Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

















HALIFAX, TUESDAY, JANUARY 2, 1996



Fifty-sixth General Assembly



Third Session



2:00 P.M.



SPEAKER



Hon. Paul MacEwan



DEPUTY SPEAKER



Mrs. Francene Cosman





MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to call the House to order at this time. Are there any introductions of guests in the gallery? If not, I will hear the honourable member for Hants West on a point of order.



The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this morning I faxed you a copy of a point of order which I would like to read into the record at this time. I advised the Deputy Speaker at the close of the House on Friday, December 29, 1995, that I would be rising on a point of order to make certain comments regarding a ruling made by the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills on Bill No. 47 at the conclusion of the debate.



At that time, debate had not proceeded beyond the examination of Clause 1 of the bill. Bill No. 47 was returned to the House from the Law Amendments Committee on December 15, 1995, and recommended to the favourable consideration of the House with certain amendments. None of the recommended amendments from the Law Amendments Committee were put to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills for consideration. At the end of the 20 hour period, the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills put the question, shall the bill carry, and that vote carried.



It is my contention that the bill that was carried was Bill No. 47 unamended and that, in consequence, the bill would have to be re-referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills by the House in order to carry the amendments recommended to the House by the Law Amendments Committee. The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills disagreed with that interpretation of Rule 57(3).







4633

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you would take under advisement the following matters:



(1) The interpretation of Rule 57(3) to determine whether amendments to a bill by the Law Amendments Committee require ratification of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills prior to the Committee of the Whole House on bills referring the bill to the favourable consideration of the House;



(2) Whether the ruling of the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills could be used to prevent any member of the Opposition to seek to make any substantive amendments to any clause of any bill during passage through the House, that is apart from the dilatory motions which are permitted on second and third reading stage. Only during Committee of the Whole House on Bills debate is there rendered an opportunity to make amendments. The ruling of December 29th would enable the government to close off the opportunity by permitting government members to maintain debate on the title of a bill until the 20 hour time-limit had expired; and



(3) Whether, and I refer to Page 4629 of Hansard of December 29, 1995, Bill No. 47, which was reported by the Clerk in the following words:



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



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



and the chairman has been instructed to recommend this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without . . .", and I repeat, Mr. Speaker, without, ". . . amendment.".



"Also, Mr. Speaker, the committee begs leave to sit again.



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



Mr. Speaker, my question is, is the bill that was recommended to the House without amendment the identical bill that was introduced in the House on first reading on November 23, 1995? In other words, the bill that you presently have before you to proceed with as far as third reading is concerned, is the unamended bill first submitted to this House, in other words no amendments have taken place?



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to offer a comment or two to the point of order raised by the member for Hants West. This entire issue came about as a result of the fact, I believe, that government decided to stop sitting and listening to a bashing on a bill and decided to enter the debate, as we had been invited to do by members of the Opposition. As a result of entering in that debate, time elapsed without getting to the clauses of the bill.



Mr. Speaker, Page 1, Rule 1, of the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, provides, "The proceedings in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia and in all committees of the House shall be conducted . . .", in accordance with the rules contained in the book which is circulated to all members.





There is provision that when there is a grey area or a matter not covered in this Rule Book, the Speaker will make decisions in those matters, guided first and foremost by the usages and precedents of this House. I think we should look at those two simple rules, Rule 1 and the provision that where not covered, the Speaker shall decide using the usages and precedents. Mr. Speaker, I think this matter has been dealt with in accordance with those rules and, quite frankly, has been dealt with without seeking other authorities. In this case that is proper.



The Opposition attempted to make a case that the Committee of the Whole House did not have an opportunity to consider amendments put forward from the Law Amendments Committee. It is covered clearly, Mr. Speaker, in Rule 47(3), which says that, "When a Bill is considered in a Committee of the Whole House, any amendment recommended by a Committee shall be reported by the Clerk of the House to the Committee and shall be deemed, unless the Committee otherwise orders, to have been agreed to by that Committee without question put.". So in this case the amendments put forth by Law Amendments Committee are deemed to have been considered by the Committee of the Whole House, as clearly stated in Rule 47(3).



Mr. Speaker, more specifically are the provisions of Rule 57(2) and Rule 57(3). Rule 57(2) limits the debate on a bill in the Committee of the Whole House to 20 hours. Rule 57(3) states that, "Upon the conclusion by the Committee of the Whole House on Bills of its consideration of a Bill, the Chair of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills shall put the question, without amendment or debate, `Shall the Bill carry?', which question, when carried, shall carry every clause, the preamble and the title of the Bill, as amended by any Committee of the House and the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, and the Chair shall thereupon report to the House.".



Mr. Speaker, that would seem to be abundantly clear. I guess the argument being attempted by the member for Hants West is that in addition to the Committee on Law Amendments, the Committee of the Whole House on Bills also has to consider the amendments. Quite frankly, that is just very difficult to accept or agree to, for it would, in fact, make the Committee of the Whole House useless because, in fact, the Committee of the Whole House could not move an amendment to a bill unless it had previously been amended, a recommended amendment by the Law Amendments Committee or the Private and Local Bills Committee, in which case it would be nothing more than a rubber stamp on other committees of the House.



Mr. Speaker, I would refer to the second part of the argument that I said I would refer to; that is, the usages and precedents. Last week and the week before, on I don't know how many occasions, we have heard the member for Halifax Citadel, among others, refer to the fact that the Education Bill, Bill No. 39, was amended about 170 times. We did not conclude debate on the clauses of the Education Bill and yet the Opposition, by the very fact that they have brought it up over and over again and said the bill has been amended 170 times, clearly demonstrates that they have accepted that those amendments carried through the Committee of the Whole House, even though they were not dealt with specifically in those clauses by the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I certainly support the decision made by the Chair of the Committee of the Whole House last Friday. I think it was the proper decision. I think it very clearly reflects what is contained in the Rule Book and also what has been demonstrated by the usages and precedents in this House.



Perhaps what the member is arguing today should better be argued again - and I will say it again, I have said it so many times - before a Committee on Rules. Government argued about a year ago that one or two members of an Opposition could prevent government from doing their business by an endless filibuster. I think what the member has said today is that the government can prevent members from getting to clauses of bills by speaking for a number of hours on the title of bills. Perhaps it is time that we looked at all the rules of debate and other matters and sent them back to the Rules Committee for another look-see, Mr. Speaker.



I would support the decision made by the Chair of the Committee of the Whole House on Friday and I would also suggest that there is ample support for that decision in our Rule Book and in the usages and precedents.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak for a moment on the point of order and to indicate that contrary to what the Government House Leader has just said, the reason we are at this stage, and it relates to Bill No. 39 as much as it relates to Bill No. 47, is that the government first of all, last year, when it decided to put a limitation of 20 hours of debate at the Committee of the Whole House stage, has created a situation where its actions of last week have had ramifications that it did not anticipate, and that is that the government chose to take advantage of its majority in this House in a way that is completely unprecedented in the history of this Chamber to, in fact, ensure that debate was not allowed to continue on each and every clause of the bill at that stage where it is most appropriate. This, of course, is in complete contradiction to the commitments made by not only the Minister of Human Resources but also the Minister of Health, who said that it was at the Committee of the Whole House stage, together with the Law Amendments Committee, where we would deal with specific changes to the bills in question.



[2:15 p.m.]



Mr. Speaker, I think that Rule 57 is quite explicit and it has been the practice of this House, at each and every stage with each and every bill, to deal with the legislation clause by clause, whether that is with respect to clauses that have undergone changes in the Law Amendments Committee or whether that has to do with clauses that have received no change, and for that matter, clauses which have been changed as a result of the activities of this committee.



I think that now what we have gotten ourselves into is this government throwing its weight around, trying to control the amount of debate, not only the amount and length of debate that takes place on some very important pieces of legislation but also, Mr. Speaker, to basically quash any debate on very specific and germane issues with respect to that legislation, and that is amendments to each and every clause. They have decided in their pique, because they didn't like the tenor of the debate that the Opposition was waging, that they would simply use bully boy tactics and take over . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Please, please.



MR. CHISHOLM: . . . and take over, Mr. Speaker, what has traditionally been a point where Opposition . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I am not interested in listening to political accusations. I want to hear . . .



MR. CHISHOLM: . . . deal with clause by clause issues.



MR. SPEAKER: When I speak, sir, you sit down and be silent. I am not interested in listening to political accusations here. I want to hear submissions . . .



MR. CHISHOLM: Well, you heard them from the Government House Leader.



MR. SPEAKER: . . . to the point of order.



MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am responding to the point of order. I am also responding to the comments made by the Government House Leader who said, in his place, that the reason we are here is because the Opposition has decided to wage an unrelenting debate on various measures that the government has tried to impose. You are right and he is right, that is exactly what we have attempted to do and when the response to that has been a complete flagrant misuse of the Rules of this House, the rules of this committee, and this Government House Leader and this Premier have decided to completely override the rules, the use of this bully boy tactic, . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I am not interested in hearing that kind of a tirade. Thank you, sir. Please sit down.



MR. CHISHOLM: . . . to completely waive the rules and precedents of this House and I would believe, Mr. Speaker, that not only is this point of order . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I have invited the honourable member to please take his seat.



MR. CHISHOLM: I will, as soon as I am finished, Mr. Speaker, that not only is this rule important to Bill No. 47 but also Bill No. 39.



MR. SPEAKER: Please sit down now. Please sit down now, Mr. Chisholm. Mr. Chisholm, sit down now.



Are there any further submissions to the point of order?



The honourable member for Hants West, again.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, if I may, just to elaborate on the remarks made by the Government House Leader. I noticed very carefully that he chose not to address what is perhaps the most important point of the point that I was making this morning, and that was the referral of the bill from the Committee of the Whole House back to the House, itself, without - and I repeat again - without amendment.



MR. SPEAKER: All right. I have heard submissions now from all Parties. I want to say at the beginning that I am not certain as to the competency of the Speaker to pass judgment on the proceedings of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills because the committee operates under its own rules. Page 34, Rule 40(1), authorizes, "The Rules of the House shall be observed in the Committee of the Whole House so far as may be applicable, except the Rules limiting the number of times of speaking.". The Chair is the Speaker for the practical purposes of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills and, interestingly, the Speaker is only an ordinary member in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. Rule No. 10(2), Speaker's role in Committee states, "Mr. Speaker may take part in proceedings in all Committees of the Whole House and, for that purpose, his place . . . ", that means where he sits, " . . . shall be the place of the Chairman of the Committee.", which means over there where the Deputy Speaker is sitting. So in the Committee of the Whole, the Speaker is just an ordinary member, sits where the Deputy Speaker is sitting now, can take part in the debates and the proceedings and the votes, and raise points of order just like any other member.



Now, I wasn't here at the time that this specific incident took place but I did, when I picked up my paper this morning, notice a rather large article entitled, "Tories to challenge QE II bill ruling"; so that naturally caught my eye and I read it quite carefully. Then I had the Assistant Clerk, Mr. Arthur Fordham, QC, over to my office for approximately a half-hour and he gave me his opinion on these matters. About an hour or two later, the Chief Clerk came over to see me and he gave me his opinion on these matters. I found that the Chairman of the Committee had acted upon the advice of the Clerks at the Table.



I think this is an important point, and I want to make it in any event because the Clerks at the Table who serve me are the very same Clerks at the Table who served the previous government and the previous Speaker, therefore, I consider them to be impartial, non-partisan, unbiased and to give what they consider to be their best legal advice. Now the best legal advice I have from these Clerks is that the proceedings as followed on Friday were followed correctly. The Chairman at that time acted on the unanimous advice of both Clerks at the Table, and both Clerks have expressed to me the very strong conviction that the Rules have been correctly interpreted, both by they themselves and by the Acting Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



Such being the case, I think the issue is, has the Chair received correct advice? I would say that I am satisfied that the Chair has. The Chair has received impartial advice; the Chair has received non-partisan advice from Clerks that served the previous government and the previous Speaker in the same capacity as they do now. I hope that that observation may help to perhaps tone down the level of debate on this point. What we ought to be concerned with here is not partisanship but, rather, the correct interpretation of the Rules of the House.



The Clerks have expressed to me, very consistently and very determinedly, their view that the process in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills is that the committee receives the bill, either as amended or without amendments, from the Committee on Law Amendments. If the Committee on Law Amendments amends a bill, that then changes the bill as received from them back to this House or back to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. Therefore, the answer to the third question raised by the member for Hants West would be, no. Is the bill identical to that which was introduced for first reading? The answer is no. The Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee reported to the House that the committee begged leave to report that bill back with certain amendments. It was therefore received by the House and referred by the Speaker to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, with certain amendments; therefore, the bill is considered by the Committee of the Whole House on Bills was with those amendments that the Law Amendments Committee had passed.



To submit otherwise would be to negate the function of the Law Amendments Committee. You might as well not have a Law Amendments Committee if the House is to hold that the amendments made by that committee don't count. (Interruption) Now I don't want to get into an argument on this matter, I am giving my . . .



The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get into an argument either, but I do want to understand fully the ruling you are making and the ruling you are making is a vitally important . . .



MR. SPEAKER: The ruling I have made is the procedure followed on the advice of both Clerks at the Table was correct.



MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, if you might offer me the courtesy of having recognized me, offer me the courtesy of having the chance to say what I want to say. I would, in those circumstances, say this to you. It is my belief that the rules and the history and the precedent of this House do not permit the Committee on Law Amendments to amend any legislation. The rules and the history and the precedent allow the Committee on Law Amendments to hear submissions and report legislation back to this House with certain recommendations. They do not come back with an amended document; they come back with a document saying, we, the members of the Law Amendments Committee, return the bill and we recommend to the House that certain amendments take place. It is then for the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, and subsequent procedures, to make the determination as to whether or not those recommendations, not amendments, from the Law Amendments Committee are in the wisdom, or lack of same, of all of the members of the House to be passed or not to be passed.



I simply make that observation to indicate that, with the greatest respect, I think I heard you say along the way that when a bill comes back to the House from the Law Amendments Committee, reported with certain amendments - and that phrase is used - you know, Mr. Speaker, I suggest, as do all members who have been in this place for some time, that that phrase refers to recommended amendments and does not refer to amendments passed . . .



MR. SPEAKER: That scenario is not upheld by Rule 57(3), which states - and I think this is the essence of this matter - ". . . which question, . . .", that is the question, "`Shall the Bill carry?' . . . when carried, shall carry every clause, the preamble and the title of the bill, as amended by any Committee of the House and the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, . . .".



There are two separate things, two separate stages, and the Law Amendments Committee or the Committee on Private and Local Bills can amend bills and, indeed, does so, and the chairmen of those respective committees report back to the House that the committee has met and considered certain bills and recommends them for the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments, or, without amendments, as the case may be.



The committee, therefore, in my view, amends the text of the bill, and it was the amended text of the bill that was before the Committee of the Whole House on Bills and was carried. Therefore, I find no deficiency in the rulings of the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



I would, however, point this out to the House. Rule 57(1) states, that, "In any proceedings in Committee of the Whole House upon Bills, the preamble is first postponed and then every clause considered by the Committee in its proper order; the preamble and title to be last considered.". Now, that practice, apparently, has not been followed in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I would pass forward to that committee, as a member of the committee, for its respectful consideration, that possibly if we might follow that procedure rather than the one that has been proceeded to date and is the usage and precedent of the committee - although apparently wrong under the rules - if that could be changed and the rule followed more to the letter rather than based on the incorrect practices of the past, then possibly this problem could be avoided in the future.



The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I agree with your latter statements, that that is the way we should be dealing with bills. However, getting back to the bill in question, Bill No. 47, when it left this House, Bill No. 47 was in a certain state. It was removed from your jurisdiction, sir, if I may put it in those terms . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I don't mind that.



MR. RUSSELL: . . . while it was progressing through those other stages. Insofar as you were concerned, as Speaker in the Chair, when a bill is presented back to you, it was presented back to you as unamended, then that is the original bill that you, sir, dispatched from the House.



MR. SPEAKER: Yes.



MR. RUSSELL: What I am saying is that the bill that was returned to your Chair on Friday was a bill that was not identical to the bill that you dispatched . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Yes, it had been amended by the Law Amendments Committee.



MR. RUSSELL: No, Mr. Speaker. The Law Amendments Committee cannot amend a bill.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, new discoveries are made every day and that is a new discovery to me.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, that argument is covered very clearly in Rule 47(3). "When a Bill is considered in a Committee of the Whole House, any amendment recommended by a Committee shall be reported by the Clerk of the House to the Committee and shall be deemed, unless the Committee otherwise orders, to have been agreed to by that Committee without question put.". So, unless the committee overturns the recommendation, the recommendation is deemed to have been accepted by the House; Paragraph 47(3) cannot be any clearer.



[2:30 p.m.]



MR. SPEAKER: I feel that this matter has been sufficiently canvassed. My ruling is that the actions of the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills were carried out correctly and that the bill in question is properly before the House for third reading.



Now, we can commence the daily routine.



PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS



GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION



INTRODUCTION OF BILLS



NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



RESOLUTION NO. 923



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 new year is a time to reflect on the year gone by and to renew and refocus our energies and priorities for the year that lies ahead; and



Whereas there are many difficult challenges facing our province in the coming year, including the need to improve employment opportunities and to maintain and strengthen our social safety net in the face of significant reductions in federal transfers; and



Whereas the people of Nova Scotia look to the government and to all members of this House to act responsibly and to collectively work for the greater good;



Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House resolve to set aside partisan squabbling and in a new spirit of cooperation and goodwill work to ensure that our philosophical and ideological differences do not get in the way of meaningful and constructive debate.



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



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



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried unanimously. I hope we can all now try and keep it.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 924



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



Whereas the province owns a court-house in Pictou, which was found to be, ". . . well designed, planned and maintained . . .", by the most recent evaluation of courtroom facilities; and



Whereas the government rents courtrooms in New Glasgow which, according to the same evaluation, do not meet current standards; and



Whereas the province is nevertheless moving Provincial Court sittings from Pictou to New Glasgow, at a cost of $50,000 to $70,000 according to published reports;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to ensure that its actions are consistent with the constant Liberal claim that there is no money.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Kings North.



RESOLUTION NO. 925



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



Whereas the new year marked the passing of one of Canada's best-known apple growers, Robert A.R. Stirling, at the age of 95. He spent his lifetime dedicated to building his successful apple business; and



Whereas A.R. Stirling made his family farm into the largest apple and fruit farm in the region involving his children, grandchildren and his great-grandchildren, truly a testament to a great Nova Scotia family; and



Whereas the Atlantic Advocate summed up Robert Stirling's means to success in the industry a few years ago by saying that when an opportunity presents itself, he made it a habit of taking the risk and making it pay;



Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the valuable contribution that this Nova Scotian has made to our agricultural industry and to the success of our province's apple business here and abroad through the life work of A.R. Stirling and the Stirling Fruit Farms.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Yarmouth.



RESOLUTION NO. 926



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



Whereas the House Leader of the NDP was requested to allow the House to sit from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Friday, December 29, 1995; and



Whereas the House Leader of the NDP refused to give his agreement on behalf of the NDP caucus to sit from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. but rather have the House sit from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and



Whereas by having to sit in the House from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. rural MLAs, as well as MLAs from industrial Cape Breton, were denied the opportunity to return home to their constituencies at a reasonable hour;



Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the actions of the NDP caucus, which has shown its complete disdain for the rural and industrial Cape Breton constituencies in Nova Scotia.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Well, I detect a lack of unanimity.



The notice is tabled.



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I want you to rule. Is that a resolution that is even in order, in fact? I think you should be ruling that resolution out of order. Any resolution . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I see nothing out of order about it but I do not find . . .



MR. ARCHIBALD: You don't? Well you should, Mr. Speaker. If you don't see anything wrong with that, there is something wrong with your thought process.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Now just wait a minute, if you think there is something wrong with my thought process, I think you had better watch your mouth process.



MR. ARCHIBALD: Sir, if you don't see anything wrong with that resolution, I think there is a problem.



MR. SPEAKER: Be seated while you are ahead.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, just for the record let me say that there was no intent to prejudice the rights and the privileges of rural or industrial Cape Breton members with the decision. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, the rules are very clear that the normal hours of sitting on a Friday are from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and those are the rules that were followed last Friday, the first day and the only day of this sitting where that has been the case. For a resolution like that to be allowed to rest in order, Mr. Speaker, I think infringes upon my rights and privileges as a member of the NDP caucus.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, if the honourable member is that insistent, I will take a look at it. I will see if there is anything in it that under our normal usages and precedents would be deemed to be - "Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the actions of the NDP caucus which has shown its complete disdain for the rural and industrial Cape Breton constituencies in Nova Scotia.".



It is an expression of opinion. The resolution is tabled.



The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



RESOLUTION NO. 927



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



Whereas Toronto area Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish recently slammed East Coast fishers by alleging they were responsible for problems with the federal unemployment insurance program; and



Whereas statistics clearly show that fishers' benefits in 1993 amounted to only 1.43 per cent of total jobless benefits; and



Whereas before saying too much, the Toronto area MP should realize there are seasonal construction workers in her federal riding drawing unemployment benefits each winter as well;



Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature roundly condemn the ignorance recently shown by the Toronto area Liberal MP on the East Coast fishery.



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



MR. SPEAKER: I sense disagreement.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. (Interruption)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West has the floor. It requires unanimous consent, you didn't have it.



MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my point of privilege is that the Government House Leader, in commenting on the point of order that we were discussing previously, said that the treatment accorded Bill No. 47, the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Act, was identical to that afforded to the Education Act, which is Bill No. 39.



Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 39 was a bill that went through Committee of the Whole House. There were certain amendments proposed from the Law Amendments Committee, which were dealt with within Committee of the Whole House and there were certain amendments that were not dealt with on a clause by clause basis. That bill was recommended back to the House, to the favourable consideration of the House with certain amendments, which is correct, if, indeed, the argument that is being made, that the bill is amended.



The handling of Bill No. 47 is entirely different, in that it was recommended back to the House without amendment. So, Mr. Speaker, my point of privilege is simply this, there are certain amendments that the Opposition would like to make to Bill No. 47 and I would suggest that we are being prevented from doing so simply because of the fact that the bill has been dealt with incorrectly during the Committee of the Whole House procedure and the reporting procedure back to the House.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, I very much regret any incorrect procedure that any of us have followed in the past, including myself, but I find no reason to find that that bill is not properly on the order paper for third reading, and possibly through negotiation between the Parties, this matter might be canvassed. I don't believe I am capable of solving it.



I have been asked by the Deputy Premier to revert to the item of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers for a moment.



The honourable Minister of Justice.



AN HON. MEMBER: We haven't finished resolutions yet.



MR. SPEAKER: We will return to resolutions if there are more.



TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Section 51 of the Judicature Act, I hereby table amendments to Civil Procedure Rule 62 that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal July 28, 1995; amendments to Civil Procedure Rule 65 that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal on December 11, 1995 and also table pursuant to Section 51 of the Judicature Act, amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the Judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on November 27, 1995.



MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.



NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 928



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



Whereas Liberal Cabinet Ministers believed their own promises so much that they banked on a four week, non-controversial legislative session which would have finished by the end of November 1995; and



Whereas another new year brings another Liberal legislative mess with Cabinet determined to force through laws that conflict with recently signed contracts, give high income earners a special tax break and confiscate businesses without compensation; and



Whereas Liberals who booked holidays and foreign travel on the basis of their own promises are now alarmed by review of their bills;



Therefore be it resolved that this House regrets that there are still 40 Nova Scotians who believe the promises made by this Liberal Government.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Cape Breton West.



RESOLUTION NO. 929



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



Whereas Lost Village - A Historical Story of the Mira River When Louisbourg Was A Walled City has been published along with a biography of the author; and



Whereas the historical story resulted from a fishing trip in the area of Rocky Boston, south of the Mira-Louisbourg highway in the fall of 1945 by Dr. Weldon Wood Patton and a friend, Robert McArel; and



Whereas it was the belief of Dr. Patton and Mr. McArel that they had stumbled upon an 18th Century French settlement that resulted in the authorship of Lost Village, a tale of enduring love against the backdrop of the second siege of Louisbourg;



Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature commend author Leroy Payne Peach for his idea to create Lost Village and include with the book a biography of the author of Lost Village, W.W. Patton and wish Mr. Peach every future success.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried unanimously.



The honourable member for Hants West.



RESOLUTION NO. 930



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



Whereas the Liberal Policy Paper on accountability and accessibility in government released during the 1993 election campaign said, "to honour the responsibility government has to the people, it must open its activities to scrutiny by the public and opposition"; and



Whereas the Liberals in this same policy paper said, "two legislative sittings each year will permit legislators and the people they represent to focus on the issues facing Nova Scotians"; and



Whereas almost three years into their mandate, this Liberal Government believes it can change the rules with a snap of their fingers and forego the legislative rules of this historic Chamber that have been in place for decades;



Therefore be it resolved that the government become more intent on doing what is right for Nova Scotians instead of playing petty politics and negatively impacting upon the economic well-being of thousands of Nova Scotians.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 931



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



Whereas the MLA for Cumberland South is one of many Liberals who have made public presentations and declarations in support of bus, train, and other public transportation services that are essential to ensure Nova Scotians can travel easily, at minimum economic and environmental cost within their own province; and



Whereas verbal support for public transportation services is meaningless without information and a policy to back it up; and



Whereas Cabinet Ministers have dismissed calls for a task force into public transportation;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to undertake a public inquiry or public task force into passenger transportation and related transportation issues before Irving owned tour buses are the only alternative Nova Scotians have left.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



[2:45 p.m.]



RESOLUTION NO. 932



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



Whereas the Liberal Policy Paper on Forestry released during the 1993 election campaign said, "within 30 days of taking office, a Liberal Government will appoint a Premier's Action Committee" to develop an action plan for the province's forest industry; and



Whereas the Liberal Policy Paper on Forestry said, "A Liberal Government will appoint a Forestry Commissioner who will be required to report annually to the Minister"; and



Whereas the Liberal Forestry Policy said programs would be developed to assist small and medium sized Nova Scotia woodlot operators to assist in job creation and the maintenance of many small rural communities;



Therefore be it resolved that since none of these initiatives have been undertaken by the Minister of Natural Resources, the minister explain precisely what he is doing as huge quantities of wood leave Nova Scotia without the necessary silviculture initiatives for reforestation being put in place.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



If there are no further notices of motion, I would like to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 o'clock this evening. The winner today is the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic. He has submitted a resolution which reads:



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Commission inform Nova Scotians about the full range of regulatory changes she plans to dribble out to accommodate the government's thirst for gambling revenue.



I hope I read that correctly. In any event, he will explain to us about that at 6:00 o'clock this afternoon.



That completes the daily routine. We will now advance to Orders of the Day. The Oral Question Period today runs for one hour; it will go from 2:48 p.m. to 3:48 p.m.



ORDERS OF THE DAY



ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition, to begin.



NAT. RES. - NSRL: ASSETS - SALE



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to begin, a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. Over 10 months ago, the minister made a formal announcement that the province was going to get out of the oil and gas business and would be putting up the assets of NSRL for sale. Then, in August, the minister announced that Rothschild Canada Ltd. were retained to handle a formal invitation for bids for the assets of NSRL. At that time there was an indication, as I understood it, by the minister that there was an objective to try and complete the sale by January 1, 1996. My specific question to the minister is, has the sale of the assets of NSRL happened and would the minister comment on that?



HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question by the honourable member. The assets are in a process of disposition. There has been no sale of any specific asset to date. We are undertaking a fairly technical process of the disposition of those assets through an independent body which would be arm's length of the minister as such, and negotiations are underway. We feel that some of the assets will be disposed of, hopefully, by the end of this month, but the other assets are still being reviewed and they will be dispensed with as soon as possible.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the minister, would the minister indicate just how much activity and interest there was in the assets of NSRL? Are any firm offers on the table for the assets that will result in the divesting of those assets? The minister had mentioned in the next month or two, but could he be a little more specific?



MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I mentioned that some of the assets, we hope, will be dealt with over the next month or so. These sales take longer than one would always like. They become very complicated.



Back to the specific question, there are a number of companies that have been showing interest in the disposition of those assets. What we have been trying to do all along is make sure that we get the highest return back to the investors of NSRL, and that is the taxpayers of this province. I believe in my statement, when we talked about the divesting of those assets, we made it very clear that this is not a fire sale. This will be a sale that will be in the best interests of Nova Scotians, who have paid the bill on NSRL for some number of years, and we are undertaking to do that in the most professional and business-like manner possible. That is why we have hired a company called Rothschild to do the disposition of those assets. I personally am not involved with the disposition of those assets, nor should I be involved at this point in time. They are the ones who are doing the negotiations and those negotiations are somewhat complicated.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the minister by way of final supplementary. The minister is aware that Pan Canadian paid $60 million for LASMO, half of the operation. Would the minister comment? Has Pan Canadian made an offer for the NSRL assets and was the offer in the order of $60 million?



MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the bid of Pan Canadian to purchase LASMO for $60 million is a tremendous vote of confidence in the offshore of Nova Scotia and one which I consider a very positive move by a very aggressive company. A company that has a great deal of credibility as well as - I use the term - fairly deep pockets, and are very aggressive in the offshore, so it is a vote of confidence.



In regard to actual companies that have made bids to Nova Scotia, as I mentioned earlier to the member, this is an arm's length process, one for which I as minister have not been involved with knowing who has bid and how much they bid. I have left that up to the divestiture team and when they finish their professional and business approach to the disposition of those assets, then I will be briefed upon disclosure of that information.



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



COMMUN. SERV. - HFX. REG. MUN.: SOCIAL SERV. - COSTS COMMITMENT



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my first question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last Thursday in this House, the Minister of Municipal Affairs confirmed in this House that it was the Minister of Community Services' department that, on February 22nd, informed the UNSM that the government is going to be expanding provincial responsibility for general assistance to include metro, and that date was to be April 1, 1996. My question to the Minister of Community Services is quite simply, why is it that this government has decided to break the commitment that was made to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities at that meeting and confirmed by the minister?



HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, quite simply, the commitment to have a single-tiered system to initiate, have running in place and working toward a full one-tiered system remains as we speak April 1, 1996. There has been no change to that. If he wants to ask the question a little differently, maybe, that is as well as I can answer the question. There is a commitment to a one-tiered system, to work with the new regional municipal unit and there will be negotiations on that matter.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister says now that the commitment is still there, that that system is going to be in place on April 1, 1996, in the metro area and that the negotiations are going to go on in terms of presumably the cost-sharing of that. Well, at that very same meeting attributed to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the comment was made that there will be a new system in place and that, ". . . it will be at provincial expense.". My question to the Minister of Community Services is, the system that is to be installed in the metropolitan area, is that general assistance program to be at provincial expense, as the Minister of Municipal Affairs told the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities at the meeting of February 22, 1995?



DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the member is quoting and perhaps he could table what he is quoting. I am not quite familiar with it and he didn't really say what he was quoting from. I believe it to be minutes of a meeting of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities that has somehow found its way to a media person and then to the floor of the House of Assembly. Certainly, there has been no change in the initiative of the funding formula and how the whole apparatus will function, and how the social assistance system will look, will be determined over the course of negotiations in the months ahead.



I would ask if perhaps the member could table what he is quoting because certainly he is attributing remarks to the Minister of Municipal Affairs that he, in fact, may want to confirm with that minister. I am not prepared to comment on somebody else's minutes that I have not been a recipient of. Thank you.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, yes indeed, I am referring to the minutes of the UNSM meeting, the minutes of the meeting that the minister himself was in attendance at. In fact, five ministers were at that meeting. The items I am referring to, and I would be happy to provide them again to the Minister of Community Services, but I am sure he would be aware of what was said at that meeting, since he was in attendance and since he would know that his deputy minister is also quoted as having said that the government will be expanding the Cape Breton model system into the metropolitan area.



Surely he would know that the commitments of the government and of the Cabinet of which he is a member, were made at that time that the cost of that system will be a provincial expenses.



So my final question then, if I may, to the Premier, because we have two ministers obviously who have different stories and the matter is dealing with two different departments, my question to the Premier, who, of course, is the First Minister and responsible for Cabinet, will the Premier assure this House and assure the residents in the metropolitan area that not only will they not have a two-tiered system but that we don't have double standards being created in the Province of Nova Scotia, in other words, that the province will establish that general assistance policy, as the government promised back in 1993, in metro and at provincial expense, as this government that he leads promised?



HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, there were at least five questions there and I will give the answer in the way that both ministers have done in the past, and in particular the Minister of Community Services. It has always been apparent to us that the Minister of Community Services knows the value of a single-tiered system. He has pushed that consistently since getting in and in that he has been supported, in large, by the Cabinet.



The goal of the province remains to have a one-tiered system in place. I can put it no better than to echo the words of that very competent Minister of Community Services, that the objective is to have in place a one-tiered system.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



TRANSPORT. - MARINE ATLANTIC: COMMERCIALIZATION (N.S.) - PLANS



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Premier. On June 2nd past, the federal Minister of Transport delivered a speech to the National Transportation Day dinner in St. John's, Newfoundland. On that occasion the Honourable Doug Young said, "I have instructed Rod Morrison, the president of Marine Atlantic, to present the government with a commercialization plan for Marine Atlantic.".



My question to the Premier, is the Premier aware of any commercialization plan of Marine Atlantic which involves their services in Nova Scotia? If he is, would he make comment on that plan?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the announcement. I cannot say that I am familiar with this but if the Leader of the Opposition requests it, we will certainly try and get it for him.



DR. HAMM: I thank the Premier for that undertaking. In the same speech the federal minister said that, "We've already transferred responsibility for ferry services on Newfoundland's Southwest Coast and Great Northern Peninsula to the province.". Obviously what happened in Newfoundland was a very orderly transfer from Marine Atlantic to a provincially sponsored ferry service.



So my question to the Premier, has the Premier discussed with the Prime Minister why Newfoundland was afforded an opportunity to work out a plan satisfactory to the Newfoundland Government while here in Nova Scotia all we got from the federal minister was a curt cessation of service notice?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no, I have not discussed this with the Prime Minister.



DR. HAMM: It was reported, I believe today, that Mr. Gerald Boudreau, who is the Chair of the South West Nova Scotia Development Authority, said that a subsidy would be required, a minimum of $500,000, in order to resurrect winter ferry service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor. My question to the Premier, is the government prepared to offer prospective private sector companies a subsidy in order to salvage the winter service in Yarmouth this year?





[3:00 p.m.]



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think the Leader of the Opposition is, once again, being a little mischievous, but in the spirit that he moved that we all become friends and do things properly, I will take that in the spirit in which it was not intended.



What I am telling you, Mr. Speaker, is that this province is concerned. The province is concerned about the loss of service and this province, once it finally learned, set in motion a whole series of moves, some of which have been reported in the media, some of which have been reported by Mr. Boudreau, all of which are designed to try to create some sort of supplementary service for those few months.



It is far too early to get into the cost of this at this point, but what I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, is that we have been working for a long time. We have worked with the federal government in, first of all, getting the delay and it is, of course, very interesting that now the Tory Party has discovered the area of Yarmouth, has discovered the efforts that were being made in response to the way that the member for Yarmouth so very clearly and dramatically drew out in his speech that he did before Christmas. We will work with the people of Yarmouth and we will work with them for a satisfactory solution.



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



TRANSPORT. - HWY. NO. 104: WESTERN ALIGNMENT - CONSTRUCTION BIDS



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to direct my question to the Premier. The Premier said during Question Period last Thursday afternoon that as a result of the Atlantic Procurement Agreement - the new policy - Nova Scotians would, of course, have an opportunity to bid on work being done here in Nova Scotia, and the Opposition certainly supports that.



The Premier also went on to say in his very rhetorical response that I was assuming that people from the Yukon and people from British Columbia could come to work in Nova Scotia at the expense of Nova Scotians; I believe the Premier said something along those lines. Now, I have absolutely no idea what was going through the Premier's mind, but I wasn't at all indicating that people from the Yukon and British Columbia would be coming to work in Nova Scotia. My simple question is this, will Nova Scotians be given a fair and equal opportunity to bid for work when construction on the western alignment begins?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there will be a lot of opportunities for Nova Scotians, in fact it gives me the kind of opportunity that I very much appreciate, and that is of saying to the member opposite - who I know shares the concerns of all Nova Scotians that Nova Scotians will be employed - that in the course of the Highway No. 104 alignment some 700 jobs will be created, and some 1,500 spinoff jobs, and you can bet your bottom dollar there will be Nova Scotians working on them. (Applause)



MR. TAYLOR: That is very encouraging news from the Premier because there are some people who do have some questions - individuals and construction companies - and they are really not clear as to whether or not they will be given the fair and equal opportunity that the new policy on government procurement talks about. That new policy, Mr. Speaker, took effect yesterday and it clearly states that economic development will be fostered, ". . . by giving every capable Nova Scotia supplier the opportunity to do business with the government". It doesn't talk about with a private partner.



I don't know what the predefined criteria that was laid out in the request for proposal, but in terms of the procurement policy, it clearly states on Page 3, that Nova Scotia suppliers will be given, ". . . the opportunity to do business with the government". My question for the Premier is, will LaFarge Canada, the only cement plant that operates in the Maritimes - which happens to be located in Brookfield, Colchester County - will the cement plant be given a fair and equal opportunity to supply cement for the Highway No. 104 project, considering the fact that the government is putting some $55 million into the project?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, with due humility, I really don't think that I should answer that question; that is more likely a question for the Minister of Transportation. I am prepared to defend the government's policy on all of this but I think when it comes to the detail that is so obviously sought by the earnest member opposite, I think perhaps the Minister of Transportation should address it.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know that that is the only cement company operating in the Maritime Provinces, it seems to me I see cement plants in the Strait of Canso area and in other areas of the province. I think what is important to remember here is that we have gone out, following the process outlined, either the CBS process and the RFP process, originally with the expression of interest we sought, seeking a partner.



We have identified and every Nova Scotian company was given an opportunity to be a partner, was given the opportunity to become involved by themselves or with other players in a consortium to bid the job, if you will, to offer to be a partner with the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia. That has taken place following all the steps outlined, following all the fair practices that have been in place. What is being negotiated right now is the attempt to sign a contract.



If the member opposite is asking the question on any contracts or bids the government seeks beyond the signing of that contract, we would be bound to follow the rules that are in place and we would certainly anticipate doing that.



MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I will direct my question to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. The minister will know that the western alignment legislation exempts the Western Alignment Corporation from many of the provisions that are in place relative to procurement of construction material and things of that nature. It also states that the Western Alignment Corporation is not an agent of the Crown. The new policy clearly states that the Government of Nova Scotia is committed to ensuring that government's requirements, not a private partner, it says the government's requirements for goods and services, it doesn't say anything about a private partner. My question to the Minister of Transportation is, can the minister identify the mechanisms that are or will be put in place to ensure that companies, such as LaFarge Canada Cement, and I use them as an example, are given a fair and equal opportunity at putting in bids?



MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the honourable member, if he is a representative of industry in his place that he contact the consortium and make the advantages of dealing with LaFarge Canada Cement known to them. It seems to me that every industry and every business goes out and markets itself. If they are competitive they are able to get business. I would anticipate this will be no different. Why, pray tell, would a consortium pay higher than the best prices if they are trying to bring a job in at the best possible price to take advantage of profits? Why would they, in the name of God, somebody please tell me, why would they pay higher than the best price they could get?



The member opposite knows that the purpose of the Crown Corporation in this case is so that this will not be non-recourse to government, so that, in fact, this does not show on the books of the Province of Nova Scotia and can be done as a public/private partnership, not incurring further debt and driving up the debt service that you are so proud of, the members opposite. We will be bound every step of the way through this process by the legal counsel that we have and we will do what is required of the Government of Nova Scotia to comply with all of the rules and regulations that are in place.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



COMMUN. SERV. - LUNENBURG FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES:

RECOMMENDATIONS - IMPLEMENTATION



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. The minister will well remember 13 months ago, December 3, 1994, holding a press conference to release the Koster and Hillier Review on the Lunenburg Family and Childrens' Services Agency Report. At the time the minister said, "Community Services will be moving on each and every one of the review team's recommendations for strengthening child protection services in Nova Scotia.". Can the minister confirm after 13 months that all of the recommendations made over a year ago have now been implemented?



HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I don't have the recommendations all at hand, but I would be very loath even with, as minister of a department that has been very actively pursuing the recommendations and putting programs in place, particularly in the area of child protection, that we have done them all. I think it is very unlikely that any government would have done them all. I will be tabling that report. I received not too many weeks ago the report of the working committee and I will, within the next couple of weeks, bring that to the House and then the member would be able to review that.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister in his answer made some reference to child protection and child protection officers. On an earlier occasion the minister did make an announcement that some additional child protection officers had been appointed. If memory serves me correctly, they were directed to three areas. Would the minister inform the House as to how many child protection officers were appointed and how the funding for those was arranged? Was it an additional appropriation from Cabinet or was it done through his existing budget?



DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I don't know the exact number. The commitment that we have made and are working towards is 18 in the current budget year, and 18 child protection workers additional in the following year. We were the only department of government, as the member may well know, that really did receive an increase in our budget, and it would be within our budgetary process to which those positions would be funded.



DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, in reply to my first question the minister made reference to a working committee. My recollection is that when the minister made the initial announcement that he made reference that the Minister's Advisory Committee on the Children and Family Services Act would, in fact, monitor and publicly report on his department's progress in implementing the recommendations of the review committee. Would the minister confirm that the working group he is talking about was, in fact, the committee called the Advisory Committee on the Children and Family Services Act and, if that is the case, would he be able to tell us specifically when that report will be public?



DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Advisory Review Committee of the Children and Family Services Act is an ongoing committee that is in place. The group that I am referring to is a different group; it is very comprehensive and it involves those in the agency and also within our department. That is the report that I will be tabling. We have draft legislation being drawn up and completed relative to the advisory committee's work and that is ongoing as the Children and Family Services Act stipulates and that will be from year to year. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.



HEALTH - C.B. REG. HOSP.: SUICIDE CRISIS - REPORT



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. As the minister is aware, a number of recent suicides in Cape Breton prompted a review of practices, policies and procedures at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. I understand that two psychiatrists from Dalhousie were assigned to conduct this review and I believe they conducted a two day review. I understand they have filed a report of their investigation to the hospital CEO. My question to the Minister of Health, has he or his officials reviewed this report at this present time?



HON. RONALD STEWART: Simply put, Mr. Speaker, no, we have not reviewed this. I understand it may have been received - I have yet to confirm that - but no, we have not reviewed it or it hasn't been forwarded.



MR. MOODY: I assume that the minister and his staff will eventually see the report. I would assume that to happen. I would ask the minister if he would not agree that after that report is reviewed by the hospital, the CEO, the board and his staff, would he not agree that the information of this report should be made available to the families first and then, shortly thereafter, to the general public, the investigation or the review by these two psychiatrists, would he agree that he would insist that this be done?



DR. STEWART: Well, as the honourable member opposite may know, Mr. Speaker, ourselves in the ministry and other people associated with the hospital have been looking into the full range of psychiatric services. Certainly, we will be meeting with all of those concerned and we will also be looking specifically and speaking with the team that went down there. We will be looking forward to any recommendations and will share our views, certainly, with everyone, including this place.



[3:15 p.m.]



MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, the minister, I hope, would agree that to restore public confidence, some plan or some part of the review that is going to change the way things are being done, if that is not made public, then people will not have the confidence that maybe they would have if this wasn't done. I would ask the minister if he has a timeframe on which this might happen and we will hear from the investigation what policies and procedures are going to be put in place so the public will understand what changes are going to occur?



DR. STEWART: Certainly, and the honourable member is reasonable to suggest that any changes or decisions flowing out of any considerable report would be, of course, a matter of public record and public debate. I might say there are several considerations here, as the honourable member may know. I am trying to be measured in my response in that there are other considerations in terms of the Provincial Medical Board and representations that have been made to the board by the families who are involved.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



JUSTICE - C.B. REG. HOSP.: ADMISSIONS PROCEDURE - PUBLIC INQUIRY



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question, through you, to the Minister of Justice. As it turns out, it is on the same matter, with respect to the problems at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, the suicides that took place over the fall of 1995.



Mr. Speaker, on December 5, 1995, in this House, I asked the minister, with respect to this matter, if he would not use the discretion under the Public Inquiries Act to in fact order a public inquiry into this matter, given the fact that an inquiry had been held a couple of years ago into the same type of matter and at the same facility. I asked that a public inquiry be done because it is broader in scope and it was important that all of the issues be given an unbiased and reasoned review. I did so especially because it is the Department of Health's own policies and procedures that are also potentially involved in this matter. I felt, as did the families, that it is not appropriate that a review be conducted under the auspices of the Department of Health.



I would like to ask the Minister of Justice, Mr. Speaker, if he would in fact explain why it is that he has indicated to the families of those victims that an inquiry would not be appropriate as conducted by his officials because of the fact that the department, whose policies and procedures would be part of the investigation, are themselves conducting a review?



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, what I wrote in reply to one of the families asking about a matter of an inquiry, I said it was certainly premature that this study was being done. It is being carried out by somebody who is not part of the Department of Health and it is being done independently. I thought it was premature to take any other course and said that no, at this time, it is not the appropriate procedure to follow.



MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I understand the fact that these are not officials of the Minister of Health's department, but we have just heard him confirm, in fact, that they will be reporting and have already reported to that very minister and his department. I again ask the Minister of Justice. This is a matter of some considerable concern that involves potentially the Department of Health and its policies and procedures with respect to mental health, referrals and so on and directions given to institutions within this province. I would ask the minister if he would not in fact agree that under these circumstances it is extremely appropriate and warranted that an open, independent inquiry where all relevant information is brought forward in an impartial atmosphere is, in fact, in the best interest not only of the families but also of Nova Scotians?



MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the hospital itself asked for an outside body to carry out the review. Two people who have no connection with the hospital, two psychiatrists, as I understand it, are carrying out that review. The results have not been received that I know of, at least they have not been made available to officials in my department and I am going to work carefully and closely with the Department of Health, as I have said on this matter earlier, and I think it would be totally premature to jump into the matter now. We will wait until we see the results of the review that is being carried out and take a look at it at that time. But it is premature to get into it now.



MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't think it is premature and the families of the victims don't think it is premature. They also don't think it is appropriate that this review is conducted by the very department that is involved in setting policies and procedures under which the Cape Breton Regional Hospital's admissions policies are based.



Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important that people not be left . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Is this a question?



MR. CHISHOLM: . . . with the impression that the government is sweeping this matter under the rug and is being handled by an inappropriate department. I think it should be, and I ask the minister in my final supplementary, if he would, in fact, revisit the request made by one of the families of the victims, Mr. Speaker, who died in a suicide after having been involved with the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in order to ensure that all relevant information come to the fore in an impartial setting that involves a review of the Department of Health's own policies and procedures with respect to admissions, in cases of mental health?



MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I just want to make it clear again, and I think the Minister of Health said this, the Department of Health is not carrying out the review. It is being done separately and externally. Once again, we have this honourable member who wants to rush in, he wants to be prosecutor, judge and jury and maybe even beyond that. He wants to decide it all now. He is not prepared to wait until you get independent persons to make the report and then will take whatever action is appropriate, if any action, at that time. I have already told the family, I answered promptly and said, given the circumstances and given this external review is being carried out, let's hear the results of that before we make any further decisions.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.



JUSTICE - SUMMARY OFFENCES: COURT - PROCESS



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Justice. On December 13, 1995, the Minister of Justice announced the creation of a summary offence court. The minister's announcement at that time said that the court would hear virtually all provincial summary offences matters in Halifax County except matters which were to be prosecuted by the Public Prosecutions service. He said at that same time as well, that the court that he was announcing was to sit week nights in Halifax, Bedford and Dartmouth and that the cases to be heard there would be adjudicated by lawyers to be chosen through a selection process.



However, that was December 13th. On December 23rd, as reported in the local press, an item in the Daily News reads as follows, and I will just read one . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: Table that.



MR. DONAHOE: I would be pleased to table it, surely. One little reference is made, which prompts my question. Some days after the minister's announcement, we see this in the press, "But this week, it . . .", meaning the Justice Department, ". . . told officials in Bedford provincial court it can't schedule any night-court trials for people with summary offence tickets from the RCMP's highway patrol division, chief clerk Karen Dodge confirmed yesterday.", and then Judge Patrick Curran had some remarks to make. There are, I think, therefore, some serious administrative problems with the announcement made.



So my question to the minister is simply to ask him whether or not prior to making his announcement of this summary court arrangement, did the minister have meetings with and review the proposal with the Provincial Court judges and the staff of the Provincial Courts who would have to work out the administrative provisions for this process prior to his announcement of December 13, 1995?



HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: As the honourable member for Halifax Citadel knows, as Minister of Justice there are many meetings you take part in. Of course, with a large department such as Justice, you rely on your staff to work out the details. I did not personally meet with all the Provincial Court judges on this and I assumed, on the staff level, that my staff would have met with various staff persons involved. Of course at another level there are regular meetings held with the judges, the chiefs and so on.



I would certainly undertake to check to see, in particular with regard to Bedford, if there is some particular problem with the arrangements there. I know there has been considerable discussion as it relates to the former Halifax City and that this new procedure was certainly welcomed, a really good advance. As far as I could understand, it was an advance for the whole metropolitan area but apparently there is some concern at one particular level. I will undertake right now to check on the situation in Bedford.



MR. DONAHOE: Well, I am pleased that the minister has been kind enough to give that undertaking to check things out. The press reports, to which I referred earlier, went on to indicate that Judge Curran said publicly that he thinks the problem is related to the prosecution staffing for summary offence cases, mainly motor vehicle violations such as speeding. He said that it seems that the province doesn't want to staff night court or the municipalities don't want to hire someone to prosecute RCMP cases.



So I wonder if the minister might offer a view now. I know he has already indicated that he would be prepared to make some inquiries. Could the minister give us an indication now about his earlier statement, that the Summary Offence Court will free up the judges and courtroom time so that more serious cases can be handled in a speedier manner? It is clear, at least I think it is clear, from the reaction to the announcement, certainly in this jurisdiction, that the detail is a long way from being worked out properly. I wonder if the minister would be prepared to acknowledge that perhaps there is considerable administrative work left to be done to ensure that it functions properly in the Bedford-Sackville area?



MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I would need to get some figures on what percentages of the cases would be there, versus Halifax City and, say, Dartmouth. It is my understanding that the prosecution service would not be involved in prosecuting the cases. I understand that the City of Halifax provided their own prosecution of some of these types of cases. So there is not a problem there.



Now as I indicated, I said I would check on Bedford. Judge Curran, in particular, seems to have some particular problem and some of the staff members there. I am not going to comment on the judge's comments. There are procedures to follow in that.



I will repeat, as I understand it, given Spring Garden Road, the City of Halifax, that by moving these summary offence cases, particularly from Halifax City, that we would free up the equivalent of six court days, whereby regular cases could be heard there. Of course it stands to reason that would mean that there would be some additional staff required for the prosecution services. That is the intention, that we seek money to provide adequate prosecutions, prosecutors, adequate crowns for the prosecution service, starting April 1, 1996, because with the additional six court days there would be a need for additional prosecutors.



But to come back to the Summary Offence Court, I understand that the ones in Halifax, and presumably in Dartmouth, there isn't a problem. I have already undertaken, in the first question, to check what problem there is, if any, with regard to Bedford. Obviously there is some concern and I will check it out as soon as possible.



MR. DONAHOE: Well, again I thank the minister for his responses but he has twice now, in response to the principal question, the chief question and the first supplementary, left the impression that he understands that things are perhaps not so bad in Halifax and Dartmouth.



The difficulty I have with that response is that Carolyn Hebert, Chief Dartmouth Provincial Court Clerk, said, and I quote her from the press clipping; "`I heard that rumour, . . .'", meaning the announcement that the minister made, "`. . . but I don't have anything in writing yet' about the change. Her Halifax counterpart, Jim MacDonald, said he just heard the news, but only a few cases at his court would be affected so it is `not a great concern here'", all of which, with respect, through you to the Minister of Justice, leads me to wonder whether or not the pre-announcement discussions with judiciary staff, police and others, was really properly or adequately undertaken. I get the impression that there may be some administrative difficulties, it may not free up the judicial time to the extent that the minister had earlier expressed and hoped. Indeed, I share his hope.



[3:30 p.m.]



By way of final supplementary, I ask the minister if he might be kind enough, having been good enough already to say that he would make inquiries about Bedford-Sackville, would he be prepared to commit today to make inquiries about the way in which the system will function in all of the courts within Halifax County and provide this House with a resume or an update document that he might be good enough to table here over the next few days after his officials have had an opportunity to have those discussions? Would he be able to give that undertaking?



MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, one of the advantages of announcing a policy such as this with a good lead time is that when matters come up such as have been raised by the member for Halifax Citadel, based on a story quoting several people in the area, in Dartmouth and the other two jurisdictions, it gives us time to correct any difficulties. Again, as the member would appreciate, having served in the post of Attorney General, you have to take on faith that these matters are properly worked out, and when somebody tells you that it will save six court days, it will save six court days. I trust that proper consultation was made but it would appear from what has been said that maybe there is some slippage.



I don't know how quickly I can do it, but as soon as possible I will have a review done and made available to the member for Halifax Citadel, and it could be available to anybody else for that matter so we know exactly where we stand. I think the idea is good. When we have serious matters coming forward, we have murders, armed robberies and sexual assaults, rapes and much violence, which are delayed in terms of preliminary hearings or the actual court dates because somebody is in for a very minor summary offense. We thought and I know the member agrees that if we can move these matters out of the regular daytime and we can free up six court days, if, in fact, that can be done, that certainly is a good procedure.



I appreciate the member bringing it to my attention and I will undertake immediately, as I said earlier, to do a full review, not just of Bedford-Sackville.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.



ERA: TOURISM - STATISTICS



MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. The Travel Markets Outlook as prepared by the Conference Board of Canada, the winter edition, was just recently released. On Page 16 there is a report on the tourism outlook for Nova Scotia. I just wondered if the minister has had an opportunity to read that report?



HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I have not read the report in detail but it was referred to in a question prior to Christmas. In fact, we send the Conference Board the detailed monthly statistics that we gather here in Nova Scotia and my staff is familiar with that report.



MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to give the minister a copy of the report. It stated that the Nova Scotia travel industry did not have a very good year in 1995. That is not me saying that; that is the report of the Conference Board. It says that road traffic was very flat and hotel occupancy and room sales experienced very little growth. It goes on to say that Nova Scotia is expected to exhibit the lowest employment growth in the country in 1996. Does the minister have any concerns about those statements in that report?



MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting, I doubt that too many provinces collect as much detailed information as Nova Scotia does on vehicles entering and leaving the province, on air flights and so on. When we provide that information in detail, the Conference Board selects the decline in Ontario and Quebec vehicular traffic but does not include in their analysis the 28 per cent improvement in air flights, both European and American.



Obviously, we are concerned any time a report comes out in this nation that reflects poorly on Nova Scotia. However, the statistics that they chose to use were the negative statistics in the reports that we are offering to all the industry partners in Nova Scotia. We have a rather unique partnership in the collaborative effort to collect what we believe is solid evidence and research of growth or lack thereof so that we can make continual adjustment in this extremely important industry to this province.



MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, again I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not knocking our Tourism industry because hopefully it is going to reach $1 billion very shortly and we want it to do well. But what are the minister's plans, as a result of this, to stimulate the tourism industry in the province for 1996? Again, the dollar, which I raised with him before, in comparison with the United States, is very good. Are we doing a lot of promotion down there?



MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, well the first thing we are going to do is stimulate the Upper Canadian authors of this report with a rather gentle prod indicating that they should perhaps use a variety of statistics, rather than the ones they have selected. But, more importantly, there is a partnership with the tourism industry of the province. A strategic plan has been tabled at their TIANS meeting. It is our attempt to follow that plan strategically with the industry partners in this province to improve constantly our evaluation of the marketing efforts that take place and to continue to sell Nova Scotia far and wide.



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



TRANSPORT. - HWY. NO. 104:

WESTERN ALIGNMENT - TOLL BOOTHS LOCATION



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Communications. In a previous Question Period, the Minister of Transportation indicated that the request for proposals relative to the Highway No. 104 western alignment was, in fact, amended or at least an addendum was attached to the RFP and a directive was issued. I believe the directive came from the Minister of Transportation and Communications respecting the location of the toll booths or toll booth. I wonder if the minister could tell us today whether or not it has been established in what community or communities these toll booths will be located?



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, in the original request for proposals, the three consortia who had been shortlisted to submit proposals were asked to submit a proposal based on the base case scenario of Arthur Andersen and Company, but also to submit other proposals. It was later requested of those consortia to submit their proposal based on the fact that the toll collection system would be on the newly constructed portion of the Highway No. 104 western alignment. So that is where the toll collection system will be located, along the new highway portion.



MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I guess I can take from that response then that it hasn't been established in which communities the toll booths will be located? It will be on the new highway. I wonder if the minister can tell us why the 10 per cent performance or bid bond was waived in this case?



MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, the toll collection system is not located in a community because we are not going to toll people to go through communities. We are tolling them to use the new highway and that is why it will be located along the new highway, not in a community.



The bid bond, which I believe he is referring to, which was in a bidder's conference that this question was raised, I believe, and I am not party to this, or wasn't party to the negotiations, but I believe it was raised by at least one of the consortia who said, why are you requiring a bid bond which is a bond that is required on a conventional tender and usually reflects a certain percentage of the tender, sufficient to cover and protect government? In this case - and I believe I answered this in Question Period before - the protection will be built in, in the contract that is signed. In other words there is a negotiation underway. Part of that negotiation will be the government protection, will be the guarantee that government requires, whether in the form of a bid bond or whatever, but that is where that will be located now, and not in taking out papers to bid as is the case when you have a conventional tender, which this is not.



MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that response. I guess we can only wait and perhaps we will find out if 10 per cent of the contract is negotiated as a performance guarantee. We hope that the government is able to do this, or at least the committee that is representing the government.



I wonder if the minister can tell us if the speed limit on the new Highway No. 104 western alignment has been firmly established at this point?



MR. MANN: No, Mr. Speaker, the Motor Vehicle Act, the Public Highways Act of Nova Scotia, set out allowable speed limits on the highways of Nova Scotia. I believe at present the maximum allowable speed is 100 kilometres per hour.



When we announced the western alignment project, we indicated that we hoped and anticipated that the highway will be built to a standard that will allow speeds of perhaps 110 kilometres an hour. We would not suggest imposing or not suggest, well, first of all, we couldn't do that without amending the appropriate Act and it would have to come to the floor of the House of Assembly, and I am sure the member opposite would have something to debate, but I think we would look at all twinned highways in Nova Scotia and ensure, first and foremost, that they were designed to a safety standard that would allow the safe passage of vehicles at 110 kilometres per hour. We would also not do such without first consulting with the law enforcement agencies; in fact, we have plans to sit down with the law enforcement agencies before we look at that matter any further.



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



HOUSING - MOBILE HOMES: ADVISORY COMMITTEE REPORT - RESPONSE



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you, sir, to the Minister of Housing. Without going into a long story, of course the minister will know that there are thousands of people living in the Province of Nova Scotia who live in mobile homes and in mobile home parks. Those who live in mobile homes have often seemed to be at the mercy of the park owner and, as a result of that, the former minister had set up a Mobile Homes Advisory Committee.



My question to the minister is, quite simply, has the minister and her department now completed a response to the reports and recommendations of that Mobile Homes Advisory Committee?



HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, yes, the previous minister did set up a committee on mobile homes. The committee presented me with recommendations. The staff and I have met with the committee and we are addressing all those recommendations. We haven't provided a completely formal response because there are some areas where we would like to have further discussion.



MR. HOLM: I understand the report was given to the minister and her department back in June. In fact, the minister's staff worked in that department. Some of the items in that committee report would, in fact, require changes in legislation and possibly some major considerations; however, there are a number of items that would be very important which would simply require minor regulatory changes, such as the notices that are given to tenants, notices to make amendments or changes to their property. I know one situation where a tenant was given a notice telling him that they were going to be evicted if they didn't remove the clothespin basket from their side step.



One of the recommendations would be that there be proper forms and so on set up. So my question to the minister is, when will she give a response and when will she start to move on some of those items which the department can do very quickly and very easily and they do not require legislative changes?





MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I really get quite amazed at some of the topics that come forward from the members opposite. In some areas of my responsibility they don't want any regulation change, for any reason; in other areas, they want me to change regulations as quickly as possible.



The department is sitting down and looking at those recommendations; they are looking at the regulations. When we have finished with it - it is very important to this government, it is very important to those people who are affected - we will definitely be responding to those recommendations as soon as we are finished evaluating them all. (Applause)



MR. HOLM: As some honourable member said, maybe the minister would like to pretend that it is the Sheraton calling instead of the tenants who live in the mobile home parks and maybe . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Now that is not nice. It is irrelevant to your supplementary question.



MR. HOLM: So, Mr. Speaker, these items are not trivial by any stretch of the imagination. I would suggest to the minister that they are anything but trivial to those who have major investments in their homes and who are subject to threats of eviction. I know the former minister has toured the area where many of these mobile homes exist and has seen himself firsthand the problems. My question to the minister is, will she, rather than just simply saying, in the fullness of time, give the tenants some kind of a timeframe when they can expect to hear from this government, a response to the recommendations that were contained in the committee report, a committee that was established by this very government?



[3:45 p.m.]



MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I resent the accusation that anything is trivialized. Those are his words, they are not our words. We are taking this situation very seriously and we will respond to those recommendations as soon as we have an opportunity to sit down and address them in a comprehensive manner. Every area of this province has mobile homes in it and there are areas that have more than others. I am working very closely with MLAs for all areas of the province that do have mobile homes in their areas to address the concerns through them as well. This will be handled in a way that will be fair to all those who are concerned.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens. There are two minutes remaining.



FIN. - LOAN AGENCIES (DEPTS.): PREMIER - BRIEFING



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. In the dying days of 1995, perhaps as recently as Friday, I understand that the Premier was briefed by Mr. Bert Loveless, the Deputy Minister of Finance, and Mr. Jim Power. My question for the Premier is if, in fact, such a briefing did occur and if it did occur was it with respect to the future disposition of the activities of the various loan boards of government departments?



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I have had no contact with a Mr. Power that I am aware of. I meet Mr. Loveless quite often, with the minister. I really don't understand the point of the question, perhaps he could have another try.



MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question evolves out of various information that suggests that the government is considering reducing the number of loan boards that function within government and my particular concern, of course, is the Fisheries Loan Board. We don't have much time left. My question to the Premier is this, is the Premier aware of any initiatives which are taking place within government respecting reducing the number of loan boards, changing the functions of loan boards, amalgamating loan boards and so on.



THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that makes it a bit clearer. It doesn't make it clear where his information came from but then I wouldn't expect that to be clear. The issue of what we do with loans, what we do with departments, what we do with delivering the function of government in a better way has been a major issue for us for the last six months. We are looking at how this government can deliver efficiently the services, perhaps, to some extent, reflecting the way in which the Minister of Transportation and others have addressed a kiosk issue, that is a good example of addressing the delivery of services.



In this particular case, there are about 12 or 14 issues, all of which are being looked at and the question of loans may well indeed be one of those. I am not at all sure how the name of Mr. Power came up because I have not had any discussions that I am aware of with Mr. Power. I would suggest perhaps you should check your sources and make sure that they get it right the next time.



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



GOVERNMENT BUSINESS



MR. SPEAKER: 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.



[3:48 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman 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. The late show draw was won by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic. Is the Leader to speak on his behalf?



MR. JOHN HOLM: Yes.



[Therefore be it resolved that the Minister Responsible for the Gaming Commission come clean with Nova Scotians about the full range of regulatory changes she plans to dribble out to accommodate the government's thirst for gambling revenue.]



ADJOURNMENT



MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)



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





GAMING CONTROL COMM'N.: REGULATORY CHANGES - REVEAL



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking on behalf of the topic that was introduced for tonight's late show. I won't read it but just to paraphrase it, if I may, the motion is calling upon the government to lay out all of the regulatory changes that it plans to bring to the casinos that are operating in the province, that they bring forward the regulation changes that they are planning; rather than dribbling them out in dribs and drabs as they have been doing over the past six to eight months, that they lay them on the table in an up-front, open manner rather than try to sneak them in in a very, what they hope would be, unnoticed fashion, at times when people won't notice them, so that they can try to maximize the profits that the government is going to be realizing or trying to realize from its gaming and gambling taxes.



I think one of the things that, of course, should be borne in mind, there are a number of things but one of them is that in Canada under the Criminal Code it is illegal for private individuals or companies to run or to own gambling operations for profit. Mr. Speaker, as you would know very well, they have to be government owned. The government can enter, as they have in this situation, into a partnership. This maybe is one of those public/private partnerships which the government is always talking about, but technically the government is the one responsible for that casino and they are the partners in that casino.



What the government has been doing. I am not going to go down history lane in terms of talking about all the commitments and promises that have been made, but it is interesting. For example, just one article from 1991. The now Minister of Municipal Affairs was at that time saying: "We don't need casinos and all the things that come with them. I'm very upset government is considering casinos as an option to get themselves out of debt.". Then that member was a critic, a member of the Opposition. How quickly things change.



The current government had said when they were in Opposition that they would not support or allow casinos to come into the Province of Nova Scotia. Then like a shot out of the blue what do we have? We have casinos. We have the government that was very critical of the former government and their VLT policies in the corner stores and so on, deciding that instead of having them spread all around, they will concentrate the slot machines in a couple of locations. They were hooked on those gambling profits.



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Well, they promised the store owners they were going to give them back their little machines.



MR. HOLM: That too.



When the government introduced the bills to establish the casinos, they gave Nova Scotians, who were overwhelmingly opposed to the establishment of the casinos and who said that they are not going to work and who are demanding the social and economic impact studies that have still never been produced by this government, and had they done those they might have found out that what the informed public was saying was more on, more accurate than what the government was saying. When you take a look at the revenues that are coming in, the so-called profits, they more closely resemble what the public was telling the government a couple of years ago than they do what the government itself was saying.





That having been said, the government did introduce some regulations for public discussion for a couple of weeks. After that, the government pretended that they listened. As an article from April 1995 said, "Skids put on wheel of fortune, Gambling days trimmed, no drinking while playing".



The government at the time said that they wanted to be respectful of the public wishes and the public values. Yes, Mr. Speaker, they wanted to be respectful, and they were respectful for a few weeks, a few months. Then, lo and behold, what happens? The length of the hours the casinos could stay open increased. The most recent time was, of course, just after the House rose for Christmas and an Order in Council came through, sponsored by the minister responsible for that commission, giving the casinos permission to open on Mondays 24 hours a day, supposedly because, I guess, her colleague, the Minister of Finance, in charge of the corporation, requested it.



We were told there was to be no liquor sold at the tables or served at the tables. How long did that last, Mr. Speaker? Walk into the casinos and see if that is possible now. Indeed, of course we all know that the answer is a resounding yes.



We were told there were not to be any predatory practices. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you have seen the advertisements that have appeared in papers - I certainly have - offering free breakfasts and $5.00 chips. Now it is interesting, if you are a senior over 55 years of age and you want to get your $5.00 gambling chip and you go down for the first time, you don't get it. What you have to do is register. They register you and you get your breakfast. Then when you come back the following week, you get your $5.00 chip. They draw you back for the second week for a free breakfast and a promise of a token for the following week. In other words, trying to build and condition people to a regular habit of coming down for breakfast and a $5.00 gambling ticket. Of course the first week you get nothing but the meal, so they are going to lure you back for the next week. When you get your breakfast the next week you know there is a chit waiting for you again the following week, so they will lure you back again.



Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know about you but I see some of this as really fitting into the category of predatory types of practices, in terms of the freebies and the giveaways.



Now, of course, we have Mr. Ralph Fiske, who doesn't think that the casinos should have to close at all and who is saying, according to the news reports that I have looked at, that there should be freebies permitted. Somehow I guess that all these people who are going to Windsor and so on in Ontario, all of those millions of people who live just across the border from that Windsor casino, in the United States, in Detroit and so on, if free drinks are offered here, I guess they are all going to flood into Nova Scotia to play at our little casino down here.



Mr. Speaker, there is no question that what is driving this government is its thirst for gambling profits. What I would say to the minister, through you, and to the Premier is that they should go back and revisit the commitments they made and the desire, they said, to respect public wishes. They should lay on the table what the proposed amendments are to those regulations. They should then have a public forum and public debate or discussion about what those regulations are, instead of on a Thursday morning, down in the Cabinet Room, down in the bunker, passing some Order in Council changing the regulations, out of sight, without any fanfare, but giving in bits and pieces all the new changes that the casino wants, so that their profits, hopefully from the government's mind, will increase so that the government's profits will go up as well.



I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this government should start to truly respect the public's wishes as less than a year ago, on this very matter, they said they intended to do.



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



HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I have to say as I do address this resolution, I really can't blame the member opposite for not reading it because it is really an amazing resolution that maybe he is a little embarrassed to quote from: "Therefore be it resolved that the Minister Responsible for the Gaming Commission come clean with Nova Scotians about the full range of regulatory changes she plans to dribble out to accommodate government's thirst for gambling revenue.".



AN HON. MEMBER: Shame on him.



MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, this member opposite wants me to come clean. Now what exactly does he mean by that? We spent weeks this time last year debating this bill. We had open, frank discussions; there is no hidden agenda here. Everything about gaming in the province came forth when this bill came forward. We spent weeks, hours, debating this bill.



The whole gaming industry here in Nova Scotia isn't just about casinos. He talks just about the regulations for the Gaming Commission. We have seven sets of regulations that have come forward and I will hold them up here now to show Nova Scotians the number of regulations that we have to control all gaming in this province. We have Atlantic Lottery regulations that control all the Atlantic Lottery activity that takes place in Nova Scotia under the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. We have bingo regulations. Under bingos, we have 485 charitable bingos in Nova Scotia, and we have 7 commercial bingos in Nova Scotia. We have developed a new application form so that those people who apply for bingo licenses have to comply with these regulations something that was never done before in the history of this province. We also have bingo supplier regulations that control all the supplies for bingos. We have carnival and charitable gaming regulations, as well, that cover all the other types of gaming that take place in the province.



Yes, we have casino regulations. Mr. Speaker, this is a new industry in this province. This new industry has developed so that we have close to 1,000 people now working in the industry. When we brought casinos into the province, we created jobs in the construction industry that were very much needed when we built the two casinos here in Nova Scotia.



We also have regulations that regulate the ticket lottery area of the province. I was asked just last week to wipe those clean. It wasn't necessary to have ticket regulations; anybody who wants to sell a ticket in the Province of Nova Scotia should just be able to pick up the telephone and get a license to do so. It wasn't necessary to have regulations. Well we do have regulations, so that is now strictly controlled within the province.



AN HON. MEMBER: Hear! Hear!



MRS. NORRIE: VLTs, as the member opposite mentioned, video lottery terminals, when this government came to power, they were rampant across the province - in corner stores - and it was a major issue during the campaign. Well this government saw fit to control it and took them out of corner stores and put them in areas where there are age restrictions as well as time restrictions. There are 2,743 terminals in 543 licensed establishments in this province and they are highly regulated, more so than they were in the past. Clean, Mr. Speaker, well I guess we are clean. We debated for weeks on this bill and we circulated the regulations and we adjusted them to the peoples' wishes. We couldn't adjust them to satisfy everybody, but we satisfied the most people that came forward with issues and listed them in a way so that we could satisfy the majority of Nova Scotians.



When he talks about a full range of regulations, yes, we have a whole full range of regulations and I have just articulated them. This is the most highly regulated, the most tightly controlled jurisdiction in Canada, maybe in North America, when it comes to gaming. Yes, we have to make changes. Why wouldn't we plan to make changes if someone comes forward with recommendations, if we see this new industry in the province as the new regulations come forward? There has to be an opportunity to make changes, but they will only be made when they are necessary and when they are recommended by the commission. They were put in place to ensure strict regulations for all gaming here within this province. The full range of them, the seven packages, and yes, we have had to change them from time to time, but that is done in an open way; there is nothing secretive or under the table about that.



He talks about plans. What plans do we have? Well our plans have already been articulated. We plan to follow those guidelines that we laid down here. We are to ensure that they are imposed and are rigorously imposed across this province for all gaming.



[6:15 p.m.]



He talks here about dribbling. I would suggest that perhaps the member opposite is the dribbler, dribbling about changes, dribbling on about being down in the bunker. I have never heard such dribble in my life, he is drawing some very far fetched conclusions to a couple of changes that have been made.



Let me tell you, we are not dribbling. We have acted responsibly here in this province. We have set up a framework to manage and to control and to regulate in a manner that significantly reduces the potential for social disruption. If you look across other jurisdictions and jurisdictions that have NDP Governments, in British Columbia, they have gaming and casinos in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario.



We in this government when they set up this Act canvassed for weeks at a time across this country to look at the Acts that are in place and the framework in place. We have adopted similar regulations but we made ours stricter and we made it more tightly controlled. I am very proud that the Premier has put his confidence in me to be the Minister responsible for the Gaming Commission so that we can ensure integrity and we can ensure honesty in the gaming industry in this province.



Yes, changes will take place, that is why we make regulations. That is something that happens in every Act that is developed in this government. It is something that happens regardless of which government is in power. When the Environment Act came forward, regulations followed. When the Gaming Control Act came forward, regulations followed, so that they can be changed to satisfy the needs and wishes of those people. We listened to the people and we listened to the recommendations from the commission. We also, sometimes, have a concern with the interpretation of the regulations so we must be able to quickly change them if they are not interpreted in a way that we see fit. We will also be prepared to make changes that would improve and ensure further honesty and integrity.



Yes, this government needs revenue, of course, we need revenue. Every government needs revenue to operate. Thirsty? If we are thirsty it is because this province was left parched, this province was left dry. Yes, we are thirsty, we have been bled dry by the previous administration. We are hungry as many Nova Scotians are because of the actions of the previous administration. We came here as this government, the cupboard was bare, the well was dry, yes, we are thirsty but we are doing something about it, not only with the gaming industry but we are doing it with changes as was articulated last week in health care reform, to take dollars from administration and put them into patient care, to take them from administration in education and put them into the classroom. We are reforming to free up dollars so that the people and the programs of this province are served well. We have also recognized that the revenue that is generated from gaming in this province is something we can reach into and access.



As I said earlier, in the construction of the casino, we provided 400 direct jobs and 500 indirect jobs. It is a boost to a vital industry here in this province, the construction industry. With the casinos in place we have an annual payroll of $28 million, that puts money into the economy of this province.



I am pleased to stand here in my place and speak to this. Once again, I want to say that I don't blame the member opposite for not wanting to read that resolution because I think the resolution is really dribble itself. We really are coming clean. We have come forward with an Act that was well canvassed in this House of Assembly. We are an open government and we have listened. We don't only listen to the Opposition members in this House, we listen to all Nova Scotians, we don't just listen to one view that is brought forward, we have to weigh all of the information that we can gather when we develop regulations or bills for this House of Assembly.



I would like to say that just recently, the member opposite asked a question in this House the other day regarding the serving of liquor and what hours they are served. The casino has a special premises license, it operates under the same rules and regulations as a cabaret liquor license. Liquor is only served between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. the next morning. The changes in hours that came forward, came forward because it dawned on us, it came forward from the commission that on a long weekend when you have a holiday Monday, it only makes economic sense to remain open through that Monday. We haven't opened it up to something that never happened before. There were already eight hours of gaming on Mondays; we added eight hours to that, eight hours a week.



So, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude by saying we have a very well managed gaming industry that offers Nova Scotians jobs, economic opportunity and, with this legislation and the seven sets of regulations, we have the ability to control gaming in all areas of the province that I have listed. With that, I will conclude my portion of the debate. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure about the definition of dribble, after listening to the minister. I think the point the minister is missing, and I guess I was a little disappointed at the level of debate actually, disappointed in that the minister didn't have all her facts straight. She mentioned about when they came to power about the VLTs being in all the corner stores. Well, they had been taken out prior to the change of government.



There was a committee that I served on, the Community Services Committee, that listened very carefully around the province to what people were saying about gaming in this province. She is correct when she says that regulations are needed and required. But you know, Mr. Speaker, what very clearly was said, was that we weren't ready for casino gambling. We got it. But after we got it the government said we are going to listen to what the public is saying on how we govern. The minister said we are going to have the toughest rules in the land.



You know those rules have been changing ever since day one. The minister says, yes, we are thirsty. Well you know you are thirsty for money on the backs of who? On the backs of people who you are trying to get more drinks into so they will be freer with their money? Is that how you get thirsty? Thirsty? They have been drunk with power because part of the whole process, if you are going to listen to what the public is saying, they very clearly said if you are going to have casino gambling, these are the rules we want you to go by. The minister is right, they put it out for public consultation.



People wrote to the Minister of Finance. He clearly said that this is what the public is saying. When the resolution talks about dribble, they are talking about changes that now the minister is saying it doesn't matter what the public wants, it is what the company, ITT Sheraton wants, so they can strip money from the backs of Nova Scotians. That is how you do it, you do it by making changes. So whose thirst for money? I don't know if it is the government's thirst for money that she is talking about or its thirst for ITT Sheraton to make money - certainly not for the general public.



The great debate is when she talks about coming clean is to be honest with the general public. When you say you are not going to allow liquor to be served at the table, you are not going to have predatory pricing, you are not going to be open all these extra hours, then come clean and tell Nova Scotians what it is you are going to do.



Now Premier Savage says there will never be any free booze. Well, a year ago there were not going to be (Interruption) Oh, so we are hearing now from the Government House Leader that probably there is going to be free booze because if the Premier was so sure there wouldn't be free booze, he would say there would be no free booze as long as I am Premier. But now they are not saying there is not going to be free booze, so we are probably going to get free booze.



You know, Mr. Speaker, that is the problem with the present government and the way they handled the casino issue, they haven't been up-front with the general public from day one; they have been more interested in working in partnership with a company to take money out of the province than they have been in protecting Nova Scotians and protecting the jobs.



They talk about the new jobs, well what about the lost jobs that are occurring as we move further and further away, with the free breakfasts and all those things that are starting to hurt, the liquor license and the whole works. The minister talks about, yes, the liquor license, you can only serve from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 a.m. the next morning. Well, every bar in this province and in downtown Halifax doesn't have the same privileges, you have to have a cabaret license.



You know the problem is that there have been different rules. We now have a gaming czar who says we are even going to have free - we should be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We should be giving free drinks; we should be paying people to come here to gamble. Now I am saying to myself, who is running the show? What does this gaming czar got to do with what Nova Scotians want? Is it what the business wants or is it what Nova Scotia wants to become? I think the government has missed the point.





I honestly believe that this issue will be on the minds of all of us when we go to the polls, because I think Nova Scotians spoke very clearly about what they thought about casino gambling and, once they got it, they spoke about how the rules should be laid out. We don't know what changes are going to occur in the next 12 months, as we have seen over the past 12 months. The minister will say, well they are going to occur because we are thirsty for money. She used those words "thirsty for money". I would hate to think, Mr. Speaker, that the government is so thirsty for money that they are going to help a company make money, off Nova Scotians, that will go offshore.



Of course, Nova Scotians will get a share of it. But just think about it, at a time when a lot of Nova Scotians are having difficulty in making ends meet, jobs are not plentiful, Nova Scotians are finding that their weekly salary isn't going very far any more, that it takes all of their salary just to make ends meet, how many Nova Scotians can afford to walk down to that casino in Halifax or Sydney and gamble away their food money, rent money or whatever money they are going to gamble away? How many can afford to do that? There are becoming fewer and fewer, the Nova Scotians who can walk down there and say, here is my money, I am going to spend the evening gambling. Most people are finding it difficult to go out for an evening any more because they haven't the resources to do that. Also, they don't know about job security. Every time we turn around, it is not only government, but other areas are downsizing. That has an effect on people and the money they are spending.



One of the areas I found quite interesting and if you looked at the proposals that were put in by the bidders and by the successful bidder, ITT Sheraton, they needed to generate a lot of revenue around metro and it has expanded out into the rural areas. Well, Mr. Speaker, you know what happened in the first six months of operations? Nova Scotians were not as free with their money as ITT Sheraton and their partner, the government, thought they would be. They weren't going down there and spending the big bucks that everybody thought they would spend. My understanding is the traffic was there, it was a novel idea, people were going there, but they didn't drop the big bucks, so ITT Sheraton got thinking to government, what are we going to do to get the people to drop their bucks?



Well, we are going to serve liquor - that was one thing that they said they wouldn't do -they felt if they served liquor and people could become a bit intoxicated, maybe they would drop those extra bucks that they weren't dropping there when they weren't drinking. The second thing that they decided that they would do was have a free breakfast for ages 55 and over, where you could get a $5.00 chit if you came back the second day, to draw in those people, Mr. Speaker, to part with their money. The third thing that they have done now is to open on Mondays, 24 hours, because sometimes Monday is a holiday. Well, they are not all holidays and a lot of people who would be there all night have to go to work the next day.



Mr. Speaker, I hope that we see in the days, weeks and months to come that this government will consult with the public on the changes that they are going to make to the casino rules. Yes, we need rules. I acknowledge that and I commend the government for setting up regulations and rules, no question, but I am hoping this government will not be lenient so that a company can walk away with more Nova Scotians' money, so that the rules keep changing.



Mr. Speaker, I hope that the government is listening and will listen and no more changes will dribble out of the Cabinet Office until the people have spoken. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The House will now reconvene as the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]



[10:00 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 considerable progress and begs leave to sit again.



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?



It is agreed.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Tomorrow is Opposition Day, so perhaps we can hear from them.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we will be calling Resolution No. 909 and Resolution No. 871, and in that order tomorrow.



MR. SPEAKER: Very well. The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will be meeting tomorrow from the hours of 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.



I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.



[The House rose at 10:01 p.m.]