read the bill before he presented it, or if he did he did not understand it. The minister brought in a press release that had nothing to do with the bill. I hope that the minister believes what he said in his press release and that he did not have an opportunity to read the bill prior to its introduction. That is the only explanation that is reasonable and charitable concerning this minister because this press release is much better than Bill No. 55.
If the minister had brought in a bill that was based upon his press release and the high standards that he spoke of, it would be much better than what he brought in here for a bill that bears absolutely no relationship to anything he said in his speaking notes when he presented this bill either here or at his press conference. The two do not go hand in hand at all and it is most unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, because the high standards and the wanting to make things better for Nova Scotia, students, faculty, and job creation, those are ideals that we could support, but simply bringing in a bill to reduce the Civil Service is just not the sort of legislation that Nova Scotians need or want or support. It does not say a thing about vocational training, vocational schools. Where in the name of time does the minister want that segment of Nova Scotia's education system to fall into?
Mr. Speaker, I am going to finish off my discussion on this bill now and I am hoping, I want the minister to stand up and tell us, is it the press release or the legislation or has he had an opportunity to decide and discuss with his department people where the vocational students are going? Has he decided to withdraw and amend this bill 200 times? He brought in a bill a little while ago and it was so awful he had to amend that 200 times at the Law Amendments Committee. Will he amend this bill to make it better? He certainly indicated that he had not read his first bill because, if he had read it, he would not have had to amend it 200 times.
I cannot believe that a minister would bring in two bills that he had not read before he tabled them in the House, but perhaps that is the case. So, Mr. Speaker, in summing up, I do hope the minister will address the concerns that have been raised by the Opposition because we have a real problem with community college legislation and it is just not right, what this minister is trying to do.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to discuss in second reading Bill No. 55, An Act Respecting Collège de l'Acadie and the Nova Scotia Community College. This, as all of us in this place know, is a very important piece of legislation. The preparation of Nova Scotians for our job market is one which is crucial to our economic recovery in the province, and our ability to provide a better prepared work force will be one of the major elements in our economic recovery over the next decade. One has to, I think, analyze this bill in light of that objective, that is, providing a work force in Nova Scotia which is best suited to the job at hand and to provide the job training for all young people in our province.
The bill is divided really into two parts. The first involves the Collège de l'Acadie. I had an opportunity, earlier this fall down at Meteghan River, to visit the campus of the Collège de l'Acadie and came away with a favourable impression; it is a beautiful facility. But the thing that impressed me was the interactive video, which is used there as part of the teaching process. As you know, the Collège de l'Acadie has six centres in Nova Scotia which are linked by this interactive video. As I understand, it is also hooked up with one of the campuses in Prince Edward Island.
While I was there I had an opportunity to watch three young people engaging in a class which actually was being taught in one of the areas remote from Meteghan River. It had been earlier mentioned that, in fact, the Collège de l'Acadie has been developing and refining this process, a process which will have a great deal of application in other community colleges and, as well, I think eventually in our university system, and perhaps even in our grade school and high school systems in this province. You can see the obvious advantage here when you have, perhaps, two or three students requiring to receive theoretical information by way of a teacher who is, through the interactive video, providing information for a great number of students all around the province. So, this is an innovative procedure that has application in the education institutions other than the Collège de l'Acadie.
I also had the opportunity to attend the graduation of the Pictou District Community College last spring and was impressed, first of all, by the number of mature students now attending our community colleges throughout the province. I noticed, as well, how many of the graduates of the community college, in fact, had a bachelor's degree from a university which they had received prior to enrolling in the community college. I think it points out the fact that, gradually, older and older students are enrolling in the community colleges and, in fact, they are bringing to those institutions a higher level of pre-enrolment education.
That leads, of course, to the problem that this bill does not address. There is a sad lack of preparation, for many young Nova Scotians, a sad lack of occupational training, and I am referring to those young Nova Scotians who do not have the academic achievement to enter into a community college program and to receive occupational training which allows them to be more competitive in the job market. This process began when, over the years, the so-called vocational school concept gradually became the community college concept.
I had hoped that Bill No. 55 would have some kind of solution to the problem that is faced by so many young Nova Scotians who are not capable of achieving an academic Grade 12. Those thousands of young Nova Scotians who, each year, fall by the wayside in our primary and secondary education systems in the province have nothing to help them in this legislation. There is nothing here to provide a program of occupational or job training for those other than who have an academic Grade 12 and now, Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, not only an academic Grade 12, but an academic Grade 12 of some significant achievement, because it now is becoming very competitive to enrol in a community college and it is not just a case of sneaking through Grade 12, barely passing and then enrolling in the community college. It does require an increasing level of academic achievement.
We must not confuse academic achievement with the ability necessarily to be capable of becoming a good tradesperson and unfortunately, there is nothing in the situation that this bill brings forward that is going to change that in any way, shape or form. So, I urge the minister, as we go through this process of analyzing Bill No. 55, to start looking at what the bill does not achieve. It does not achieve any improved situation, any improvement in opportunity for many young Nova Scotians and that, I think, is most unfortunate. We look at the young people who will not qualify because of the lack of academic achievement and who will go through our primary and secondary educational facilities in this province, who will come out with not a single hour of occupational training.
The bill itself is one that divides the Collège de l'Acadie from the Nova Scotia Community College, which now, with the impending closure of five campuses, will be reduced to 14 campuses. As I had earlier stated, Collège de l'Acadie actually provides occupational opportunity at six different locations throughout the province. Recently, there was a major announcement by the minister when he announced that because the federal government were withdrawing some $8.6 million of funding, he was closing some five campuses across the province. This would result in the disruption of some 800 seats, the disruption to some 150 faculty and would make the accessibility of community college training more difficult for a great number of students.
The question that the introduction of Bill No. 55 will ask itself is, how much continuing financial involvement does the minister intend to continue in the financing of our community college system? I have not reviewed these figures lately, but my recollection is that the total cost of our community college system is some $74 million per year and I believe some $49 million of that comes from governmental funding. Now with the loss of $8.6 million from the federal government, it will leave some $40 million funding from the provincial government.
Does this bill, in fact, mean that we are going to go to a total user pay type of system of occupational or job training or does it mean that the minister intends to continue a high level of provincial funding to ensure that the kind of training these institutions provide will be available to all young Nova Scotians who are deserving? Those are questions that should be answered and certainly in the press releases of the minister have not been addressed.
An earlier speaker made reference to the fact that we are faced with a press announcement which is long on platitudes, but in reality when you read the press announcement, if it weren't for the heading and then you go and read the bill, you would wonder if the two have anything to do with each other. The press announcement, of course, speaks in glowing terms of how this is going to improve the system. It is going to allow the system to respond more quickly to changing requirements of certain employers and so on. I question as I read through the text of the bill whether, in fact, that is in reality what will happen. I think it is very important that it does happen.
There has been recent criticism of our community college system. I think back, there was the company in the Debert Industrial Park, a radiator company went public with the information that they could not find properly trained employees, employees who were trained by our Nova Scotia Community College system. Then there was the incidence where Pratt & Whitney was looking for some 50 machinists and machine technologists with specific training in computers and robotics. They were not able to satisfy themselves that graduates from our community colleges were going to be able to fit the bill and, in fact, they were going to have to recruit outside the province.
The minister is fully aware that that kind of situation has to be addressed. We should be in a position to satisfy the training requirements for all employers in this province. In fact, we should be able to actually exceed those expectations. If we can exceed those expectations and we can provide a superiorly trained work force, then we will become a much more attractive venue for new industry. So there is a lot riding on the revision and the overhaul of our community college system, in an attempt to make it more up-to-date, more modern and more responsive. I would certainly support the minister in any supportable initiative that he has which would result in that kind of improvement in the system.
The other topic that isn't being addressed with this particular piece of legislation as well is integration of the community college system, which really is designed for occupational training, with the university system. The university system is devoted to the provision of learning. We can think back to the time when the achievement of a Bachelors degree in this province would lead to some kind of meaningful employment and that no longer is the case. Over the last number of months I have been distressed by the number of young Nova Scotians who have gone to the trouble and expense to achieve a Bachelors degree, only to find that that certificate of graduation does not lead to any meaningful employment. Many of those young people are working at non-skilled occupations, if in fact they are working at all.
It would make sense and I am a firm believer that there is value to any young person or any person, regardless of age, in engaging in Bachelor studies and engaging in the learning process that is involved in that pursuit. If it could be somehow married with occupational training, perhaps through an association with a community college, that in addition to the learning process, there is occupational training associated with it, so that the whole process results in a graduate who is, in fact, employable in a meaningful way that results in that young person earning a wage that allows them to live independently and perhaps bring up a family and could utilize that experience in providing them with some kind of advantage in the job field. There are a lot of things that just don't seem to be addressed here.
I think another open question, in terms of the training available in our community colleges, is what is going to happen to tuition fees? Certainly it is expensive now to go to a community college, particularly when the trend seems to be not to increase the venues where the training is available but to decrease the venues where the training is available. This, of course, will result in more and more of the students having to leave their own community, go and board and take their training in a community other than their own. This adds to the expense. So that expense for room and board, added to an increasing expense as tuition fees go up, will again prove to be a significant hurdle for many young people to overcome if, in fact, they are going to avail themselves of what is available in our community colleges.
Now I am a great proponent of our community colleges. I had made earlier reference to our Pictou campus. The minister is well aware that we recently had the rather good fortune in our community to require some 250 additional, highly-trained welders. This was in association with the resurgence of Trenton Works. The community college in our area was able to respond and provide a course that very quickly was able to provide upgrading for welders who had to upgrade their ticket and, as well, provide initial training for a number of new people to achieve the required training, which allowed them to become employees of Trenton Works. So it is a distinct advantage for a community to have a community college in its neighbourhood and to have a community college that is, in fact, willing and capable of quick response and providing the kind of training and work force that is required at the time. So there is a lot to be considered here in Bill No. 55.
Now the minister has made a point that there will be a board running Collège de l'Acadie and a separate board will be running the Nova Scotia Community College. Much has been made of the fact that the board will be somewhere between 15 and 19 persons and I believe somewhere between 5 and 7 will, in fact, be appointed by the minister. On one hand the minister says that this will give the board independence and yet that the college is still very definitely responsible to the minister in the area of public interest.
I hope that at some point the minister will give us some idea of exactly what that means. I have no problem in understanding and accepting the fact that the minister is, as his title indicates, the Minister of Education. The bearing of that title carries with it considerable responsibility. I would hope that at some point he would give us some explanation of what he considers to be the area of public interest, particularly in relation to what it means in this context.
Now another area I think that I would like to spend a few minutes on is, while recently we had the announcement that five campuses were either being closed, with the students being transferred to another operation of the community college, it is just over a year ago when the minister announced the beginning of a world-class super college in Truro. Now any information that is coming out about the super college in Truro other than the information that we hear from the minister makes one suspect that this announcement was extremely premature in that the announcement was made long in advance of any firm plan being in place as to what, in fact, the world-class super college in Truro is going to be all about.
The college opened with a great deal of fanfare, mostly provided by the minister and his announcements. My understanding is that rather than having 150 students enrolled in the first year, they had some 87 students. They had courses on entrepreneurship and my understanding is that a private organization in Truro was providing, at the same time, a program in entrepreneurship which was exactly similar and was similar to that being provided by the community college. They had another course and, if my memory serves me correctly, was called recreational leadership. That course is being delivered by both Dalhousie and Acadia.
My reason for bringing all this up, one would have to, perhaps have at least a small suspicion that that announcement was motivated by the recent loss of the Nova Scotia Teachers College in Truro and it was, in fact, designed to fill the gap, perhaps, to fill the gap politically rather than academically. I would just bring that up and hope that the alterations in the community college structure are being motivated by common sense and a desire to provide a better occupational training for young Nova Scotians and hopefully, that the decisions are not being politically motivated.
We have just come through a lot of debate about other bills that, I think, cannot help but influence our thinking on this particular piece of legislation. When I think back to the Education Act and I think of that very dramatic week in which we saw the province brought on the brink of a province-wide teachers strike and we saw a piece of legislation brought in that was absolutely guaranteed to infuriate the teaching profession in this province. Then we went through a seven day hiatus in which there were secret negotiations taking place between the Department of Education and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union resulting in, initially some 170-plus amendments to the Education Act and then a few days later, some 30 more amendments to the Education Act. Finally, the situation was resolved.
One has to think why the situation occurred at all. If that position was possible a week after the secret negotiations began, why was it not possible for that situation to have been resolved prior to the tabling of the bill? I think it would have been perfectly legitimate for those negotiations to have occurred and the bill to be tabled and would have saved the House all of the wear and tear that resulted because of the way the bill was introduced.
I look at this bill and I see so much of the same approach in this particular piece of legislation. You will notice, as well, that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union are involved in those that are teaching in the community college system. I believe there is some 450 and not only are the Nova Scotia Teachers Union involved in this bill, but the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union are involved in this bill. That brings to mind the QE II Health Sciences Centre and what a week we had with that bill, Mr. Speaker, because while the Minister of Education brought us to the brink of a province-wide teachers' strike . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Is this dealing with Bill No. 55?
DR. HAMM: I am comparing the approaches of the bill, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: You are comparing it to something other than Bill No. 55, I think.
DR. HAMM: They are so similar. So in this bill as well, we have a number of employees who are members of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and this bill, similar to the QE II Health Sciences Centre Bill, will result in those government employees losing their Civil Service status. The QE II Health Sciences Centre Bill brought us to a brink of a strike in this province at the Victoria General Hospital.
MR. SPEAKER: These reflections are on the brink of being out of order.
DR. HAMM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will be getting back into the substance of the bill . . .
MR. SPEAKER: All right.
DR. HAMM: . . . when I say to the minister, through you, that he has created the same kind of confrontation with the employees of the community college who are members of the NSGEU, the same kind of confrontation that was created by the Minister of Health and debated perhaps more frequently by the Minister of Human Resources when that bill was going through the House.
The question that all this really asks is why. When we have had the experience of the Education Act, we have had the experience now of the QE II Health Sciences Centre Bill, why do we get the same kind of approach to the employees of the community college system? Why are we going to, again, confront the Nova Scotia Teachers Union? Why are we going to confront the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union with the kind of clauses, with the kind of confrontation, with the kind of challenge to the contracts and with the kind of challenge to the collective bargaining system that the other bills created? (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order please. There is a lot of buzz in the House. Perhaps we can reduce it a little.
DR. HAMM: The same kind of solution that is in this Bill No. 55 - and that is a one-sided referral to the Labour Relations Board to resolve contract disputes - was the same kind of situation that almost brought us on the verge of these strikes. It was not acceptable in that legislation and it is not acceptable in this legislation. The question is, why is the government putting the work force through that kind of a situation knowing full well what the response will be and knowing full well that the teachers, the support staff and the instructors of these institutions will be unable to accept these clauses, absolutely designed to create a confrontation between employer and employee? I question why we are going to have to go through this whole exercise, once again, with this third piece of legislation. It absolutely makes no sense.
I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that, as this week unfolds, we will be faced with the same kind of process, the same kind of presentations, in Law Amendments on this bill that we had on the two previous bills that I have just mentioned. (Interruption) Well, it has been suggested by a senior legislator in this place that why not try and resolve it first before getting it this far. Here we are, well into second reading of the bill with a situation that we know is going to inflame the workers and yet I see no initiate on the government side to try and settle the problem.
You have a bill that is designed or should be designed to improve the educational environment for young Nova Scotians and, in reality, all we get to talk about is the labour unrest that the bill is absolutely guaranteed to produce. So, it well may be, since the first time didn't work and the second time didn't work, and if the third time doesn't work, then perhaps the government when it designs its next piece of legislation which involves terminology which affects the relationship of employer and employee, will use the kind of language that has resulted from the amendments to the other pieces of legislation.
One of the difficulties with this group, unlike the workers at the Victoria General Hospital who were able to go to their employer because the Minister of Health many months ago had actually appointed the new Queen Elizabeth II board. The employees - and while they couldn't negotiate an arrangement with the government - were able to negotiate a satisfactory solution to their problem with their soon to be employer. Now this won't be possible with this piece of legislation because the boards which will be running the community colleges and the board which will be running the Collège de l'Acadie, have not yet been established. So over the next 5 to 7 days, it is not going to be possible for the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union or the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to go to their soon to be employer, because that board has not yet been established. So the ball is going to be clearly back in the minister's lap on this one. It will be clearly back in the minister's lap, as it was with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and his Education Act. Well, he knows how we responded in that situation and I would expect that he will be ultimately obliged to respond in a similar fashion to the workers affected by this legislation.
So, in closing, it is extremely important that we design our community college system to be a quick responder to changes in the requirements of training for young people. It is important that the system be accessible. It is important that the system be affordable for young people. Now I can't convince myself that this legislation achieves that. I can't convince myself that what the minister says in his press announcements, when he talks about this legislation, is, in fact, what the legislation is all about. Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and will await the comments of another speaker. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to stand this afternoon in this Chamber and speak to the Community Colleges Bill which has undergone some significant scrutiny by members of the Opposition and indeed by many of the public, both those involved in the private sector and those involved in the public sector with respect to unions representing workers who may well be impacted, in fact many perhaps impacted negatively by this legislation.
I think, at the outset, we should all recognize that there are opportunities available to Nova Scotians if we place ourselves in the position whereby we are well-trained and are prepared to take up those opportunities. A case in point is the study undertaken by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Peter O'Brien, who is their spokesman for Atlantic Canada, said that, "Up to 30,000 jobs in Atlantic Canada remain unfilled for lack of skilled workers . . .". Mr. O'Brien went on to say, and here I quote him, Mr. Speaker, "`The challenge is to ensure that expenditures for training are directed where they are needed and that means trainers and employers must work together to effectively document current and future skills shortages.'". I don't think there are many who disagree with Mr. O'Brien in that respect.
If we look at the news release that the Minister of Education released coincident with the tabling of this legislation, a news release entitled College Legislation to Help Prepare Graduates for Jobs, we might focus on two statements which, clearly, are deemed to flow from the minister, since they are in his statement, December 5, 1995, "Legislation introduced today will help prepare Community College graduates for jobs by directly linking training to Nova Scotia's economic needs and opportunities.". That certainly complements the view of Mr. O'Brien with respect to the way we can exercise opportunities and take advantage of those 30,000 jobs that his organization claims are going wanting for lack of trained persons.
The minister also goes on to say, and here I am quoting him, that, "`The botttom line is, better training means graduates are more likely to find jobs, . . . '". Well I don't think anyone would argue with the minister on those two counts either.
Mr. Speaker, again we find that this minister who, no doubt is well-intentioned, continues to view the world through rose-coloured glasses. While his intentions are, indeed, honourable, if we judge them on the basis of the quotation that I just read from his press release and the other words encompassed within it, which certainly have his approval, if he himself did not write them. We find that when we move away from that statement of principle that there is, in fact, no substance, that the principles put forward by this government and this minister with respect to this Community Colleges Bill are entirely weak with respect to any possibility, let alone any probability, that they will have the bones organized into a proper skeleton, and then the meat and the muscles and all those other things applied to those bones to create the living institution that will become the community college of the future.
The minister seems to have overlooked certain realities with respect to the community college system as he prepared this bill for introduction in the House. He does make, in fact, one reference in the overview which he has prepared, to a tremendous deficiency which our community colleges are going to face, our campuses are going to face, the Nova Scotia Community College will face, Collège de l'Acadie will face with respect to vocational and trades training. I refer to a statement in the minister's overview which says - and I want to make sure that I quote him so that I do not inadvertently misquote - ". . . the federal government is eliminating $8.6 million from the College budget. Therefore, the Colleges must become more efficient and more competitive in securing private sector dollars for customized training contracts . . .".
Well in the first instance, I think that perhaps I do the minister an injustice here but I don't recall seeing or hearing this minister chastise the Liberal Government of Canada for this tremendously significant reduction in the amount of money available for community college training in Nova Scotia. I think, if I am not mistaken, that may represent almost 10 per cent of the community college training budget. One wonders why the minister and the government would be so silent on those deep cuts to community college training in Nova Scotia. Surely, they are not so dependent on their Liberal friends in Ottawa that they cannot stand independently and criticize decisions of the federal government which adversely affect the men and the women and particularly, the young men and women of this province.
So that is one reality, that there is going to be $8.6 million less because the federal Liberals have cut that out of their budget and they have downloaded it on the province and the province is not prepared to pick up that $8.6 million and therefore has adjusted the community college system to reflect that $8.6 million reduction in federal funding. One of the ways that that has been done is by the closure of five campuses.
This is one of the things that I find peculiar, is that these cuts with respect to individual campuses were made before the board of the new community college was established, before that board had opportunity to review the overall global situation within Nova Scotia respecting these community colleges, before it had opportunity to begin to devise the curriculum which would be offered by the community colleges, before a business plan could be prepared by that board, before any of these things were done. All these things one would normally consider would be just simply a matter of course before any of these things were done.
This government and this minister unilaterally took it upon themselves to cut five campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College system. They include the Colchester campus in Truro, 223 full-time students and 34 staff; the Hants campus in Windsor, 200 students and 26 staff; the Adult Vocational Training campus in Dartmouth with 305 students and 41 staff; the Strait campus in Port Hawkesbury will be amalgamated with the Nautical Training Institute, 422 students and 37 staff; and the Sydney campus will merge with the restructured Adult Vocational Training Centre.
One wonders why unilaterally and in advance of having a board in place, which in effect will undertake a thorough review and study and reflect on where cost-savings could best be effected and then make recommendations to the minister. The minister and the government unilaterally determine to make very radical changes in the community campus structure of the community college.
We have heard a great deal of Truro. You will recall that this minister and government made what I think was and is and will be demonstrated to be a very wrong decision, based on very bad advice from a man from out of town, Dr. Shapiro, who popped in for a little while from Ontario and told us Maritimers or more specifically, us Nova Scotians what in his view was best for us and then left us holding the bag. That decision was to close the Nova Scotia Teachers College. Curiously, the minister did not accept all of Dr. Shapiro's recommendations, he only accepted some of them. His alma mater, curiously, was one of those which was spared losing its school of education and one still must ponder over that imponderable.
At any rate, in the place of the Nova Scotia Teachers College, we were to have a Centre of Excellence. That, in spite of the fact that we already had a Centre of Excellence in Truro, in the presence of the Nova Scotia Teachers College but now we have a new Centre of Excellence. It is a Centre of Excellence which would seem, if news reports are true at all, has become more a centre for criticism than a Centre of Excellence.
In an article on September 29th, Stephen Proctor in the Chronicle-Herald writes that the new principal who, by the way, worked all by her lonesome for many months, has now announced that although she predicted 125 to 150 students would first be enrolled at this Truro Centre of Excellence, that now there were just 87 who were likely to be enrolled.
Well, I suppose, Mr. Speaker, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one must, therefore, argue whether the glass is half full or half empty. But irrespective of whether it is half full or half empty, the fact is that this Centre of Excellence is now a centre for criticism, that there are many people in the Truro area who are greatly concerned about this community college that was supposed to be a Centre of Excellence in Truro, which apparently is not meeting the needs of its client community. In fact, I do not believe it has even defined its client community and, as a result, has attracted only half as many students as the new head of that institution prognosticated would be the case.
We also find, Mr. Speaker, some interesting editorial comment with respect to this bill. The Chronicle-Herald always take a great interest in education editorially and there have been many editorials concerning education since this minister accepted those responsibilities. Some of them, I must say, have been rather flattering for him, but there are others that have been rather less flattering. I refer specifically tonight to the one which makes reference to this legislation.
In that respect, I think we should note that the editorial says that, in the new model, ". . . Truro would become a `first centre of excellence'. . . The minister, in short, . . .", says the editorial, ". . . mustered all the appropriate `newspeak' in assuring the people of Truro that the proposed educational facility was not a sop to critics upset over closure of the town's teachers' college. But a few strange things happened on the way to the first day of school, early this month.". I have already made reference to the fact that there were so few students in contrast to the number that it was at first stated would be attending this centre of excellence.
You know about Newspeak as do I. It comes from one of the most famous novels of the 20th Century. So what we have here is this minister inviting all the young people and their parents and all members of their family who have an interest in it, to enter his brave new world, a brave new world which, I think, judging from the lack the lack of planning, the lack of scrutiny, the lack of funding, the lack of clear-headed thinking, is going to be just a frightening as was that brave new world in which Newspeak played such a prominent role.
Mr. Speaker, there also has been, very clearly, a failure to consult. Again, I would not want anyone to take my word for this. I do, after all, carry a political bias, so I look to others to see what they have to say and hope that, perhaps, while the government may not take any interest in listening to members of the Opposition, they may listen to men and women across this province who do not wear their badges of political affiliation, if they do have them, as do those of us in this place here.
Again, I refer to an article. It makes reference to the Truro school situation. But I think, unfortunately, it is generally applicable to the failure of this government to consult in a meaningful way. This is with reference to statements made by John Kelderman, who is the President of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Kelderman wrote to the Premier expressing deep concern with respect to the failure of the government to achieve what it had set out the achieve with respect to the Truro campus. He speaks of the lack of community input in developing the school, the province's failure to fully follow proposals and a $100,000 consulting report, and the possibility the school was launched prematurely.
The article goes on to say, critics say the program lacks credibility and repeats material covered in two existing university programs which draws me into my next point, and that is this, that the community college system and its campuses which according to this government and this minister, should complement the private sector, in fact, it would appear are directly competing with the private sector. That is referenced in this selfsame article. Critics say the program lacks credibility and repeats material covered in two existing university programs. The college has also been accused of competing unfairly with local schools that teach computer and business skills. One businessman asked why the college should be able to offer publicly subsidized training that competes with the private sector.
Once again we have a situation where the legislation speaks to a principle but when it comes to practice, the principle is not effective. Instead of the community college system being complementary to the needs of the private sector which are the creators of new wealth, the generators of employment, we find that, in fact, the community college system under this government and this minister is becoming a competitor with the private sector so that the principle which is put forward by this government certainly is not only not realized, it is not realized because the government deliberately has chosen to go about practising exactly the opposite to which it preaches with respect to this principle.
Also, Mr. Speaker, we find that there is a criticism made that the community colleges run the great risk of continuing to educate or train. I have always found it difficult to distinguish between education and training. I realize that it has been useful to categorize them, define them differently because the provinces are responsible constitutionally for education and that disallowed the federal government from becoming directly involved in education, but nonetheless allowed it to be involved in training, but the two have been largely viewed as one and the same. But we notice that the private sector in many places, and I refer to one specific example, expressed great concern that the community college system continues to train people for the economy of the past, rather than focus on training people for the economy of the future.
I refer to criticisms made by Peter Wressell. Mr. Wressell was speaking on behalf of Pratt & Whitney or at least this is attributed to him, "Nova Scotia has to move to a value-added economy, he said. The fact that resource-based industry can no longer carry the economic load should have been seen a long time ago, he added. . . . People must have skills to be employable in 21st-century manufacturing, he argued. Nova Scotia has been trying to attract such industries but is not training sufficient numbers of people, he said.". Then he went on to say, ". . . Nova Scotians had better `wake up' because the global economy won't work on their terms.". Mr. Speaker, that article was written on September 30th quoting Mr. Wressell and I dare say that if Mr. Wressell were asked if this Community Colleges Bill that is in second reading here tonight, if it in fact cuts the mustard and moves us away from training for the economy of the past into training for the economy of the future, he would give a loud and resounding no, that it does not. It speaks to it but it does not act upon it.
There also, Mr. Speaker, is a very deep concern on the part of the men and women who are employed by the community colleges, some as teachers, some as administrators, some as trade unionists providing essential services, for example, stationary engineers in the community college system.
What we have here are at least three unions which are going to be impacted by this legislation: the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees; and then all of these other unions which have a role to play in the community colleges because of the presence of brothers and sisters who are members of those unions being employed by the board. Once again we have this government rushing in a headstrong way into the maelstrom without giving any consideration, at least any appropriate consideration, to the impact that this legislation may well have not only on the welfare of its current employees but also on the relationship between those employees and the government, between those employees and the board which is yet to be established.
This government has developed a high degree of consistency in a number of areas. One of those areas is the failure to pre-plan and to develop a cost-benefit analysis and to think things through to a final and ultimate conclusion in the advance of taking action. That is one consistency. Another consistency, and one which has been brought dramatically to the attention of the public this fall in this Legislature, is the preparedness of this government to run roughshod over the unionized labour forces, whether they are professions or tradespeople in Nova Scotia. We saw that with the Education Act, when the minister introduced a bill that was so far removed from the reality of Nova Scotia that the minister had to introduce something in the order of 200 substantial amendments. In effect, the bill, as it now stands, amended, hardly reflects at all the bill that was introduced by the minister.
We saw, again, with respect to the QE II Health Sciences Centre Bill, an attempt made to dragoon the unions into a situation whereby union memberships would stand to lose very significant benefits that they had accrued individually bargaining with their previous employers. At least in that situation there was a hospital board in place or the QE II Health Sciences Centre Board in place which could respond by sitting down and negotiating with those unions, which, thank Heavens, has averted a strike at those health care institutions.
Once again we find that the government has not thought things through and there is no board in place respecting the community college system to which these various unions, which work within the community college system, can go to negotiate. There is a void there. The QE II Health Sciences Board was a safety valve, it bailed out the Minister of Human Resources, who with a very large paintbrush and very thick paint had generously painted himself into a corner. Here, Mr. Speaker, the only occupant of the corner is the Minister of Education and in this instance there is no one around to hold a fan up to dry the paint so that those who should ordinarily be able to sit down and negotiate their way out of this kind of a dilemma can do so. In the absence of a board in this legislation, the possibility if not the probability of labour strife looms even larger than it did with respect to the QE II Health Sciences Centre labour situation.
That does not bode well for Nova Scotia, it does not bode well for our community college system, it does not bode well for the men and women who are students in that system and who are supposed to be the recipients of the training and educational opportunities that one would normally want to associate with them. It throws the system into a state of turmoil entirely needlessly.
The minister may well say that that will never happen. But I am sorry, Mr. Minister, I say through you, Mr. Speaker, I just simply cannot afford to accept your word that that is so. I say that in view of what happened in Sydney with respect to the amalgamation of the municipal units there, when Peter Darby made his decision which made some very radical changes respecting the relationships between workers and their new employer, relationships which were not countenanced by those employees in advance of Mr. Darby's decision being brought down.
Again, a failure for this government to think things through; what makes it even worse in this instance is that this bill was introduced after Mr. Darby's decision was taken and after we have a precedent set. This government could have avoided the possibility, if not the probability, of the same kind of decision being taken had it only provided an opportunity for the board to be in place and had it only been prepared to learn from the experience of the Cape Breton amalgamation and apply the lessons learned there in this case to the creation of the new community college board and the structures that will flow out of it.
I look at the board itself, Mr. Speaker, and its structure gives me cause for great concern. There is not a community in this province which is not served, either within it or proximate to it, by a community college campus. In my case, Queens, although we do not have a community college campus situated in Queens County, there is a community college campus situated in Bridgewater. It is the Lunenburg campus but, nonetheless, it is generally viewed as a campus belonging to Queens and Lunenburg. On the other side of us, of course, we have the smaller campus in Shelburne.
Mr. Speaker, my difficulty is this, that we are moving away from the system whereby each campus had its own board and, therefore, there was very generous local advice made available with respect to decision-making. It gave ample opportunity for many people to be involved at the campus level in providing governance. It meant that more local business people could be involved in helping to define what programs could best be delivered through that campus to the benefit of Nova Scotia generally but, more particularly, of that Lunenburg-Queens community and it meant, of course, that the young people attending that institution would have the greater benefit of having a tremendous amount of good, solid local understanding, particularly business understanding, made available to governance in respect of that governance making decisions which would dramatically affect their future.
Now what we have is another super-amalgamation and another super-board. All of those boards for each of those community campuses is gone with the stroke of a pen and replacing it is one large super-board which now will govern the community colleges throughout Nova Scotia. Now, when decisions are to be made with respect to the Lunenburg campus in Bridgewater - the campus that serves Queens and Lunenburg - the decision will not be taken locally. In fact, there is no guarantee whatsoever that there will be any local input with respect to any decision affecting that campus any more then there is any guarantee that there will be any local input with respect to decisions taken by the new board respecting the Shelburne campus, the Burridge campus and we can go right around the province and make the very same observation.
In fact, what the new board means, Mr. Speaker, is that this government is once again demonstrating another of its great consistencies. The other great consistency which also is a very negative one is that it consistently removes decision-making from our rural communities and our small towns in Nova Scotia and centralizes them in Halifax. That is exactly what I fear and what many fear is going to be the case when this new community college board is established.
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, if any member in this House has not looked at the clause that sets out what classes of people will be appointed to the community college board that they do so and that they understand - and this may be of less importance to people living in the metropolitan area than it is to those of us who live in the rural parts of Nova Scotia that are far removed from the levers of power here in Halifax, far removed from the minister's office and the Cabinet Room - that, in fact, geography plays absolutely no role whatsoever with respect to the appointment of Nova Scotians to the community college board, saving, in one respect, and that one respect is that we know that there is going to be a person from Prince Edward Island appointed to it. That is small comfort to the young people in Caledonia or in Liverpool or in Port Mouton or in Lunenburg Town, Mahone Bay, New Germany or anywhere across this province with respect to them believing that decisions will be made regarding the future of community college that have them in mind.
We are a small province and we are very close to one another. Mr. Speaker, I assure you that there are nuances which define differences between rural and small town dwellers and those who live in the built-up urban areas of Halifax and of Sydney. I say to the minister, through you, sir, if this board, which will be appointed by him and not by Governor in Council, does not reflect the geographic diversity of this province, then that board will do a disservice to community college education in this province.
Just consider how much less local input there is going to be by industry for this new board. Now, if Bowater Mersey wants to talk to the board at the community college in Shelburne or in Bridgewater, there is no difficulty. If Steel and Engine Products or any of the small businesses want to deal with local boards then, traditionally, they have had immediate access. With this one board, I suggest that there is going to be such a bureaucracy built up that while the Bowater Merseys of this world, which are large corporate entities in this province, may have little difficulty in getting the ear of those boards, the small industries, the small businesses in our local communities are going to find it very difficult to gain the level of access to this board which is to be established to determine the future of community college education in Nova Scotia, than has traditionally been the case.
This board is going to rationalize programs and that means it will decide that Program A may be delivered at these two or three campuses but no longer will be delivered at those two or three campuses. While that rationalization may cause the overall community college system to save money, it holds out the very real probability that it is going to cost the students money. As programs are focused on fewer and fewer campuses, students, who want to access those programs and who live at a distance from the places where those programs are being offered, then have to find additional funding in order to be able to access that community college campus.
It may well be that that campus is within one-half hour to an hour's driving distance. It may be lost on those who live in urban areas but not very many rural areas or small towns in this province are served by public transportation. You can't get on the bus at 8:00 a.m. in Liverpool, and at 8:30 a.m. be dropped off 30 miles down the road in Bridgewater, so you can go to the community college. It just doesn't happen because there is no bus that leaves at 8:00 a.m. to drop you off at 8:30 a.m. Similarly, there is no bus that leaves Bridgewater at 3:30 p.m. and drives the 30 miles back to Liverpool to drop students off there. So what we then find is that students have to find their own transportation, sometimes that may be provided by a private entrepreneur but that can be pretty shaky and I know that from personal experience from problems that community college students in my constituency have brought to my attention in the past.
It may be that the only practical way is for a student to buy a car. Well, that certainly adds to the cost of education and it can't be covered in a student loan application, so that money has to come from somewhere other than a loan. It certainly, almost assuredly means that the cost of community college education is going to increase and as that cost increases, that means that there are people who now can afford a community college education who will then not be able to afford a community college education, it means that the gap between those who struggle in a lower socio-economic sector of society are going to be more greatly disadvantaged, their difficulties are going to be compounded and we are not going to achieve what all of us would want to achieve and that is to provide greater opportunity to all Nova Scotians irrespective of their economic means. There is a very great flaw built into this bill which is going to adversely impact on those young people and which in turn is going to adversely impact on all of Nova Scotia.
I have a great fear that the minister, in effect, is establishing what to all intents and purposes amounts to another university here in Nova Scotia. Surely, that is the last thing that we need, another university. As we know, the universities are struggling to come to grips with rationalizing what they have to offer but in effect, what we have now is a bill which would create virtually another university with, I think, what, 14 different campuses. We certainly face some significant questions there which are yet to be answered. As I said a few moments ago, it is very clear that the appointments to be made will be made by the minister, himself.
Mr. Speaker, this is a bill that offers generalities with few specifics respecting education at our community colleges. There are specifics. The specifics are very clear and the specifics say that campuses are reduced. The specifics say that the numbers of students are reduced, that the numbers of instructors are reduced, the numbers of employees beyond the instructors are reduced, but they also tell us that we can look for increases in tuition, increases in costs and finally that we also can look forward to competition. Not the good healthy competition that causes people to compete and to grow and to be able to compete better on the global market place, but the kind of destructive competition that we find when the private sector is going head to head with the public sector respecting the provision of training programs. Then again, we can reflect on the Truro situation as a case in point.
I also am greatly afraid that what in fact this bill does is to create another academic institution. Traditionally, our community colleges have provided trades training, vocational training. The young men and women who did not wish to pursue an academic education, very often these young people were able to leave their secondary schools at the end of Grade 10 or Grade 11 and enter a community college campus to be trained for a job, preferably, in their own communities. I am afraid that what we have here is another door being slammed in the faces of those young men and women who were well-served by that system and that, in fact, we will now have a large number of young people who will not want to go to university and who will not have the academic qualification which will be demanded of them to get into the community college system.
That is going to put a whole new set of pressures on the public school system because it is going to mean that the young men and women who previously were able to leave the public school system to go to community colleges for training are going to be stuck in the public school system and they are going to be there, not because they want to be there, but because they have nowhere else to go. That is going to impose all kinds of new stresses and strains in the public schools. It is going to mean, among other things, that we are going to continue this destructive phenomenon of social passing simply in order to make sure that people go on from grade to grade and do not stay too long in the single grade thereby taking up space and costing money and all of the dollars that are required for each student in the public school system.
It means, Mr. Speaker, that we have to look at what is going on in the public school system to ask ourselves is this a pipe dream that I am having or is there something in fact which bears it out. All we have to do is turn to the minister's very own curriculum guides and see that he is positioning, through his curriculum guides, the kind of school system to which I have just referenced. A school system which allows people to grade from Grade 12, having achieved only an entry Grade 9 level education and so on down the ladder. What we are doing with this legislation is not resolving a problem, but rather compounding a problem.
Mr. Speaker, I, annually - well, there would be a few years that could be exceptions, but almost annually - have the opportunity to attend the community college graduation at the Lunenburg campus. I have noticed that the complexion of graduating classes has changed over the last several years. The graduates now are, generally speaking, older. It used to be that they were 19 or 20, having finished high school and gone directly to the community colleges. Now we find there are more and more people in their 30's and even in their 40's who are graduates from our community colleges.
One would, on the face of it, say, well, that is great, that is a good thing because that means there are people going back and being retrained. From that point of view, it is good. The very serious downside is that with more and more older students coming back into the community college system, there are fewer and fewer places made available for the young people, who in other days would have been coming out of the public school system and directly into the community college system.
I have had and I suspect you may have had and, in fact, I believe many members in this House have at one time or another had parents or students call them and bemoan the fact that they could not get a place in the community college system because they were competing with people who are coming back into the system and they were, therefore, competing on an uneven playing field, one of the reasons being that many of those older people who have come back into the community college system are funded by the federal government and that is easy bucks for the provincial government to pick up. That has been a real problem and that problem is going to be compounded with this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I think, too, that we would find that the real truth is that there is going to be a tremendous gap develop between those who are successful in entering community college, and going through the college and finding employment, and those who by virtue of the fact that we are creating another post-secondary institution are simply locked out of any kind of meaningful training to help them enter the work force to find gainful employment so that they can play their part and their role in building a stronger Nova Scotia. I see this bill, along with the Education Bill with which we have been dealing, as being completely devoid of any plan to deal with that significant segment of our community. If we do not provide that opportunity to those people, that frustration is going to have tremendously negative social and economic impacts on our Nova Scotia.
This bill is typical of this government. There was no preplanning, consultation was, at the very best, modest. It provides a new governance which screams out very loudly, as have so many of the other new governances that this government has put in place, that bigger is better. It provides us with a further centralization of authority, it provides us with legislation first and a plan later. It puts at jeopardy a long-standing, reasonably good relationship between the unions that represent those who toil on a daily basis in the community college system and the provincial government.
Mr. Speaker, what this legislation tells us is that the future is not well secured at all. We must ask ourselves, with respect to those who are going to be disaffected by this legislation and who might otherwise be scooped up in the safety net which will give them meaningful educational and training opportunity, where are the apprenticeship programs of which we heard so much up until May 25, 1993, and which since then have been lost as this government staggers from one self-inflicted crisis to another? Where are the cooperative programs to ensure that young people have tremendous opportunity to enter into not only cooperative programs but into work with employers after those cooperate programs are finished?
Where are the analyses of the economy, of the economic needs of this province which should dictate how our community college system is defined and what programs it delivers? Where are the analyses of social responsibility with respect to our community college system and what it must be and what it should be to the young men and women of Nova Scotia? Where are all these things? We hear nothing of them from the government, yet each and every one of those things is vitally important with respect to the delivery of meaningful training to young Nova Scotians and the provision of some degree of assurance that they will have an opportunity to play and play hard and play well in the economy of the future. Mr. Speaker, we do not know what those things are because the government does not know, because this minister does not know.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I think I would like to go back to that editorial which I referenced in the early part of my remarks. Again, it is the editorial in the Chronicle-Herald and it says of this minister's initiatives that, "This is hardly cutting-edge stuff, as the minister should know. Mr. MacEachern was quick to conceive of a world-class institution. Now if only he could deliver one. He's on the spot . . .".
Well, Mr. Speaker, that wouldn't be too bad if that minister was on the spot. But the terrifying aspect is, that it is the young men and women of Nova Scotia who are on the spot and not because they put themselves there. It is the employees of the community college system who are on the spot and not because they put themselves there. If the minister perishes because he is on the spot, so be it. But those young men and women should not have to perish with him. That, I am afraid, is just precisely the prescription that this bill offers for them and nothing more. It is in the light of that understanding of this legislation that I will find it not possible to support it in second reading.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak for a few moments this afternoon on Bill No. 55, a bill which purpose is to reorganize in a very significant way the community college system in the Province of Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, my difficulty is that I don't understand, I can't determine from the bill or from anything the minister has said, whether that is for the good of the system or not.
Mr. Speaker, I see the community college system as being an important component of the education system in the Province of Nova Scotia, linking in many ways from the secondary school programs to jobs, employment opportunities and for that matter providing a link between secondary schools and universities; filling, basically, a need that exists within our society, within any society, to provide certain specific skill training at an intermediate level, perhaps, in order to meet the needs of an economy that is always changing, of course, but a need that will always be there between the skill level and the education level that comes out of the education system, out of the secondary schools, that provides a different type of education than what would be obtained through university level training.
Often the entrance requirements are different for the community college system; they are most appropriate for those people who have not taken the advanced stream in terms of course levels at the secondary school level, and for people who are more clearly focused perhaps on an occupation or a particular skill that is more short term in its training requirements. But I have raised, as I think others have in this House, the concern that I have that, with the way our community college system has transformed over the past 10 or 15 years and because of the pressures and changes that our education system is under right now and facing in the near future, we are generating some very significant gaps in the ability of that intermediate form of education and training to meet the needs of a great number of people.
Mr. Speaker, we can't forget that while it is important that our college system, as well as our university system, is able to train people, provide skilled workers, employees for employment opportunities for employers, for industry and business, at the same time it provides another important role and that is to increase the educational capacity, to increase the capacity of individuals to think for themselves, to think in critical ways, to be able to make decisions on the basis of information that they are able to obtain in order to further their way through life and give them the authority, the empowerment, to take advantage of opportunities that may exist out there in their communities, in our society.
I am concerned that there has been perhaps a greater focus on meeting the needs of business and industry out there. Some of the things that the minister has said in terms of providing colleges that are controlled within themselves by a board of governors, so that they can be more flexible to meet the needs of the business community in that area. While that is good, what concerns me is that sometimes without proper planning, without proper analysis and study of the needs, of the trends that exist out there, what we will get and what sometimes appears to be happening is almost a knee-jerk response in terms of providing changing programs in our community college system. I don't know that that is a good area of focus, Mr. Speaker.
No question, there needs to be flexibility and there needs to be the ability of the college system to adjust, to respond to the changing climate, to the change in business environment out there, but still, I think that there is a need, Mr. Speaker, for those many decisions to be made on the basis of planning, on the basis of research, on the basis of trends and of some consideration to the future.
The concern that many of us have expressed, Mr. Speaker, is that the college systems now require people with a minimum of Grade 12, that people in many of the colleges who, for example, have received a Grade 12 equivalency through what is commonly known as a GED test are excluded or don't meet the basic criteria of admission to the college system. I think we know that there is a very serious problem in this province and all across this country of young people getting distracted, for various reasons, from obtaining their high school education. As a result of community pressures, of economic pressures, of societal pressures Mr. Speaker, many young people today, perhaps at an alarming rate, compared to 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, are leaving school at a young age and, because of the fact that they are having troubles in their home, in their community and they just don't see the relevance, maybe it is because of the discouraging environment out there, in terms of the number of university graduates they see that are unable to find jobs, let alone high school graduates, Mr. Speaker.
As a result, the point is that there are, unfortunately, a large group of people who have been unable or have made a decision which has meant they have not obtained a high school education or have not completed their high school education. So it really prohibits them, it really restricts them from obtaining many of the jobs that are available in our communities and, in fact, restricts their abilities on many occasions to be able to generate their own employment opportunities.
Now that is not across the board because we all know of instances where people who haven't obtained a high school education have gone out and been very successful in the business world. That hasn't held them back as a result, though, of their own inherent initiative and intelligence, they have been able to take advantage somehow or generate their own opportunities and become very successful. But, unfortunately, the majority of people, if they don't get an education, if they don't get through high school, then their ability to access opportunities in our society are greatly limited.
There have been studies done that with the changing work environment, in terms of increasingly technologically complex work world, that it is even more incumbent upon each individual to obtain not only a general education but also an education which is much more specific, in terms of providing people with opportunities, whether that be through computers or other types of skills and knowledge that are part of the information age today, Mr. Speaker, and that if people get distracted and are unable to obtain that information off the bat at an early age, then it makes it much more difficult for them to return. But many do return, many people who leave high school at an early age, before completing, find themselves limited in what they are able to do.
Many people do return to school, do try to get upgrading, do try to get their Grade 12 because they recognize the fact that they need an education, that they need some specific skill training in order to access job opportunities. They go back and obtain either a Grade 12 equivalency or some people go back and obtain their Grade 11 and Grade 12, Mr. Speaker. The difficulty then is are they able to access programs in our community college system? Unfortunately, at an alarming rate, I think, those people are finding their opportunities greatly restricted. That is because the number of spaces available in our community colleges is being restricted. The ability of people to access programs where their particular job experience has more relevance is being limited. There is also some significant competition happening for those limited spaces by students who have gone through an academic stream would be eligible for and meet the criteria for universities but either because of a disenchantment of the university system, through the prohibitive costs of the university system, are finding themselves heading back and turning back to the community college system. Those people, based on the educational criteria, would be in first place or would rate higher than people with a Grade 12 or with a Grade 12 equivalency. Therefore, the opportunities for a great number of people are even more greatly restricted.
Mr. Speaker, that whole question of the mandate and the relevancy of the community college system I don't think has been addressed adequately yet by this minister. I don't think this government has taken the time to examine how the education system provided through the community colleges has transformed from the old days of the vocational schools to what we have today and who has been dropped off the edge and what kind of planning needs to be put into place, what kind of research needs to be employed in order that the community college system actually responds to the needs, not only of business, not only of industry in the Province of Nova Scotia, but also of communities and also of the students themselves.
That examination has not yet been done. I think that that is a serious problem. I think that that should have been done and that that should still be done before we embark on a physical restructuring, Mr. Speaker, that has more to do, some would suggest, with trying to devolve authority and, therefore, responsibility for costs, than it does with trying to enhance education and trying to improve the opportunities of the community college system to respond to the needs of the Province of Nova Scotia of all of our communities.
But I am hesitant at this point to be too critical of the lack of planning because you will remember that the Minister of Education went through some considerable consultation, or at least he described it as such, discussions with the stakeholders with respect to the changes in the Education Act and we saw what happened there. After two years of a consultation process of some sort, the minister tabled a bill in this House which immediately caused a ruckus and a great uproar amongst those very stakeholders and has since gone through over 200 changes, Mr. Speaker.
So I am not going to suggest that just consultation and discussion and planning is the answer, because the minister has supposedly done that on the one hand and it has not met with much success. But still, I think that we have to examine, before we venture out in this area of change, what role do we want for our community colleges in this province. You know, before we set them out there on their own, 19 colleges, Mr. Speaker, that will have their own boards that will be out there independently and, supposedly, operating in response to the needs of the community, as well as the direction at an arm's length manner of the Minister of Education. Before we do that, I think that we should examine the role of the community colleges in the education system, examine the history, how did we get to this point and where is it that we want to go from here.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business did a study of late, Mr. Speaker, that talked about the needs of business in the Atlantic Provinces. It talked about the concerns of many business people that we needed to ensure that there was constant training and upgrading provided, that the work force had available to it, opportunities to participate in those kinds of constant training programs. One has to ask oneself, and this is an examination that I think the Minister of Education should be undertaking to determine what are the needs and how can they be provided by the community college. That has not been done and I think that is a significant lacking of this system.
The federal government has announced that it is eliminating $8.6 million from the college budgets. How is cutting the colleges loose, having them exist on their own, how is that going to help those colleges respond to that significant cut, $8.6 million? I would suggest to you that it is going to be greater than that because as the transfer payments with respect to the Canada Health and Social Transfer comes down the pipe, a big part of that is education. Once that begins to shake down, we are going to see an even a further reduction in the monies that are going to the education system.
The minister shakes his head and says, no that is not true. I would certainly welcome the minister taking to his feet and explaining to us how the province has decided to divide the greatly reduced pie that is now going to be coming from Ottawa between health, education and social services. I think that would be of great interest. Many Nova Scotians are wondering exactly what the government is doing with that. We know that there is going to be significant competition between those three departments in determining how that money is going to be divided up, but we don't know yet. The federal government hadn't set any parameters, it is completely up to the provinces.
The reality is that the community college system, like other education systems in the Province of Nova Scotia, is going to be greatly affected. The ability to deliver services is going to be greatly affected by the reduction in monies coming down the pipe from the federal government. I will go back to my question. How is setting up 19 separate institutions with individual boards of governors, how is that going to assist the community college system to respond to the changing fiscal circumstances that they will be facing?
It one were to be strictly cynical, you might want to believe that what the minister is doing is cutting the colleges loose so that he doesn't have to take responsibility for the significant downloading, in terms of education budgets for the community college system. Maybe that is in fact what is coming down. You will note that over the past two months, the minister has cut five colleges out of that system, reduced the number of spaces available to Nova Scotians by 800. Perhaps that has been his role and now he is going to cut the community colleges out, let them fend for themselves and make those decisions.
It is a bit ironic that when the universities are being forced, compelled to be nice, compelled to come together, to merge their administrations and to come up with some kind of plan which shares administrations and shares programs and so on, the community college system is almost being taken in a different direction. They are now going to be administered by separate boards. I think that is interesting, to see how, in fact, the minister is going at this system.
Then again, one of the exciting things about this government is that we just can't sit back and expect what they are going to do. They will, undoubtedly, do something different, depending on the day of the week it is, within each department, let alone within the Cabinet.
In the minister's statement he said that the community colleges must seize customized training opportunities that make money and reduce reliance on public tax dollars. That is an interesting statement. On the one hand, they are going to continue to do what they are right now, and I think that is good, and that is to say to many of the employers who, in fact, can afford it that you have a responsibility to participate in the cost of training your work force. I think in many countries in the industrial world, employers are expected to do that. They play a much greater role in, not only fashioning the training regime that exists, but also for paying those costs and I think that is good. I think the employers should play more of a direct role and pay the direct cost in terms of funding training.
On the other hand, let us not forget that the community college system is part of the public education system and that we all have a commitment, or at least we all should have a commitment, that if we are going to ensure an educated work force, a skilled work force, that we are going to ensure that our society has equal access to educational opportunities, then we have to be prepared - I think many Nova Scotians, many Canadians, most, in fact, are prepared to make that commitment - to ensure that those educational opportunities are available to everyone regardless of their means, regardless of their economic circumstances. That is something that we, supposedly, cherish here in Canada, the whole question of equality of opportunity in terms of education.
It concerns me to hear the minister talk about a reduced reliance on public tax dollars because it sounds like, in many ways, that we are going to be in the future turning our community college system, our community colleges, into private training schools. I certainly, for one, do not think that is a way to go. There is a role for private training institutions, private trainers out there; I think they can provide and do provide an important service. At the same time, as I have suggested before, I think that the community college system needs to do more than simply provide training, although that is important, for specific jobs that are out there or that may be out there in the future. They have an opportunity to supplement, to complement, the education needs of our society of all the people in our society. I would think that the minister would want to have that as his priority, but unfortunately, I do not see that these changes, in fact, do that, lend any credibility to that.
The other point there, is that this whole question of the colleges making money leads to the whole question of increased tuition costs of the colleges. At the same time we are seeing increased tuition costs at the universities which is limiting access to those institutions, we are going to see, I think that is in the cards, that the same thing will happen, in fact, it has already happening that access to community colleges will be prohibited as a result of increased tuition costs. Again, that further restricts a certain growing segment of our population that unfortunately does not have the economic wherewithal, the economic resources to be able to compete with other parts in terms of paying higher tuition fees and being able to completely fund their education.
Mr. Speaker, there is another question in the bill here and that is how the system is going to be turned over from under the Civil Service Act, under the responsibility with the province as the owner and as the employer to these boards. In other words, it is a process of privatization, not in the strict sense in that these new boards will be a for profit operation, but it is privatizing in that it will no longer be within the realm of the Civil Service within the realm of the Province of Nova Scotia.
So how are these workers being treated? How are the teachers, the instructors, the people who work within the college system, the janitors, the maintenance people, the secretaries, the support people and so on, how are they being treated within Bill No. 55? Well, it appears that they are to be treated much similar to the way the government has proposed to treat other civil servants, other employees, that it has affected. As a result of its own decision whether it be to merge, or whether it be to unmerge or whether it be to change who in fact is in control of the administrative structure, be it a hospital, or in this case, the community college system, they continue to follow down that road whereas they make a decision to change the employment circumstances of these employees. They seem to suggest through legislation like this that they don't have any responsibility to protect the interests of those employees through that process to ensure that, in fact, those people are not any more negatively impacted by this process than by the process itself, by simply through the change in administration in the reorganization of that particular - in this case - the community college.
So what you have happening here is that a lot of the rights, as presented in this bill, a lot of the rights that people have under the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act will be and are in jeopardy as a result of the way this language is presented in Bill No. 55 as it was with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Bill, as it was and still is with the bill to amalgamate the four health care institutions into the QE II. It is still heading down that road, Mr. Speaker. This bill is heading down that road to treat employees that come under the Civil Service Act differently than they treat other employees, to not recognize the rights that these people have gained over the years as a result of being in and under the employ of the Province of Nova Scotia. Let's not forget that in most, if not all cases, these rights have been obtained, if not directly through negotiation, then as a consequence of their participation in the Civil Service and in recognition of their service, recognition of their commitment, recognition of the important role that these employees pay in maintaining a stable and professional work force in the Public Service. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be recognized because many of those rights are, in fact, jeopardized.
Now, as I was coming in this evening to the Legislature, I understand that according to the news that the minister is meeting or the minister's officials are meeting with the officials of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to try to work out some kind of deal on the same basis as the deal that the NSGEU worked out with the Victoria General Hospital management and the future QE II board. But, Mr. Speaker, why, if it is that the government is going to work a deal to ameliorate the impacts of some of this language in this legislation, if the minister and his officials are going to ensure that the negative impacts that are provided for in this legislation are not going to occur, then why don't we change the bill?
Why have a piece of legislation, in this case that is directly affecting the community colleges and the employees within the community college, which will be deemed basically irrelevant because the people involved in that specific circumstance, that is the employees of the community college system and the employers within the community college system, reach an agreement outside the legislation to ensure that it will not have that impact?
This is somewhat confusing, I know, but you have got a piece of legislation which sets out to provide the employer with certain opportunities to not only guide it, but to certainly enhance its opportunities, to basically have its way with the employees when it comes to dividing up the collective agreement provisions, for example. If in fact, the participants within the system work out a deal outside of that, that means that even though that is there a deal with the community colleges to allow the employer to affect the collective agreement of the employees, we will not allow that to happen.
Then, Mr. Speaker, why don't we amend the bill? Why don't we change the legislation? I mean, why have it there? Why have that language there because everybody has agreed, other than the government, that that is what the provision provides? That is what it will do, exactly what we have been saying. It allows a third party to come in and, at the request of the employer, make changes as they see fit, unprecedented in industrial relations of jurisprudence.
Mr. Speaker, everybody recognizes that except the government. Why doesn't the government just acknowledge the fact that the people that are supposedly impacted or that are impacted by its legislation - community colleges in this case and the employees, the unions representing those employees - have recognized the fact that there is a concern and that there is a problem, then why don't we amend the bill?
MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the member could just allow an introduction for a moment.
MR. CHISHOLM: Sure.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources on an introduction.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, seated in the east gallery two gentlemen who do not often grace this House of Assembly, Jim Kerr and Conrad MacNeil. I just want to have the House give them a round of applause. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: I would thank the member for Halifax Atlantic for that interruption.
MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It certainly is my pleasure. I think it is important that we, as members, acknowledge people when they come visit this Legislature. It is far too seldom sometimes that people come here and witness the events and the goings on here, although once they do they recognize why. But nonetheless, I think it is an important institution. Some decisions are made here, good or bad, and it is important that people witness that.
Mr. Speaker, again, you know, I am talking a bit about the whole process here of how workers' rights are handled within this piece of legislation. I think that we have seen that the identical wording as in other pieces of legislation and it has caused some considerable disruption, some considerable concern, anxiety amongst those people and in fact, has led to some considerable disruption at the work place. I think that we do not want that. Surely, that is not in the interest of this government. That is not in the interest of any of us. It is not in the interest of the community college system or the health system or any other system, that if we are going to have this kind of change, be it good or be it bad, the government has the authority, I guess, to make those changes.
Mr. Speaker, at the very least let's ensure that those changes happen in as smooth and as easy a fashion, with as little upset as possible to those people who are participating. Surely in this day and age we recognize that the people who work within our institutions are the people who need to commit themselves and be tied into and feel trustful of the process of change, in order to make the change work. Because if those people are not, if they feel they can't trust their employer, if they feel they are being treated with contempt, then, Mr. Speaker, regardless of how much they support the idea of the change, it is simply not going to happen and, if it does happen, it will be more expensive, productivity will be affected and the outcome will be less than satisfactory.
Mr. Speaker, I think I have probably had enough to say on this bill, I have been up a few times. I just want to summarize, I am concerned that the changes are being made in the community college system, perhaps with the sole purpose of setting the community college system apart from the minister and his department and the government, and allow them to sort of fend for themselves as $8.6 million and, undoubtedly many more millions of dollars are being cut away from the budgets available for the community college. That causes me some concern. The whole framework of how the community college system is going to operate in the Province of Nova Scotia is being altered without any clear plan, without any clear analysis of the role our community college should play in our education system and in society in general in Nova Scotia.
I think that is a mistake, Mr. Speaker, and the very process itself is being done in a way that is extremely disruptive, that jeopardizes employees' rights, that jeopardizes the security and the benefits that many workers have worked hard to earn over years and years of dedication and commitment to this province, to the education system and to their community college and the people who have gone through those training programs. I think that is needless, I don't think this government needs to operate that way. If they want to make change, at least treat the people who are being impacted by that change with some respect. I think what they will find is that those people will jump on board pretty quick, in order to ensure that that change occurs as positively as possible.
Mr. Speaker, before I leave my feet at this point, I would like to suggest that this is an important change that is being made to the community college system. I think it is, unfortunately, being made without enough consultation with the major partners, without any consensus. There hasn't been any real study and examination of the costs and benefits. Therefore, I would like to introduce an amendment at this point that would propose that very thing.
I would like to propose an amendment at this particular point that does the following, "That the words after "that" be deleted and the following be substituted therefor: `legislation governing community colleges should be based upon a consensus defined by Nova Scotia labour, management, educators, and equality groups.'".
I base this amendment on my sincere view and opinion that only by doing that are we going to be able to ensure that our system, the system that develops in the future, is the best one that can possibly be. Mr. Speaker, I would also refer you to Paragraph 670(5), Page 200 of Beauchesne that deals with the circumstances relating to the introduction and prosecution of the bill. I would move that amendment and I look forward to your favourable decision.
MR. SPEAKER: I am going to recess the House for a couple of minutes until I have a chance to look at this amendment in consultation with the Clerks.
[6:56 p.m. The House recessed.]
[7:00 p.m. The House reconvened.]
MR. SPEAKER: I have had a chance to review the proposed amendment in consultation and I know that the member for Halifax Atlantic referred me specifically to Beauchesne's Paragraph 670(5). I have looked at that clause and I know it and I would like to comment on it. Basically, it states, in reference to reasoned amendment, "It may express opinions as to any circumstances connected with the introduction or prosecution of the bill, or otherwise opposed to its progress. It may oppose the principle of the bill but not propose that the bill be withdrawn and a new one introduced.".
Now, I interpret that clause to mean that an amendment is not out of order simply because it expresses opinions as to circumstances connected with the introduction of prosecution of the bill or otherwise supposed. Simply saying if that happens, it is not automatic that the proposed amendment is out of order. I think that is sound. However, there is still the basic principle involved with rules and contents of reasoned amendments. To that effect, I refer the member to Paragraph 671. "The amendment must `strictly relate to the bill which the House, by its order, has resolved upon considering', and must not include in its scope other bills then standing for consideration by the House.". In Paragraph 670(1), "It must be declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy or provisions of the bill.".
So that is overall, it must be "adverse to, or differing from". It must also be relevant. I find it is a relevant proposal. I find it does not oppose Paragraph 670(5), but I find it is in conflict with Paragraph 670(1), in that there is nothing stated in the bill that differs from or is opposed to, call just being based on the consensus as outlined. So I would find the amendment out of order.
Hearing no further interveners, I would recognize the Minister of Education to close the debate.
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: I have listened, Mr. Speaker, the last few days to comments about community colleges and, in particular, to the bill. I will try as best I can to answer the questions that have been posed by honourable members opposite, relative to both community colleges and the bill.
In December, approximately two years ago, Mr. Speaker, my staff and I travelled and visited every community college in this province. We talked to the principals and the vice-principals of the community college and the student services people. We asked them to show us two things. We asked them to show us their best program and the one that they were most pleased about and would be most interesting to us.
Many of the campuses that we saw were archaic in the extreme. Many of the programs were outdated. Some of the human resource things that we saw going on should have been stopped years before, but were not. We saw immediately that reform had to take place in the community college.
I had been aware, Mr. Speaker, of much work that had been done about post-secondary education in Nova Scotia and I refer particularly to a 1985 Report of the Royal Commission on Post-Secondary Education done by Rod MacLennan, who, it is my understanding, is from Truro. He is a businessman from Truro and he did a substantial report on post-secondary education. On Page 160 of the report, he puts all of the objectives that should take place for the community college.
I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, through you, to all members of the House, that this is in 1985 that he says this. The recommendations are, "By working closely with industry and employer groups, to develop and employ curricula that are appropriate to the skills required by the work place.". In 1993, when I travelled through the province and visited the community colleges, this was not done. Number two, "By means of industrial leave and other forms of staff updating and upgrading, to ensure that all instructional staff have occupational skills that are current to industrial requirements.". During that tour, Mr. Speaker, we visited one campus which was installing their first computer. During that tour, we visited another campus in which we were talking to the instructor for auto repair. He said, we have a problem here, we can't repair cars that have been built in the last 10 years. This is what the teacher reported to us.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, look, these anecdotal examples of the worst scenario possible, if that minister had spent five minutes in Kings County, he would have found both of the statements that he has just made were totally incorrect. Teachers have been taking leaves of absence to work in the industrial parts of Nova Scotia and working with industry. Also the Honda motor company provides the . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I do not hear a point of order.
MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . college with a new car every year and they use the facility for teaching. Now I explained that to him last week.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to make his point of order or take his seat.
MR. ARCHIBALD: If the minister is going to explain, he should at least be close to being accurate instead of these anecdotal things that he dreamed up in his sleep.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I find that there is no point of order.
MR. MACEACHERN: The third recommendation in this 1985 report, "By means of close liaison with other training institutions, to develop career paths between vocational schools, technical institutes, colleges and universities in specific occupational fields in order to facilitate the technical and professional advancement of the individual.". When we arrived, those liaisons weren't made . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: What year?
MR. MACEACHERN: . . . except, Mr. Speaker, where we come upon a principal of a particular campus who chose to do it themselves. We had some doing that. We also had some teachers who stepped outside the pattern of the community college as governed from the Department of Education and they did it themselves. We have many examples of that throughout the community colleges.
Another one. By means of cooperative education, vestibule training and related forms of training involving learning in an industrial setting to facilitate the transition of the student from the learning environment to the work environment, the federal government and the Department of Education this past year signed the first co-op agreement so that students in the community college could, in fact, involve themselves as happens in university with co-op education. That happened this past year, 1985, 1995.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear! Hear!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister has the floor.
MR. MACEACHERN: Cooperate with federal authorities in planning and implementing annually a program of training courses purchased by the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission for clients referred for training by Canada Employment Centres, annual meetings between them all. Now, Mr. Speaker, I will just give you some other examples, anecdotal for the honourable member. I found one teacher who had no students, hadn't had students for three years.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, no! How did they know they were a teacher?
MR. MACEACHERN: But there was a moratorium in the community college that nobody be laid off, no matter what. So we had, with all due respect, teachers without students. We had another one who in three years had four students. Three years, four students, that's all they had.
Now I will give you another example. I was visiting one community college and we were asked by the local chamber of commerce to speak to them. The chair of the chamber of commerce said, I called the community college the other day. We had new $75,000 computer equipment and I said, could you train our people on that? The principal of the community college said, we don't do that and hung up. (Interruption) Yes I did. In fact, I did. Absolutely, I did. In fact, if I might, we then had the principal call the guy back and set up a meeting so that he could do it because it had happened just before that. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. MACEACHERN: I could, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) He did, absolutely.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I just want to by way of a point of order and by contrast relate to the minister that up in Truro we have a community Centre of Excellence without any students. (Laughter)
MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, if I could, in terms of the report of 1985, and that member, just to show you, it is not my opinion. The Auditor General in 1993 did an analysis of the community colleges. He did an analysis. If I might, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make reference to some of his comments because it is very important to the debate that has gone on in this House.
The first comment, "The Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) was established in 1988.", as recommended in Foundation for the Future, a White Paper on a community college system for Nova Scotians. "The Nova Scotia Community College Act (1990) governs its operations. The College consists of 18 campuses throughout the Province.". Of the 18 campuses, 13 were previously regional vocational schools. It describes, it gives the whole history. For example, Section 5(2) provides for the appointment by the minister, with the approval of the Executive Council, of a board of governors for the college. To date, a board of governors has not been appointed: 1985, 1988, 1993, nothing.
I continue, Mr. Speaker. This is not my opinion. Just for a point, "There is no long-range strategic plan . . .", number one. "Accountability of the Community College is seriously deficient. . . The College is a part of the Department of Education. At the present time, it does not have a Board of Governors as provided for in the Act. The present administration of the College consists of one . . .", person. "The management information system is inadequate . . . There are many areas of divergent practice among the campuses including methods of evaluating whether applicants satisfy admission criteria, course content and examinations. There is a need for more central guidance in the program area.".
AN HON. MEMBER: They only had 15 years.
MR. MACEACHERN: Fifteen years, yes, you have to give them time now.
"The Department undertook an extension assessment of approximately one-third of the College's programs. . .". but there was no report on that. I go on. He gave some recommendations, suggestions in 1993. This is very important: 1985, 1993. "A decision on the appropriate form of governance for the College should be made and the Community College Act should be amended if necessary to reflect that decision. Appropriate human and financial resources should be provided to the entity with governance responsibility.
An appropriate accountability structure for the College should be adopted which includes key functions currently performed in other areas of the Department relating to the Community College, such as program development and financial analysis.".
By the way, this was not even an Auditor General we appointed. This was appointed by the previous government. We did not do it. It is not the case of we as a government, because some people may say it is okay, but this is a person who reports to us, he does not share my opinion. I just give you this because this is what we acted on. I can continue.
"A comprehensive strategic plan for the Department including the College should be prepared and used as a basis for operational plans. The plans should be updated on a regular basis. The plan should reflect the economic strategy of the Province.". It makes sense to me. The information requirements of the college should be reviewed to determine whether current information systems are capable of fulfilling needs efficiently.
"The funding formula for the campuses should be revised to reflect the objectives of the College rather than the maintenance of the status quo.".
I have, Mr. Speaker, another anecdote. I had this person come to me and explain that none of his students were getting work because 75 per cent of his trade was unemployed. The college was graduating 135 people in that trade, and 75 per cent of the trade was unemployed. I asked him, why do we keep doing this? He said, because I need a job. That is what he said to me. The status quo drove the community college then, not the students. Whatever was in place, stayed in place. We can talk about budgeting, too, that is another story.
You can check this, but anyway, the concluding remarks go on. This is more important because it is about this bill and it is very important. The next year, because we challenged him at the end that we working on this, he gave us a caution at the end and said, I will be back next year. He did go back next year and he gives a review of the community college and he repeats at the end. This is the concluding remark of the Auditor General, 1994, "Management of the College appears to be committed to positive change. The College has undergone many changes and has had many accomplishments in the year since our audit. Actions have been initiated to address all of the key recommendations from our 1993 audit.", all of them. So there is a strategic plan that we are working on.
"In some cases complete implementation . . ." (Interruption) Now Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should listen to this because this was his very comment in his leadership speech here. "In some cases complete implementation will not be possible until the new organization structure is fully staffed and the College achieves self-governance status, but appropriate initial steps have been taken.". If you trust the Auditor General's judgment, this is one of the last steps to carry us further.
Some other things, by the way, that are part of it and some of the honourable members opposite spoke about apprenticeship-style training. I would just like to report to all members of the House on our new Apprenticeship Board which we have appointed, which by the way, the last amendment talked about a . . .
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Would the honourable minister permit a question?
MR. MACEACHERN: Could I do this first because it is important . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order please.
MR. RUSSELL: I have a fairly urgent question.
MR. SPEAKER: Order please.
MR. MACEACHERN: As soon as I do this and then I will, this is very important. The apprenticeship is something that was delivered and is being delivered by the community college. It is not the job entry level training because we do that as well and also it is important to mention while we are here that when we came into office, to get into the community college, you needed Grade 12, you really did. We stopped that. It is to the point that when TAGS started and I will just give you an example, adult students in Louisbourg who had to leave the fishery, had very little education, some of them Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, in fact, enrolled in the community college under the TAGS program because we are looking now to identify what training is required, we are addressing it and we address it very aggressively.
We don't take a package that exists and if they don't fit we hang up the phone, we don't do that any more. What we do, is we do an analysis of what the situation is and we adapt or customize the training to the needs of the students. Even to the point, and I am going to mention this to all members of the House, Henson College is working on a proposal and it has been submitted to the federal government, to deal with what is called prior learning assessment and we are working with Henson College.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel talked about cooperation between the community college and the universities. We are working with Henson College, which is part of Dalhousie University, on this proposal by which any adult person can approach and get an assessment of what they need and a diagnosis of how to address that, the community college is part of that. As a result, we are going to get better and any adult who approaches the community college, we can find ways of addressing their needs.
We have also been working to upgrade apprenticeship training. I am just going to list the accomplishments of this board in one year. This is the accomplishments of the new Apprenticeship Board. They have revised a process for the designation of trades, this has been waiting for a very long time. They had the floor covering trade designated by the minister. In other words, this is a trade, only a short time to train for it but people are now working in that trade because there is work there, we have done that.
If I might continue, "Recommended the designation of all Red Seal Trades in the province which will introduce 16 new trades in Nova Scotia. Recommended that all provincial government departments only issue contracts to individuals and companies using certified tradespeople. Had several presentations from various sectors looking at using the apprenticeship model for skills training in traditional occupational areas. Pursuing apprenticeship with new emerging occupations with such groups as the Software Association and the Blood Fractionation Corporation. In co-operation with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia's Apprenticeship Division will be piloting alternative delivery methods for portions of the block release training . . . Conducted an in-depth survey on Apprenticeship training with 800 firms in Nova Scotia. Reviewed the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act and has made recommendations to the Minister.". That board has been working for one year and they have worked on this because that is part and parcel of the community college. The community college is here but this group is going to continue to work with the community college in the trades area. So if the honourable member wants to pose his question now, I would be pleased to answer.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable minister quoted from a couple of Auditor General Reports, 1993 and 1994. Is he aware that the 1993 Auditor General's Report is based on 1992 information and the 1994 is based on 1993 information? So that the remedial action was taken before this government came into office.
MR. MACEACHERN: You should read them. Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the honourable member. In fact, if he would check in the report relative to this, the contact that was made, by the way, we came in here to the Public Accounts Committee twice on this in which the Auditor General's Report was here, our staff responded to it one year and acknowledged the difficulties and they were addressing them. They came back the next year and they fixed them in one year. They addressed each and every one of them and the community college is growing as a consequence of that. That is very important for all members to understand it.
Likewise, by the way, it is not me doing this. I have got the staff in the community college who have taken charge of this. We have a president of both Collège de l'Acadie and a president who now have developed the staff. All I have is two people who work in the department who work with them. That is all we have. The rest of them are working independently. The two presidents and they are acting like presidents, Mr. Speaker, which is very important. All we had to do was remove the politics from it and it has gone very well which is very interesting.
I might mention, by the way, Mr. Speaker, that the honourable member for Halifax Citadel talked about cooperation. We, first of all, have worked with the universities, in fact, I, myself, have spoken to CONSUP about the community college. It has come up several times. They have talked about difficulties. They talked about ways to cooperate. There are, and I have listed here some of the credit agreements that exist between Saint Mary's University and some of our community colleges, Mount Saint Vincent University and some of our community colleges, University College of Cape Breton and the whole community college. These partnerships accredit transfer have been worked on for the last two years and it is growing.
The Ministers of Education across the country already are working on transfer of credit across the country for freshman and sophomore programming and we are also looking on how we can acknowledge credit at the college level for transfer into the universities and likewise, Mr. Speaker, both ways because it is not just college to university it is also university to college. So we have worked very hard on that in Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada and also across the country because credit transfer is very important.
It is also, by the way, important to recognize, for those members who do not know this, that the difference is a university gives degrees. Colleges give certificates and diplomas. These are not contradictory competing organizations. What in fact they are is complementary organizations. One does one type of training, its occupational training very specific, very targeted and the other one does university degree type programming, Mr. Speaker, and the overlap, if you want to consider it, is a part of partnership, it is not of conflicting with each other and that is what is happening in the community college.
I want to mention just for a moment, by the way, because some members talked about numbers of students. I took in enrolment figures of the colleges to look at them. We have changed significant programming in the college as we were asked to both by the 1985 report and the auditor general. We have upgraded the programs by looking at labour market needs and employment, Mr. Speaker. Those programs that are not leading to unemployment are costing students money. They are, in fact, depressing them terribly and making it hopeless.
We, in fact, have some people, and I know them personally, up home, who are unemployed in three trades because they were trained for something where there were no jobs. They got UI for a while. They went back and were trained for something else that did not have any jobs and they did it a third time because it was used as an income . . .
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a question. I would like to ask the minister isn't it a fact that the UIC recommends the course that a person will take at the community college and in fact a number of students have been forced to take training where they know there is no job consequence at the end, but have been told by the UIC to get on with it and take the course?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, that is how crazy this all gets. Now think of what the honourable member said as a logical argument; let's consider this, UIC takes somebody, directs them into a course that exists in the community college, that has spaces for it but there is no work. Let's do this again; in other words, that crowd opposite allowed - buggy whip makers, that is what it was - okay, so what they did to keep their UI going, this federal civil servant who had this person who was running out of their UI, didn't have anything in the community college to send them to except buggy whip making and such things. So what they did, the only vacancies that they had were those that nobody wanted to take.
Now, Mr. Speaker, that is the real difficulty with what they did. We have to provide options for our students that lead to work. That is very important. We can't just keep programs in place because programs are in place. That is very important, the community college has to get stronger. So what we did was review two-thirds of the programs and we are working on the last one-third. We had a four year plan in which we were renovating our 18 and moving to 19 community colleges, we were doing that.
Then, in fact, all of the federal transfers, which is $8.6 million, were removed. That is the direct cash transfers. What we did, if we hadn't done the work across the last two years, we would have been stalled at this time. But what we had to do was re-examine our plan, and as part of our strategic plan which has been published, then we had to build a new business plan tied to the fact that we had less money and had to become more responsive.
What we did was we sat down and analyzed each and every campus, each and every one. We did a fiscal analysis of what it cost us to keep them going the way they are and what it would cost to upgrade them to where they need to go. We could do one of two things, Mr. Speaker; we could reduce the amount of training or reduce the number of buildings. We chose to reduce the number of buildings.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in terms of that, I am going to show you. The numbers are there, if you want to see them. (Interruptions) Yes, I would be pleased to do that. I will table them, just give us a minute, would you.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister has the floor.
MR. MACEACHERN: In fact, when we came in there were this many seats, for example. Then what we did was we changed 55 courses and what happened, the numbers decreased the next year. But in fact, the next year, that is the year that has gone by, Mr. Speaker, the numbers have gone up significantly. In fact, across the three years - with less money, this is very important - they went, we arrived, there was 6,792 students in the community college. This past year there were 7,023, despite the overhaul and despite the fact that we had 12 per cent less money. We did such things, Mr. Speaker, a year ago we sold $6.5 million worth of customized training; this year, $9 million because our guys are out there working and are developing programs that the private sector wants to come to.
The honourable Minister of Transportation spoke today about Stora Forest Industries. Stora would only recognize apprentices from two areas in our whole community college system, NSIT and the University College of Cape Breton. By the way, that is in Port Hawkesbury, those of you who are aware of Port Hawkesbury. They wouldn't accept apprenticeships except from those two areas. The reason for that is the unevenness of what was being done across our community colleges.
What we have done, Mr. Speaker, is we are going to strengthen it. I am going to tell you that we are going to have to retreat for a short time but our numbers are going to come back and as the responsibility for training comes to the provincial government from the federal government, the opportunities are going to grow and grow for the students in this province.
I am going to tell you this, Mr. Speaker, never will we have students coming to our community colleges and leaving embarrassed with the courses they have taken. I am telling you, they are going to wear their community college jackets with pride, they are going to wear their graduation rings with pride because we are going to tell them the programs we are developing for them, what they are leading to and, after they are over, we are only going to be satisfied when we find out if they have work. We are improving right now, but this is the last block that we need in order to make this free-standing.
I want to talk about the faculty for a minute, Mr. Speaker. The faculty of the community college is the strength. If you think the public was frustrated by some of the shenanigans, you know we have several of our community colleges where the principals were appointed because they were the campaign managers of some of the politicians.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, Oh!
MR. MACEACHERN: Honest to goodness. That is a matter of record that they were appointed because of who they were. (Interruptions) Well, you guys know who they are.
Now, Mr. Speaker, if I could . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. MACEACHERN: A matter of record in this House. The honourable Minister of Finance, when we were in Opposition, he did an analysis of the students from one of our community colleges. We had one community down in Cape Breton with 1,200 citizens. The community college had 300 to 400 people there and they had a huge number of people there; and in Glace Bay, where I come from, there were very few people there. That is not because they were not applying, Mr. Speaker, it had to do with other connections. Who was most upset? The faculty of those colleges because they wanted to act as professionals, but what was happening was that the political arm was reaching in, always to control the community colleges.
Mr. Speaker, the board of governors will give this college - and it is one board of governors for the whole province - the respect that is required to get a post-secondary education. The faculty will know that they are faculty, and they deserve that because they are doing a good job. In the last two years, there have been substantial things growing in the community college and the faculty know that and they are going to be trusted to deliver programming; they are going to sit on the board of governors (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. MACEACHERN: No, that's my last question. No.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister is not going to take a question. The minister has the floor.
MR. MACEACHERN: Not only that, students, Mr. Speaker, are going to be sitting there. Now the problem, in terms of the faculty . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: How come the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says that . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister has the floor.
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, let me say this, that community college will grow and it will be stronger, not like that crowd. I would suggest for the reading of the honourable members opposite, they both get copies of these things, read them and understand. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East, on an introduction.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I want to put a completely different spin on what we have been doing in the last couple minutes by introducing through you to all members of the House, from my constituency of Hants East, the 1st Milford Scout Troop. They are here tonight with their leaders, John Brenton, Kevin Brett, Robert Sheehy and Ed Graw. I wonder if all those members would stand and get the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: That concludes the debate on second reading of Bill No. 55. Is the House ready for the question?
There are two requests for a recorded vote. We will now have the bells rung and we will have the rolls called.
Ring the bells. Call in the members.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Barkhouse Mr. Donahoe
Mrs. Norrie Dr. Hamm
Mr. Boudreau Mr. Russell
Mr. Gillis Mr. Holm
Dr. Stewart Mr. Chisholm
Mr. MacEachern Mr. Archibald
Mr. Mann Mr. Leefe
Mr. Casey Mr. McInnes
Mr. Gaudet Mr. Taylor
Mr. W. MacDonald
THE CLERK: For, 28. Against, 9.
MR. SPEAKER: I order that this bill be referred to the Law Amendments Committee.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 57.
Bill No. 57 - Medical Society Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in my place and move second reading of Bill No. 57, An Act to Continue the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. If I could indulge the House for a few moments and take you back in history. Travel with me, if you would, back to 1861. It was in this same place in which, and some members opposite may well remember, but if I could for the rest of the honourable members in their minds' eye come with me to a cold February day in the history of this place in which an honourable member, a physician, a Liberal Presbyterian, I might say, rose in his place to present a bill entitled, An Act to Establish the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. Unamended or without substantial amendments since that time, I ask the House to consider rushing headlong into the 20th Century, as I introduce this bill to continue that honourable institution that we know as the Medical Society of Nova Scotia.
Again, I take you back to that place on that February day in which this honourable Chamber was differently configured. In fact, these walls were not present, the Speaker's Chair was to my left in back and the fireplaces on either side of the door here, of course well placed to warm the government to right of the Speaker, while the Opposition was placed against the windows, again on that cold February day. Not a bad idea, Mr. Speaker, at least for the present.
We have made improvements, I am sure our honourable friends on the opposite benches would agree. Nonetheless, on that cold day in February 1861, the physician surgeon who rose in his place, a Mr. William Bennett Webster for Kings South, presented a bill and spoke eloquently on the need to establish this institution in the Province of Nova Scotia. As I mentioned, he was known most assuredly for the fact that he was - and there is not a contradiction in terms - a Liberal Presbyterian and was, in fact, the physician who had, before the advent of anaesthesia in 1836, performed the first cataract operation in Nova Scotia according to the record.
He introduced this bill to allow for the dissection of human tissue legally in the province. There was some rumours afoot at the time, I think, that human tissue had been gotten rather unusually from the various places about the city as had been done in Edinburgh and London. This bill was presented to this place in order to prevent that. I want to just refer to Hansard of that day to bring to the House's attention how, in fact, times change very little.
It was announced in Hansard at the time that Dr. Webster rose to introduce, ". . . a petition from the Medical Society of Nova Scotia, to enable them more effectually to prosecute the study of Anatomy.". We may perhaps not do that as effectually in this House at the moment, except to say that this particular bill not only did that, but it was ". . . to legalize dissection, . . ." of human tissue, ". . . and to enable medical men to prosecute their investigations, . . .", to enable ". . . the bodies of persons dying in the Poor House for instance, or elsewhere, who had no friends or relatives to bury them, might be handed over under certain restrictions to members of the Medical Society.".
We have come somewhat down the history channels and we do not propose in this legislation to cause undue worry of the members of the Opposition in respect to dissection of anyone in this place or outside this place, but rather to update a bill. It might be stated that Hansard records the reaction of the House to this. In fact, in that place, the Premier who sat to the left of the honourable member who introduced the bill was none other than Joseph Howe and in the Opposition, again staring opposite the government benches, was Sir Charles Tupper. Little has changed in that regard. Nonetheless, the reaction to this bill was (Interruption) considerably when Mr. Howe, at that time, was heard as saying it reminds him of the ". . . old saying `kick him he has no friends,'" but it would be changed now to "`dissect him he has no friends'". In any event, this was the introduction of this bill that I wish to introduce for the favourable consideration of the House, today and to, in fact, bring us, as I said, into the 20th Century.
What does this Act do, Mr. Speaker? Well, very simply, it updates and modernizes this original Act and I appreciate the indulgence of the House for a brief history tour, but nonetheless, in all seriousness, to say that this Act is an important element of reform in Nova Scotia. I might say, it is considerably pleasurable to me to rise in my place as a member of the Liberal Government to introduce a reform that in fact was introduced so long ago. That legislation and this current legislation, the version of it, attempt to reflect the needs of the day. The needs in those days were somewhat different than the needs of today. Nonetheless, this legislation which we propose, in fact, does reflect some of the changes and the needs of modern day reality.
In essence, Mr. Speaker, it illustrates for us the changing relationship between the Ministry of Health and the Medical Society of Nova Scotia in a very real way, and I think in a very positive way. In fact, this legislation was developed in concert with the Medical Society of Nova Scotia and they participated very actively in its writing and its design and structure.
Let me indulge the House further, for a few moments, Mr. Speaker, to outline some of the objects, not only of the society itself, but also of this Act. In the best of times, the Medical Society, of course, has its goals, as its objectives very much the same as the Minister of Health or any good citizen of the province in terms of health care and that is to prevent illness and promote healthy living. In addition to this, there are practical things that the Medical Society must do to represent its membership and represent its constituency, if you would, much the same as we do here in this place, but also to act as a representative and an advocacy group, if you would, and a group that would represent the medical profession in this province to those other professions that join with physicians of this province to provide health services to our citizenry.
This society has in many respects, come aboard our reforms with some enthusiasm, not without some discomfort at times, as we know, as I know all too well, and not without some fear and trembling. That is not unusual in some of the changes certainly that are taking place in the world today, as well as some of the ways in which we have had to go about changing of the time in which we had to do that over the last two to three years.
This bill, in essence, Mr. Speaker, and very importantly so, formally recognizes the Medical Society's long established role in communicating as an advocacy group for its members on behalf of Nova Scotia physicians with both the public and also with the Ministry of Health and the Government of Nova Scotia. In fact, this bill allows us, as a Ministry of Health and as a government to form relationships legal and otherwise with this society and with the physicians of the province and this bill recognizes the Medical Society of Nova Scotia as a spokesgroup for the physicians of this province and recognizes it as a representative agent in respect to dealing with the Ministry of Health and the Government of Nova Scotia and we welcome this. We welcome the ability that we have and the relationships which we have developed over the last several years and, in fact, going well beyond that, to speak to this professional body and to go forward with them with the changes that need to be made.
This bill, in fact, is not only consistent with the reform process, it is necessary to that process, Mr. Speaker, and I would commend this to the favourable consideration of the House, as I move second reading of Bill No. 57, An Act to Continue the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for taking some time and reviewing for us the history of the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. I don't have to remind those in this Chamber that, of course, Sir Charles Tupper was a physician. If memory serves me correctly, in 1861 he would be Premier or perhaps even Prime Minister, because in 1861, we were not a part of Canada, but, in fact, Nova Scotia was an independent entity within the realm of the British Empire.
AN HON. MEMBER: A distinct society.
DR. HAMM: It has been pointed out, at that time, we were still a distinct society. The other interesting thing, too, of course, at that particular time, there was Joseph Howe, who is revered by all of us in this House for his stance and ultimate success in bringing responsible government to this province. It is interesting as well, as you know Sir Charles Tupper and Joseph Howe were on opposite sides of the Confederation issue. As you know, Sir Charles Tupper, of course, was a strong proponent of Confederation and, in fact, was one of the original fathers and it has been reported that perhaps next to Sir John A. Macdonald, was the Canadian most responsible for the formation of the Confederation.
In the early days, of course, Joe Howe was an adversary of Confederation. It was only after the fact that he became a supporter and, in fact, . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Became a Tory.
DR. HAMM: Became a Tory. Yes. That was really where my story was going. (Laughter) I was going to remind members of the House, particularly those on the government side, but perhaps even those who are aspiring perhaps to leadership of the Third Party, that our caucus is small but we are certainly small but mighty. But we are certainly open to accept any defections from the other sides.
I have not taken the opportunity to read the original medical Act which was brought before this House in 1861 but I did read the current bill before us and my reading of the bill certainly is that it does adequately reflect the activities of the Medical Society as I know them. Particularly as the minister had said in its advocacy role for the profession in general and its ability to speak as the voice of organized medicine in the province and, as well, to be able to enter into various legal arrangements with the government and with other organizations on behalf of organized medicine in this province.
The minister, as well, has indicated that this bill was developed with the cooperation of the Medical Society. Having had an opportunity to read through the bill, I think it certainly does do what it purports to do and that is, brings up-to-date and formalizes the actual activities of the Medical Society, to reflect what goes on in 1995. So, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to comment on Bill No. 57 and certainly my reading of the bill is that it is an accurate reflection of the Medical Society's activities and their relationship with the province and with the government.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just say at the outset that I am not able, as the two former speakers are, to cast my mind back quite so far but I certainly did appreciate a bit of the background which has led to the introduction of the bill, An Act to Continue the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. What I didn't hear from the minister and would perhaps be interested in hearing because I haven't done a comparison between this one and the original one, he has indicated that it is merely a modernizing and an updating of the Act to best represent what the Medical Society of Nova Scotia, in fact, is doing now as it carries out its responsibilities in representing its members. I would certainly be interested to know what were the variances or the issues in the original Act that were not able to withstand 134 years. (Interruption)
That having been said, what it reminds me is that when at times we are under some pressure in this House to move bills through at a clip, sometimes, that we should all remember that there are occasions in this House when legislation doesn't get revisited. Therefore, when we are running it through, we should make sure that it is, in fact, complete, that it does what it is supposed to do, that if it has any problems that have been articulated that have been identified, we should do our best and it is our responsibility here in this House to ensure that those problems are corrected before the legislation goes out. I think what this bill that has been introduced is an example of a piece of legislation that has worked perhaps adequately for 134 years but perhaps there have been problems over the years that the government of the day wasn't able to correct. I think we should all recognize the fact when we are doing it the first time, we should make sure it is complete.
I have also read through this bill, I am not a medical doctor but certainly, as has been stated, it is a bill which deals with the operation of the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. From what I can tell, it certainly lays out what those responsibilities are, including the agreement that the government signed with the society in 1992 and in 1995. It, of course, refers to the fact that the Medical Society for the purposes of negotiations of various items is, in effect, the bargaining agent for the doctors. It certainly appears to be, as has been presented by the minister, a bill to continue the Medical Society of Nova Scotia in its current form. I would certainly voting in support of this legislation to go forward to the Law Amendments Committee and look forward to hearing any further tidbits of history as we go along, either at the Law Amendments Committee, or perhaps at the Committee of the Whole House stage from the minister. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak on Bill No. 57. It was a pleasure to listen to the trip down memory lane with the Minister of Health as he took us back to 1861 and to tell us that the reason that we have this bill before us is simply to modernize and update a piece of legislation that is 134 years old. That was fine and dandy, as I say, I enjoyed the trip back 134 years but I didn't learn too much about the bill.
A number of people, in fact, only two persons have spoken on the bill so far and they have both commented that they have read this bill but have not reviewed the old Act. The first thing that strikes me is that this bill is called An Act to Continue The Medical Society of Nova Scotia and that the short title for this bill is the Medical Society Act.
Now this bill replaces another piece of legislation. It is normal, Mr. Speaker, when you get to the end of a bill, it says something about on proclamation such and such an Act, which is replacing, is repealed. Well, strangely enough, there is nothing in this bill that says that is going to happen. At least if it is, I haven't noticed it anywhere in the bill. I would think that is something that should be amended or else it is possible that on proclamation of this bill we will have two Acts, both with the same title and contradicting each other. One working back in the year 1861 when, evidently, they were peeling the skins off those who were indigent and today, when they evidently ask you to put that on your driver's license so somebody has permission to do so when you pass away, hopefully, when you are dead.
Mr. Speaker, the other thing about this bill is that, as I understand it, a medical practitioner doesn't have to belong to the society. If I am not mistaken, it is a "may". Anyone evidently who is a qualified medical practitioner may apply to join the society and, providing they have the coin of the realm in hand to pay the membership, providing they can meet the educational qualifications, for want of a better term because it could be, I guess, graduation from any medical school and it could be in a number of different disciplines connected with medicine; however, they do not have to.
Yet in this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, we talk about what the society may do. One of the things that they do, just by the by, is that this society can negotiate with the government and set the fees for medical practitioners. As you know, it is very much like the labour negotiations; they meet and they argue a little, I guess, and finally compromise on both sides and they establish a fee schedule, a tariff of fees.
We are actually not told who does this but I presume, well it is the society certainly and it must be a committee, I presume, within the society that does this because obviously the whole society themselves could not do so.
AN HON. MEMBER: It's a fee committee.
MR. RUSSELL: I am just told by my Leader to my right that it is called the fee committee that comes up with this schedule of fees.
Now, Mr. Speaker, it would seem to me that, therefore, it would be beholden to most medical practitioners to join up with the society, so that they (Interruptions) Well, excuse me, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health just mentioned to me across the floor - and I happened to overhear what he said - he said you have to be a member if you are a medical practitioner, if you are practising medicine in this province. Well, Clause 8(1), "A person, who is a medical practitioner as defined by the Medical Act, is entitled to be a member of the Society to have full voting rights therein upon payment of the prescribed fees.". Okay, well that is fine if that is what that meant; I took that to mean that you were entitled to become a member, but it was not necessary for you to become a member. I don't think that is in the bill anywhere that says you must be a member of the society.
This society, Mr. Speaker, also does other things besides setting fee schedules. They are also the body that comes up with the provincial standards for measuring and providing quality care and including evaluation and performance measures of its members. I am wondering. Again, I presume this is a committee of this particular society.
I am jumping ahead to another bill, which we have not read yet, just to make a point, Mr. Speaker. I read the other bill, An Act Respecting the Practice of Medicine, which we will be coming to later on, tomorrow probably, which is a replacement, of course, to the Medical Act itself. In the Medical Act it speaks of a peer review committee. I am not too sure how these two tie together. It would seem to me that this committee that is part of the Medical Society (Interruption)
Well, I just don't know, I guess. In fact, perhaps when the minister wraps up second reading on the bill, he will explain exactly what this means. Does the society also do peer review, as well as this other committee that is under the Medical Act? (Interruption) That is fine. I thank the minister for that. As I say, I have no great worries about this particular bill because it is simply a professional type of bill, Mr. Speaker.
But we have this bill before us to do and it does raise some questions. We are doing this for the doctors. In fact, we are doing three bills for the medical profession in succession, Bill No. 57, Bill No. 58 and Bill No. 59. I am wondering why other fields associated with medicine, who I know have asked the minister to draft legislation for their particular societies and professional associations, have not as yet come forward to the House.
For instance, I believe that there is a Denturist Act at the present time that has been drafted. I know that denturists around the province are anxious to get that bill into this House and receive attention of the Legislature. I know that the CNAs, I believe, also have a draft piece of legislation out there and they would like to get it into the House for review. I was wondering why there is such a rush to put through the three bills for the doctors. With the exception, perhaps, of the one regarding the incorporation of medical practices, I don't see any rush to get those bills through any more then perhaps these other two parties that I have spoken of, who have been waiting for their legislation to come before the Legislature for some considerable time. When the minister wraps up, I would like him to, perhaps, just give us a guess at when those two particular bills will be introduced into the House for consideration by the Legislature.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will voting in favour of this piece of legislation. I don't see anything very argumentative in its presentation and, certainly, I presume that the medical profession is very much in favour of the rapid progress of this piece of legislation.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, something the minister did not tell us in his little historical anecdote is that those who made it their business to provide fresh corpses for section, delivered in the dark of the night, in the wee hours of the morning by the back door, very quietly, were known as the resurrection men, for they could bring these people out of the grave more quickly than the Lord himself, so it was said.
I would like the minister to give some consideration to the section which lays out the opportunity for non-practioners to be appointed to the council. There are five persons to be appointed by Governor in Council and I think that that is good. (Interruption) I am sorry. We are on Bill No. 57. I will save those remarks. The resurrection remark still stands. (Laughter) Sorry about that.
MR. SPEAKER: All right are there any further comments on the resurrection? On Bill No. 57, I mean to say.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Interestingly enough, the remarks which my colleague for Queens was just now making, were remarks which did occur to me or that thought occurred to me relative to this particular bill because, as the minister as indicated, the legislation provides for the establishment of a board of directors and it says - without getting into clause by clause, but the principle is - that all of the members of the board of directors are to be elected from the society and they will govern, control and administer the affairs of the society.
I know there is a Provincial Medical Board which indeed has attracted some attention and notoriety in recent times. I know that there are lay members on that board, but I really would be curious to have reaction from the minister as to whether or not he would consider that the establishment of the board of the Medical Society itself might not be somewhat leavened and perhaps broadened in its perspective and outlook if it were in fact to consider the addition to its board of a couple of, a few - I do not know whether it is 2, 4, 5 or 3 - men and women who are not members of the society. That notion and principle did occur to me. I do, as I say, realize that the Medical Board itself has that provision.
So if the minister might be good enough to offer some reaction to that or failing that between here and the various stages remaining through which this bill will pass, if he might give some thought to that. The objects of the society are set out in the bill and they are, as the minister has pointed out in his introductory remarks, Mr. Speaker, the promotion of health and the prevention of disease. I was struck by the next object: the improvement of medical service, however rendered.
There is a pretty interesting debate, these days, in the Province of Nova Scotia and indeed it is a national debate - I think it is fair to say it is a North American debate - as to just what is the provision of medical service. What are appropriate modalities of the delivery of medical service? Of course, I think I have in my mind so-called alternative medicine or other monikers are attached to it. I would be curious if the minister, I do know, perhaps he might help me and confirm or abuse me of an error, if in fact I am in error, that in relatively recent times, the Medical Society has engaged in or undertaken agreements or made policy statements or commitments relative to the recognition of the delivery of medicine by what some might call alternative medicine, holistic medicine procedures and so on, homeopathic procedures and the like.
I have made the assumption, and I trust it is a valid one that Clause 5 when it talks about the object of the society and uses the phrase "however rendered" is broad enough to contemplate and include those medical service delivery methodologies and modalities, but otherwise than that, those were the only two things that really caught my eye and my mind as I looked at Bill No. 57. I would be curious, as I say, if not now as he closes debate but perhaps at some other time the minister might make reaction to both of those issues, the laymembership on the board and the question of the alternative medicine and the objects of the society.
Otherwise than that, I am delighted to learn that the bill has been crafted and drafted and designed in concert with the Medical Society and I know from contact with a few members of the society that in the opinion, at least, of those who have contacted me there is certainly general support for the legislation. With those few brief remarks, I would certainly indicate that I would be most pleased to support Bill No. 57 to go on to the Law Amendments Committee.
MR. SPEAKER: The question is called. If I recognize the honourable minister, it will be to conclude the debate.
The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the comments very much of the honourable members opposite, not only on the principle of this but also in specific questions that they have had.
May I just make a very few comments in terms of the overall approach that we have taken in the continuing of the Medical Society and the Medical Society Act as it was constituted. Very simply, this is an Act to define the professional relationships and the relationships between the Medical Society and the Government of Nova Scotia and the duties of the society in that context. It does make comment in terms of the relationships and the advocacy role that the Medial Society does have in respect to its membership.
One of the honourable gentlemen asked for some direction in terms of what is the rush with this, why in fact are we introducing this trilogy of bills, if I could term it, and what is the difference between other professional enabling legislation that we have and the answer quite simply is that this is one area in which it is required by our recent agreement that we define and give legal basis to the agreements that we have forged with the Medical Society. So, we actually do need this legislation in place. We probably should have had it some years ago and so there is, in essence, somewhat of an urgency to this, although I will not admit to any great worry in that regard.
The difference in terms of what this bill does versus what the others that will be coming along, whether it be in one of the bills, the CNAs' bill, that is a bill to establish the self-regulation of that particular profession within nursing. So, this is quite different in its concept, this current bill which is before us.
The concept of having a professional society organized with regulations and having laymembership in the governance of that, that is, I would say, a rather novel idea. We certainly have not canvassed the society in this regard. I am sure they would be very interested in hearing the propositions of the honourable member opposite in that regard. Keep in mind, it is difficult for us in a sense to keep the different societies and institutions straight that govern medicine and the practice of medicine in the province.
The Provincial Medical Board, which has been the disciplinary body and to which we will refer in the later bills that we will be introducing, that body which was, in fact, the defining body in terms of discipline and the practice of medicine, the independent corporate structure to govern the standards of the practice of medicine is quite separate and apart and different from the Medical Society, which is a professional organization with an advocacy role for its membership and so on.
There is quite a difference in that regard. The disciplinary bodies within the current Provincial Medical Board certainly requires laymembership. That will be a key issue of the changes we suggest as we go forward with the Medical Act, which will follow this evening.
The honourable former Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, has mentioned this, suggested there was an inclusivity suggested in Clause 5, whatever the practice of medicine might entail and that is deliberate. Just these last two years the Medical Society of Nova Scotia was the first society in Canada, in fact maybe in North America, to recognize a section of its society dedicated to complementary or alternative medicine. The President is a well-known practitioner of that art and science, Dr. LaValley, and he is chairman of that section; just as there would be a section of orthopaedics, a section of internal medicine, a section of neurosurgery and so on, there is a section now of complementary medicine.
I would pay tribute to the Medical Society and its past presidents and current president for supporting that effort to bring into both the mainstream and, I might say, the scrutiny and the light of scientific knowledge that area of medical practice which has been termed by various people to be alternative or complementary or holistic or whatever term one might give it. So that is, indeed, an inclusive section. I would look forward to our continued clause by clause debate on this as it goes through the Law Amendments Committee. I would again thank the honourable members opposite for their comments. They have been taken down and of course we will return to the consideration of this bill. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 59.
Bill No. 59 - Medical Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in my place again and present one of the pillars of the trilogy, if you would, in terms of the practice of medicine in the Province of Nova Scotia, Bill No. 59, the Medical Act.
I might say, Mr. Speaker, that it is with some satisfaction that I rise to present this bill to the House and move second reading because it is, in effect, one of the most extensive and, I think, far-reaching bills which would impact on the practice of medicine in the province for some years, I might say for perhaps 100 years.
The Medical Act, as it is constituted, sets standards appropriate for the current and the future practice of medicine. I believe it is a tribute to those who have worked many hours to bring together the details and the principles that are elucidated in this bill, those principles that form the basis and the foundation for the restructuring, if you would, of medical practice and its governance within the Province of Nova Scotia.
I might say that it is a progressive piece of legislation, to borrow a term, and it is, in effect, going to be also very important for our future reforms in the province. It is, in essence, and the basis of this bill, is the provision of high quality, safe and appropriate care for Nova Scotians, in the context of medicine and in the context of the practice of physicians. This new Medical Act will play an instrumental role in maintaining and improving the qualifications and skills of Nova Scotia practitioners. I would again pay tribute to the Medical Society, some of the professional societies outside of medicine and certainly the input we have had from citizens' groups in advocating for specific elements of this bill.
For the past two years we have heard from various groups, we have consulted with them in respect to the components of this legislation and I am proud to rise in my place to present this bill for the consideration of the House.
The ultimate goal of this bill is to establish a solid framework around which to build to ensure the people of the province continue to benefit from quality medical care. This new Medical Bill will help ensure that Nova Scotia's physicians are equipped with the skills and expertise to provide excellent health care within the confines, definitions and design of this bill.
Under this new Medical Bill, the Provincial Medical Board will become the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. What does that mean? What is in a name, to quote a phrase. In short, the Provincial Medical Board which up to this date has been the corporate structure put in place for the definition of standards and discipline within the profession of medicine, independent of the Medical Society. That board becomes the new College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.
Many other provinces have done this, we are now one of many in Canada and we feel that this is a progressive step, a step forward in the continual reform and continuing change that we see in the health care structure in Nova Scotia. It is a more democratic approach because it involves much more.
The very persons who are affected by the governance of the profession as well as the citizenry of our province which, of course, is the ultimate beneficiary of the standards and the goals of medicine wherever it may be practised throughout the province. For example, I would say it is more democratic. For the first time physicians themselves will have the opportunity to directly elect their peers into the college and its board of directors. So we have a direct election from regions around the province which ensure a geographic representation of physicians, wherever they may be and wherever they may be practising. This direct election is an important element of this bill.
Up until this time physicians have been appointed in various ways to the board but now the community physicians who are within our communities throughout the province, will be elected and will therefore have a type of accountability resting in communities that has not been present before in the configuration of the Provincial Medical Board and its structure.
More important, perhaps, some would say would be the requirement that the board also have lay representation. We would, I think, stand proud in the suggestion that this is one of the key changes and the key elements of this new bill. Enhanced lay representation not only on the board of governors of the college but also in terms of the disciplinary committees, will be required by this legislation. This indeed will be instrumental in ensuring the college actually meets it mandate which is to ensure that community standards of practice are maintained, that there is an openness and a transparency in respect to the discipline and the setting of standards within Nova Scotia. This is an important element of this bill.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia then, will expand on the mandate currently being implemented by the Provincial Medical Board. If you recall, several sessions ago we introduced what had been termed at the time, rather humorously, the band-aid bill which, in fact, changed the disciplinary committee structure of the Provincial Medical Board to allow for lay representation in a greater percentage and also to change some of the processes that were in place to enable a complaint to go forward. I might say that the structure that is envisaged by this bill would simplify and would allow an easier transition, Mr. Speaker, for complaints from the citizenry to go forward through the process that has been established within this Act.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons as constituted within the Act, Mr. Speaker, assumes the responsibility for establishing, maintaining and developing quality standards of knowledge, skills, qualifications and professional ethics for the province's physicians. This in fact is little different from what had been carried out by the Provincial Medical Board except to say that in the environment set out in this Act, that mandate and those objectives would be reached in partnership with the lay public as well as a greater effort placed in areas which will ensure standards are met.
The bill requires, for example, that every physician in the province must be a member of the college in order to ensure that patient care and the delivery of medical services across the province are consistent. This is no different from what we have today in that all practising physicians in the province must belong to and must have a number and must in fact be members of the Medical Society and therefore of the Provincial Medical Board and come under its aegis.
In short, Mr. Speaker, the college will be governed by a 15 member council of which one-third must be laymembers. This is different than what we have today on the Provincial Medical Board, which are appointed physicians. This lay representation is crucial to the governance of the structure and college. It is not unusual in the set-up of colleges across the country to include lay representation. That is nothing new. However, for Nova Scotia the governance of the college and the inclusion of laypeople in that governance is new. I believe it is a progressive step in the right direction.
The dean of the Medical School of Dalhousie and the Medical Society of Nova Scotia will appoint one member of the college to its council and for the first time physicians elected by their peers will also constitute the council of the college. This is an important change, as I mentioned. To reach into the regions of Nova Scotia and the practitioners of medicine within the regions is an important step forward because it allows community physicians who know their communities, who may in fact be approached by the citizenry within their communities, to be elected to the board and therefore to have a knowledge of the standards of practice within the communities and to be, in some sense at least, Mr. Speaker, accountable to these communities, keeping in mind full well that this Act attempts to regulate a self-governing profession. We have agreed that medicine and other professions within the province are self-governing, but we have taken a step beyond that and said, yes indeed, this is self-governance, but there must be participation, there must be a transparency in the process and in the actual structure and governance.
Mr. Speaker, I might say that it is of some comfort, if not some pride to me, to say that with the cooperation of the Medical Society and with some of the citizenry groups and some of the representations from other professions that we have had, we will introduce in this Medical Bill for the first time in this province mandatory random physician peer assessment which this college will oversee. Let me repeat this, this bill will introduce for the first time in this province mandatory random peer assessment, which means that the practice of physicians will be scrutinized by the college through agencies established to ensure that physicians are providing appropriate care. This is necessary, it is welcomed and it is a progressive step forward. Peer assessment, assessment that looks at the standards of practice, the details of practice, both clinical and managerial, is one way and an important way to improve and maintain the quality of the physician's skills. This bill takes a step in that direction.
It was, Mr. Speaker, you might recall, agreed to in principle in the agreement that we came to through some difficult trials but came to last spring between the Department of Health and the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. I might say that this bill, if it did nothing else but this, would be well worth the introduction. It would be well worth the support of all honourable members of this place.
What is peer assessment? Why is it important? Why is it, in fact, the pillar of this bill? Very simply, the practice of medicine requires certain standards. It requires practitioners to be evaluated. What is so important? What is as important, Mr. Speaker and honourable members of this place, than the standards by which we would measure the care being given to all our citizenry, to each of us, by the practitioners of the art and science of medicine. This is a central core of this legislation. It is a pillar of this legislation and peer assessment will continue as a random and required and mandatory function of the college.
Those assessments will occur on a random basis and the persons conducting these random assessments of practice will include physicians from other Maritime Provinces. In other words, we have agreed that Maritime peer assessment will be the standard which we will follow. It would mean that physicians within the province would be judged in part by physicians from outside the jurisdiction. These peer assessment principles, introduced into the Medical Bill as we table it for second reading this evening, Mr. Speaker, are consistent with what is permitted in legislation in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Ontario, as well.
Another element of this bill and, in fact, a mandate of the college, Mr. Speaker, is the provision of a streamlined and solid process by which complaints are received from citizens, from professionals, from professional groups, whatever, and are processed through the college structure. When a complaint is received by the college, an investigation committee will review the case. This is a preliminary review by a group within the college, a permanently structured, a permanently configured group. This investigation committee, the preliminary committee, must have lay representation. Again, another step that we take towards transparency and towards the ability to provide for the opinion of those who would not be involved in the medical profession.
This investigation committee would have a series of powers, ranging from dismissing the complaint to referring it to the second step which would be the hearing committee. When the hearing committee receives this complaint, it would then progress to a full hearing of this complaint received from wherever. Also required in this hearing committee would be lay representation. Again, all through the process and on the governing council of the college, lay representation is provided for in this bill. We are pleased to introduce this bill which pays both tribute and also, in a practical way, provides for the input of the public.
These two groups, the hearing committee and the investigation committee, and its lay representation, is a reflection of the simplified process that is aimed at in this bill. Certainly, we have, Mr. Speaker, on more than one occasion, heard from citizens who have brought forward complaints that complaints and the process of the complaint has been cumbersome, has been slow, has been very difficult to understand. It is the intent and has been the intent of the framers of this bill to simplify the process and to allow for the complaint to go forward in an easily understood process that I think would be supported by the general public in large measure.
The bill also clearly spells out the powers of the investigators and the procedures to be followed when investigations and hearings occur. These are defined. In the past, they have been rather ill-defined. They have been rather, in fact, nebulous. They have, in fact, been confusing at times. Based on that experience and based on the experience of other jurisdictions, other colleges within the country, particularly Ontario, we have adopted many of the simplified processes that will allow complaints to go forward.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, this bill answers a major problem that we have seen occur over the last year or two years, even longer than that, in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is the difficulty that occurs when a practitioner leaves the practice of medicine, perhaps moving, in fact, retiring or whatever. For the first time in the history of the province, the college provides for the safe keeping of the records that could be abandoned by a physician. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, I emphasize that those records which, in many cases, may well be crucial to the ongoing care of patients, they could become the property of the college, if the physician who has left practice has not made a process or not provided a process by which these records pass on to the patient. The college will be mandated to monitor this and to ensure that this is done and this college will be empowered to act, to step in and to protect the patients' files and records in clinical practices around the province. The import of this, as well, is easily seen. We have had occasion to worry, in many respects, that, in some cases, records have been abandoned and have not been able to be accessed by patients to whom, of course, they ultimately belong.
This practice alone will help ensure the ongoing maintenance of proper records. For they will eventually, perhaps if there is an abandonment of those records, become the property of the college, or at least within the safe keeping of the college and, therefore, open to scrutiny in many respects. But most of all, this provision would ensure uninterrupted care is provided to the patient based on the patient's record and based on, of course, what is in those records. In fact, this provision alone will ensure that the medical history is maintained and will allow for future referrals to specialists and so on. Patients will be able to readily receive copies of their records to provide for their ongoing care.
These, in short, Mr. Speaker, are the pillars of this bill. This bill represents to me, and I am sure, to many members of the government, and certainly to the Ministry of Health, a major step forward in the evolution of medical care in the province. Some may say it is revolutionary. I might say that there is a need in some aspects for some revolution, but we believe that it is revolutionary in the sense that now we have a basis upon which to ensure the continuation of quality medical practice within the province, accountability for that medical practice, the pillar of peer review and the assurance that medical records and a patient's records will be continued within the purview of that patient and will be protected by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of this province.
It is with those short comments that I move second reading of Bill No. 59, An Act Respecting the Practice of Medicine. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Bill No. 59, An Act Respecting the Practice of Medicine is, indeed, a brand-new approach, I would suggest, to managing the practice of medicine in this province. I think, as the minister has so adequately explained in his opening remarks for second reading, it does indeed incorporate a number of changes that perhaps in some respects are overdue. I might comment on those a little later.
First of all, I must bring to the minister's attention, however that there is an error in the bill. It is on Page 34 and it is Clause 57(1). It refers to the settlement agreement and it says, "After an investigation committee refers a matter to a hearing committee pursuant to clause 53(9)(d) . . .". That should, in effect, read Clause 53(12)(d). That is the only mistake I have found so far, Mr. Minister and Mr. Speaker.
The problem I have with this bill is not that it does not fully explain what the ramifications are of the bill or, indeed, the processes, but it is very difficult to really understand what the bill does without what I would call and, I would presume, most people would call an organization chart. Because, in fact, this change to a College of Physicians and Surgeons sets up a number of very important committees, if I just may run through some of them. It sets up a Credentials Committee, it sets up a disciplinary committee, it sets up a hearing committee, it sets up an investigation committee, a joint committee, a Peer Assessment Committee and on and on. There is (Interruption) There are a number of choices, Mr. Speaker. We can take each committee to a different committee for review.
It does set up a large number of committees and I think to fully understand the bill, you have to start at the top where you have the college and then you step down to these various other committees that each have a place in the administration of the affairs of medicine in the Province of Nova Scotia.
I know that I cannot speak at length on those various committees without referring to the bill, so I do not want to do clause by clause. However, I would like to speak about, for instance, the Peer Assessment Committee, which the minister rightfully pointed out was a change insofar as the Medical Society is concerned. It gets away from the old Provincial Medical Board. That board disappears completely when this Act takes over. As I understand the Peer Assessment Committee, this is a committee that is made up of not people necessarily from this province, although they could be physicians from this province, as I understand the bill. However, it does appear that either New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island could be called upon to beef up a team that would go out and do peer assessment, and Newfoundland, too, for that matter, because it is the other three Atlantic Provinces for the Peer Assessment Committee.
I would refer the minister to Page 42, Clause 70(2), where it says "The Council may establish a Peer Assessment Committee." I would think, Mr. Speaker, that the minister might give some thought to changing that to they shall establish a peer committee because surely we understand that that is probably to the benefit of the Medical Society to certainly establish a peer committee but I think that perhaps the Act should be mandatory and they should be directed that they must, indeed, establish a Peer Assessment Committee.
I don't want to get into the business of complimentary medicine because I don't understand it, frankly, but I do know that a number of them have brought forward to the minister and to the Medical Society and certainly to anybody else who would listen, some of their thoughts on peer review and the fact that if, indeed, those who practice complimentary medicine are to be reviewed by those who practice, let's say, the more accepted traditional medicine, that, indeed, they might get short shrift. I don't know if it is the minister's intention, there is certainly nothing in the bill that says when looking at such things as acupuncture and herbal medicine and those other kinds of medicine practised by some people who have very strong views on alternative medicine, whether or not in those cases there would be persons who practised that kind of medicine on the Peer Review Committee.
Mr. Speaker, I will just jump ahead for a moment on my notes. The minister brought up the matter of the retrieval of records of medical practitioners who abruptly leave the province and leave their patients in a vacuum in that they have no way of regaining their medical records. I believe at the present time there is no process, without going through the courts, to obtain those medical records. It is my understanding that within this bill, it is one of the powers of the college to be able to, I suppose a good word is impound or just help themselves, if you will, Mr. Speaker, to those particular records. I don't know exactly how that works, unless there is a specific power given to the board by legislation that they could, for instance, perhaps - well, if the person has left the province and taken the medical records with them, I don't quite see what the mechanics would be for the college to retrieve those medical records from that doctor who has gone, we will say, to South Carolina to practice medicine. I just don't quite see how it is done but I can certainly agree with the minister that it is something that has been a long-standing problem not only in this province but all across Canada and I believe that the United States has the same problem down there.
I know that probably every member in this House at some time or another has been contacted by a patient who has run into this problem where they just can't get their medical records. So certainly that alone, I think, is well worthy of encouraging people to give passage to this legislation.
The other thing I like about this bill, Mr. Speaker, and again you need a little organization chart to figure out how it works, but I am talking about the process whereby a person who has a complaint against a physician and wishes to bring that complaint forward -if I could just flip through the bill for a moment, I have to find where it is but it first of all goes to an investigation committee and this is a committee of the college, composed of at least five persons. The chairman is a member of council and it has at least one person who does not hold a degree of Doctor of Medicine or equivalent but who is a member of the council and have at least three other members of the college.
This doesn't really say that there is any layperson on this investigating committee but I don't think that is too important. As I understand it, what the investigating committee does is simply goes out and assembles evidence as to whether or not there is actually a valid complaint. They don't proceed beyond that point, that is as far as they go. Having investigated the complaint, they have all the necessary powers to obtain experts and to go in and to look at records and accounts kept by a member and to do all kinds of things during their investigation. At the end of the investigation, if they find that they have a valid case it is turned over to the hearing committee.
I thought that there were laypersons on this committee but I see actually, the hearing committee (Interruption) Well, there is a layperson there but the layperson has to be a member of the council. So if they are a member of the council, in effect, - let me just tell you what it says, this is the hearing committee, this is the one that takes over from the investigating committee, Clause 58(3) the hearing committee ". . . shall have as members (a) at least one person who does not hold a degree of doctor of medicine or equivalent, who is a member of the Council;", now that is the same as what you have on the investigating committee, and " . . . (b) at least three members of the College.".
I would have been happier if there had been on this committee someone who perhaps doesn't have any biases whatsoever toward the medical profession, a layperson who can bring to the table an outsider's viewpoint of a complaint. We have a number of boards where we have laypersons, for instance, the barristers and solicitors have a board which investigates complaints and it has a laymember, maybe two laymembers, I am not sure now, but one or two laymembers on that board. I would think that that would be preferable, rather than having, in essence, three medical persons who are of the college and thus practising physicians and one member of the council, who is not a doctor but however, is a member of council, remembering also that three persons are a quorum for this particular committee.
The hearing committee holds a hearing based on the evidence that they have received from the investigation committee. They go through the process and there is a long process outlined in the bill which we will get into in detail when we get into Committee of the Whole House, but however, at the end of this hearing, if the complaint is found to be valid, then the costs are to the person who has been charged or brought before the committee. Not only his or her own costs but also the costs of hearing committee are all accrued to the person who has been complained of.
Now, the costs of the council, and these are the costs that could accrue: the expenses "incurred by the college, the council, the investigation committee and the hearing committee; the honoraria paid to members of the investigation committee and the hearing committee; and solicitor and client costs and disbursements of the college relating to the investigation and hearing of the complaint.".
This is pretty hefty stuff, Mr. Speaker. This could run, I would think if there was any complexity to the complaint at all, into possibly thousands of dollars. However, be that as it may, I suppose, that if a person is thinking of committing an offence, he can take a look at the bill at think, well, I do not know if I am prepared to take the chance that somewhere down the line, somebody is going to complain and I am going to be stuck with an account for several thousands of dollars. There is still an appeal process left to the doctor who has been accused of some complaint; they may appeal to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and then we go through the normal civil process.
Now, following this person being found guilty of some offence, Mr. Speaker, and his or her license is lifted, of course they have then the right to be reinstated at some future time and I suppose determining on the type of offence, how long that period would be. It would be like a period before you can come out of jail, I guess, and go on probation. It would depend on the severity of the offense before the person could come back and be once again placed on the register of medical practitioners.
Now, Mr. Speaker, having gotten through the committee stages, I would just like to talk about the council of the college for a moment; this is the governing body of the college. I think in Canada - and maybe the minister would nod his head if what I am saying is correct - we have a College of Physicians and Surgeons, a national body?
HON. RONALD STEWART: No.
MR. RUSSELL: No, we do not.
DR. STEWART: The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
MR. RUSSELL: The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons; FRCP, right. So we are now going to have a college and I think it is a fine-sounding name but, however, I think the main reason, obviously, Mr. Speaker, is not simply to change the name of the body to a college, but to give the face, if you like, of the medical fraternity in this province a different aspect.
Mr. Speaker, I am not going to read this, I assure you. But just looking - as most members, I am sure have - at Clause 6(2), which deals with the council and you run right through from (a) to (s) on the powers of the council and then you come down to the fact that the Medical Council may, after consultation with the medical society and with the approval of the Governor in Council, make regulations. Again, we have running from (a) down to (q), the regulation-making authority of the council.
So, Mr. Speaker, this college is no small thing. This is big stuff. I think, as the minister has rightfully said, it is a very important bill for the practice of medicine in this province. Our old Act, I don't know how long it has been in existence, a long time, I am sure, but it is the kind of Act that is always going through the House year after year and we tinker with it. We amend it and do a housekeeping amendment here and a housekeeping amendment there and update this bit and get rid of that chunk and we keep doing that, and after a while you end up with a piece of legislation that is so badly tinkered with that it just doesn't make sense to read. Secondly, it doesn't do what the body, the legislation's purpose, requires that legislation to do. So obviously now, we are coming into a new age and a new piece of legislation.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the college itself, which I want to speak about . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Well, if you wish to adjourn the debate, we are reaching that general range of time.
MR. RUSSELL: . . . I will adjourn the debate at this time, because I want to speak about the council and it will certainly take me more than five minutes . . .
MR. SPEAKER: You can go another two minutes.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that we adjourn debate on Bill No. 59.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried. The debate on the bill is adjourned.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, we will sit from 12:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. and we will commence Government Business on the bill that was just adjourned. I anticipate following that, if we complete that bill, we will do third reading and possibly move into the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. (Interruption) We would give you some advance on that tomorrow, but at this time, I can't indicate yes or no. We will give you a heads up if we are.
So I would move that we adjourn until 12:00 p.m. tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 12:00 p.m.
The motion is carried.
[The House rose at 9:57 p.m.]