Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

















HALIFAX, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1995



Fifty-sixth General Assembly



Third Session



12:00 P.M.



SPEAKER



Hon. Paul MacEwan



DEPUTY SPEAKER



Mrs. Francene Cosman



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time. Are there any introductions before we begin the daily routine? If not, we will commence the daily routine.



PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that was submitted, I believe, to the Minister of Health. I was given a copy of it. It is from the Human Services Counselling Class at the Annapolis Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College system. There is a letter that accompanies it. It explains the concern that these people have with the announced layoff of 2,500 health care professionals. In opposition to this decision and the concern that this would affect quality health care, these individuals went out and collected over 600 signatures indicating their opposition to this decision. I would like to table said petition. I have affixed my signature to it accordingly.



MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.



HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a reply to a question, the criteria for incentive package for physicians.



MR. SPEAKER: The response is tabled.



4547

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Supply and Services.



HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure today to officially inform all members of the House of the Nova Scotia Government's home on the Internet. The Nova Scotia Government has been represented on the Internet for some time. This fall, the government's web site was dramatically improved, thanks to the leadership of Andrew Barss and Michael Embree of the Department of Supply and Services and the inter-governmental Internet Users Group.



Members have received a copy of the home page, which was designed by Chris Cairns, also of Supply and Services - if it has not arrived at your desk at this moment, it will very shortly - this attractive page will link millions of Internet users around the world to a wealth of information about Nova Scotia, its government and its people.



Web surfers will access tourism information, government documents, economic indicators, general departmental information and links to other interesting sites. It is encouraging that on a per capita basis more Nova Scotians are wired to the Internet than are any other North American.



Mr. Speaker, we have only begun to scratch the surface of this medium's potential. Information on the Internet is doubling every six months and all signs indicate that the Internet will be the information source of choice for people around the world. Therefore it is vital that Nova Scotia has an strong presence on the Internet. Like every good Internet site, ours is constantly under construction. Information will be added and updated on a regular basis, as resources allow.



It is important to note that all web site activity is undertaken by government staff as we are fortunate to have many employees that have a very keen interest and knowledge in and appreciation for the potential of the Internet as an information resource.



I urge all members to visit the Nova Scotia Government site and in doing so, become an active player on the information highway. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia on the Internet can be found at http://WWW.GOV.NS.CA. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens, in response.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I indeed welcome the announcement by the minister today and I commend him for moving forward with respect to this initiative. It will indeed provide an opportunity not only for the Government of Nova Scotia, representing the people of this province, to provide information to the entire globe as it hooks into the Internet but also will provide opportunities for persons around the globe to connect themselves into Nova Scotia, plug themselves into Nova Scotia and to access the information that is made available on our Internet site.



I also want to say that we are fully prepared to take the minister up on his offer and that is to plug into the Internet. It is our intention as a caucus to work through your office and through the Legislative Library, sir, and in conjunction and cooperation with the Minister of Supply and Services to have our caucus linked into the world wide web and to ensure that by exercising the opportunity provided by the minister that we will be able to provide information concerning our caucus and raise matters of public importance and air policy matters through the provision of this exciting new opportunity.



The whole concept, as the minister quite rightly has pointed out, is to maximize the amount of information that is made available from Nova Scotia globally, and it is absolutely essential that we do so, while at the same time understanding that it is incumbent upon us to recognize certain proprieties.



I have already spoken to the chairman of the Liberal caucus and I have had some discussions with my friends in the New Democratic Party, and I hope that very early in the new year the three caucuses may be able to sit down, through representatives, to map out a series of guidelines by which each of us can be guided as we take up this exciting new opportunity provided us by the Minister of Supply and Services.



I commend him, I can assure that we will take advantage of it, and we will all work together to ensure that this is done in the public interest. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, just briefly, want to echo the comments made by the previous speaker and by the minister, and to thank him very much for his announcement today. We do live in a changing world; the globe is getting very small and the exchange of information is now almost instant. The resources available in terms of not only finding out about what is going on around the world, getting copies of reports and studies about matters that affect us here - we use it that way, certainly we do in our office, and both my colleague and I are on it at the present time - but it is great to see that all of this information about Nova Scotia is going to be readily available to all Internet users around the world. I think it is a tremendous opportunity for us and I am delighted that we are, in fact, going onstream.



It is also nice to see, Mr. Speaker, that in the home page, Nova Scotia has been positioned appropriately, and that is in the centre of the globe. That, of course, is what we want, for the rest of the world to recognize, and through this process I am sure there are going to be tremendous opportunities, not only for Nova Scotians to find out about what is going on within the government and information available to citizens - which is vitally important -but also, indeed, for tourists who may wish to come and also for businesses looking for opportunities in places, good homes that they might like to call home, where they would want to invest and to expand.



I welcome the minister's announcement and Heaven only knows where we are going to be six months or one year from now, because the technology, and so on, is changing so fast. But I am delighted to see that Nova Scotia is getting caught up and is taking advantage of the opportunities being made available for us as a result of these new technologies.



GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION



INTRODUCTION OF BILLS



Bill No. 66 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 377 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Public Service Superannuation Act. (Hon. Bernard Boudreau)



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.



RESOLUTION NO. 884



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 Riverside Restaurant in Lower Sackville will offer a free Christmas dinner on Christmas Day to those in need; and



Whereas volunteers will spend their Christmas Day cooking, cleaning and waiting on tables, while Metro Transit will supply a bus to bring people; and



Whereas food suppliers and customers have all made contributions to ensure a turkey dinner with all the trimmings;



Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Riverside Restaurant for recognizing the needs of many in our province and taking the initiative to provide support to those Nova Scotians who have fallen on hard times.



Mr. Speaker, I request 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 Leader of the New Democratic Party.



[12:15 p.m.]



RESOLUTION NO. 885



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



Whereas this House functions effectively thanks to the dedicated and enthusiastic work of our many seasonal employees as well as the full time staff of Province House, Hansard, Legislative Television, the Speaker's Office, the Clerk's Office, the Committees Office, Legislative Counsel and, not least, the Legislative Library; and



Whereas the battles over government proposals have again kept legislative staff working long hours when family, friends and festivities of the season usually have come first; and



Whereas members of this House and all Nova Scotians who believe in and rely upon the democratic system owe a debt of gratitude to the legislative staff;



Therefore be it resolved that this House offers warmest wishes of the holiday season to each and every employee of this Assembly, including those who work directly with us in this Chamber and the many others whose prompt and professional efforts serve us so well.



Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried. (Applause)



The honourable member for Eastern Shore.



RESOLUTION NO. 886



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



Whereas on December 1st the community of Musquodoboit Harbour and area gathered for a special tree lighting ceremony and a ceremony to name the recently combined health care centre facility and four of its wings; and



Whereas the new facility is named the Twin Oaks/Birches Continuing Care Centre and the four wings are: the Laura Jardine wing, the Twin Oaks War Memorial wing, the Laura Rowlings wing and the Janet Grant Jones wing; and



Whereas the naming ceremony reflects the uniqueness of the area and honours the history of both facilities in light of changes which strengthen the centre's ability to deliver quality health care to the residents of Musquodoboit Harbour and area;



Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the Tri-Community Inter-Agency Council and the 14 Days of December project, together with the staff, residents and patients of the newly named Twin Oaks/Birches Continuing Care Centre on this significant event.



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 Kings North.





RESOLUTION NO. 887



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



Whereas returns for finished beef cattle and feeder cattle are presently less than break even; and



Whereas the Nova Scotia beef and dairy industries are being impacted by this very bleak situation; and



Whereas the Nova Scotia dairy farmers are seeing a 40 per cent price reduction on their cull cows compared to only six months ago, while bob calves are worth half their previous value;



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture immediately meet with the Nova Scotia dairy and beef farmers impacted by this dramatic price reduction and attempt to implement a policy that will benefit both the consumers and producers of beef in Nova Scotia.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 888



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



Whereas both the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union urged that existing seniority rights be preserved when the QE II hospital is created; and



Whereas this government signed agreements stating that the full seniority with which employees are now credited will be carried with them into the new QE II; and



Whereas employees are understandably concerned by last minute government moves to override those agreements and cut away seniority credits by legislation;



Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this House, Hanukkah and Christmas is a terrible time to break collective agreements only days after they were signed.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Shelburne.



RESOLUTION NO. 889



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



Whereas Opposition members have spoken vehemently about the need to ensure the ferry link from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor, Maine, continue with absolutely no alternative solutions; and



Whereas Opposition members have not taken the opportunities made available to them for meaningful debate during the previous 98 days in this House of Assembly; and



Whereas Opposition members have not given the people of southwestern Nova Scotia the courtesy of their time at public meetings held in Yarmouth;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage the Opposition to stop using the House proceedings as a grandstand for their own political gain.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank.



RESOLUTION NO. 890



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



Whereas Mr. Granville Parsons of Lucasville has given 70 years of service as a caretaker of the Lucasville United Baptist Church; and



Whereas Mr. Parsons gave unselfishly of his time, without uttering a word of complaint through stormy days and warm sunshiny days since he was 15 years old; and



Whereas Mr. Parsons was recently honoured by the community of Lucasville for his dedication and service to the church;



Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to Mr. Parsons congratulations and best wishes on this outstanding record of service to his fellow citizens in the church community.



Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Argyle.



RESOLUTION NO. 891



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



Whereas the Leader of the Opposition is telling the people of Nova Scotia that this government is ignoring the crisis associated with the ferry the MV Bluenose; and



Whereas all members of this government have been actively involved in attempts to have the ferry operate year-round, from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor; and



Whereas the Premier himself went to Ottawa on September 8th to intervene with the federal Minister of Transport, the Honourable Doug Young, to have the service extended from the announced closure date of October 10, 1995, until a study of the impact of winter closure could be completed;



Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the Leader of the Opposition to work on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia, rather than follow the typical Tory pattern of fiddling around while Rome burns.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 892



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



Whereas after a long drum roll of media notices the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development was formally announced today; and



Whereas the current job postings for the centre are led by the call for a program administration officer; and



Whereas the primary duties of the program administrator are, ". . . press releases, brochures, media liaison and all other communication pieces.";



Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the federal and provincial Liberals on a job posting that so honestly demonstrates they are selling the sizzle without the steak.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.



RESOLUTION NO. 893



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



Whereas for years and years the Tories offered only band-aid solutions to problems in transportation and commerce along the South Shore; and





Whereas last night in extended debate in the House the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party rambled on at great length, criticizing this government, yet in typical Tory fashion failed to offer any constructive alternatives or approaches to the long-term transportation needs of the South Shore; and



Whereas this government is committed to maintaining ferry transportation links between Yarmouth and New England, links which are vital to the economy of the South Shore and, indeed, to the economy of the whole Province of Nova Scotia;



Therefore be it resolved that the House acknowledge the ongoing efforts of Premier John Savage; the Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Richard Mann; the Honourable Robert Harrison, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency; and the honourable members from the South Shore who are working to develop a transportation solution which will be long-term, viable and supportive of the economic growth and well-being of the South Shore and the entirety of the Province of Nova Scotia.



Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, I don't think there will be total agreement.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 894



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



Whereas the Education Minister has boasted that no one need be concerned about his Education Act overriding present or future collective agreements because there will be talks between the School Board Association and the staff unions; and



Whereas the School Board Association won't even know until January 5th what authority they have to engage in such discussions; and



Whereas the Education Minister holds himself up as a model of consultation and openness;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Education Minister to not seek any further consideration of Bill No. 39 until he knows the outcome of negotiations to conclude an agreement that no school board or union will apply unilaterally for the Labour Relations Board to dictate the terms of collective agreements.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Minister of Agriculture.



RESOLUTION NO. 895



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



Whereas many Nova Scotians take great pride in the natural beauty of our rural areas and work to enhance this image; and



Whereas the Nova Scotia Rural Beautification Committee on an annual basis recognizes individuals and organizations who have made an outstanding contribution to the enhancement of our scenic rural countryside;



Therefore be it resolved that this House express its appreciation to the Nova Scotia Rural Beautification Committee and the 1995 award recipients for their efforts this past year.



Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice, and if you would indulge me, I would also beg leave to table for the information of members, a listing of the 1995 award winners.



MR. SPEAKER: Is that motion agreeable to the House for waiver?



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 Cape Breton South.



RESOLUTION NO. 896



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



Whereas the member for Cape Breton West has the arrogance to lecture the present government on openness; and



Whereas the last government's contribution to democracy in Nova Scotia was to deny the people of Nova Scotia the opportunity for debate by only holding one session of the Legislature per year; and



Whereas no government in the history of Nova Scotia has sat in session longer than the present government, providing the Opposition with ample time for debate, even though they prefer to waste the time of the House with rhetoric;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the Premier and his government for providing good government, honest government and open government. (Interruptions)



Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of that one, too. (Interruptions)



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Any chance of getting waiver of that one? (Interruptions)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.



RESOLUTION NO. 897



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



Whereas winter ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor is vital to the economic future of southwestern Nova Scotia; and



Whereas Liberal MLAs from southwestern Nova Scotia, in cooperation with the Premier and his Cabinet, have consistently sought practical solutions that would see the continuation of winter ferry service, while both Opposition Parties have virtually ignored the matter until last evening when an emergency debate was called on the issue; and



Whereas the Opposition's new-found interest in the people of southwestern Nova Scotia should be applauded, the question remains, where was the Opposition when it really counted?;



Therefore be it resolved that the Opposition Parties work with the government and the people of southwestern Nova Scotia to seek concrete solutions to save winter ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor, Maine.



Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.



MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable Minister of Transportation.



RESOLUTION NO. 898



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



Whereas on Monday, the Premier met with federal Transport Minister Doug Young to discuss the federal government's decision to suspend the Marine Atlantic winter service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor; and



Whereas Premier Savage and his government are not pleased with the federal government's steadfast refusal to reverse this decision which will negatively impact on industries, jobs and communities in southwestern Nova Scotia; and



Whereas Premier Savage has committed his government to work with the community, the private sector and with Marine Atlantic to attempt to find an alternate service to address the needs of the people of southwestern Nova Scotia;



Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Premier Savage for continuing his efforts to find a solution in this complex matter, rather than simply criticizing the decision and walking away.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.



RESOLUTION NO. 899



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



Whereas Opposition members called for a late debate on the winter shutdown of ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine; and



Whereas this very late debate was called less than 12 days before the expected end of services; and



Whereas Opposition members have had many opportunities during House proceedings, including Opposition Days, other late show debates, numerous Question Periods, and especially the many public meetings that have taken place;



Therefore be it resolved that members of this House question Opposition members on their last minute response to a serious situation taking place in Yarmouth and urge Opposition members not to care about a problem only when they feel they can score political points.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



[12:30 p.m.]



The honourable member for Yarmouth.



RESOLUTION NO. 900



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



Whereas Tri-Star Industries of Yarmouth is a true Nova Scotia success story as it continues to delivery 150 state-of-the-art ambulances to operators throughout Nova Scotia; and



Whereas some Opposition MLAs have questioned the quality of these first-rate emergency vehicles even though the fleet replacement program employs Nova Scotians while improving the quality of health care in the province; and



Whereas following a recent inspection of Tri-Star's production facility and procedures by the Ford Motor Company, Tri-Star was awarded a 93.67 percentile QVM assessment, propelling the company to the highest rating of the 25 certified ambulance manufacturers in the U.S.A. and Canada;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the employees and staff of Tri-Star Industries for producing some of the best ambulances in the world despite Opposition claims to the contrary.



Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.



MR. SPEAKER: I hear a No.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs.



RESOLUTION NO. 901



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



Whereas the Premier of this province went to Ottawa, as well as in Halifax, to speak with the federal Minister of Transport, Doug Young, regarding the Yarmouth-Bar Harbor ferry services; and



Whereas Premier Savage has been able to delay the reduction in services of the MV Bluenose through his negotiations;



Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Opposition's johnny-come-lately emergency debate tactics at the eleventh hour do not offer a solution to the people of southwestern Nova Scotia.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Minister of Transportation.



RESOLUTION NO. 902



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



Whereas the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party attempted, at the eleventh hour, to become players in the Bluenose ferry situation by calling for an emergency debate; and



Whereas the Tories' strategy was simply to criticize and accuse the government of not doing enough, while offering not one idea or positive suggestion themselves; and



Whereas Liberal MLAs from Yarmouth, Shelburne, Clare and Argyle spoke from their hearts about their communities, their people, their industries and, yes, their concerns while committing to continue efforts to resolve the problem;



Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the sincere and meaningful debate of the local MLAs while recognizing that the political cheap shots of the Tories added nothing to the debate.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



Are there any further notices of motion? If there are no further notices of motion, I wish to recognize the honourable member for Yarmouth to make an introduction.



The honourable member for Yarmouth.



MR. RICHARD HUBBARD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the members of the House, I would like to introduce two officials from Yarmouth County, seated in the west gallery: Mayor Charles Crosby, Mayor of the Town of Yarmouth, and Mr. Staley Goodwin, who is the Deputy Warden for the Municipality of Yarmouth. I would ask all members to afford them the usual warm welcome. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: Now, if there are no further items to be brought up under the heading of the daily routine, I would like to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 o'clock. The winner this afternoon is the honourable member for Kings West. He has submitted a resolution:



Therefore be it resolved that the lack of leadership this government has shown on the issue of the winter service of the MV Bluenose ferry will result in a loss to the economy of southwestern Nova Scotia, which will negatively impact on thousands of Nova Scotians. (Interruptions)



So, we will hear further wisdom on this topic at 6:00 o'clock this evening.



Now, the time being 12:34 p.m., the Oral Question Period today runs for one hour and that is to 1:34 p.m.



ORDERS OF THE DAY



ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



ERA - YARMOUTH-BAR HARBOR FERRY: WINTER SERVICE - SUBSIDIZE



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. I am absolutely delighted that the emergency debate last night did what it was designed to do and that is to finally get this government to focus (Interruptions) on the lack of a winter ferry in southwestern Nova Scotia. Now, last night in the wrap-up, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency had an opportunity to lay out what would be the government's plan to solve this problem after December 29th and he failed to bring us any idea of what is going to happen.



AN HON. MEMBER: He doesn't know!



DR. HAMM: He did make some passing reference to a private sector partnership. My question to the minister is, does the minister have a well thought out strategic plan to deal with the problem, bearing in mind that the government made many references to the fact that they knew about this problem as early as last April, does the minister have a plan and does his plan to attract a private sector partner involve a provincial subsidy to keep the service going?



HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it gives me an opportunity to comment on another quote last night about the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency stating somewhere in an, as yet, undefined document, that we were inclined to get involved. We have been working with this community from day one in an attempt to find a solution to this problem, both at the federal level, as you have heard, by MLAs and the Premier and also in the private sector. This government does not presume to tell the private sector how to operate. That may be the difference between this government and previous governments.



The fact is, there are a number of expressions of interest, there is private sector interest in an attempt to solve this problem. We have the reassurance of the federal minister that business plans, private sector, sustainable business plans will be viewed by him and supported by him if it is at all possible. So the answer to the question is, we are relying on the private sector to come to the fore to help us and are in discussions with them to help us solve the essential problem and that is maintaining trade links to New England, Mr. Speaker,



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister made reference to remarks I made last night and I quote from The Chronicle-Herald dated September 22, 1995 in relation to the winter service, "Economic Renewal Minister Robbie Harrison said he's inclined to press Ottawa to maintain the service.". (Laughter) Now I will table that. (Interruptions)



AN HON. MEMBER: It is good to have inclinations.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, sticking with the Economic Renewal Minister's plan on which he continues to avoid giving any details as to what he is going to do, when he is talking about a private sector partner, is the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency inclined to provide a loan to a private sector operator for a winter service?



MR. HARRISON: I trust, Mr. Speaker, the document I am about to receive is a direct quote from the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. We will find out in a moment, here.



MR. SPEAKER: Is the document here that the Leader of the Opposition tabled and has not yet gone to the Table?



MR. HARRISON: Inclined is a word that he has used and somebody has used in a newspaper. The fact is, the record shows clearly that this government has been directly involved with the people who are most directly affected by a federal decision, from day one, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption)



In 1984, the member opposite had an opportunity to solve a problem. We are undertaking to solve the problem with the people in the area and we are counting on the private sector to help us do so.



AN HON. MEMBER: He can't answer the question, because he has no answer.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens does not have the floor.

DR. HAMM: By way of final supplementary, to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, the minister made reference to the fact that this government has been involved in this problem since day one. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that yesterday was day one.



AN HON. MEMBER: Right on!



DR. HAMM: By way of final supplementary, would the minister be inclined to provide a loan option to be exercised by the provincial government, a loan option which would require a condition that the operator be at least 51 per cent Nova Scotia owned? Is that the method by which the minister will attract a private sector operator?





MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I guess at the admonition of this government, there are some suggestions coming forward now, at the eleventh hour and I understand at the twelfth hour today we are going to have late debate about something we have been working on since July with the people most affected in the area. I have yet to see a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus at any meeting that has taken place in that area with any of the people most affected. (Interruptions)



Will we issue a loan, will we help in a business sense? Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, that is our job, to support good business plans in this province, to keep jobs here in Nova Scotia, to make sure exports get to the markets that they should get to because they are world-class products. (Applause)



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



SYDNEY TAR PONDS CLEAN-UP INC.: PROPOSALS - SELECTION



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you, sir, to the Minister of Supply and Services. The minister, of course, will know that he and his government have had in their possession, for many months now, the recommendation from the Sydney Tar Ponds Inc. for their preferred option for the clean-up of what has been described as the worst hazardous site in Canada; in other words, the Sydney tar ponds.



My question to the minister, quite simply, is why is it that the government has chosen to reject the preferred option that was recommended by the Sydney Tar Ponds Inc. to clean up that hazardous site once and for all?



HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I thank you and I thank the honourable member for asking the question. But I don't remember, speaking on behalf of the government, having rejected anything. The only thing I can remember is having said that this matter is in very deep study, has been in very deep study, and we have just about concluded that study. Very shortly we will be announcing the resolution to the problem.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, yes, indeed, it has been in deep study; the minister has been immersed in this issue for quite some time. The minister may not have made a formal statement, but the information I am receiving is that, indeed, the government has already chosen the option, and the option is to encapsulate - the cheap method, the one that was rejected back in 1988 and which will leave those pollutants, heavy metals, et cetera, still in the site, and a process that will be susceptible to leachate.



My question to the minister, quite simply, is why is it that his government is choosing the encapsulated method rather than the preferred option?



MR. O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, you know, there are times when I am not sure whether there is a sound barrier between here and there, because the honourable member just doesn't seem to understand common, ordinary, everyday English. I don't know where he gets his information, but wherever he gets his information he should revisit it. I have made the statement over and over that in the appropriate time I shall announce this government's decision on what it is going to do with the tar ponds, as opposed to the ungodly mess that was started by the government opposite and never consummated because it was farcical from the very beginning. Thank you.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, in the fullness of time, when the House isn't sitting and we can't ask the minister any questions, the announcement will be forthcoming. Of course, the minister will know that those who are knowledgeable about the tar ponds and these kinds of processes are saying that an encapsulation process cannot possibly pass an environmental assessment. That is why the government has chosen this option, because that would then give the province the opportunity to walk away from the tar ponds clean-up.



My question to the minister is, quite simply, will the minister guarantee that if the government chooses the encapsulation process and that fails to pass an environmental assessment - which it won't - will the government guarantee that they will follow another option, the preferred option, to make sure that this disgrace, this hazardous waste is cleaned up once and for all?



MR. O'MALLEY: Again, Mr. Speaker, I think that sound barrier keeps getting thicker and thicker, or the honourable member keeps getting thicker and thicker, I not sure which. But I have made the point that we have had the world's foremost experts examine that site. I indicated in this House that when we called for proposals originally, we had a long list of some 36 of the world's foremost recognized experts on environmental remediation. Now, we did not have a response from the honourable Leader of the NDP. Maybe we should have had; maybe he is the world's leading expert.



I want to indicate to him that we do have the world's best working on this subject, and have had, and we intend in the fullness of time to make him and all Nova Scotians aware of the fact that we are going to remediate appropriately the tar ponds situation in Cape Breton. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)



[12:45 p.m.]



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



ERA - YARMOUTH-BAR HARBOR FERRY: WINTER SERVICE - PLANS



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. There has been considerable criticism that the MV Bluenose is not the right vessel to carry freight and truck traffic through the winter. By the same token the minister is aware that a vessel essentially designed to carry freight and truck traffic is not necessarily well suited to promote tourism.



My question to the minister, does the minister's plan include provision of two vessels, one to be used in the winter and the other during the tourist season?



HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this question because it is important to point out that Marine Atlantic has done a tremendous job boosting the tourism component of the, if you like, export trade that occurs between New England and Nova Scotia. Those numbers have been increasing and that is direct jobs and benefits to Nova Scotians.



There is some talk within the community of the de-marketing of the commercial service and there has been talk since 1984, I understand, given a note last night of an honourable colleague, the member for Queens who dealt with the issue back then, that the vessel itself was not designed for commercial use. So is the question whether or not vessels could get the job done, keeping in mind that the important job, trade links between Nova Scotia and New England, the answer is the same answer that I gave before, that the creativity of the private sector in this case, whether a commercialized or privatized Marine Atlantic or another private operator will best judge the merits of the proper vessel to do the proper job for the workers of Nova Scotia.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister is quite right. The tourism traffic on the MV Bluenose has been increasing yearly and, hopefully, that trend will continue. But last night during debate the minister made some reference to the fact that the MV Bluenose was, in fact, reaching the end of its usefulness.



My question to the minister is, does his plan exclude that vessel, the MV Bluenose, from consideration for ongoing service from Yarmouth to Maine?



MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I made absolutely no reference last night to the Marine Atlantic vessel MV Bluenose fulfilling its usefulness. Not in any way, shape or form did I come close to making that statement. What I did talk about was the fact that commercial traffic is not designed for that vessel, or vice versa. That vessel is not the optimum vessel for a winter service or a commercial service at any time of the year, so I am not sure of the nature of this question here.



I will repeat my answer, that given the efforts that have been made to reverse decisions that are the prerogative of the federal government, we are now faced with trying to find alternatives that keep export links open to New England, absolutely vital links for this province. We have other ferry service, between Digby and Saint John. We have obviously the all-rubber route but the fact is that we are attempting to work with the private sector to make sure that those products get to markets on time and with the quality that will ensure their competitive position in New England markets now.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the minister's remarks in that he is obviously starting to give us some of his thoughts as to how he is going to approach this problem. By way of final supplementary, when the minister is talking about continuing the connection between Yarmouth and New England, is he talking about a Yarmouth to Bar Harbor service, is he talking about a Yarmouth to some other port in Maine service, or is he talking about a Yarmouth to Boston service? Would the minister give us his thoughts on where the ideal destination would be for a Yarmouth to New England service?



MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat again that the federal Minister of Transport has declared on any number of occasions his mandate, his wish, his vision to commercialize or privatize marine services. So the question is, do I envision? The answer is, does the private sector envision a route that is sustainable and a commercial route that will get products to market? I can't presume what the private sector is going to do to fill what is an obvious problem in that area.



I can only repeat to the honourable members that the fact is we will, as a province, and we have the assurance of the federal minister, that business solutions to try and solve the problems of maintaining vital links will be looked at seriously and we will do everything in our power, as a province, to deal with business solutions.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.





FIN. - CASINOS: FINANCIAL REPORT - RELEASE



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. I understand that ITT Sheraton has provided the Gaming Corporation with the most recent report of the operating results as they do on a quarterly basis as the minister understands. Our office was speaking with the Chairman of the Gaming Corporation this morning and he advised that the minister would have the report within hours and it is usually released after the minister gets it. My question to the minister is will he be releasing this report without delay? I know the last time he didn't have a long delay, will he be doing that this time?



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my practice has been to release the report, table it and make it public on the very day that I receive it. That would be my intention this time as well.



MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that, yes, he did that last time and if the House is not sitting tomorrow, I hope he would still release it when he can.



I wonder if the minister could tell the House if he is aware of any cash flow problems that the ITT Sheraton might be experiencing with regard to the casino?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, no, I am not aware of any problems of that kind at all. I would say just to pursue the honourable member's first question, my indication is the same as his in terms of the timing. It may very well be that we will be releasing the report today.



MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary for the minister, I have been advised that there is a problem since one lucky winner hit the jackpot. His winnings, I think, were $25,000, they gave him $5,000 in cash and a cheque for $20,000. The problem was the cheque bounced. After going back go the casino and wrangling with ITT Sheraton officials, the payout was finally made. One shouldn't have to wrangle with the casino to get their money. I would ask the minister if he is prepared to instruct his Gaming Corporation officials to investigate this situation and take whatever action is necessary to ensure that ITT Sheraton fulfils its obligation to set aside sufficient funds to cover any winnings that might occur at the casino and not have cheques that bounce?



MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am aware in general terms of the situation that the honourable member refers to. It was not a question of insufficient funds, we are informed it was a question of banking error. The bank has assured the Sheraton that such an error will not occur again.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



GAMING CONTROL COMM'N.: RAFFLE LICENSES - APPROVAL



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Gaming Commission. I am sure the minister must be aware that service clubs around the province are getting increased demands upon them because of cutbacks in the Department of Community Services, et cetera, municipal grants going down and people are turning to the service clubs to provide funding for this, that and the other thing that heretofore, the government has perhaps assisted with or provided assistance to. As a result of that, service clubs are running a number of raffles as they always have but however, today they are having great difficulty in getting their licenses on time. In fact, I had a call this morning from a chap from the Lions Club who said it took six weeks to get a license, a lottery number to run a lottery for a couple of tankfuls of oil that Irving Oil had donated to the Lions Club to raise money.



My question to the minister is, why is it necessary to have a Gaming Commission whose members are paid $250 a day, to make those kinds of decisions when before those decisions were always made by the clerk at the front desk?



HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, this question was raised in the House last week and at that point I had not received any complaints myself and I raised the issue with the commission. As the member opposite may realize, we have new regulations in place and they are strictly controlled and we are expecting organizations to adhere to them. As we are in a learning process, I am assured that the regulations will be followed and those licenses will be processed as quickly as possible, as we have created a new entity and staff are getting up to speed really on the processes that are to be followed under the regulations.



MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister says she is in the learning process, or the commission is in the learning process. They have been issuing lottery licenses as far back as I can remember. There is nothing mysterious about it. You get it, it is for the Catholic Women's League to raffle off a quilt, you stamp it and you give it to them with a number. That's it. Period. You don't have to have somebody getting $250 a day, in fact, three or four of them getting $250 a day to make that kind of a decision. What I want to know is, if there is a regulation that says this is the way it has to go, how soon is the minister prepared to take that regulation off the books?



MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I am quite astounded at the slap-handed way the member opposite is expecting us to enforce the regulations that we put in place. This is the most strictly controlled, highly regulated, gaming jurisdiction in Canada. Just to stamp an application without anybody looking at it, and having anybody have any opportunity to look at it from a fair point of view, we have brought something forward so that everybody in Nova Scotia is dealt with fairly and no one has an opportunity to come forward, and to stamp something without anybody looking at it. (Applause)



MR. RUSSELL: Applaud by all means. Mr. Speaker, what the honourable minister is saying is that the Catholic Women's League, the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the Kinsmen, et cetera, are all a bunch of crooks that are going over there to try and get a license (Interruptions) to run a charity event, to try and raise $200 or $300. This is ridiculous.



MR. SPEAKER: I don't think putting words in another member's mouth like that is parliamentary at all.



MR. RUSSELL: Okay, if that is so, I apologize. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why it should take anything more than a day; in fact, they used to give the numbers over the telephone before this minister put into legislation this great process through the bureaucracy to get a license to raffle off a quilt for $50.



So, Mr. Speaker, my question is, again, to the minister, when is she prepared to take that regulation off the books?



MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I must remind the member opposite that those people opposite felt last fall about this time and last spring, that there was reason to look at all of these regulations and how the gaming is. They spent 120 days debating a bill that they felt was important enough to deal with it as strictly as possible. We are trying to operate gaming in this province in a fair and open way so that everyone is dealt with fairly. I will continue to stand behind those regulations and make sure they are operating as strictly and as honestly as possible. (Applause)



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



NAT. RES.: CAMPSITE LEASEHOLDERS - FEES



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Natural Resources. Recently the Department of Natural Resources has been pressing current campsite leaseholders to pay an annual fee of $250 plus GST, and failure to pay the $250 plus GST results in a notice of removal from DNR and also a threat from the minister's department that they will demolish your campsite and issue the lessee with a bill for the removal and disposal of the site.



My question is in relation to one group of campsite lessees who have been threatened by the minister's officials. The people had their lease, Mr. Speaker, extended by former Premier Gerald Regan and the lease has been extended by way of a letter to the year 2005. The letter is only a couple of sentences . . .



MR. SPEAKER: You will have to table it now, if you quote it.



MR. TAYLOR: I certainly will table the letter. The letter states that, "Executive Council after serious consideration has decided that your campsite lease should be extended to at least the year 2005. Under the present leasing arrangements, the Ministers felt that the relatively few campsites that exist in the Province should receive the additional consideration of an extended lease because of the excellent manner in which these leases have been maintained.".



My question to the minister is simply this, is it true that in spite of the valid authorization by the Premier of the day, Mr. Regan, you and your officials have decided to collect rents from the individuals or else you will play the grinch and tear down the campsites and bill the lessee?



[1:00 p.m.]



HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the member opposite in regard to the lease. In fact the letter that was presented to a number of individuals, back in the early 1970's I believe, indicated to a number of leaseholders the same option, that of extending the lease from 1974 to the year 2005. In fact, that has been the way the government of today has handled that process and the lease would remain in effect until that period of time. Nothing is changing that, they have the compliance to the lease obligations, as was stated in 1989, and as long as they live with that there is no problem.



MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I have a copy, as I suggested, of the letter to Mr. Gordon Dibb.



MR. SPEAKER: You were going to table that and I haven't seen it tabled yet.





MR. TAYLOR: I will table the letter, Mr. Speaker, I am quite prepared to table the letter. The letter is from Mr. Regan. It is not in the early 1970's, it is dated February 16, 1978. It extends Mr. Dibb's lease to the year 2005. It very clearly states Executive Council, on their approval, Mr. Speaker.



Mr. Gordon Dibb is deceased and his son, who is in the gallery today, Mr. Speaker, along with his companion, Roger Hamshaw, who is the son of a former alderman Alf Hamshaw is also with us. The Dibb and the Hamshaw families co-shared in the upkeep of that campsite. They have a letter from the Premier of the day, the Honourable Gerald Regan. I am wondering if the minister will tell me and the members of this House who advised the minister that Premier Regan's letter was worthless. I want to know why the Minister of Natural Resources will not recognize the letter of Premier Regan?



MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in dealing with specific individuals, I don't know if it is really appropriate in the House to debate that. I am quite prepared to meet with whoever and to discuss the matter on a one-to-one basis, if so wished. I believe the member opposite who brought the issue forward is interested in more information and we can provide that.



Secondly, as I indicated before, the lease has provisions to the year 2005, we have acknowledged that. The conditions for which that lease extension is there is basically in compliance with 1989, the decision to increase the campsite lease provisions of $20 to $250. I want to make it very clear in the House of Assembly here today, Mr. Speaker, that this government has abided by the obligations of that decision of 1989, and that all those members who have had a camp lease with that letter of authority have complied with the obligations of the Act that was implemented by the previous administration.



MR. TAYLOR: Well, Mr. Speaker, I know it is inappropriate and unparliamentary to suggest that the Minister of Natural Resources is trying to pull the wool over somebody's eyes but I have all kinds of correspondence from that minister to the Dibb family suggesting that they pay the fine or his department will play the grinch and tear down the campsite. Several people across Nova Scotia found this.



Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that changes to the Act and regulations or policies clearly state that they do not apply to existing leases, leases that are already in place, and the minister knows that. So I am pleased that the minister will at least meet with Mr. Hamshaw and with Mr. Dibb. Perhaps he could do that after Question Period. They would very dearly like to do that.



If I could ask the minister for one further undertaking, would the minister undertake to again look at the letter from the Premier of the day, the Honourable Gerald Regan, who granted, with Cabinet's approval, an extension of Mr. Dibb's lease until the year 2005? Would the minister give us that undertaking?



MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am fully aware of the letter that was tabled here today. I have reviewed it and will continue to review it. If the member wants me to review it again, I will review it again. It is very clear, as I stated earlier, that we are complying with the obligations of the lease to the year 2005. Under the previous administration the costs of the rental of that property back in 1989 was $250. (Interruption) Just a minute.



MR. TAYLOR: It doesn't say anything about $250 in the letter.



MR. DOWNE: Just a minute, Mr. Speaker, I am trying to answer the question here. Any rents paid prior to the termination of the old lease would be related to that lease and its term and in no way relate to payments until the year 2005, in regard to the letter. All camp owners with Mr. Regan's letter have been given the option of falling in line with the policy or remove the structure. There has been no deviation of that policy since we have been in place.



MR. SPEAKER: A new question. The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



HEALTH - BERKELEY CONSULTING: CONTRACT - AWARD



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Health. The minister has often stated publicly, both inside the House and out, that all people have to do to get information from him or from his department is to call his office, that his office is accessible by phone 24 hours a day.



MR. SPEAKER: I don't know about 24 hours a day.



MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, you may recall last year that certainly I and my colleagues attempted on a number of occasions to get our hands on a report that had been prepared by the Berkeley Consulting group. I would like to ask the minister if he could explain for us, because on April 5, 1995, he clearly stated in Hansard that, ". . . there is no report.", with respect to the work done by the Berkeley Consulting group. I would like to ask him if he could explain or perhaps square his answer on April 5, 1995, with the fact that this final report was received in his office in December 1994?



HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am sure there are many reports that are received in my office that are not brought to my attention. I am sure that that was the explanation.



MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just say that we ran around this mulberry bush on several occasions over a period of about six months. It was an important issue, it deals with the awarding of a contract, untendered, $54,000 to a consultant. It talks to, as far as I am concerned, the whole question of the minister's credibility and the trust Nova Scotians can place in his leadership on health care reform.



Mr. Speaker, again, I want to ask the minister about statements that he has made that are at variance with the facts. The minister told this House that there was a contract with Berkeley Consulting and that he in fact refuted claims that Berkeley got this untendered work on the basis of a personal whim. Having told the House this, could the minister please explain why there was never, in fact, a signed contract for this $54,000 untendered contract? That information has been verified by the minister's own department, there was no signed contract. Please explain.



DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, contractual arrangements are with other ministries, either Supply and Services or Human Resources, as the honourable gentleman opposite very well knows and no amount of innuendoes or charges by him will change that fact.



MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, these are statements that the minister has made. Clearly they are statements that the minister has made but when further evidence is provided, they are found to be at variance with the facts.



For my final supplementary, I would like to go to the Minister of Supply and Services, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask the minister if he could explain how in fact in this instance, $54,000 of taxpayers' money could be spent by a minister without a signed contract? Could the minister please explain how a contract was awarded untendered and yet a contract was not signed?



HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. In light of the fact that my department does literally hundreds of thousands of contracts in a given year, I will take the matter under consideration and I will report back to the member in due course.



MR. SPEAKER: A new question. The honourable member for Kings North.



HUMAN RES.: WAGE RESTRAINTS - RECLASSIFICATIONS



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources. The Minister of Human Resources and Nova Scotians realize that during this time of a wage freeze many people throughout the Civil Service in certain areas and doing certain tasks have received, actually, a pay increase and it was through what they call reclassification. I was wondering if the minister could tell the House if there are policies respecting the maximum allowable increase for an employee who is reclassified?



HON. JAY ABBASS: There very likely, Mr. Speaker, are such policies and I would be happy to provide them to the member opposite by mail or even hand delivered, for that matter.



MR. ARCHIBALD: I would appreciate that very much, Mr. Speaker, if the minister could hand deliver them. If you have them at your place we will take them now, if not we will take them later.



Could the minister tell the House why some employees are being reclassified while others are being forced to compete for positions that they are at the present time filling on a temporary basis? In other words, what criteria is examined in making a judgment on whether an employee will be reclassified or whether the employee is going to be forced to reapply for a job?



MR. ABBASS: Again, this might be something that could more easily be addressed by having a staff member contact the member opposite. If there is something in writing that might help him out, I would be happy to provide that. Otherwise, I am sure the Deputy Minister of Human Resources would welcome a call.



MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the deputy minister is not in the Chamber and the minister is, so I thought I would ask him.



Again, Mr. Speaker, if I could ask the Minister of Human Resources, during a reclassification, is it done on a department by department system where a member of the department is doing the classification or is the classification done by a central group within the Human Resources Department that is responsible for all the classifications?



MR. ABBASS: It is done, by and large, department by department, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.



EDUC. - COMMUN. COL. (SYDNEY): CLOSURE - EVALUATION



MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Education. On Sunday I attended a rally in Sydney. They were protesting the impending closure of the Prince Street, Sydney Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College.



AN HON. MEMBER: We saw you.



MR. MACLEOD: I didn't see you there but anyway, there was a fear and an outrage at the government's decision to close down the campus and there are many who attend that campus who are worried about what their future is and where they are going to be able to continue their studies. There are others who want to attend who feel that there is such a long waiting list for the Sydney area campus that they will be forced to travel elsewhere to attempt to further their studies. (Interruption) While the Strait area was allowed the time and a study to determine how the two campuses should be amalgamated, the Sydney area campus was not. Could the minister tell the students and the residents of the Sydney area what evaluation was used to determine the Sydney campus closure?



HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I can tell him that we had less money, we could reduce the number of buildings or the number of programs. We chose to protect programs for students. That is what we did. (Interruptions)



MR. SPEAKER: Please stop the interruptions.



MR. MACLEOD: Could the minister tell us whether the revenue that was recognized and generated from the customized training at the Sydney campus was enough to help overcome some of the costs that are related to that campus?



MR. MACEACHERN: The customized training did help at that particular campus as it does in all our campuses but obviously it wasn't enough to keep it open.



MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary, again, is to the Minister of Education. There are some 400 students attending that campus now and I have been told that there are some 600 applicants who were turned away because of a lack of program space. Does the minister feel that there will be sufficient space at the other campuses on Cape Breton Island to fulfil the training needs of these many people?



MR. MACEACHERN: Obviously, Mr. Speaker, we are concerned with the training. We have been working with the University College of Cape Breton to provide that training and will continue to do that. The answer to the question, can we educate everybody in the Province of Nova Scotia all at once? No. But can we educate them as we did last year? Yes, we can.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



COMMUN. SERV.: SMALL OPTIONS HOUSING - MORATORIUM



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Community Services. Would the minister indicate if there is, or if there has been in the last two years, a moratorium placed on community-based, small options residential housing?





[1:15 p.m.]



HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have had a consultation process involving two reports relative to deinstitutionalization and also in small options. During that time we have only gone forward with small options and those facilities that would have been already approved or had been given approval through the sponsoring body, usually the municipal units. These reports have now been circulated, there has been a consultation process, the fire marshal has been consulted and other issues relative to this matter are now coming to a conclusion and will be moving forward as the budgetary restraints allow us to - not only the restraints within our particular government but also within the municipal units - move on to initiatives. The whole process of deinstitutionalization has been moving forward positively. There hasn't been a great deal of growth in the areas of municipal units for small options, unless they have been previously promised or in the works.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister has been requested by the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia to give consideration to providing small options availability for brain injured Nova Scotians. It is my understanding that there are some negotiations going on regarding that provision of that accommodation. Would the minister comment as to whether or not in fiscal year 1996-97, there will be a Small Options Program available to brain injured Nova Scotians?



DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this has been a program that has been much needed throughout many parts of the world and, certainly, in our country and in our province. The issue surrounding head injuries, while not different than others, have specific needs. I think the emphasis must be on program. Currently the services are cutting across several areas of several departments of government services, particularly Community Services, Health, Education, and sometimes even Justice. There is really a need for coordination and cooperation and we are moving on toward that.



We have our officials, between the Department of Health and Community Services particularly, working toward initiatives in that matter. We hope to bring forward some program; it will have to be done within the budgetary restraints, but the special needs of people with head injuries are recognized and we want to make some progress in that area in the next year or two ahead, yes.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly encourage the minister to try to make that option available in fiscal year 1996-97. There aren't a large number of Nova Scotians involved who would require this particular accommodation, but it is certainly worthwhile and I encourage the minister's ongoing support for the program.



By way of final supplementary, the minister on several occasions has identified the need for regulations and standards for small options and small options workers, when will the minister be bringing forward these regulations?



DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, first there will be some reports announced and then they will be moving into any regulatory changes. I have no specific time on that but to say that we are working toward that and hope to see it in the early part of the year. To be more specific as to time, perhaps even within the next couple of weeks, really.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.





JUSTICE: HEARING AID DISPENSARY LTD. - UPDATE



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Last week I had questioned the Minister of Health about the relationship between the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic and the Scotia Hearing Aid Dispensary Limited. I then went to the Minister of Justice and asked him a question with regard to their legality under the Societies Act which makes them a non-profit agency, entitled to give tax receipts. The minister naturally couldn't remember because it was some time ago that he had received a letter on this subject and he was going to investigate as to whether or not the Scotia Hearing Aid Dispensary Limited now was indeed at arm's length from the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic and the board of that clinic. I was wondering if the minister could bring us up-to-date as to his findings about the Societies Act in respect to this particular company?



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, in the correspondence I had with the then Leader of the Opposition, in September, I mentioned that there might be a possibility for restructuring planned as it related to the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic and the Scotia Hearing Aid Dispensary Limited, which is a related organization, that the matter at that time, in September, was under review. Well, the review has taken place and my officials tell me that it is inappropriate, based on the law and the Statute itself, to require restructuring and therefore the matter would proceed. Further to that, because it is relatively complicated. I would be happy to write a letter in a reasonable time to the member for Hants West and explain the reasoning of the Department of Justice of why it is inappropriate to require restructuring.



MR. RUSSELL: I thank the minister for the answer, I think, because I am not too sure what kind of an answer I got. But I gather from that answer that the minister has provided that, indeed, they can't be required to restructure, but if they don't restructure, then they don't meet the requirements of the Societies Act, and, in that case, they would have to fold.



Mr. Speaker, this is of some interest to all those small businesses around the province that sell hearing aids because this company has, if you will, a lock on the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic and can indeed take those who go into the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic for testing and drive them straight upstairs to their own dispensary, which is a private company run by the same members of the board, if you can follow that. So I am pleased to accept the fact that he will send me a letter on the subject.



My question to the minister is, is he satisfied to see the Scotia Hearing Aid Dispensary Limited continue to provide services to those who are hearing impaired?



MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I can't hear, either. Would all honourable members please try to allow the honourable minister to have the floor.



MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Hants West suggested that if there was not a restructuring, that Scotia Hearing Aid Dispensary Limited which is the body related to the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic, might have to discontinue business or disband. That is not my understanding. My understanding is, based on a careful study of the Statute, that they can, in fact, continue. That is the law and under the Societies Act that they are entitled to do that, and, again, as I indicated earlier, because it is relatively complicated to explain here, I would be pleased to write to the member for Hants West and explain the reasoning of the Department of Justice, why they gave that interpretation.



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



ERA - YARMOUTH-BAR HARBOR FERRY: WINTER SERVICE - SUBSIDIZE



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question through you, sir, to the Premier, regarding the MV Bluenose. Back in the mid-1980's, 1985, the former Premier of this province, the Honourable John Buchanan, got into a little bit of hot water when he had offered a provincial subsidy to the American-owned Princess of Fundy, trying to encourage it to go into a year-round service. As a result of that - and, of course, they never did start that year-round service - the Premier was, back in 1985, forced in August of that year to offer a subsidy to be paid to the MV Bluenose ferry, an offer which was, I believe, in the range of $600,000 at that time.



My question to the Premier, given the importance of the MV Bluenose ferry and given the fact that they are now planning to shut down that service, does the Premier and his government believe enough in their own report that they commissioned to offer a subsidy to ensure that winter service of this vital ferry link continues?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think what we have said quite clearly is that the keeping open of the vital routes to New England is important. I am not prepared at this stage to say one way or the other, who or what we will support. What we are prepared to say is, in effect, what the minister spoke about earlier, which was that it is the private sector that is going to be coming forward to us and we will see what happens when they do that.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that the government has bought into the line, it would appear anyway, that the government doesn't see this as a vital transportation link, a public transportation link that needs to be maintained.



My question to the Premier is quite simply this, does the Premier believe and endorse the report that his own government paid for, that report which found that the costs to Nova Scotia, in terms of lost revenue and lost jobs, are going to be greater than the costs of maintaining and operating that vital link?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what we have said and what we will stick by is that we are prepared to work with the private sector. The extent to which we have to do that, it is not possible, it may not be necessary at all for us to do other than to open up a port. We don't know.



I think in the interest of trying to raise a few issues, the member is not helping the process that we are attempting to do, which is to facilitate the passage of goods from the Yarmouth area to New England.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I note that in his answer the Premier did not say that he endorses the findings of the report that his own government commissioned and paid for.



My final question then to the Premier is quite simply this, is it the government's view that this service should be privatized and that this vital transportation link, upon which the businesses and the communities in southwestern Nova Scotia depend, will only survive if it can be done for profit but that the province and the federal government should have no legal and moral responsibility to maintain it, unless some profit for themselves or their private friends can be made?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as usual the question is multi-faceted. In order to give the answer to the first part of his question I am going to say what I said last night. It is a real shame that you were unable to stay for such an important issue. I guess it really indicates the importance of the debate.



AN HON. MEMBER: No calling to attention people's absence.



THE PREMIER: No, no. I just regretted it. (Interruptions)



Mr. Speaker, what I can give you is what I said last night. We have had the study, quote, looked at by a number of departments. They have all found the study to be first-rate. "The study indicates . . . that at least until alternate transportation arrangements can be found, continuing subsidies are justified.Without getting into a lot of figures . . . it is clear from the report that while the federal government may save subsidy dollars, killing the ferry service will cause losses in employment income and serious cost increases to the fishing and lumber industries . . .".



So rather than have the Leader of the New Democratic Party suddenly come across this truth, lo and behold, I mentioned it last night.



MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



SPORTS - BUDGET: CUTS - NOTIFICATION



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Human Resources. The Minister of Finance has said on different occasions that all government departments are being subjected to budget review and things of that nature. For the most part we support that initiative, provided that the minister uses some compassion and some sensitivity.



Now there is rampant speculation that the Savage Government intends to cut anywhere from 25 per cent to 32 per cent out of Sport Nova Scotia's budget. The acting co-executive director of Sport Nova Scotia recently indicated that the organization hoped they would be notified before Christmas. Can the Minister responsible for Sport and Recreation confirm whether or not these people have been notified or will they be notified before Christmas?



HON. JAY ABBASS: The member opposite might be assuming a bit much here. All I can tell him is that the Sport and Recreation Commission will be undergoing the same program review that the other departments in government are currently undergoing and most likely any results therefrom will occur post January 1st.



MR. TAYLOR: The minister is on record having said that the regular delivery system will be maintained. Changes will be made, but in administration costs only. Grants to the province's sport governing bodies will not be affected. Is the minister prepared to stick to that commitment, and does he honestly believe that he can cut away 32 per cent of funding through making cuts to the administrative side of the Sport and Recreation Commission?





[1:30 p.m.]



MR. ABBASS: To respond in full to the question would indicate to the House something that, really, the members of the sport and recreation community deserve to hear first. I cannot confirm that there is any particular percentage being looked at whatsoever at this time, but I can indicate that I have said quite publicly, or at least within the confines of a Recreation Association of Nova Scotia annual general meeting and President's Day for Sport Nova Scotia, that any cuts whichever occur at the Sport and Recreation Commission will occur at the management or administrative level in preference over making cuts at the programming level.



MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the minister is on record having said that he will cut 32 per cent. A 32 per cent funding cut will be made to Sport and Recreation and now he is not so sure, I guess, from listening to what he is saying as to whether or not it will come from the administrative side of Sport and Recreation.



I wonder if the minister could tell us this, will the policy of the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission be changing as a result of the Savage Government's planned funding reduction? When I say this, I mean, can the minister tell the House if money will be targeted, so to speak, specifically for the talented athletes who excel at particular sports instead of directed toward sporting organizations across Nova Scotia who participate in sport programs for leisure, recreation and at the community level? Is the minister changing the policy?



MR. ABBASS: Well, the member opposite started his second supplementary with a misquote if, in fact, he was quoting from anything at all. Perhaps he could table whatever he has. I know that the members opposite have been taking liberties in claiming that my colleague to my right, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency said something that he simply did not say. So rather than even answer the question, which would be dignifying it somewhat, perhaps he could table whatever he has.



MR. SPEAKER: We have time left for one short snapper.



The honourable member for Kings North.



HUMAN RES. - AMHERST: JOBS TRANSFER - STATUS



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Human Resources. In October the Minister of Human Resources was speaking in Amherst and at the time he was making his speech, he indicated that from a personal point of view the 75 jobs promised by the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and the Minister of Education were not possible, however, he indicated he would be taking it back to Cabinet and requesting 75 jobs transferred. I am wondering whether the minister has, in fact, requested 75 jobs be transferred to Amherst?



HON. JAY ABBASS: Well, again, we have another member opposite inventing quotes. Perhaps he could table whatever he has before I answer whatever question he would like to ask.



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.





MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Not that I am expecting a retraction but, during Question Period, when very recently I raised some questions with the Premier about the Bluenose ferry, the Premier suggested that had I stuck around to listen to him last night when he spoke during the debate that I would know what the Premier had said during the debate.



Mr. Speaker, as a way of a point of order, I would suggest to the Premier, through you, sir, that maybe the Premier should check Hansard because, if he does, he would see that I actually spoke after the Premier and he would also know that during that debate I raised a number of these issues and I even occasionally complimented the Premier for a couple of things that he had done.



So, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that maybe before the Premier casts accusations, that the Premier should have his facts and information straight.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in the true spirit of the Christmas season and in the real spirit that should motivate all of us, I want to say that I enjoyed your company. I didn't see you as much as I thought I might but I am sure the fault was mine and I do extend to you a very happy Christmas and hope that you will join in all the debates in this House.



MR. SPEAKER: All right, I think that dispenses with that particular matter.



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. In the spirit of Christmas, as the Premier said, I think it is very appropriate that we thank the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia for providing all members of the House with such a lovely lapel pin. I want to commend the Wild Blueberry Producers Association; they have sent us all a letter stating that they have sincere appreciation for our support in recognizing the blueberry as the official berry of this province.



MR. SPEAKER: I don't know that that is a point of order; it might perhaps better be presented as a notice of motion for resolution and perhaps the House might pass it unanimously.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dale Madill for the chocolates. (Applause) We await to see what comes from the other media. (Laughter)



MR. SPEAKER: Were those chocolates compliments of the Chronicle-Herald?



MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know, they are certainly from Mr. Madill, I don't know if they are from the Chronicle-Herald or not.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Private and Local Bills for Second Reading.



MR. SPEAKER: I thought there was a tabling of a report.



MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, yes, before you do that would you please revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.



TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the member for Kings North was quite correct in Question Period when he said the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation Financial Report for the 2nd Quarter was on its way. It did arrive during Question Period and I would like to table it now and provide copies for the Opposition. I might add that I am sure all will be relieved, particularly members of the Opposition, to learn that the monthly revenue has gone from an average of $2.7 million to over $4 million in this quarter.



MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Government Business.



GOVERNMENT BUSINESS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Private and Local Bills for Second Reading.



PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 63.



Bill No. 63 - Halifax Container Terminals Tax Exemption Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Supply and Services.



HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I so move.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 63. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 64.





Bill No. 64 - Cape Breton Regional Municipality Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I so move.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.



MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Finance for bringing forth Bill No. 64, an Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1994, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Act. It is not perfect but it is much improved over Bill No. 29 which was introduced earlier in this House.



AN HON. MEMBER: By whom?



MR. MACLEOD: By . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Don't get into the rabbit tracks, stay on the course.



MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 29 had flaws and this bill, through the Minister of Finance, has certainly addressed those flaws and has made a much better bill; it still is not perfect but it is a much better bill.



This bill has overcome a major flaw and it was the identification of the problem that a lot of people had addressed, I am sure, to the Minister of Finance and to other members of the rural part of what we used to refer to as the County of Cape Breton, and that was that in Bill No. 29 there was no mention of suburban tax rate and in this one there is. I think there are a number of people who will be relieved to hear that.



There are many in the area of the old County of Cape Breton who feel that this is a very positive change and one that will help to put away some of the worries and concerns that they have had. The bill does not address one of the major concerns and that is the amount of tax increase but, of course, this bill can't do that because that is something that will be decided by the municipal council. That still is a major concern of many of the people but at least now the people who are living in the suburban areas of the old former Cape Breton County realize they will not be hit with a major tax increase, the same as an urban rate.



I would close by suggesting that maybe it would be helpful if this bill had in it some kind of a reference as to what suburban and rural actually mean in the context of this bill and in relationship to the old County of Cape Breton because I think it would put a lot of people's minds at rest. After the minister has done such a fine job so far, it would be such a great improvement over what was put forward in Bill No. 29. I would suggest that he look at that and maybe bring it forward.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my comments will be relatively brief. I certainly appreciate the fact that the minister has brought forward this particular piece of legislation. Maybe it is a matter of experience, that the Minister of Finance is a more seasoned member of this House than his colleague, the member for Cape Breton South, who had introduced the earlier piece of legislation. As certainly the Minister of Finance has introduced it, I am sure it will have the backing, too, of his colleagues.



One of the things that I can't help but point out in this is that of course this is dealing with the tax rates that are going to be collected in the regional municipality. Of course those tax rates, it doesn't matter where one sits in the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the tax rates are going to have to be higher, as a result of the costs that were as a result of the underestimating for the establishment of that new regional municipality. Therefore, when one takes a look at the startup costs, the implementation costs, those millions of dollars are going to have to be added to the tax rate and to the tax bill that all residents in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are going to have to pay. But, Mr. Speaker, this is certainly more in keeping with what had been promised, although certainly the municipality didn't get the kind of financial assistance that they had been hoping for from the provincial government and the kind of thing they had been expecting.



When this all washes through, when the tax rates are set, you can be darn sure, Mr. Speaker, that those who are living and paying their taxes, it doesn't matter where it happens to be in the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton, that the tax rates are going to be higher next year than they were last year, as a result of these increased costs. So the promise of reduced tax rates, I don't think, unless the province comes through with something that they haven't said they are going to do to date, the tax rates that residents will be receiving next year will not show a decline. One might suggest that the residents might be in for a bit of a rude surprise as some of the rates actually start to go up. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Finance, it will be to close the debate.



The honourable Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Cape Breton West for his comments and the member for Sackville-Cobequid. I think this will represent an improvement in the situation, in terms of the capacity of the new municipality. There is only one small point I might take some very little issue with; the art of government is trying to find a reasonable balance within a responsible, decision-making framework. I think that is what we are trying to do here.



If there are tax increases I certainly could say that they won't come as the result of amalgamation. They will come as the result of eight municipalities dealing with an extremely difficult situation, primarily with declining revenue, and finding that the times have changed so they couldn't live the way they have lived for many years. So everybody is trying to balance interests, everybody is trying to find a responsible solution. This is part of it and I thank honourable members for their comments.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 64, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Act. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.



The honourable Government House Leader.



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



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.



[1:45 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. Robert Carruthers in the Chair.]



[6:00 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is there a speaker to the Adjournment motion? I have already read the motion, it is in the record already.



[Therefore be it resolved that the lack of leadership this government has shown on the issue of the winter service of the MV Bluenose ferry will result in a loss to the economy of southwest Nova Scotia which will negatively impact on thousands of Nova Scotians.]



ADJOURNMENT



MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West has won the draw and is recognized.



MR. GEORGE MOODY: If it is okay, our Leader is going to speak on my behalf.



MR. SPEAKER: Very well then. The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



ERA - YARMOUTH-BAR HARBOR FERRY:

WINTER SERVICE - LEADERSHIP ABSENT



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity again to bring to the attention of the House this very serious matter of the loss of the winter service, which will be the result of the cancellation of the subsidy by the federal Minister of Transport, that subsidy paid to Marine Atlantic to keep the MV Bluenose operating, particularly in the winter months.



We had an opportunity last night to spend some time considering that matter in this place. I was impressed by the level of concern by members of the House on both sides for this very important topic. I think each of us in our own way recognizes the very serious impact this will have on the economy of, particularly, southwestern Nova Scotia, but as well on Nova Scotia and Canada as a whole.



We talk about maintaining a climate for business. We talk about how we as legislators and you as government can provide an atmosphere and an environment in which business can thrive. I suggest that the maintenance of a proper 12 months a year ferry service from Yarmouth to New England is a very important part of that economic climate.



Now, this problem just didn't come out of the woodwork or didn't come down with last night's rain. The government has been aware of this problem, it is my understanding, since April. Certainly the Opposition became aware of the problem and began to actively work on the problem as early as last summer. I have here before me press releases by the honourable member for Queens in which he was alerting the people of southwestern Nova Scotia and businesses of the potential impact it would have if, in fact, the threatened loss of winter service would occur. After issuing press releases and contacting a number of businesses, businesses in that part of the province actually wrote back to the honourable member for Queens thanking him for bringing it to their attention, that in fact there was a danger that we would be losing the winter service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor.



Something happened last night that I found very strange, when the government began in its defence of its perceived inactivity on the question to start to suggest that somehow it was the fault of the Opposition that the ferry service was being discontinued in Yarmouth. I think on reflection, the government probably will think better of that particular point of view and that admonition and will realize that this problem is very squarely on their shoulders and has been from day one.



The study of ATi Consulting indicates very clearly that the Yarmouth to Bar Harbor ferry, 12 months a year, is a positive contributor to the Nova Scotia economy. Now, the government and the Opposition are in agreement on that point. Speakers last night on the government side made that point that the continuation of that service will have a positive effect on the economy of Nova Scotia. So there is a lot of room here for agreement.



What we are attempting to do by emphasizing and bringing forward to the attention of the government this very important issue is to urge the government to start a plan of action that will result in a solution and there is a very logical solution available to this problem. We had opportunity in the House today in Question Period to ask the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency what it is that he is planning to do about the problem. He is talking about involving the private sector. I think that is appropriate. With some proper sponsorship, a private service with a proper vessel could provide the service that we require, bearing in mind that in the winter months, from perhaps October 15 to May 15, the traffic is largely commercial and largely confined to forest products, fish products and, in the Christmas season, Christmas trees. But a lot of other cargo is carried as well and a smaller vessel, more suited to cargo, certainly could run more efficiently. So I think that part of the minister's approach is correct.



However, what really bothers me, Mr. Speaker, is that we are now less than two weeks away from losing this service and there is nothing concrete in front of us. The government has known since April that there was a risk here of losing the service; in August that risk was becoming more of a reality and nothing happened. Then, in September, when 100 business people and businesses were represented at a meeting in Yarmouth to try to draw attention to the problem, still the provincial government's lobby on their behalf was ineffective and poorly focused.



Now let's talk for just a few minutes about solutions. We have to look at an immediate solution and a long-term solution. The Premier, last night in the emergency debate, pointed out very correctly that he had approached the federal Minister of Transport. I can't remember the exact phrase the Premier used but I think it was something, it sounded like they had a testy meeting yesterday. So that is not a solution.



But let's look at it from the federal Minister of Transport's point of view. He is looking to get $5 million of expenditure off his department's budget; the benefits of the ferry service do not accrue to his department. So the logical approach for the government to take for the short-term solution is for our Premier to go to our Prime Minister and say, Mr. Prime Minister, you are paying $5 million for a subsidy down in Yarmouth to keep the ferry going, but that subsidy is producing in excess of $10 million of government revenue. It makes sense. Who among us would not spend $5 million to make $10 million? It just sounds too good to be true. Only that every dollar that government spends would have such a return.



So let's look at the solution. Well, the first solution is for our Premier to go to the Prime Minister of Canada and say that you must keep the winter service going this winter and continue the subsidy to allow the service to go and then to allow us enough time to work on the solution.



The second thing is for the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency to start actively soliciting the private sector for a vessel that will take over the winter service. Now, somewhere out there, there is a vessel that is suitable and that is not used in the winter months. It is not adequate to have happen, as the Premier indicated today, that the government has only said that this is a situation that is available. The Premier said today that the government is not actively soliciting for a solution and a private sector partner.



So I urge the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency to get proactive in searching out a partner to provide, not this year because this year is too far gone but, a year hence, a private sector partner to provide the ongoing service that is required in the southwestern part of the province. So it is a two part approach, the first by the Premier to the Prime Minister to guarantee the service this winter to allow the provincial government and the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency to do his part, that is to set up the private sector partnership to allow the service to go on in years hence.



Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on this very important topic. I urge the Premier and the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency to get on with the job. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.



MR. RICHARD HUBBARD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my place tonight to debate the resolution put forth by the member for Kings West. The motion, " . . . be it resolved that the lack of leadership this government has shown on the issue of the winter service of the MV Bluenose ferry, will result in a loss to the economy of southwest Nova Scotia which will negatively impact on thousands of Nova Scotians.". We are going to talk about leadership.



I spoke on this issue last night and I want to remind the honourable members, those who were here and those who were not here, of some of the things that I said. I read from a chronology of events that started on July 7, 1995 and I read some very interesting things. On August 8th, Rod Morrison and his staff from Marine Atlantic met with southwest Nova politicians and the exporters committee. There were no Opposition members there and I ask, where were they?



On August 23rd, our Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency approached the government and told them that perhaps an approval of some funding to do an impact study might be in order. That money was approved, by the way, they pledged $15,000 for that.



A mass meeting in Yarmouth - some 150 people on September 14th to support the ongoing operations and to come up with a strategy to convince the Honourable Doug Young of the need to maintain that vital link. No Opposition members again.



On September 26th, Minister Harrison meets with southwest Nova Scotia for a general discussion and update. No Opposition members present.



If we are talking about leadership, I would suggest to you that the Opposition members did not show any leadership whatsoever and there were other things. A four hour meeting where government bureaucrats stressed necessity of maintaining operations this winter to allow for the opportunity to locate the ferry.



So there were lots of things going on that people could have attended if they so wished. (Interruption) Well, I am glad to hear that. Next time we will make sure you get invited. It went right up to yesterday, Monday, December 18th when the Premier met with the federal Minister, the Honourable Doug Young. This government cares.



No one knows better than I do the impact this decision will have on southwestern Nova Scotia. In my reply to the Throne Speech in 1993, I spoke of the value of this service to Nova Scotia's tourism industry. In 1994, I spoke on this issue again and suggested it was time for the federal government to begin looking for a replacement for the MV Bluenose, as it had reached its half-life refit. You know, as my colleague, the member for Argyle, Allister Surette pointed out last night, this is not a new issue. As far back as 1984, the former provincial and federal Conservative Governments discussed the closure of the CN Ferry, so I say again, it is not new.



My question would be why was nothing done between 1984 and 1992? That same possible impact on the economy which may exist in 1996 and on, that same impact was there in 1984. All of a sudden, they have a concern for us down there. I would suggest it is just another chance for the Opposition to try to score political points. They have shown in the past that they have no more interest in southwestern Nova Scotia than the man in the moon.



[6:15 p.m.]



Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, my interest in this issue began in 1993 when I was elected; I realized fully the impact of that vessel, not only on our own local economy but on that of the whole southwestern end of the province. In fact, I was approached by some of the employees while I was campaigning. I have taken a keen interest in this issue and have attended several meetings in Yarmouth, and I want to say that some of them were very heated. I attended meetings where Marine Atlantic officials were in attendance and it was felt by those present that they were not being forthright with us. At one meeting of approximately 100 to 150 people, the question was put to the audience: Have any of you users who are in this room tonight been approached by Marine Atlantic to see what you think of their service or to talk about concerns? Not one of those users - and I am talking about fish product truckers, pulpwood industry people, Christmas tree growers and others - not one of them had ever been approached.



It appears to me that Marine Atlantic personnel did not research all the opportunities out there which might have headed off this decision to cut the service. I also want to say that on two occasions during late debate, I called upon the members of this House to debate the future of Yarmouth, on November 3, 1993, and on December 6, 1995. On both occasions, the Opposition Parties decided not to give the people of southwestern Nova Scotia the courtesy of their time. Where were they - leadership we are talking here - Mr. Speaker? I don't know where they were but, all of a sudden, they are worried about us down there. Political grandstanding, I would say. They are content to waste the time of this House when it suits them. Two occasions, when the Opposition told the people of Nova Scotia that Yarmouth was not important enough for one Opposition member to give up 5 or 10 minutes of their precious time; not one member.



Mr. Speaker, there are others who have taken this problem very seriously. (Interruption) As I said earlier, my colleague, the honourable member for Argyle, along with myself, has attended meetings, and I want to say the member for Shelburne, Mr. Clifford Huskilson, realizes the importance of this decision and has travelled to Yarmouth on numerous occasions to represent his fishing industry people, who also rely heavily on that ferry to get their products to the Boston market as quickly as they can. He cares very much.



Other members of the Liberal Cabinet, the Honourable James Barkhouse, Minister of Fisheries, and the Honourable Donald Downe, Minister of Natural Resources, met with us and wrote letters to the Honourable Doug Young, Minister of Transport, to outline their concerns. They care, Mr. Speaker, because it affects to some extent the shipping of their lovely Christmas trees from Lunenburg to the U.S. market.



The Honourable Richard Mann, Minister of Transportation and Communications, also took this federal decision very seriously and met in Ottawa with Mr. Rod Morrison, President of Marine Atlantic, and Minister Young, to try and convince him to change his mind. Mr. Mann realizes that Ottawa is committed constitutionally to provide ferry links to both Newfoundland and P.E.I., but he also realizes the importance of that link from southwestern Nova Scotia to the U.S. He tried to do everything he could to have the federal minister reverse his decision because he, too, cares, Mr. Speaker.



The Honourable Robert Harrison, the Economic Renewal Agency Minister, worked hard for the salvation of that service. He provided the South West Shore Development Association with funding to do an economic impact study on the cutting of that service. That study determined that the people of Canada would lose money in the end. He thought that might show the federal minister that the decision to remove that service was wrong. Well, we all know how the federal minister did not listen. He did everything possible, including strong letters to Marine Atlantic President, Rod Morrison, requesting continued winter service and other assurances such as communication with the community and that they would produce the numbers to justify closing. He did his best, Mr. Speaker.



Our Premier took this issue very seriously, Mr. Speaker. Following a public meeting in Yarmouth in October, I was requested to contact the Premier and request that he go to Ottawa to get approval for an extension from the announced end-of-October closing to the end of December. He went to Ottawa and did come back with that extension which allowed time for the economic impact study which I earlier alluded to. As late as Monday, he met personally with Minister Young to once again impress upon him the need to keep that vital link to the U.S. in operation.



Mr. Speaker, all MLAs in southwestern Nova Scotia, all Cabinet Ministers and the Premier of this province worked hard to keep that service in operation. They all showed leadership. We understand that, like Nova Scotia, the federal government is trying to get its fiscal house in order. At the same time . . .



MR. SPEAKER: You are going into overtime.



MR. HUBBARD: I guess it is time to wrap up, Mr. Speaker, just to say that yes, the Liberal Government of this province did show some leadership in working very hard to maintain that service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor, Maine. Thank you.



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, to pick up on the closing line that was made by the member for Yarmouth, I want to say at the outset that I am not suggesting in my remarks that the Liberal Government hasn't shown some leadership, that in fact it is true that they have. The question is going to be what kind of continued leadership and what kind of direction the government is going to be taking.



Mr. Speaker, I am not going to be side-tracked by some of the accusations made by the previous speaker when he is casting stones and suggesting that nobody from the Opposition benches has been talking about or showing any concerns for the people in southwestern Nova Scotia. I would suggest that the member might want to look at some of the clippings and look at the things that this caucus has done and the issues that they have fought - whether that has to do with the abandonment of the rail lines to southwestern Nova Scotia, whether it has to do with the helicopters, whether the member wants to look at what has been said about Rio Algom or Domtex or the fisheries. I think that the member will recognize that his words in that regard are rather hollow.



That having been said, what we have to do now is move forward. Mr. Speaker, there is no question. I am not going to deny for a moment and I think the Premier and the government deserve some credit for having had the deadline at which the service was to be cancelled extended so that the service is going to be continued until the end of December rather than have shut down at the earlier date that was announced. So, that was a modest, an important, but it was a modest victory and it is one that has to be built upon.



What we are seeing happening here, and the previous speaker alluded to it, quite honestly, in his remarks, talking about the fact that Marine Atlantic had not approached the customers and hadn't looked at all at ways in which they could, in fact, be building and expanding upon the service that they are delivering. Doesn't that sound like, quite honestly, a story that we have heard before? Look at what was done with the rail lines, whether we are talking about the rail service when CN was trying to offload, to privatize the rail service between the mainland in your area, Mr. Speaker, the rail service to Cape Breton. Look at what they did with regard to the rail service to the Valley and to the South Shore. They tried, as much as they could, to discourage customers. They did nothing to go out and try to drum up new business to keep those lines in operation, to make them as profitable, to make them as successful as possible, because their plan was to cut that service and to privatize that service, to offload it. Now, we see the same thing happening with the Bluenose ferry.



Let's remember that we are talking about people. We are talking about people's lives, we are talking about communities. We are talking about the abilities of these communities and these businesses to be able to get the produce, the products that they have for sale, to market in an efficient, timely manner that is going to help to support those communities. The revenues that are going to come in are going to not only provide monies but, Mr. Speaker, jobs and maintaining jobs that those communities depend on.



One the things quite honestly that I was trying to get at with the Premier today during Question Period and we had stones being thrown about what was done back in 1984 and 1985 and why wasn't anything done at that time, one of the things, quite honestly, and it wasn't because the government of the day was anxious to put in any resources, the government of the day, the Buchanan Conservatives had made a loan guarantee, a loan to the Princess of Fundy, a private U.S. ferry operating to Portland and that never resulted in year-round service. They were being criticized because they were providing this loan to this private, foreign-owned ferry service but they were not prepared to provide any assistance to the Bluenose, which was operating a year-round service and which at that time was threatening to close. Under that pressure, the government of the day, whether it was ever picked up and accepted, they were forced and they did make an offer of providing a subsidy to maintain that ferry.



I look at this ferry and sometimes, you know, there are some businesses and some segments that are quite honestly best maintained in the public sector. I would suggest that the Bluenose ferry is a very vital and important part of the transportation infrastructure upon which the people and the communities and the businesses in southwestern Nova Scotia depend. They depend upon that infrastructure. If the government's approach is, let's look for the private partner, let's privatize this all off, Mr. Speaker, then we face the situation where if down the road, once it has been privatized, if there are any plans to cut the service, then the governments can walk away, put up their hands and say, well, it is a private business decision.



Well, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest those communities need to know that that service is going to be there, yes, run in a very effective and efficient business-like manner but they have to know that that service is there and that they will be able to get their products, whether that is fresh fish, whether it is lobster, whether it is pulp products, you name it, to the New England market in as efficient and as timely a manner as possible, because that is money. With the loss of the service, that places Nova Scotia in a less competitive position relative to those markets and that will mean the loss of jobs.



We have the study, and I am delighted, I congratulated and I thank the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and his colleagues for agreeing to fund that study. I am pleased that it was done. That study clearly shows that the Bluenose ferry operation provides a major net benefit to Nova Scotia and to Canada's economy. If that is the case, Mr. Speaker, surely to Heavens, it is reasonable to expect that the provincial government, recognizing that, not only will be going to the Prime Minister to demand that that service be maintained, but maybe the provincial government might want to put some of its own money up to ensure that that service is going to be maintained.



The problem with what is happening is that the federal Transport Minister is looking at his little box, his little window, his little envelope and he is looking at ways that he can save money for his own department's budget. He is not responsible for the economy of Nova Scotia, he is not responsible for the Treasury, whether at the federal or provincial level, he is not looking at how many dollars are coming in to the governments as a whole, nor would he be looking at or is he responsible for the employment levels. He is only concerned about that envelope, that window, called his individual budget.



[6:30 p.m.]



Well, the Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, has the ability to require that you look at the whole picture to involve all the different government departments, not just that one window in the Department of Transport. The Premier has the ability, as the First Minister of a province, to have direct contact with the First Minister of the nation. Surely to Heavens, if we are talking about a proud, united country, one that is strong from coast to coast, then if we believe in national unity, if we have a vision of equality and justice for the entire country, it is reasonable for the Premier to be approaching the Prime Minister and not be looking for the sell-off of this but for a secure program that will guarantee the continuation of this vital link that those communities and those businesses and those families, those persons in this area depend on so heavily. I don't say that now, I am not just trying to be critical of the government for not having shown any leadership. The key is going to be what kind of leadership they show now, from here on in, to ensure that that vital service is maintained. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the Adjournment debate has expired. The House will now revert to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



[6:31 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Acting Deputy Speaker Alan Mitchell in the Chair.]



[7:58 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:



THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made progress and begs leave to sit again.



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?



It is agreed.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will be adjourning until Thursday, December 28th at 12:00 noon; sitting from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m., at which time we will be in Committee of the Whole House on Bills and we will resume debate on Bill No. 47.



Also, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government, I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a safe Christmas.



I move that we adjourn until Thursday, December 28th, at 12:00 noon.



MR. SPEAKER: I, too, would like to wish all members a very Merry Christmas at this time.



The motion is that the House do now rise to meet again on Thursday, December 28th, at the hour of 12:00 noon.



The motion is carried.



[The House rose at 8:00 p.m.]