Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

















HALIFAX, MONDAY, JANUARY 8, 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 will call the House to order at this time and commence this afternoon's business. Are there any introductions of guests before we begin the daily routine?



PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS



GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.



RESOLUTION NO. 964



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



Whereas January is designated as National Alzheimer's Awareness Month to recognize the more than 10,000 Nova Scotians who have Alzheimer's and the almost 100,000 caregivers for people with Alzheimer's in this province; and







4851

Whereas Alzheimer's Disease is an irreversible and degenerative brain disorder and the Alzheimer's Society of Nova Scotia is mandated to enhance the quality of life for people with Alzheimer's as well as their caregivers in the areas of education, support, research and advocacy; and



Whereas the Alzheimer's Society is introducing a 1-800 number province-wide to assist families coping with the disease; a new cable educational show from January 9th to January 31st to educate people about Alzheimer's and the Alzheimer's Society of Nova Scotia and the province-wide door-to-door campaign to generate funds to support the society throughout the year;



Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize January as National Alzheimer's Awareness Month in Nova Scotia and encourage and support the initiatives taken by the society in this province.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



INTRODUCTION OF BILLS



NOTICES OF MOTION



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



RESOLUTION NO. 965



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 federal court has ruled that prisoners serving sentences of more than two years will now have the right to vote; and



Whereas this ruling flies in the face of federal guidelines denying the franchise to those convicted of crimes serious enough to warrant federal prison time; and



Whereas the federal government is considering an appeal of this ruling;



Therefore be it resolved that by means of unanimous resolution this House urge Solicitor General Herb Gray to appeal the federal court decision to ensure that criminals, who have denied fundamental rights to their victims, be denied the right to vote until such time as they have served their sentence and made restitution to society.



Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.





MR. SPEAKER: Is that unanimously agreeable to the House?



No, it is not.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 966



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



Whereas only three municipalities in the Province of Nova Scotia had sufficient numbers of employees to require them to undertake a pay equity process; and



Whereas the Nova Scotia Pay Equity Act has been shown to be an extremely flawed piece of legislation, with holes so big that most of Nova Scotia has been declared a pay equity free zone; and



Whereas those few establishments required to undertake the pay equity process did so following the flawed rules of the Pay Equity Act which produced false and inequitable results;



Therefore be it resolved that this government should immediately implement the 1991 recommendations of the Pay Equity Commission, which they fully supported while serving as the Official Opposition, to require all establishments to undertake a pay equity process, using fair and equitable rules.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.



RESOLUTION NO. 967



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



Whereas, on behalf of the MLA for Dartmouth South, Premier John Savage, I am pleased to recognize that Cora deYoung Greenaway; lecturer, freelance broadcaster, and foremost authority in Canada on Historic Interior Decorative Art has been named to the Order of Canada; and



Whereas Ms. Greenaway is richly deserving of this special recognition for her selfless dedication to service in her community through such noted accomplishments as the establishment of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia in 1959; the successful preservation of Halifax's waterfront, known today as Historic Properties; the restoration and servicing of the first Acadian Cemetery in Nova Scotia; the founding of Ross Farm; and the discovery and promotion of artist, Maud Lewis, resulting in national and international fame; and





Whereas Ms. Greenaway has been honoured with the presentation of the Heritage Canada Community Service Medallion, the Cultural Life Award of Nova Scotia, the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Confederation of Canada, and England's Royal Society of Arts Silver Medal;



Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly extend congratulations to Cora deYoung Greenaway for being named to the Order of Canada and recognize her outstanding efforts in promoting the value of preserving our rich heritage for the people of this province and throughout Canada.



Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.



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



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.



RESOLUTION NO. 968



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



Whereas in 1993, Liberals campaigned on a commitment to create the climate for job creation, including measures to control an enormous deficit of $471 million; and



Whereas the government is living up to its 1993 promises despite the Opposition's reluctance to recognize the facts; and



Whereas under the present government, unemployment has dropped to 10.4 per cent, including the creation of 30,000 jobs since elected to office, while the metro Halifax unemployment rate has dropped to 6.9 per cent, making metro's job market stronger than Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto;



Therefore be it resolved that in a spirit of cooperation, both Opposition Parties recognize the accomplishments of the present government, while vowing to cooperate with the government to help Nova Scotia's remaining unemployed back to work.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?



MR. JOHN HOLM: We would be willing to debate it but not to give unanimous consent.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, I get conflicting signals. You are for it but against it, is that it?



MR. HOLM: I said we would be quite happy to debate the resolution.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, the question is, is it the pleasure of the House to waive. (Interruption) All right, it is not.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 969



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



Whereas despite the job-killing policies pursued by this government, the Premier was quick to accept credit for the welcome increase in employment in Nova Scotia in the month of December; and



Whereas that increase was mainly in part-time jobs and is in any case the exception to a trend, which saw Nova Scotia record an annual average growth in employment that was the lowest in the Atlantic Region in 1995; and



Whereas participation in Nova Scotia's labour force actually declined on average during 1995;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Premier and his colleagues to bring forward policies that truly address the urgent need for the creation of good, full-time jobs in this province.



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



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?



I hear several Noes.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.



RESOLUTION NO. 970



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



Whereas on New Year's Eve, volunteer firefighter rescue teams from Port Hawkesbury, Aulds Cove and Havre Boucher joined forces to save the life of a worker trapped upside down in the cab of a 45 ton crane at Marietta Material Canada Limited, in Aulds Cove; and



Whereas the rescue teams put themselves at great risk in attempting to rescue the worker, due to the unstable position of the crane and its cab, as it hovered precariously for nearly two hours in freezing winds over the Strait of Canso; and



Whereas miraculously the trapped victim was successfully freed with only minor injuries, while one volunteer rescuer received a minor injury;



Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the heroic efforts of the volunteer firefighter rescue teams from Port Hawkesbury, Aulds Cove and Havre Boucher, who put themselves at great risk, while working in a professional manner to save the life of a worker in grave danger of death.



I would request waiver of notice.



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



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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.



RESOLUTION NO. 971



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



Whereas the Order of Canada was created on July 1, 1967, the 100th Anniversary of Confederation, to recognize outstanding achievement and service in every important field of human endeavour; and



Whereas lifelong resident of Eastern Passage, Donald Mills, was among 68 people named to the Order of Canada; and



[2:15 p.m.]



Whereas Donald Mills, although a quadriplegic, has dedicated his life to the community by working hard to improve the quality of life for the people around him;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly extend congratulations to Mr. Mills for his selfless dedication to others, his many contributions to our community and for the prestigious honour of being named among the most notable of Canadians to the Order of Canada.



Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.



MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



RESOLUTION NO. 972



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



Whereas Environment Canada has now installed a 1-900 number to handle detailed weather information requests; and



Whereas these 1-900 calls will mean a minimum charge of $3.90 for the first two minutes and $1.95 for each minute after; and



Whereas detailed weather information is vital to fishermen, school boards, the construction industry, as well as many other Nova Scotians;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House write to the federal Minister of the Environment urging her to ensure this service is maintained as a fundamental public service.



Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.



MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to waive notice on that resolution?



I hear several Noes.



The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 973



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



Whereas the rate increases currently proposed by Nova Scotia Power will result in increases in the electrical bills of all general domestic customers; and



Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia has not seen fit to intervene on behalf of the citizens of the province to protest this rate increase; and



Whereas the 3 per cent electricity tax imposed by this government in 1993 was estimated to net the province $21 million in revenues per annum, and the proposed increased rates will result in further increased tax revenue to the province;



Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the actions of this Liberal Government for putting their own interest in increased tax revenues and increased profits for Nova Scotia Power ahead of the interests of average citizens.





MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



Are there further notices of motion? If not, that would appear to conclude the daily routine. We will now advance to Orders of the Day.



ORDERS OF THE DAY



GOVERNMENT BUSINESS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



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



PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 58.



Bill No. 58 - Medical Professional Corporations Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The bill is amended to move that the bill, ". . . be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.".



The honourable member for Kings West.



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, in rising in support of moving this for six months hence, I know when the minister introduced the bill, he indicated to the House that part of the reason for Bill No. 58 was in the agreement with the Department of Health, or the Province of Nova Scotia, and the Medical Society. Late on Friday, the agreement was sent over from the Department of Health to the Library and we were all able to pick up a copy. In actual fact, what the minister is saying isn't the fact at all.



I have read the agreement, and the part signed by the minister doesn't even mention the incorporation of physicians at all. But if you go back to the part of the agreement that was signed in 1992 by the department when I was Minister of Health, there is a clause there that talks about that the Joint Management Committee is directed to, "Investigate the impact and possibility of legislative changes to permit physicians in Nova Scotia to incorporate practices based on models currently in place in other provinces.". Section 13.2 says, "Subject to the outcome of this investigation, The Department agrees to work with The Medical Society and support its efforts to achieve the necessary legislative changes.".



Mr. Speaker, the reason for the six months' hoist is obvious, because we have not had the impact shown to us of the feasibility study that was to happen before this bill came before the Legislature. So, for the minister to stand up and say that the government had an agreement is, in fact, not the fact. If there is another agreement that the minister has that he is withholding from us then I would hope that he would table that today. Otherwise, we were given wrong information by the minister when he introduced second reading to this bill.





If we had an opportunity for six months, there has been a great debate about the amount of money that would be lost to the province in revenues. I know in checking with some people, the numbers that I have used, with the numbers I am told, is quite accurate. We know, first of all, there will be a loss of revenues. The argument may be whether that is $0.25 million, which is a lot of money down my way, or whether it is $5 million. I guess that number will increase each year as more physicians take advantage of becoming incorporated. If there wasn't a tax advantage, nobody would incorporate, so I think we all agree that we are doing this legislation so people will incorporate and people will have a tax advantage.



During the next six months there would be an opportunity for us to know what programs the government is not going to be able to fund in the coming budget and how many people will be laid off because of this legislation. In the next six months we would be able to actually get that information, the government could start the proper study and we would get the proper information when we come back to the House and we would know exactly what it is we are talking about.



I have said from the beginning that I don't oppose these sorts of things if they are done correctly. This government has continued day after day to talk about no revenues, no money, we are broke, we can't provide for the needs of individuals out there. All of a sudden we are going to have less revenues and obviously, if we don't have any more money to provide the needs, we are going to have less money, so what else is going to go. Over the six months we could have an answer to that. We would actually know whether it is $250,000 or $5 million and we would know what programs the government is going to cut, that affects many Nova Scotians, to make up that lost revenue. Lost revenue has to be made up by cutting on the expenditure side.



I will be supporting this amendment and I hope, after members had the weekend to reflect on what they are doing with this legislation, that we would get a six months' hoist and yes, maybe down the road, once we had the information that would come back for us and we could deal with it, I think, in a reasonable fashion. The government now has taken the attitude, we are not going to let people know what kinds of dollars are involved, we are not going to tell people where the cuts are that we are going to have to make to allow this bill to go forward and so that is why six months makes a lot of sense. Maybe in six months we could pass the bill, everybody in this Legislature fully realizing the impact it will have on Nova Scotians and the expenditures of this government when we actually do the legislation. That is why it is so important that six months be allowed for the government to do that. In actual fact, the government of the day in 1992 and the Medical Society agreed to investigate the impact and the feasibility and if they had results, why won't they share it with the members who are voting on the bill? It doesn't make sense to have an impact or a feasibility study done and then not share it with the people who have to vote to make this law.



It seems to me that if we are going to be well-informed legislators and we are making laws for the Province of Nova Scotia, we should be given the information that tells us on what basis we should or should not vote for a piece of legislation. So what we are doing, in actual fact, is rubber-stamping a request by the Minister of Health, without being given any information or told anything about the impact or even told about the feasibility of doing such a thing. We would all be like puppets to stand up and vote without knowing. There is not a member in this Legislature who can give me the information I just asked for.



So you are going to vote without knowing, in actual fact without knowing any of the information that I just talked about. In other words, you are going to vote blind because someone told you to vote for it. That is why you are going to support it and you have no information on any basis to make good, sound judgment. It would not be good for anybody, governments or anybody, to make decisions without getting that kind of information. If that is the way the government operates, then we are in for very sad days in the future. Hopefully, the Minister of Health will produce the documentation. Surely if it has not been done. Six months from now it could be done, six months from now we would all have that information and we would be able to vote more intelligently on Bill No. 58.



With those few words, Mr. Speaker, obviously I am going to support the hoist. I would encourage all members to support the hoist so that when you go back home and tell those folks that there is no money, you must remember where you gave the money and tell them why you have no money to help them with their concerns. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further speakers to the motion? The question is called.



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



I declare the amendment carried in the negative.



We are now back to the main bill. The motion is that the bill be now read a second time. Are there speakers? The question is called.



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



The motion is carried.



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



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 66.



Bill No. 66 - Public Service Superannuation Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance, represented by the honourable Minister of Transportation.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I believe the Minister of Finance has had an opportunity to discuss this minor amendment with members of the Opposition Parties. In fact, this came to light as a result of, I believe, the widows of former government employees who, because of a loophole, fell between the cracks and were not able to take advantage of pension benefits that would have accrued to their spouse. This is an attempt to plug that loophole.



It involves very few people and it is an attempt to deal in a fair way with those people and not to have them denied benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled. On behalf of the Minister of Finance, I am pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 66.





MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the caucus that I represent, I am pleased to speak in favour of this bill and simply to note that these things do happen and I am certainly glad we have the opportunity to pass this bill and to rectify an unfortunate situation that has occurred.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to indicate our support also for this change. I also want to indicate that when the Minister of Finance brought it to my attention that he would be introducing this change, I asked him to consider another matter which has been deferred by this government, that is the matter with respect to the provision of same sex spousal benefits, specifically relative to pensions. The answer in the past has been that it would require changes to the Public Service Superannuation Act.



I must say that I was disappointed that the minister did not find it convenient at this particular time, while they were opening the Public Service Superannuation Act, to bring about that additional change. It certainly would have redressed a problem that exists out there, and a problem that a few surviving partners are finding themselves in some significant difficulty right now because of restrictions with respect to the provision of those benefits to same-sex spouses, Mr. Speaker.



[2:30 p.m.]



With respect to this change in the definition of the application of the Act and the length of time in terms of being married and so on, there is a specific problem as it relates, I believe, to a few individuals. This will address it and that is good. I simply say though, as I support this, that I am somewhat disappointed that the Minister of Finance was not able to bring about those other changes, as I indicated that would have been required to the Public Service Superannuation Act, as it related to same-sex spouses being eligible for survivor benefits, and particularly, those relating to pensions.



MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further intervenors?



If not, the question is called. Would all those in favour of second reading of Bill No. 66, please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The motion is carried.



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



The honourable Government House Leader.



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



PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 39.



Bill No. 39 - Education Act.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Minister of Education.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to call Bill No. 39 for third reading. I would like to explain to the House briefly why we are looking at calling this bill for third reading before we complete bills in the Committee of the Whole House. We have been requested by the coordinator and by the school boards in the Strait area to allow them to get on with amalgamation. They are ready and there is certainly a transition time there with respect to setting up bank accounts and making changeovers that is somewhat critical.



As a result, if for some reason Royal Assent, as it normally occurs at the winding down of a session by the Lieutenant Governor, is delayed somewhat, then at least perhaps this bill is in a position where it could go forward and not cause significant operating problems for the school board which is moving to set up those various accounts. It is an attempt, if you will, to conclude this bill prior to all other business being concluded - and it is not necessary that it will be necessary to do that - but, if in fact it is, then we would be in that position.



With those few words, I would move Bill No. 39 for third reading.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to address Bill No. 39 this afternoon. I have, as do many members, and as do many Nova Scotians, deep concerns with respect to this legislation. I believe, as indeed do many, that the legislation was created as a consequence of what it deemed to be, and I think demonstrably so, a deeply flawed process. I cannot help but draw the conclusion, after listening and watching the minister as he moved towards the introduction of this legislation and spoke to it in second reading, that the minister took his own views to be rather more substantial than might otherwise have been the case because it seems to me he took his views to be something more in the order of an article of faith than simply a matter of public policy-making.



The minister, I know, made it his business to move about the province to provide opportunities for people to speak to educational governance. Having read widely in the media what was said by individuals at these public meetings and having watched segments of these public meetings on television and then seeing the bill as introduced for first reading and having watched the tremendous negative public response to it, I can draw no conclusion other than this: that while the minister did perambulate about the province, the minister may well have, I believe he listened, however, with the exception of himself and his colleagues, I think there is virtually universal agreement that while he may deem that he listened that he, in fact, did not hear.



I have been told by some that the minister convinced his colleagues in the Liberal Party, and most particularly those who share caucus with him, that this bill will prove to be universally popular as a placebo for all of the educational ills facing Nova Scotia today; at least which he deems to be the ills facing Nova Scotia today. In fact, instead of being universally popular, the legislation proved to be universally unpopular. Witness the fact that we had a tremendous public upheaval from all kinds of segments of the population; segments representing a very wide section of the population indeed. In fact, I think one could safely say that there were very few Nova Scotians who did not develop an opinion with respect to this legislation and its inadequacy and there were many, indeed tens of thousands, who militated against the legislation because they felt that it was ill-conceived and that, in substance, it was entirely lacking.



This is a bill which almost triggered an illegal strike by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, an illegal strike which was averted only at the eleventh hour and then only after the minister capitulated to the position put forward by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, a position which that minister as a member or at least as a former member of that union knew and understood full well. How he could possibly have misconstrued the humour of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to be anything other than that which it proved to be, is indeed beyond me and I think beyond any who know anything of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.



If the bill was greeted in that fashion by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, certainly the Nova Scotia School Boards Association greeted it with derision. The School Boards Association, both by way of public utterance and by way of response to this legislation in the Law Amendments Committee, made it very clear that it did not reflect the kind of advice that they had been providing the minister, advice which they believed to be in the best interest of the delivery of education in Nova Scotia and certainly in the best interest, therefore, of the young people of Nova Scotia.



The bill was also met with deep concern by the Nova Scotia Home and School Association which expressed deep reservation with respect to many aspects of the legislation, not the least of which is the concern over the extent to which school councils would be able to attract to themselves, perhaps rather extensive powers and, indeed, the way in which those powers would be exercised. Both the School Boards Association and the Home and School Association, I believe, share a view which I hold and which many of my constituents hold, and that is the concern that the school councils, although now advisory in nature, make only a very limited provision for elected membership to be part of them, and that elected membership is not guaranteed at all.



It would seem that we are moving away from the democratization of school board decision-making, which was greeted with universal acclaim in the 1970's - a change which the government of which I was part of made - and now moving toward providing a very high degree of influence to persons who are not elected but who rather find themselves in positions of virtual authority, if not legal authority, with respect to the management of our schools.



I think all of this concern, at least with respect to the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, turned to disdain. The distress of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and the deep and legitimate concerns of the Home and School Association, as well as the general public, resulted in the government being caught in the Legislature reaping a bitter harvest from its own minister's sowing. I simply cannot conceive of any Minister of the Crown bringing legislation into this place and not having a pretty good understanding of what the response was going to be.



We all understand that there were probably close to 200 amendments made to this legislation as it passed through various stages, so that the bill we have before us today is not only substantially different from the bill which is introduced, but I think it could be argued it is, in fact, so different that it is hardly at all, if at all, the same bill which was introduced here now some months ago.



The minister was forced to rewrite the Act and, as a result, while it is better, nonetheless in the view of many, including myself if I may modestly express that, it still is very inadequate in many respects. I cannot characterize in any way, other than this, the new configuration of school boards, school districts, as being the grossest violation of common sense that I have seen since I came to this place, now almost 18 years ago. I look at the areas that are caught up in the new school regions, boundaries which are established, we know not why excepting that it appears that it seemed like a good idea at the time to the minister; boundaries which tie together communities which have little, if any, community of interest; boundaries which cause school districts to become so expansive, at least in their geography if not in their populations, that they will cease to have the kind of close-knit community relationship with their electorates of the future that the school boards which are about to pass into history have been able to develop with their constituents in the past.



Of course, I am deeply concerned about the configuration in my own part of the province, in southwestern Nova Scotia, and I am deeply concerned that this is going to have a significant, measurable and dramatically negative impact on the small communities in western Nova Scotia as, indeed, I believe will be the case generally throughout the province.



As school budgets continue to decrease, we know that over a four year period it will run somewhere in the vicinity of 10 per cent. If the full 10 per cent is realized, compounded it will be something a little bit in excess of that. That, in itself, is going to put tremendous pressures on school boards to consolidate, to move into fewer facilities. That means the closure of schools and that almost assuredly means the demise of small schools in our smaller communities and the busing of those children out of the communities; but no less importantly for those communities, it means the loss of an institution which is very much the heart and soul of each of those communities.



If we do not have schools in our communities, certainly with respect to our rural communities, then that almost assuredly means that people who are living in those communities are going to have to reassess whether they are doing their children a good favour by continuing to live in those communities by virtue of the fact that there is not a school in these small communities, there are many people who may otherwise consider moving into those communities and making them their homes who will choose to move elsewhere simply on the basis that they want to be in the community which has a school reasonably close by.



[2:45 p.m.]



So I think that there is not only a negative educational impact which is going to flow out of this legislation, but additionally there is going to be a very negative socio-economic impact which is going to flow out of this legislation. It is a socio-economic impact which is going to be with us for a very long time and which is going to be very difficult to repair with respect to the damage that it causes.



The minister has spoken of an $11 million saving to be created as a result of this amalgamation. As proof of that, rather than providing the House with a full and deep in-depth study providing a cost-benefit analysis to amalgamation, we were given a one page printout with guesstimates as to what the savings would be. Any member of this House could have sat down and even in the dullest moment have created such a document; a document which is, in fact, not worth the paper it is written on.



The Nova Scotia School Boards Association went to some pains to not only express dismay over this apparent $11 million saving but, indeed, to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that if there were going to be any savings, most of those savings had already been realized as a result of a very high level of cooperation between school boards through the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and as the result of changes that had been initiated consequent to the reduction in budgets made available by this government and by the Minister of Education for the public school system. So there are no $11 million savings. If there are any savings, they are so substantially below that the $11 million claim can be seen as nothing but a shill in a very serious game indeed.



The bill did receive some significant strengthening at the Law Amendments Committee, albeit I think that it is fair to say that there are many groups who have the best interests of Nova Scotia at heart not only their own particular interest, who are deeply disappointed that the bill did not incorporate all of their concerns and in some cases, incorporated none of their concerns. Those concerns were not fully addressed, and in some cases not addressed at all, at the Law Amendments Committee and as a result, those persons feel deeply aggrieved, they feel cut out of the process.



There is an entirely new section in the bill with respect to Mi'Kmaq education and the section with respect to black education has been changed significantly to ensure that we provide a reasonable focus which clearly is in the public interest on the positive influence of the African heritage in this small community of Nova Scotia. However, the Gaels, as some of the Gaelic speaking people and Scottish speaking people of Nova Scotia expressed themselves, are deeply concerned that they were completely left out with respect to this legislation. They have expressed that concern, I know, to the Premier and to others and I think it behooves government, indeed, any legislator here to ensure that as well as we reasonably can, that we sweep up all ethnic and cultural interests within the general ambit of this legislation. I applaud the inclusion of Mi'Kmaq and African heritage communities. I deplore the fact that among others, the Gaels have been left out. A strange phenomenon indeed, when one considers the surname of the very minister who introduced this bill.



Also there is deep concern expressed by many religious groups respecting the provisions for religious education. That includes the failure to include Christian principles in this bill. Those concerns, it seems to me, were passed off as kind of also-rans.



Special education, while it is paid some significant service in the legislation, nonetheless is not served to the extent that many would wish to see it served. There are persons in our own caucus who have spoken to that during various stages of this legislation.



We also have very deep concerns with respect to the provision in the legislation which allows Cabinet to determine school district boundaries. It is very much my view, a view that I think is shared by many, that that determination would have been better left to the Utility and Review Board rather than being left to the politicians, which is not to say that there are not many matters for which it is appropriate for the politicians to be decision-makers. That just happens to be one where I believe it is important that the politicians step back and allow a semi-judicial and fully independent review board to take those kinds of decisions.



The greatest tragedy of this Education Bill, in my view, is that it is all about governance, it is not about educational opportunity in the classroom, irrespective of what the minister may say concerning this phony $11 million which he has touted as being the saving that would be realized by this bill. This bill does not establish educational goals for Nova Scotia, does not establish educational standards, it does not establish educational strategies for the young people of Nova Scotia, indeed for all of us, because those of us who have passed our salad days are very much dependent on the capacity for the young people who are in school today to create and sustain a buoyant economy, so that they will be able to look after us in our old age. If we are not concerned about the wider public interest, I would think we should at least be concerned about that rather narrower, personal interest which many of us should share.



I see in here no strategy for continuous education for educators. We debated some days ago, with respect to education, a resolution respecting literacy and numeracy in Nova Scotia, comparing Nova Scotia to other jurisdictions in Canada and, indeed, in the English speaking world. One of the points made to me in a number of articles that I read in preparing for that small debate was the fact that while one may be literate and one may be numerate, one may be right up to snuff when one leaves the formal educational training system, if one does not have the opportunity to continue to update those skills, one can become less numerate, less literate, less technologically competent.



I am deeply concerned that in this day and age when we are demanding more and more of our educators, when we are demanding that our educators have an in-depth understanding of the new information economy, which is the economy in which our young people are being taught to function, that we are not providing legitimate, well-thought-out, well-prepared and well-financed continuous training opportunities for the educators in our province. That is a failing that I think will continue to cause our school system to be less effective than it otherwise might be.



There is also, as I see it in this legislation, no guarantee that we are going to have an integrated support service available across our public school system. It is tough enough being a teacher today with all of the constraints that are placed upon an educator without causing our educators to have to act as surrogate psychologists, surrogate parents, full-time social workers and even occasionally as parole officers. These are all functions which should not have to be exercised by the classroom teacher and yet, continuously, we are downloading these responsibilities on our classroom teachers which is causing the stress level of our classroom teachers to rise significantly.



Teachers who are stressed out from those kinds of responsibilities, responsibilities for which they didn't sign up, thank you very much, and for which they are not professionally trained, only further stresses those people and causes them, I believe, in some instances at least to be less effective in the classroom than they otherwise could be were they given the kind of support system that they require in order to be able to be as effective teachers as they possibly can be.



All of these services in our highly technological, highly mobile society, are absolutely essential and we must not be pound wise and penny foolish and think that we can cut those kinds of services and expect the classroom teachers to provide them, when, in fact, they are not able to do so, not because they shy away from hard work and intellectual activity, but rather because these are the kinds of demands which simply should not fall within the purview of the classroom teacher.



This is a bill which I believe - and certainly the response to it by the general public as well as by the special interest groups would seem to bear me out - was conceived in isolation. It is a bill which was amended under duress, a bill which is being passed in haste. It is, Mr. Speaker, a bill which will be implemented with, I believe, egregious results. It is changed accoutred in the gossamer threads of reform whose transparency, I believe, belies the ugliness of probable chaos for small town and rural Nova Scotia, as well as, generally speaking, for the young people and the systems which it is intended that it govern.



Mr. Speaker, I made reference during the course of my remarks to a number of shortcomings which I believe could be overcome were this bill to be further amended and that can, of course, only be done if the bill is recommitted to a committee of the House. Believing that even at this eleventh hour we can make this bill an even better bill, and I think by moving quickly we can do so without interfering too much with the schedule that the Government House Leader has laid out today, I believe it is appropriate that an amendment be made to recommit this legislation.



[3:00 p.m.]



So, Mr. Speaker, I move "That the words after `that' be deleted and the following substituted: `The subject matter of Bill No. 39, An Act Respecting Education, be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.'".



MR. SPEAKER: I don't know if the House hasn't already dealt with such a motion on this bill. I propose a brief recess while we consider this matter.



[3:01 p.m. The House recessed.]



[3:09 p.m. The House reconvened.]



MR. SPEAKER: I am prepared to call the House back to order at this time. I have given this matter considerable thought. Dilatory motions are allowable at third reading, and they are generally the same type of amendments as are permissible at second reading. I would, however, observe that the House has already approved this bill in principle and, therefore, I feel that there is a narrower scope of amendment possible once the House has approved a bill in principle than would be the case prior to that having taken place.



In any event, on November 9th, the House already defeated this particular proposition that Bill No. 39 be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. So, whereas the House has defeated that proposition already, I do not feel that the same motion can be put to the House again, even if at another stage of the bill.



The House has approved the bill in principle, and I would rule the amendment out of order on those grounds.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make the observation, on a point of order, that this bill we have before us today for third reading is a substantially different bill to that that went through this House on second reading, in that this bill must set a world's record, I would think, for amendments, with some 200-odd amendments to the bill in transition from second reading to third reading. So, I would just like to make the point that, I think, we have an entirely different bill to the one that we were attempting to refer during second reading.



I would take it from your ruling also, Mr. Speaker, that you are ruling that standing committees of the House on third reading should not receive bills on referral, and I probably endorse that feeling as well.





MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.



MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, I rise on the third reading of Bill No. 39, the bill titled the Education Act. I have listened to all of the talk on this bill that will result in the first constructive changes in this province's education system in over 40 years. Because I am a positive thinking person, I am proud to stand in support of this much needed legislation, in spite of criticisms from the Opposition, directed toward me, other members of this government and even the people of Nova Scotia.



I am above responding to criticisms that I did not support the people of my area who discussed the possibility of a Lunenburg-Queens amalgamation. I will not respond to the Opposition's accusations that imply my colleagues and I do not advocate for our constituents in this House when I know we can speak directly to the minister about the educational concerns of our constituents.



Finally, I will not go on about the Opposition's obvious disregard for public funds when the previous Tory Government, in 1982, chose to coerce school board members with the precious few public funds that were available at that time for the necessary amalgamation of school boards. Instead, having a positive disposition, I would rather take this opportunity to speak directly in support of amalgamation of the school boards in this province today.



The reasons to support amalgamation are clear. For example, student enrolments are dropping in certain parts of this province. While school boards have generally been very well managed, they have often found themselves in the situation where they have nowhere else to make cuts but in the classroom. We, as a government, have a responsibility to ensure students in rural areas and all parts of the province have access to the programs and services they need for education success. Also, even in areas where enrolments are stable or increasing, Nova Scotians, at the consultation meetings held throughout this province said loud and clear that they want every possible dollar redirected to support students and teachers in the classrooms. Furthermore, larger school boards are able to manage big budget items more efficiently, like transportation and maintenance. They could also make better use of school space.



Since starting the process leading to this legislation today, there has been and will continue to be a lot of emphasis on building consensus. However, the central question guiding every decision is, what is best for the students. With this focus, Bill No. 39, is giving parents, teachers and all education partners a greater say in decisions in their local schools through voluntary school advisory councils.



This legislation makes the education system accountable for results by defining clear roles and responsibilities for all education partners to support student success. Bill No. 39 redirects more of our tax dollars back into the classroom through school board amalgamation. Bill No. 39, the Education Act, protects essential programs and services for students.



In conclusion today, I am very grateful to have this opportunity to speak on such an important passage of legislation. As a person with a positive attitude, I would like to suggest that we start this new year by being more positive for the good of all students. Nothing comes from negativity and as I have heard other members of this House time and time again say, they are concerned about the students. This legislation will give us all the opportunity to prove that we are concerned about meeting today's education needs of students, as well as the very success of Nova Scotians in the future. Thank you.





[3:15 p.m.]



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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the bill this afternoon. First of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Lunenburg for getting up to speak. I must admit that I don't necessarily agree with all she has said, nor do I share all of the optimism that she has, because I think she is overstating somewhat; she has maybe glasses on that are a little bit rose-coloured in terms of what she is anticipating the bill will mean. That having been said, I do, indeed, congratulate the member for standing up and stating her position. I would anticipate that what the member has done, in fact, is start a trend. I am sure we will soon see more members of the Liberal benches also standing up to speak on the bill.



I also agree with one of the statements that the member made quite clearly and strongly; that is, what we have to focus on, what we have to be most concerned about is what is in the best interests of the students. There is no question that our education system is, or should be, focused on and centred around the student.



That having been said, I really have to question whether or not the bill, as we have it before us, is really doing that, if the bill before us is not more of a governance model, Mr. Speaker, one which is really aimed at supposedly trying to assure that there may possibly be some financial savings that have not been substantiated, that are maybe going more on a hope and a prayer and the anticipation that they are going to be there and that somehow those monies, as the province is withdrawing funding from the education system, these unsubstantiated dollars are going to find a way back into the classroom.



Mr. Speaker, the process, and I can understand and I can even support the decision that you made relative to referring the bill back to the Human Resources Committee, but I can also understand and support the logic and the rationale behind the motion to, in fact, try to refer the bill back because I believe that the bill we have before us is very flawed, and I believe that the entire process itself was very flawed.



I know we are talking in third reading debate and I am not trying to debate your ruling at all, Mr. Speaker, because I had indicated in my remarks that I believe that you made the correct ruling in that regard. I believe very strongly that from the very beginning the accolades that have been issued or given by the previous speaker, and by the Acting Minister of Education in moving the bill for the Minister of Education, about this great consultation process are greatly overstated. In fact, had the consultations, the genuine consultations that had been promised, been held, it would not have been necessary; indeed, it would have been extremely unlikely that we would have had the need for the vast number of amendments, over 200 in fact, that were laid on the table in the Law Amendments Committee.



We would not have had the Nova School Boards Association, we would not have had the Nova Scotia Home and School Association, we would not have had the representatives of the teachers, the NSTU, nor would we have had the representatives of the support staff, CUPE and NSGEU, appearing before the Law Amendments Committee, and even after the bill left Law Amendments Committee still asking for additional amendments to the legislation. Quite simply, the consultation did not take place.



Yes, there had been road shows going around the province after the discussion paper was released, and I followed the Minister of Education around to many of those. Quite contrary . . .



HON. RICHARD MANN: The parents told you to be quiet . . .



MR. HOLM: Well, the Minister of Transportation and Communications said that the parents told me to be quiet and to let them speak. Well, I think the minister, if he wants to go and check the records in the department in which he is acting minister, the Department of Education, I understand they have recordings of all of the tapes. Not only the transcripts, but all of the actual tapes are there.



I think if the minister would like to check out the accuracy of the statement that he just made across the floor, he will go back and he can, as penance, listen to each and every one of the tapes in their totality. If he does that, he will note my absence from any attempt to appear or to approach the microphones because, quite honestly, I was there to listen. I was not there to try to make my suggestions known or to influence those in attendance at the meetings at all.



I was there to listen and, let me tell you, I heard a great deal. I heard time and time again the minister and this government being chastised for what was often seen as very much of a bogus consultation, where people believed that the government had their agenda already set and that what the government was actually doing and the minister was actually doing were going around and pretending to listen, but that the legislation had, in essence, already been written and the government's plan had already been decided.



I even heard in this consultation process commitments being made. I heard commitments being made in one meeting and then reversed in a subsequent meeting. Then we saw the results of that in that there was often a requirement here in the Law Amendments Committee to have new amendments brought in to try to bring the legislation more in tune or more in keeping with the commitments that supposedly had been made by the government. So the whole consultation process was extremely flawed unfortunately.



Although the legislation that is before us has a number of things in it that I quite support, and it does have a number of improvements, for example dealing with the African-Canadian education and dealing with the Mi'Kmaq education, Mr. Speaker, those are positive things. There are also many things that are left out of the legislation and things that the government steadfastly refused, that they resisted with a passion. For example, just one that I will mention first, the whole issue of special education and special needs. The government and the minister did - as a result, not because of forethought or planning and not because of consultations that they had prior to the meeting - they did make changes and they did make amendments to the Education Act as a result of the very articulate and very well thought out presentations made to the Law Amendments Committee by those who are involved in home education. They did make changes. They made important changes in that area.



But they still refused in the legislation to put in definitions about special needs. Who is a special needs student? What is a special needs student in terms of their disability and what, therefore, are the clear responsibilities of the government to meet those special needs? The government refused to make those amendments. I would suggest that the reason is quite simple and it all has to do with money. This is a governance bill and it is about, supposedly in the eyes of the government, finding ways to save money.



If they were to define in the bill special education and define what the government's responsibilities are with regard to those children with special needs, then the government and the boards, if they are failing to meet those needs, could be challenged in a court of law. But if they aren't defined there, if the obligation is not laid out in the Education Act, Mr. Speaker, then you can't challenge them in the courts of law and the government cannot be forced to comply. The government isn't prepared in this legislation or in any piece of legislation to commit themselves to any kinds of standards themselves. So, it is quite obvious, just in that area alone, that there are obvious flaws that the government is unwilling to address.



With regard to amalgamation, again, the government is pretending or saying that there are to be all of these millions of dollars worth of savings. They talk themselves and supposedly, conservatively, $11 million. Despite that claim they have not produced the actual, accurate information to back that up but that is consistent with what this government does, they make the claims but without having done the studies and the analysis to back that up.



Of course, you can always save $11 million if that is going to mean that you are going to be setting it up so that a lot of programs and services are going to be shut down; if you are going to be doing away with essential administrative services that provide programs and services to the young people; or if you are going to make children travel much greater distances on the buses; or if you are going to privatize and contract out and reduce the standards and turn the workers into part-time workers, without benefits; maybe those kinds of savings might be able to be achieved, it hasn't been shown.



Certainly, what we heard from school boards associations and others who have been facing not just because of this year and this bill but over the past number of years have had the numbers of dollars being provided for them to deliver education reduced, those boards have already been making major cuts to the administrative level. Many of the so-called savings that the province says are going to be there, those boards say that most of those administrative cuts have already been made. You reach a point of diminishing return that if you cut excessively beyond that point in terms of administration, then a system cannot function.



Now what we are going to have are these huge, humongous boards across the province, extremely large boards here in the metropolitan area going the full size of Halifax County now to include Dartmouth and the City of Halifax, both of which have separate municipal units that are going to disappear, that whole area, with 140 schools, approximately 57,000 students; you will have this Strait area board which is soon to be amalgamated, a very large board as well taking in large geographic areas. You can go down to the South Shore and see the size of that board going from Lunenburg all the way around through Digby and so on. If those boards are to meet which, of course, presumably they are going to be meeting, they may even have to have overnight accommodations along the way because of the tremendous travel time that is involved. I am not joking when I am saying that.



It is not going to be that somebody can go to a meeting in the afternoon or evening and it may restrict it if the meetings are to be held in the afternoon, instead of during the evening that many people who have other jobs during the daytime will be unable to be members of those boards, so there are those costs involved. Plus, because of the tremendous distance involved, there may need to be a requirement for an increased level of subsystem supervisors to be established. So you get rid of the systems and you end up creating subsystems. How much money is that going to save? The school board is so far away, distanced so much from the actual classroom, from the actual school that it will be very difficult for those few board members in this vast geographic area, no matter how hard they work, no matter how dedicated they are, to be on top of the issues and the concerns in each of those different communities.



We also have the situation where the government and the minister have given to themselves the absolute power here to do this amalgamation without any second thought or evaluation or second sober thought by the Utility and Review Board. We have the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for a very specific purpose, that is to evaluate and look over things, not only the power rates that they are examining at the present time and municipal issues dealing with things like zoning and so on, but they also right now, before this bill gets Royal Assent, have the authority to review boundaries and determine if they are appropriate.



[3:30 p.m.]



Not only to review them, they can also require that studies be done. They can elicit the assistance of accountants and lawyers and other experts that they may need to assist them in their task, to determine the appropriateness of the decisions that are being made, whether that is for an amalgamation of part of a municipality to another municipality or the amalgamation of school boards and the setting of boundaries. That is a very vital and important role. You can't just go on a hope and a prayer and by the seat of your pants that the decision the government is making, without having done any of this analysis, is accurate. That is not in the best interest of the children we are trying to serve, I would suggest.



As I stood up to speak I was debating, well, now what do I do? Do I stand up and do an hour-long rant, which maybe would make me feel a little bit better? It would not really achieve very much because, of course, the government has passed the stage where they are prepared to make any kinds of amendments or changes; in fact their minds were closed even as that bill was introduced into the Committee of the Whole House stage. Their minds were closed, they were unprepared and unwilling to make any kinds of amendments. It would not matter how reasonable, it doesn't matter how sound, it didn't matter how worthy, the government was not prepared to make any amendments.



I would suggest that it won't be too many years before the Education Act, Bill No. 39 - of course it won't have the number on it any more - but an Act Respecting Education in the Province of Nova Scotia will be back in this House for some major amendments. I suspect it will be back here before too many years, seeking some major amendments because they are going to be needed, Mr. Speaker.



I support advisory councils. If anybody in this House thinks that I am just saying that now, if you want to go back and take a look at the education policy developed by the New Democratic Party, adopted I think in 1986, you will see that our Party endorsed and called, way back then, about 10 years ago, for the establishment of councils. So the idea, the notion, is not foreign to us.



Mr. Speaker, it is still very unclear as to what kinds of powers these advisory councils are going to have. Are they truly going to be advisory councils or, out of necessity, are they going to have powers given to them that go far above and beyond the point of advisory councils? I would suggest that with the way this bill is written it is still the government's intent to turn many of those so-called advisory councils into far more than that, that they are going to have a very important role in the actual governance of those schools and in the decision-making process.



The advisory councils that are being established today and those that are in existence, had, I believe, originally $20,000 and, I think, that if my information is correct, an additional $10,000 provided to them last spring to assist them, for a grand total of about $30,000 each to get up and running and to start the programs. These advisory councils, unless the government is going to somehow find major new pockets of gold, which apparently they have some of those for the doctors who can incorporate, and maybe they have a big enough pot of gold hidden away somewhere that they will be providing $20,000, $30,000 or more to each of these advisory councils in each of the hundreds and hundreds of schools across the province that will be set up to help them get established; quite possibly. I don't know where that money is going to come from; maybe we will see that in the Minister of Finance's budget when he brings it down in two or three months' time. Maybe the casino will have turned such tremendous new profits and, as a result of that, there are going to be all kinds and tons and tons of new loonies flowing in that can be directed towards education. I think not.



Of course, how successful, though, any kind of school system is going to be is not just dependent upon the number of dollars that are provided to that education system; however, the number of dollars provided are also crucial because, although it doesn't totally depend upon that, if you don't have the proper financial resources being made available to the system, then what you end up having, unfortunately, is a system where, as we find now - and it doesn't matter where you go across the province - schools have run out of basic supplies. In fact, the other morning on the radio, when asked about special education needs and how they are going to be met, the Minister of Education in his interview was saying, well, teachers will be meeting those needs; teachers are adapting and teachers are meeting a lot of the needs, and he went on to give the example of how teachers are buying pencils and paper for students now out of their own pockets. Well, indeed they are, and more, because they are, the vast majority of them, extremely committed and resourceful people.



They can only do so much and as the class sizes increase and as the special needs within their classrooms also increase and as the resources are reduced, they can only do, physically, so much. The government, of course, is unprepared to address those and make those commitments because their primary objective is not - I hate to say it - I don't believe, to improve or enhance the quality of education. What I think they are trying to do is to minimize the damage and they are trying to minimize the damage by what they think will help, and that is amalgamation, which they believe, without any kinds of analysis to back it up, may end up saving some money. They think, they hope, but of course, they have nothing to substantiate that.



Other major problems with the bill are those dealing with labour relations. The government did, under tremendous pressure and the threat of a strike, and I can't ever remember hearing of a situation and talking to as many teachers who were very prepared to walk out. I have never in my time as a member of this House or, quite honestly, in my previous life, before I was a member of the Legislature - as a teacher, working as an educator full time - I cannot remember in all of those years ever hearing that profession so animated and so determined - and I am not talking here of the union and I am not talking about the central office, I am talking about the rank and file educators in the system - I have never, ever, heard as many people say they will walk, because they felt they had no choice. Well, as a result of those kinds of pressures, the Minister of Education did make some concessions and entered into an agreement, in amendments to the bill, to try to address those concerns.



What about the other workers in the education system? They also are very important. Whether we are talking about those who are teachers' aides providing special help and training for the children with special needs, whether we are talking about the librarians in the school, whether we are talking about the secretaries in the school, whether we are talking about the caretakers and those who are maintaining the buildings, these are all very important personnel in the total education program. Without them, without somebody to maintain the operation of the heating system, that school would be closed this time of the year. You have to have these services as well.



Was the minister willing and did the minister enter into agreements with those workers and amend the bill to that say that matters that override collective agreement can only be referred to the Labour Relations Board by joint application? The answer is no, because somehow in the minds of the minister, I guess, and the government these employees are not as valued. I do not know what other conclusion you would come to.



You say that you will talk to the Nova Scotia School Boards Association. You can have all the discussions you want with the School Boards Association, but the School Boards Association as a provincial body cannot enter into those kinds of contractual agreements.



We had side deals struck and negotiated dealing with the QE II Hospital amalgamation. We had side deals struck with most of the workers in the community college system. Mr. Speaker, where is the side deal to protect the other, non-teaching, staff in the education system across the province? It does not exist.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: They don't care.



MR. HOLM: No. The member for Hants West is saying to me, they do not care. Quite honestly, I do not know what other conclusion you could come to.



The Minister of Education certainly was unprepared to interfere in any way with the plans to contract out busing services in the Halifax County-Bedford Board. Those who are involved in the conveyance of students back and forth to school are very vital. They are a vitally important part of the education system and they have given many years of service, most of them in a very stressful job. It can be very stressful because of the responsibilities and so on that they have. The Minister of Education is unprepared to ensure at least that that would not happen until after his planned amalgamation takes place. That will lock that new board in for five years, Mr. Speaker.



This bill has, as I said before, some positive elements in it. I do not deny that. I am pleased that there are going to be advisory councils, but I wish it was more clear in terms of how they are actually going to operate and with what powers. I wish in the bill there was a way to ensure that the advisory council that is being set up is actually going to be set up on the wishes of the majority of parents of the children who are attending that school or at least a large percentage of them because right now all it takes is eight single parents or the principal, no requirement that the support of the broader school community be reached.



There is no provision for getting rid of the school advisory council if the school community - not the minister, not the Department of Education, but the school community itself - decides that they do not wish to have it continue. The provisions are not there. Why, Mr. Speaker? I would suggest that this bill, by and large, was written before the minister went on his road trip. I cannot prove that. It may not have all been put to paper, but the principles and the basic thrust of this bill had been determined in advance. (Interruption)





Members opposite, like the Minister of Municipal Affairs, said, yeah, he went out to consult on it. Well, Mr. Speaker, if the minister had been at a lot of those meetings she might have had the same conclusion that a lot of those who were in attendance at those meetings had and that was that there was very little consultation, actually, in terms of hearing. If the minister would like to refresh her memory about some of the things and revisit some of the statements that were made in the Law Amendments Committee process about this bill and what people thought about the so-called consultation, because this bill would never ever possibly have appeared in this committee.



[3:45 p.m.]



I am pleased at least, Mr. Speaker, to see that even though it may not have persuaded the Acting Minister of Education to withdraw the bill or to himself move that it go back, for example, to the Law Amendments Committee process or to the Committee of the Whole where it could be adjusted and amended or put the bill out like the Minister of Labour did with his new piece of legislation, which would have been an appropriate process for this bill. That in fact is what the minister had indicated he was going to do, provide for several weeks of consultation before the bill was introduced. Although I am getting sidetracked here from what I was going to say, he may have not been prepared to do that, but at least the minister is keeping track of the clock and how long I am talking.



Mr. Speaker, the minister is right in his comment that I am going on a little bit longer than I had indicated to him I had anticipated I would. Quite surely, something that is so vitally important to the Province of Nova Scotia and to all of our young people, this bill deserved to have received genuine public consultation, not to have been introduced into this House late one week, only to be called for debate early the following week at the first opportunity. There had been several weeks of consultation promised. Instead, what I would suggest happened is that the government chose to lay this bill on the table at the last possible minute and call it for debate so that it could get into the Law Amendments Committee process as quickly as possible, without giving the general public, so that the general public would not have a chance to get a hold of the bill and not have a chance to analyze the 158 or so clauses that it contained. In fact, there were more than that in the original bill. They wanted it in and out of the public view before the public would have an opportunity to have any kind of meaningful discussion.



Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that that is part of the reason I would humbly say that the efforts of the Opposition Parties, in tying this bill up somewhat at second reading, were so crucially important, because it did give the general public an opportunity - and those who are affected by this bill - to get a copy of it, to analyze it and to prepare solid, concrete arguments against much of what has been done.



I want to congratulate those members of the public, certainly the representatives of the workers of the unions, for the recommendations and suggestions that they made, but also the many others who came forward and managed to exert their influence upon the minister and his colleagues to elicit amendments which resulted in a couple of hundred or so amendments being made to the bill. The bill is better than it was when it came before this House; but unfortunately, the bill still has many weaknesses that need to be addressed.



I could go on for some considerable added length of time I am sure, with some encouragement to do so, and speak about a number of the other flaws in the bill but, quite honestly, I don't think that is likely to persuade the government that has already made up its mind to have this rushed through, especially in the absence of the minister to be able to be here and give his approval, I don't think it is too likely to be too successful.



Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my remarks, but with the observation that I do anticipate within a period of less than two years that many of the serious flaws and difficulties within this bill will start to develop; if it takes that long, they will become obvious. I would suggest, that this bill will be back before this House or a revised House - and some might call it a reformed House - with some significant, different members for further amendments to the bill. We haven't seen the end of An Act Respecting Education in Nova Scotia. This bill is the first in a series of bills to amend the education system. Unfortunately, some of those future bills will be necessary to amend this bill, to correct some of the problems that this government is insistent upon inflicting in this process. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to get to my feet and speak on the Education Bill. The Minister of Education, when he introduced this bill on November 3, 1995, we are told, said that this bill provides the legislative framework for education reforms. Well, I don't believe for one moment that this bill in truth reforms the education system in this province. This bill changes the education system in this province but that is very different from reform because reform is to make better and I don't believe in truth that this bill makes the education system in this province one iota better for students, parents, teachers, superintendents, or for anybody, whether they be in the PTA or the school board. The only group that benefits from this Education Bill is the minister and the people surrounding the minister because this bill transfer the powers that the other bodies around this province had, to the Minister of Education. I don't think that is an improvement.



In fact, I think it goes against what this crowd said when they first came into government, which was to decentralize, to give the power out to the people who live, if you will, in the outback, back in rural Nova Scotia. This bill doesn't do that. In fact, contrary to that, it brings all the power into the City of Halifax and centres it in the minister's office.



So the bill isn't a reform bill, it is a change bill and you must ask the question next, well, why are we doing it? Well, I don't think we have to worry about that too long, Mr. Speaker, because all we have to do is look at every other change, every other so-called reform that this government has brought forward, and we know that it is driven by one person, Mr. Personality, himself, Mr. Boudreau, the Minister of Finance.



MR. SPEAKER: Well, the debate on third reading has to be strictly relevant to the bill.



MR. RUSSELL: Yes, indeed, and the bill is education.



MR. SPEAKER: It is not Mr. Boudreau, it is education.



MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, that is quite true, but the dollars that come for education come from the Minister of Finance. And when the Minister of Finance puts the squeeze on the departments, they all rush out and say, we are going to do a reform. We are going to reform this, we are going to reform that, and I am suggesting to you, what they are doing is simply changing things to save a few bucks, to match the requirements made on them by the Minister of Finance.



Now, Mr. Speaker, this bill does many things. But it also does not do many things. I would suggest that this bill does not do what it is supposed to do simply because the bill was rushed into this Legislature without proper vetting by the members of the caucus of the Liberal Party, by the people who are affected by this legislation and certainly by the employees of the school system, that is the teachers and those associated with administrative services, to the various school boards.



Mr. Speaker, I said before that there has probably never been a bill in the British Commonwealth that has been introduced into the House, into the Legislation, anywhere, which has suffered through 203 amendments. (Interruption) (Laughter) Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation is trying to talk me into debating workers' compensation and I refuse to do that.



MR. SPEAKER: No, that would be out of order at third reading.



MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know of any other bill, honestly, that has come in with 203 amendments, not at the behest of the Opposition but at the behest of the minister. He is scrambling around writing night and day, I assume, making amendments to this piece of legislation.



When the bill got to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, the minister had a few other amendments that he wished to make, which he did but, however, we in the Opposition had about 40 or 50 additional amendments we wanted to make to this bill. Now if we had lumped them all together, we would be in the Guinness Book of World Records because I think we would have a total of about 300 amendments all told, to make this legislation work.



A moment ago, the member for Sackville-Cobequid was talking about this piece of legislation and in a few hours, this legislation for all intents and purposes is going to be law. This bill is in third reading, it has a few more hours in third reading and it passes out of here and then it is automatically ready to go to the Lieutenant Governor to get his approbation and we have the law of the land in this piece of legislation. But this piece of legislation is going to be back in this House, I will guarantee it, in a couple of years and it is going to have to be completely rewritten because there are so many flaws in this bill, there are so many amendments that could and should be made to this bill to make it work that are not being done, that it is just unnatural that this bill is going to fall flat on its face.



Essentially, what the minister is trying to do is to decrease the number of school boards across this province and by doing so, he will have the ability, perhaps, to save $1 million or $2 million. The total amount that he is probably going to save by our estimation, is something in the order of about $7.5 million. I think the minister himself said that something in the order of about $10.5 million to $12 million would be saved with the passage of this bill. We know in round figures, somewhere between about $7.5 million and $10.5 million are going to be saved by the amalgamation of school boards.



What does that do to small town Nova Scotia? What does it do to local control of schools? Well, I will tell you what it does, it virtually destroys the control that a local community has over the schooling of their young people. When you remove the centre of power for the financing, the setting of the curriculum, for doing all of those things that make a school system work and you remove it from the people who are most vitally concerned - that is, where the people live who have children attending the system - then I would suggest to you that the people lose the power to make their own views known with regard to what type of schooling should be available and have those kinds of concerns answered.



[4:00 p.m.]



Now we are told by the minister not to worry because besides the school boards we are going to have school councils. Now school councils, Madam Speaker, school advisory councils, and the word advisory is now added to what was in the original bill, just school councils, so maybe that is a change for the better because now at least they are advisory. But I think we have to remember that what we were saying back in second reading on this bill has not as yet been addressed, and that is the power of the minister to transfer from the school boards the power that the school boards have to administer the school system. In other words, we can take certain powers that that board has and just transfer it to a school council.



Now who, Madam Speaker, is going to set up this council? Well, we are told that a school board shall, that is must, establish a school advisory council for a public school where eight or more parents of students attending the public school approach the school board; or it could be a home and school association, a Parent-Teacher Association or a similar organization for the public school, or the principal of the school board. I don't want to talk about those last two for the moment. I want to talk about eight or more parents, whose students are attending a school, can get together over coffee some day and decide, well, why don't we form a school advisory council?



These people may have their own agenda as to why they want to have a school advisory council and it may not be the same as the majority of the other parents who have children attending that school. So these eight parents get together, they go to the school board and they say, we want to set up a school advisory council. The school board is required, they must establish that advisory council. So we have eight parents now who have gotten together; they have probably similar desires and aspirations for their children and for the school system. They have come together, formed an advisory council and they are in business.



Now if, for instance, they want to take over the power to close schools, can they do it? Yes, they can because the minister has the power to take from the school board and bestow upon the school council. Any power that the school board has can be bestowed upon the council if the minister wishes to do so. I think that is frightening power for eight parents to have, Madam Speaker.



While I can agree that with the movement of the school boards some distance from the school area, from the present school areas, that we do need some control over the local schools and perhaps advisory councils is the vehicle that should be doing this, I do not agree with the power that the minister has to empower those school councils with any power that the board has. That is wrong and it should not be so.



The second thing that I think should be changed, Madam Speaker, is an area which comes under the general title of Parents. It details what parents are supposed to do. We are told in Clause 25(1) that it is the duty of parents to, "(a) support their children in achieving learning success;". Well, that is motherhood and I do not think we can argue too much with that.



"(b) cause their children to attend school as required by the regulations;". Well, I do not think we can argue too much with that either, I think that should be the duty of parents. "(c) communicate regularly with their children's school;". We are getting down into lesser waters now, possibly that is a good thing. But get this, it is the duty of parents to, "(d) ensure the basic needs of their children are met, including ensuring that their children are well-nourished and well-rested when they go to school.". What on earth has that got to do with the education system? We are putting into legislation, called the Education Act, something that should be, perhaps under the Minister of Community Services or perhaps under the Minister of Health, but certainly it has no part in an Education Act.



This legislation does, and I cannot quite find the place at the moment, but it deals with children with special needs. First of all, we asked when we were reviewing this bill, that it contain in the definition section a definition of children with special needs or students with special needs. Among all those changes that were made to the bill, we do not find any definition under that section of the bill.



Now the question must be asked why the United Nations has a definition of a child with special needs. We are told that there is other legislation across this country. We know for certain in the Province of Ontario that there is a definition of students with special needs, but we do not have it in this bill. The question must be, why is that not in this bill? Why can't we have an adequate description so that a person who falls into that category knows exactly what they can expect as a student with special needs in the classroom? We do not have that definition and for that reason, those who spoke, in Law Amendments Committee, eloquently on why that was necessary are going to be disappointed with this particular piece of legislation because it is not amended to provide that definition.



We have been told that within this legislation we have a special curriculum for black students, a special curriculum for Acadian students and a special education for the Mi'Kmaqs. I have had a number of conversations, just out on the front steps here, over the last several weeks since this legislation was introduced, which was two or three months ago, with people who have said, well they agree with those particular groups being conferred special representation in this legislation. There is a group in this province who have spoken, I think, to almost all the members in this House who have not received any satisfaction from the government side of the House as to why their particular special concerns are not met and I am referring to the Scottish community who have asked that, they too, rate special consideration within this legislation. That has not been addressed.



Now we may or may not agree with that; however, the point of the fact is that it was not addressed in Law Amendments Committee, and it was not addressed by the minister. I understand the minister did not even deign to reply to the Scottish community that sent him a number of letters relating to those concerns. That is another group which has certain amendments which should be considered, I would think, by this House and by this bill.



Madam Speaker, we don't have the ability in third reading, as you know, to make substantive amendments to bills. We can make dilatory motions which delay the bill, but in no way actually amend the bill, so I have an amendment that I would like to pass to you for consideration. I would like to read this amendment into the record. "I move that the words after `That' be deleted and the following substituted: the subject matter of Bill No. 39, An Act Respecting Education, be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.".



The reason I am making this amendment is because I believe that there are a substantial number of amendments that should be made to this bill, because we are dealing with a piece of legislation that affects every child within the school system in the Province of Nova Scotia, it affects every parent of every child, and it affects every teacher in the classroom across this province. There are real amendments that should be addressed that have not as yet been addressed in committee regarding this piece of legislation, Madam Speaker.



MADAM SPEAKER: I am just waiting while the members of the House receive a copy.



I would take it that this is an amendment, really it is a recommittal amendment to the Committee of the Whole House, and it is in order.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I rise to speak very briefly in support of the proposal that is brought before us. I spoke at some length, not as long as I would often do, with regard to a bill; at least not as long as I am sometimes known to have spoken. I was not as long-winded as I sometimes am. It was not that I thought that the bill in its current form was a proper and adequate bill, but because I didn't think that the government was, in fact, willing to make any of the reasonable amendments that still need to be made.



Madam Speaker, I could go through a whole list of areas where I believe the bill should be amended. We need to have, in the legislation, protections for workers other than those who are the teachers. We need to have amendments to the bill that would provide assurances and guarantees that individual students who are in need of individual programs will have proper individual programs, and there needs to be a definition of that placed in the bill, just as there needs to be definitions in the bill as to what special needs are.



Also, Madam Speaker, there could be the provision in the bill to provide assurances for those who are seeking to have religious education, in which the government refused to move and to consider during the committee stage, provisions even if the government is not willing to go forward to say that certainly there is an obligation for boards to provide time for religious education during regular school time. The way that the bill currently reads, there is no requirement at all for the school board even to make sure that the education facilities are made available for religious instruction, religious education, whether that be at noon hour or after school.



[4:15 p.m.]



Madam Speaker, there are many other areas that I spoke at some length on during the second reading debate. I believe that the Law Amendments Committee process is an area where we could relatively speedily review a number of the amendments that we did not even get to during the Committee of the Whole, I should say rather than on the Law Amendments Committee.



In the Committee of the Whole stage we did not have an opportunity to finish and get through the entire bill and there were many clauses where amendments, I am sure, even by the government. In fact, there was a government amendment that never got carried because the Minister of Education did not move it at the start of the bill and we had not reached the clause yet where that amendment would have been made.



I think all sides of this House, the government side and we in the Opposition, have amendments that we would like to propose that will strengthen the bill. It will make a lot of the problems that are quite evident in the legislation or correct a lot of those difficulties so that there will not be a need to bring that bill back for amendments maybe next year or the year after. I believe that in the best interests of the children, in the best interests of having the best piece of legislation that we could possibly have and in the best interests of being responsible, I believe we should refer this bill back to the Committee of the Whole stage.



I know we would be prepared today, if the Minister of Transportation and Communications wants to bring the bill back into the committee stage today. The Minister of Transportation and Communications has been very cooperative, at least, in discussing the issues on the Community Colleges Bill and we would be quite willing to have that bill come back here this afternoon. I even promise not to be overly long-winded on each of the amendments that we would bring forward, but to simply place the arguments in as succinct and reasonable fashion as possible.



Madam Speaker, that certainly would be a sign of a responsible government. Of course, the Government House Leader wants to go down in history as being a responsible Government House Leader. So I look forward to the minister indicating he will be supporting the proposal that is before us so that we can indeed address a number of these very important as yet unresolved matters dealing with the Education Act. Thank you. Obviously, I will be voting in support of the amendment.



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



MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, I just rise to support the amendment respecting Bill No. 39, an Act Respecting Education. I think it is a very important amendment, one that will give the members of this House an opportunity to just fine-tune this bill. There has been a lot of consideration, a lot of talk since the bill went through the second reading and the Law Amendments Committee. There are many different issues that still have to be addressed and this will give us an opportunity, as a House, to show how responsible and how willing we are to work as a unit to make sure that we bring forward the best possible legislation that we can.



This bill, by voting in favour of this amendment, will give everybody an opportunity to have one final close look at what it is that this Education Bill is going to do for the students of this province. It is an important bill. There is no question about it. We are all well aware of it. So this amendment is put forward in the spirit of making sure that the children of this province have an opportunity to receive the best type of education possible. For those reasons, I will be voting in favour of this amendment.



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



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I would like to speak in support of this amendment. I believe it is an amendment that deserves a lot of consideration from all members of the House. I know the Education Act not only effects our children but it will most likely effect our children's children. Anytime you are talking about education or related matters in this province, I think it is important that we all take a second look.



The subject matter that is contained in Bill No. 39 talks about the responsibility of students and school advisory councils. I happen to sit on a school advisory council and it is working very hard to implement a strategic plan that already has been developed for the Musquodoboit Rural High School. The student advisory council tries to meet on a monthly basis but with the weather and so on and so forth this time of year it is hard to get your meetings in as scheduled. There are responsibilities for teachers, for parents, for all members if you want to look at it in this context, all Nova Scotians have a responsibility to play when you are talking about education and education-related matters.



There has been some concern that some of our Christian institutions and I am thinking specifically of the Colchester Christian Academy, I know that if this legislation was referred back to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills that perhaps we again would hear from institutions like the Colchester Christian Academy. I have to tell you that I believe some of the comments that the different Christian institutions across this province are making. I know any time you mix politics and religion, you are walking on a very fine line. I don't intend to walk that line at all . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: It is think ice you are walking on.



MR. TAYLOR: It is thin ice that you are walking on and I don't intend to walk on that.



There are some matters, some issues that have been raised in the bill, some concerns that haven't really been properly addressed. I can't think of a better place and a more advantageous venue than the Committee of the Whole House to deal with these education matters. I need not say, because it has been well expressed, when you are combining the Education Act with the Schools Act, you are forever and a day going to change the education landscape in this province. As we become more responsible as not only politicians but as citizens in this province, we should be cognizant of the fact that our financial resources are not what they used to be and we also should realize that this problem is not unique to Nova Scotia. One only has to listen to what the potential Leader of the Government in Newfoundland is saying these days about the financial crisis that his province is facing, so we all have to be financially responsible.



When you talk about the subject matter of Bill No. 39, you can't always talk about the different issues and the different concerns that are related to that bill, particularly, some clauses earlier on in that legislation do connote financial implication, Madam Speaker. So I certainly find this amendment very much in order, as I am sure you have, and I will be supporting the amendment when it comes to a vote. Thank you.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: It is a real pleasure to speak on this amendment because I think it is a very worthwhile amendment because it would give us an opportunity to reintroduce the amendments before the members of this Legislature that we would like to discuss. I feel that the bill obviously was a bill that needed a great deal of closer scrutiny when it was presented to the members of the Legislature.



This bill, the way it arrived before us, was not in the finished form. The minister very broad-mindedly accepted some 200 amendments that were proposed by various people with an interest in the education system within Nova Scotia and the bill came back with over 200 amendments. That shows two things: on the positive side, it showed that the minister was broad-minded and could see the error of his ways; on the negative side, you have to wonder, how could a bill arrive in this Chamber needing so much special attention. So, I think that this bill would not falter from a little more attention placed on it by both the members of the Legislature speaking here and, too, we could meet with representatives of the education groups, the stakeholders in our own constituencies.



Now, Madam Speaker, last Saturday, I met with 40 or 50 constituents in Canning with regard to education. Their thoughts and feelings I would like to have an opportunity to express in great length to the Legislature. They had a petition that was presented to the Kings District School Board. I would like to share the details and thoughts of their petition with the members of the House so they, too, could understand exactly what education means to people in rural Nova Scotia.



The people in rural Nova Scotia whose children are attending the Cornwallis District High School are not happy at the present time. They are very concerned and, in fact, the candidate for the Liberal Party who ran in the last election was there, speaking, and wanted a message to be delivered to the district school board and, in turn, to this government. The person who is thinking of running in the next election for the Liberal Party was expressing the same views. So the views that I would like to have the opportunity to present to the House would not be foreign to this Chamber nor would they be anti-government. They would be there merely to help strengthen education and the well-being of Nova Scotian students.



This whole meeting was brought to the fore because of the interest that the new school in Kings County has brought to the forefront of education; it is called the super school, the high-tech school. It is a school that is a partnership between the Department of Education and several Nova Scotia industry and business leaders. They hope to build this school and then they will use it as an example of what Nova Scotia education can really do.



MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, that is all very interesting but I would like you to get to the amendment and make your arguments as to why the recommittal amendment is appropriate.



MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your interest and I appreciate the fact that you are listening so intently. I appreciate the fact that if I step out of line, even a whisker, you will be right there.



[4:30 p.m.]



I would like to be able to discuss the amendments that should be placed before this Chamber that would help make this a better bill. The Committee of the Whole House on Bills is a committee that has a wide-ranging format of discussion where you can discuss both title and clause by clause and introduce amendments for the obvious thoughts, on behalf of the Opposition, who are not speaking in a narrow voice with ourselves foremost. We are speaking on behalf of Nova Scotians. We want to be able to speak on behalf of both the people who elected us and the people who call us and write to us and meet with us and tell us, we have a problem with this bill.



Now, we would like to put an amendment forward. As an example, we could talk about children with special needs. Each and every one of us realizes the change that has taken place since we were in school. When we were in school, the forgotten people of Nova Scotia were children with special needs but, through a more enlightened society and a more enlightened Department of Education and the educators who are out there leading and clearing the path, they have spent the last 20 years of their career, some of our educators have devoted their entire education career towards special education, helping those children become more acclimatized and more accepted and giving them a worthwhile place in society.





Years ago, special education was not even thought of. Children with special needs were kept at home. I know some children with special needs who were institutionalized up until the very recent times and suddenly those children with special needs are in society. We have each perhaps seen some of them in the work place. People with special needs are not to be shut away nor are they to be forgotten. I would like to introduce an amendment at the committee level, in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, that would specifically define a child with special needs, so that there is absolutely no misconception or no misunderstanding among Nova Scotians as to exactly what this bill plans for children with special needs.



Special needs children occupy a great deal of the teacher's time. The Minister of Education told us that this bill and his budget would not adversely affect the classroom. The Minister of Education said this bill will help classroom students and it will help the children learn in a better environment. However, as the ramifications of a reduced budget, larger classrooms become the reality and the norm, the teachers are becoming overworked. The special assistants that we used to have in Kings County are no longer able to help and cope. It is left up to the teacher who, rather than having 18 or 19, is now facing a class of 25 to 35 and, in some cases, 40, and trying to look after the children with special needs right along with some of the regular children.



A definition of a child with special needs means a child who requires supports in addition to those provided by the classroom teacher. You see, this is the very essence of the modern education system; a child who requires supports in addition to those provided by the classroom teacher, including but not restricted to children who require additional supports due to learning disabilities, multiple disabilities, giftedness, congenital impairment or limited mobility, limited agility, limited sight, limited hearing or limited speech.



Some of these young people who are going to be citizens of our future can be helped to lead a more fulfilling lifestyle, both for themselves and for their families. I know a young person who is not so young any more, she is in her 50's now, who for her first 49 years of her life was in an institution. She is now living in a home with some other handicapped people and she is making a real contribution to society. I know of the existence of a sheltered workshop in Kings County, the Flower Cart, that was the inspiration of some people many years ago.



We have to realize that there are children with special needs of one severity or another and we certainly should have an adequate definition and we should have a bill that makes sure it lays out that it is the responsibility of each and every district school board, through the Department of Education, to make sure our special needs children have every advantage that they so richly deserve and that society can, in fact, place before them. We cannot forget; we cannot go backwards. This bill, I am afraid, is going to try to force us to go backwards. With limited funding, with the classroom teacher being without an educational aide, it means less time for children with special needs, whether it is a reading difficulty or whether it is a physical impairment.



What are we to do? Where is the guidance, the direction from the Minister of Education? Where is the standard so that each child in Nova Scotia will have the same opportunity, whether they live in Halifax or Cape Sable or Baddeck? Where is the standard that says all children receive the same educational opportunities whether they are in Richmond County or Kings County? We have all heard recently of the concern being expressed by the parents of children who have attended Landmark East in the past. Landmark East made a real commitment. There are many success stories that Landmark East was able to put forward to help and assist young people with learning disabilities.



Some of the children who have attended Landmark East, upon leaving Landmark East have entered the mainstream of the classroom and gone on to graduate from high school, university, community colleges. Where is the dedication from this government to make sure programs help our young people? Where is the assurance? It may, in fact, be shortsighted to limit the funding for children with special needs, because the most impressionable time and the easiest time to educate and make a difference is when young people are in the very young, formative ages. If we institutionalize or tell parents to keep these youngsters home, at what point do we suddenly wake up and say we should have done a better job in education, because now the young person has no choice but to be on social assistance?



You see what I am driving at? Special needs should be a priority with the government and the minister, because who is going to speak for children with special needs? Their parents are certainly active within the schools, their friends, their supporters, the teachers are active, but it is a very small group who are involved. Who is really going to speak on behalf of that special needs group? That is one of the key elements that I feel is lacking in this bill, but it is one of the key elements that, I think, we should be discussing it in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. By no means is this a subject that can be treated lightly.



When you think of special needs we are talking the mobility and the limited ability to walk or to move from room to room, to carry an object. Many of our schools in the last few years have suddenly realized that we do have people with just as many rights and privileges and dreams and desires as each of us. We have been busy making our public institutions wheelchair accessible; I hope all schools in the province now have wheelchair lifts.



I was in a school a couple of years ago when one of the people said well, there is nobody here with a wheelchair so we don't need a ramp. But you know, as soon as they put in the ramp, they found that they did, in fact, have a need because somebody who wanted to go to that school had been shut out.



It is expensive to retrofit elevators and ramps but it is worth it because we cannot be the kind of people who say well, if you can't get along on your own then it is too bad. There are people with limited agility; they can't bend, they can't dress or undress themselves, they need the assistance of a special assistant, an educational assistant in the classroom. I have seen those numbers cut in half in Kings County in the last three years. That isn't the right way to be going because that places a greater strain on the classroom teacher and on the special needs student. The student with special needs already has frustrations that we don't have. They are frustrated because they see the other youngsters their same age being able to do things that they could only dream of doing. Yet where is the Department of Education and where is the minister when it comes to assuring the parents and the special needs students that they, in fact, are going to receive the same core schooling that each and every student so richly deserves?



Each service club in the province, I bet over the last few years has bought at least one computer for a young person with a special need, whether it is with reading or with sight; perhaps it is somebody in a wheelchair that has very limited use of any part of their body. In fact, I have seen a computer that was purchased that the person uses just by touching it with a pencil-like device that they hold in their mouth. The quality of life for that student has improved immensely. It is not a quality of life that any of us in this Chamber would look forward to, but the special needs children are special and we have to make sure that they are protected. In fact, we have to make sure that they are part of the core programming. We need the definition of special needs children to be more clearly defined in this bill. I think it is a great fault of the bill.



The union representing teachers and government employees met with the minister and they made concessions. They made an agreement not to strike. If there were more parents with special needs children, perhaps they could have made a better showing as well. So it is up to us, as members of the Legislature, to make sure that the Committee of the Whole House on Bills brings in a better definition of special needs student so that there is no question that they are a part and will continue to be a part of our system, not grudgingly, not because we have to, but because we want to. In the long run, the special needs people will become employable. But we have to provide the special education and we have to provide the facilities so that they can, in fact, become part of society.



[4:45 p.m.]



We have to help because it is amazing, each of us, perhaps, knows somebody who, after some special care, has exceeded the expectations for their growth and development because somebody in government or outside of government took the time to help, to aid and to assist. What a marvellous thing it is to watch a person blossom and turn into a more productive member of society.



The people who we saw in the Chamber a little while ago representing the Scottish societies of Nova Scotia requested, and indeed they deserve, recognition within the education bill. Those people made a legitimate representation to the Law Amendments Committee. They made a representation to the minister but it fell upon deaf ears. What social or cultural organization has made a bigger contribution to the growth and the development of Nova Scotia than the Scottish clans and the Scottish societies?



My colleague arrived, or his ancestors arrived here - he is not that old; he feels it some days - my colleague's folks arrived here on the Hector and they are rebuilding the Hector in Pictou. My ancestors were there to meet them when they arrived on the Hector because they got here a little before. But you know, if you go across Nova Scotia and you look and you research, you will find all of the unique contributions to Nova Scotia that the Scottish immigration had. It is not just in Cape Breton, it is not just in Pictou County, it is around the province.



You know, we have time to make sure that the Acadians are represented in the bill, the Micmac are in the bill, but Nova Scotia, New Scotland, not even a whisper. The minister for Cape Breton, the heart and soul of Nova Scotia; well, you cannot get any more Nova Scotian then being from Judique. The Scottish societies asked to be included in the bill. They are not asking for anything ridiculous like compulsory education in Gaelic for all students, but I don't think it would have been too much to include the Scottish societies.



The most successful and well-attended activity every year in Nova Scotia is the International Tattoo that is inspired by the Scottish clans. Every year thousands of Nova Scotians and visitors from around the world come to the Tattoo in Nova Scotia. There is not any area that you can say is more important than the Scottish societies and their contribution, but yet they are not included in this bill. Now fine. Leave out the Acadians, leave out the Micmac, leave out everybody else, but when you start including this group and that group and excluding the Scottish societies of Nova Scotia you have to wonder, what is going on.



So you see, there are areas that we have to redefine, there are areas that we must discuss at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. We have to discuss these arbitrary boundaries drawn up by the minister. You have to wonder. Who was he listening to? Because certainly the people in Nova Scotia along the South Shore and around through Yarmouth, Digby, Shelburne, Queens, they are not a happy group. In fact, they are pretty unhappy. The districts are so large. We were seeing the other day, the people are suggesting they don't even see where the money is going to be saved because the areas are so large they are going to need an assistant superintendent in each area.



The superintendents of schools are all applying and reapplying for their jobs. Apparently, there are over 20 people who are going to be applying in Kings County and that is healthy, it shows that there are a lot of people who would like to be superintendent for the Kings, Annapolis, Hants school board and that is nice if they want it. We have three administrators and this bill is going to save money simply by laying off administrative staff.



I met with administrative staff who are non-union members in Kings County, but people doing the same job in Annapolis are union members. The people in Hants County doing the same job, some of them are in the union and some of them aren't. There are over 700 people that we should be interested in, particularly because they are non-union and they have no protection under this bill.



We do have to have an opportunity as well to find out where the super school fits in Horton. Under the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, the minister could explain to us where in the bill the new Horton super school fits because, certainly, the parents and students want to know and I don't think they are wrong in wanting to know.



If you were living, for instance, in Port Williams, you will be able to go to that school. If you are living in Canning, you are not. There are only 40 Grade 12 students at Cornwallis District High School, fewer than that in Kentville in Grade 12. The core programs that they are able to offer are very different than the core programs that are being offered at Horton and much different from the core program that is going to be offered at the new Horton super school. Where does the new Horton super school fit in this bill? You see, it is not discussed in the bill.



AN HON. MEMBER: Why are you discussing it?



MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, because somewhere things can't just pop out of the sky. Somewhere you have to have legislative authority to enter into agreements with private enterprise to build new schools with a new system.



I think it is marvellous that we are going to have a school with computers and private lockers for each student. It is amazing, the things that are going to be in that school. It will boggle your mind when you read all the details and all the options that are going to be in the school and all the courses. But what does that tell you? Does that indicate to you that we have a minister that sees it is all right to set up a special school? What of the others? Are the other youngsters of Kings County going to be at a disadvantage or are people from Halifax going to be at a disadvantage because they aren't going to have a computer terminal at each desk in the school?



This should be discussed. We should have the details from the minister because we are sort of flying blind in Kings County. The minister made the announcement that there is a super school and then he left town. It is left to the community group to put forward a plan and they have been working very vigorously with the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and the President of Acadia University the principal, the teachers, the parents, the students. Everybody has worked hard; they have put forth their wish list, it is in the hands of the minister.



I want to put forth a wish list, too, on behalf of the rest of my constituents. They want to go to that school. I hope when the school board gets through requesting it that the minister will say all right, rather than a school for 1,000, we are building a school for 1,200 and they can come. The difficulty is that the growth area for Kings County in the future, for eastern Kings County, is certainly going to be New Minas. They are approving 3,000 building lots with the thought in mind that 3,000 new families will be living there and their children will be going to Horton School. If Horton isn't big enough to handle the children who want to go there now, what does the minister plan?



This bill doesn't discuss the children with special needs nor does it discuss the schools with special educational opportunities. It doesn't discuss in any adequacy the fairness of lack thereof that we needed.



Now we in the Opposition would like the opportunity to go to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. It would be very helpful for the minister to be present and discuss it with us so that we could more fully understand, perhaps even some of the private meetings he held with union and teachers behind closed doors, so we would know why the amendments came the way they did, so we would know for sure that the agreement that the minister has with the Teachers Union is, in fact, an ironclad agreement that he will be sticking so.



Madam Speaker, I do want to say that I think it was an excellent amendment, suggesting that the subject matter of Bill No. 39 be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I congratulate you for allowing that amendment and I also would encourage other members of the House to vote in favour of that amendment so that we can, in fact, have a better discussion on Bill No. 39. Thank you.



MADAM CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Kings West.



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of the amendment to refer this bill back to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. Madam Speaker, as you are aware, there were many concerns in Bill No. 39 that did not get addressed because of lack of time. This government was the first government in the history of this province to invoke closure; in other words, we can spend only 20 hours in committee on any particular bill. The Education Act, being a very large and important bill, did now allow the time.



You know, Madam Speaker, this is probably the first bill in the history of this House that ever had as many amendments in Law Amendments Committee as the minister put forward. It almost came back from Law Amendments Committee as actually a whole new bill. In other words, we got a new bill that looked entirely different, after being amended, than what the minister who stood in this House and said that it was the best bill on education that we have ever seen. In actual fact, the bill changed dramatically. It was changed because of pressure of the NSTU, the Teachers Union, parents, home and school associations, the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and others that obviously put a lot of pressure on the Minister of Education and the government and the Minister of Education caved in.



The issue of the bill itself and why we should refer it back, I think one of the fundamental issues of the bill that maybe we could look at is the quality of education, and it should be somewhere in the bill, I know that the purpose of the bill clearly states, I think it is in Clause 2, that its primary mandate is to provide educational programs and services to students, enable them to develop to their potential and acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.



[5:00 p.m.]



I do not think there is anyone here in this Legislature that would argue with this mandate. However, the plans and changes outlined in the bill, I do not think convince anybody that quality education will be guaranteed once these changes are in fact implemented. So that, I think, has to be addressed and we have to allow, and we did allow through the Law Amendment Committee, many people to come forward and make presentations. We had a large number of presentations on Bill No. 39 but, unfortunately, the main amendments that were made were made with those that were bargained behind closed doors with the Minister of Education and, even after that, we had many individual teachers and parents come before the Law Amendments Committee and ask for changes.



I do not know whether or not the quality of somebody's teaching will be assessed by the results on achievement or standardized tests. What resources will the government have or use that will improve the learning environment and what can we offer the students? I think if we took this back to the Law Amendments Committee, there are some changes to address a very important issue because I think as we talk about education, Madam Speaker, we get so far from talking about quality of education and how we are going to achieve the quality. In order to achieve it, obviously, you are going to be able to have to measure it in some manner. In order to measure it, obviously, people have to know how that is being done.



I do not know how active and committed the members of the school advisory council will be. I think this is an area that did get some amendments. The one that I think needs some considerable time on, the role of the school board members, we have had some amendments there, but there is still a question between the school advisory council and the school board itself, on who will make certain decisions.



I think there are some changes that could be had. The minister indicated, when he started this process, that he would consult with parents and educators and all those involved before he put this bill together. When all of those people actually saw the bill, they wondered in actual fact who in the world the minister had been talking to because it did not come together as they had anticipated that it might; they did not feel and have not felt there has been a democratic process along the way for them to have input into the changes. We know that many of these people came before the Law Amendments Committee. We also know that many of the recommendations, if not practically all of them, were turned down. The ones that were approved were put there by the minister.



In the Committee of the Whole House there is an opportunity for people to put their recommendations forward and for some additional amendments that the Opposition would put forth on behalf of these groups. One of the things is the cost of the savings that we are looking at in restructuring and to look at the benefits and actually what the cost will be. We also know from the little bit of experience that we have had this far with amalgamation with the municipalities in Cape Breton it has not been very positive. What this bill does is, obviously allow amalgamation of a number of school boards in the province and I think we are moving without having a lot of the information that, I think, we should have.



I think it was said and it is a quote from Emmett Hall, who was a co-author of the Hall-Dennis Report, the people who have the most to say about what goes on in schools never see a pupil. That is so true, because we have people in this Legislature voting on what goes on in schools and what the Education Act is going to be all about, but yet most of the people in here never see a pupil. Secondly, roots and wings are the two most important things we give our children. What I was a little bit disappointed in in the whole Act was that we focused a lot on structure and not as much on the student as I felt that we should.



There were, I think, a number, I know there was a large number of amendments that were to be put in committee that at least if we had the opportunity members could vote on the amendments, whether they were for or against the amendments. I think it is important that we, as a Legislature, have the opportunity to go through a bill like Bill No. 39 that is so important and will be around for a long time, that we have an opportunity to go through this bill clause by clause and because we ran out of time, that did not happen. There is no rule that says if the House agrees that we could not finish that process and that we could quickly put forward amendments, give the rationale and then make a decision.



The other aspect that I am hearing in the schools, that very little resources are now available for those that have special needs and the resources are disappearing. I do not think there is a strong enough commitment in this legislation to commit the government to help those individuals that need assistance. So, that is another reason that I think this bill should be referred back.



Madam Speaker, with those few words, I will be supporting the amendment and hope others will do the same.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this amendment. It is very clear that there are a large number of Nova Scotians who are represented sometimes by themselves, perhaps more frequently by organizations to which they subscribe who believe that they did not have sufficient opportunity to have changes that they desired to see made in this bill by way of amendment during the course of the passage of the bill through the Law Amendments Committee and subsequently in Committee of the Whole House on Bills.



I believe that most people have every reason to anticipate that some reasonable opportunity would be provided to have the amendments brought forward to which they subscribe. Because of the fact that we ran out of time in Committee of the Whole House, we did not have the opportunity to deal with amendments that were not recommended by the Law Amendments Committee to the Committee of the Whole House. That meant that entire classes of citizens were denied the opportunity to have amendments that they supported brought before the Committee of the Whole House on Bills during that particular procedure as we are dealing with legislation.



We had one day, you will recall, Madam Speaker, a group of people representing the Scottish cultural interests in Nova Scotia, who, in my view, legitimately hoped to have specific reference made in the bill to their interests with respect to ensuring that the Scottish and Gaelic aspect of our cultural mosaic would have ample opportunity to flourish here in this province. Many of these people in fact spoke specifically of the flagging opportunities, not the waxing opportunities, but the flagging opportunities for Gaelic language education here in Nova Scotia. I would welcome the opportunity to have this bill recommitted so that we could deal with that series of amendments.



There are, also, a fairly large group of Nova Scotians who are very concerned that the bill, as it currently stands before us this afternoon in third reading, does not deal appropriately with the whole matter of religious education. These are not people who are on the fringes of society but, as we saw with presentations at the Law Amendments Committee, and as we have seen in mail which I am sure has come to all 51 members of the House, these are people who are very much mainstream and who firmly believe that religious education is an important aspect of ensuring that we educate the whole person within our public school system and not only the secular parts of the person. It is important that we educate the soul as well as the mind, they, not necessarily being one and the same, although one can't have a mind without having a soul. I suppose one can have a soul without having a mind.



There are also other refinements to this legislation with respect to appropriate definitions for persons who are in need of special educational opportunities. We firmly believe that the bill has serious shortcomings in respect of meeting those legitimate, societal needs and responsibilities and we think that given the opportunity to go back into the Committee of the Whole House, these types of amendments can be put forward and we can debate them, not at length, but with reasonable dispatch and, one would hope, attract a majority of the support of the House in order to effect them into a further amended bill at third reading when the bill should be recommitted.



Again, I think the fact that we have to ask for this to be done is evidence that the bill was conceived in haste, amended under duress and is not the perfect document that any of us would wish it to be, that we can in some ways deal with that matter of imperfection and cause the bill to be a better bill, a bill which will meet educational governance more effectively in Nova Scotia. Then we can get on with dealing with the matter of creating appropriate educational standards such that the system, once governed then can deliver an education which is a quality education and which will provide each Nova Scotian the opportunity, if he or she so chooses to exercise it, to optimize the value that that educational opportunity presents.



[5:15 p.m.]



So, Madam Speaker, with those few words, I do encourage the House to respond positively to this amendment put forth by my colleague, the member for Hants West. It is a good, sound and sensible amendment. It is one which, if dealt with positively, I believe, I can say without fear of contradiction that our caucus would ensure that our remarks respecting further amendments that would be dealt with in the Committee of the Whole House stage, the bill, once recommitted, would be dealt with by way of dispatch and that we would look forward to seeing the bill reported back to the committee, I would think, later on this evening, so that we can complete third reading of the bill.



Madam Speaker, I commend the amendment to all members of the House.



MADAM SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question on the amendment as proposed by the honourable member for Hants West? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



The amendment is carried in the negative.



The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to speak, at this stage of the process of the bill, on the new Education Bill, Bill No. 39.



Madam Speaker, as this bill has gone through the House, I think we have witnessed some unprecedented activity with respect to a piece of legislation receiving attention and receiving some change. The Education Bill, you will recall, was tabled in this House several weeks ago with the assurances of the Minister of Education that he had engaged in a phenomenal amount of consultation, to use his words, met with all of the stakeholders, all of the parties in education. He had been around the province on a number of occasions and spoke to and in communities and he felt comfortable. In fact, as he indicated when he introduced the bill, he felt proud of the fact that he had taken the opportunity to amend an Act which had remained unchanged for 40 years.



The bill then, Madam Speaker, you will recall, hit the table and all heck broke loose at that point. The partners, in fact, to education in the Province of Nova Scotia responded swiftly, responded in an extremely strong fashion and in a negative way to many aspects of Bill No. 39. The Opposition did its best in this House to bring to the attention of the minister and to other members of the government the problems that had been brought to our attention with Bill No. 39. Regardless of the good intentions with which the minister says he approached reform in education, there continued to be a whole host of problems with the changes that he had brought forward.



In fact, many of us questioned whether the reform that the minister talked about was, in fact, reform which I take to be positive change. In fact, what I came to think of with respect to Bill No. 39 was that it was changed for the sake of a goal set by the Minister of Finance and that is to reduce the number of dollars going into the education system and also to change how the education system was going to be run, how it was going to be administered to basically effect more control from the minister's office and from the office and meeting room of the Executive Council.



Madam Speaker, I think the government has done that. I think the government has made a number of changes in this bill which affect the abilities of school boards, which affect the abilities of communities, which affect the ability of policy makers to control, in fact, education in this province and that much more of education will be determined, policy directions and so on, will be determined directly from the Minister of Education's office.



I think that is cause for some considerable concern. We have attempted at various stages to get some controls on the minister's power. We have suggested that matters with respect to decisions on boundaries, decisions on various powers to change things like how policies of the board were going to be affected, in order to, in fact, determine the school regions, that we suggested that these decisions be subject to the review and the authorization of the Utility and Review Board, the idea being that we have seen this government making many of its decisions for political reasons. The effect of many of those decisions has been to adversely affect, whether that be at the municipal level, health care or whatever, and the stated reasons for these decisions have come basically to not be true. As a result, we have already seen the consequences. I talk specifically about municipal amalgamation and health care, that we find that the changes proposed and implemented have been extremely and extraordinarily negative.



So, Madam Speaker, we have before us a piece of legislation that was heralded as being a significant reform. Finally, after 40 years, there have been changes here that will make the delivery of education in the Province of Nova Scotia better, that will direct more resources to the classroom to benefit students. I am afraid that much of that assurance has been more rhetoric than it has been substantial. I don't see how many of the changes here will, in fact, make a whole lot of difference to the classroom, other than it will enable a reduction in resources to the classroom. In the final analysis, I don't think that will be good for the population of Nova Scotia.



There have been a number of more specific areas that we have attempted to address in debate on this bill with respect to trying to bring into the Education Act specific language to deal with the needs that a certain constituency within this province requires, that is people with special needs, students with special needs, Madam Speaker. What we have seen in the last number of years, as the government has continued to try to deal with its fiscal difficulties basically on the backs of the education system, among other systems, that they have continued to reduce the resources that are available to schools. The result has been, for example, with respect to special needs students, there have been less resources and less availability of special programs and resources and aids and so on for those children.



I think the result is that where these people with special needs are basically facing a situation where they have perhaps equal access but not equal opportunity for education, that they are precluded because of the fact that aids and opportunities are not in place, resources are not in place for them to be able to help overcome the special needs that they have in order to give them the opportunity to take advantage of education.



What we attempted to do at various stages in debate on this bill was to try to get specific recommendations included in the legislation to get a clear reference made to students with special needs, whether that be in terms of language that dealt with an individual program plan or whether that dealt with the specific definition of students with special needs. In particular, in that latter respect, we talked about a student with special needs meaning a student who requires support in addition to those provided by the classroom teacher, including but not restricted to students who require additional supports to do learning disabilities, multiple disabilities, giftedness, cognitive impairment or limited mobility, limited agility, limited sight, limited hearing or limited speech.



Myself and my colleague felt, as did many Nova Scotians, that to ensure that the education system that the Province of Nova Scotia and the Ministry of Education actually put the resources toward ensuring that children with special needs had equal opportunity to access education, meaning that these additional aids and resources were put in place to give them the real opportunity, then in fact the education system was letting them down. I am afraid the problem, without having this kind of language in the bill, is that the commitment to people with special needs, to their parents and guardians, is merely words and has no import with respect to law.



As I indicated earlier, we attempted to affect parts of this bill that dealt with the ability of Cabinet as well as the minister to define school district boundaries and school regions. We felt that that power should be limited by having the final decision be made through study and reference by the Utility and Review Board. The government decided that that was not necessary and therefore changed it. We again think that is extremely important because of the political implications that it has with respect to the decisions and the majority of which are made under the guise of deficit reduction or fiscal management which we have argued, in this case and many other cases, are strictly short-sighted decisions. They are decisions which will surely affect the short-term budget of a department and of the overall budget of the province so that, for example, this spring, the Minister of Education, as a result of the millions of dollars that have been cut out of the education system that the Minister of Finance will be able to trot out an operating surplus for the year of 1995-96, that will be short term.



As surely as he will be able to provide that surplus, to reveal that surplus, as surely as he will do that, we are also going to see a payback time arrive within the next 10 years as we find more and more of the children of this province are going to have difficulty keeping up with the standard that we have been able to achieve in this province, to attain levels of education necessary in order to compete not only nationally but also globally. I would suggest that we are being penny wise and pound foolish and we will all end up paying in the long run.



[5:30 p.m.]



There is another significant problem with this bill and that is the way that the bill, in fact, addresses all of the labour management issues within education as they have changed governance in some areas, as they are shifting and changing school board districts, school regions, it will have an enormous impact on the rights, the benefits and the entitlements of those people who are now working within the system and have been working within the system for many years many of them, Mr. Speaker.



The government, in its wisdom, or lack thereof, has decided that it wants to have basically free reign over matters relative to the collective agreements that many have or the contracts of employment that many employees now involved in the education system have and, in many ways, in the education field, they are changing the labour relations history that has been set up for so many years.



They have provided authority to the Labour Relations Board, for example, that is unprecedented before this government had come into effect and I think are going to, in fact, ensure that there is more chaos than there even needs to be with many of the changes that this bill is providing for, to ensure that as a result of the lack of attention to the accrued rights, benefits and entitlements of many of the employees in there and recognition that changes must happen under a structure, under a stated and a clearly defined process that ensures that everyone will be treated fairly and equitably, depending on the length of time they have put into servicing education in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. Such things as the change here under the Labour Standards Code, Section 71, which provided some protection for employees that had been employed for 10 years and longer under the Labour Standards Code, a person who had worked for you for 10 years or greater could not be laid-off without just cause.



This bill, as other bills do, Mr. Speaker, in fact, takes away that protection. So now someone who has worked for a school board, worked in the education system for 10 years or longer can basically be dismissed without just cause. It is, I think, indicative of the steamroller approach that this government is taking with respect to rights and it is, I think, something we should all be concerned about.



The whole aspect of labour relations policy and the way, in fact, the legislation provides the Labour Relations Board with unprecedented authority is something I have already spoken about in other legislation which does the same thing. In the QE II bill, the Community Colleges Bill, Mr. Speaker, there was at least an opportunity for the parties that would be affected by that legislation - in the case of the QE II, the unions and the employer -to reach an agreement outside the legislation that would respond to the concerns that the legislation causes and enables the parties to ensure that many of those negative impacts will not occur as a result of them making decisions outside it.





It is, I think something that causes me concern and I think should cause many people concern, that we would have legislation in this House that is completely contrary to what is happening outside, or a piece of legislation that affects a number of parties to a situation, in this case education, but yet you have an agreement signed outside of that which will basically negate the effects of the legislation. That kind of inconsistency, that kind of discrepancy, is, I think, somewhat troublesome and worrisome, Mr. Speaker. But nonetheless, the government felt that it was certainly within its rights to provide for that kind of discrepancy.



So we had attempted in this case, with respect to Bill No. 39, there were no new employers, there was not an opportunity for the parties, particularly the unions involved, to come together with anybody to provide for the kind of side agreement that they did with the QE II and the community colleges. We had appealed to the minister if he in fact agreed that this was a good process, that he would at the very least incorporate the language of a similar agreement, the one with the QE II, into this legislation to at least provide a framework through which the parties at a later date, once they are changed and reconstituted under this bill, will then be able to carry forward on a more positive and constructive atmosphere.



We also suggested that the legislation be further amended to ensure that that unprecedented power given to the Labour Relations Board, power that will create, I think, some significant dissatisfaction and instability in labour relations, Mr. Speaker, to ensure in fact that that power is effected by ensuring that only through joint application by the parties to the collective agreement would there be such a process involving the Labour Relations Board effecting such a change.



Questions of the role of the advisory council vis-a-vis the school boards, Mr. Speaker, caused some concern and we attempted to try to bring about some control, some change to that. There was a concern that there could be some considerable change effected and some considerable power utilized by non-elected people; as few as eight parents could in fact create a school advisory council and effect some significant change. We thought that it was necessary that there be some changes made within that process to ensure that that didn't happen.



There were a number of other issues also, Mr. Speaker, that caused some concern for people in my constituency. One of them is removing the right for area rates in various parts of the county where you have parents, people who are concerned about the resources that are available for the delivery of education in their community. They want to have - they have now in the county, at least - the opportunity through area rates to raise funds to provide additional equipment for their students. That right has been taken away in Bill No. 39 and that concern, among the others I have spoken about, has caused some considerable concern to many individuals.



Mr. Speaker, I guess the bottom line at third reading, we have fought the best we can the changes that this government is making to education. I should say I feel that these are changes under the guise of reform that have been 40 years in the making. They are changes that came to many of the partners, if not most of the partners, as a complete surprise. The response initially when this legislation was first tabled was of complete outrage by many people involved in education. You have heard my colleague, the Leader of the NDP, say earlier that the teachers went so far, they felt so concerned about these changes that, in fact, they had an overwhelming vote to go on strike to withdraw their labour, in order to try to bring about changes. Some changes were made, some considerable number of changes were made. Significantly, the jury is still out on whether those changes are, in fact, significant. Nonetheless, the major partners in education have decided that they will accept them.



I know, in talking to a lot of teachers, that they are still concerned about a number of provisions within this bill and, as other speakers have suggested, because of the fact that this bill came in and was received with such outrage by so many people, because it went through over 200 changes in the process from introduction to this stage, and went through those changes within a period of weeks, I think that undoubtedly there are a number of issues within this legislation that are only going to come to the fore in the months and years ahead. They are matters that are going to cause us all some considerable concern. Undoubtedly this legislation will be back before us within the next year or two, in order to clear up some of the problems.



Perhaps more importantly, as a result of this legislation, as a result of changes to education and the governance of education in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, there will be changes effected that you and I are going to regret were allowed to happen and many Nova Scotians are going to regret were allowed to happen. I am afraid there are going to be many changes effected to the education system in the Province of Nova Scotia that are driven not in the interests of the children, not in the interests of having a better, more effective and more efficient education system but simply by having an education system that in the short run is cheaper to run.



I think, again, as I indicated earlier, that is penny wise and pound foolish, that we are going to pay in the long run. We all know, in fact this government is extremely consistent on this point, that at a time when the economy is changing at such a rapid rate, at a time when it is necessary for us to compete not only nationally but also internationally, we need to ensure that the highest quality and the most flexible and adaptive education system is put into place here in Nova Scotia. That is not necessarily a system that costs millions of dollars less; it is not a system that is controlled out of the minister's office; it is not a system that ensures that private industry will be playing a much bigger role in the development of not only their schools and the capacity of those schools to deliver education but also to the point of funding programs. Mr. Speaker, I think that is a concern we should all have. I think it is a concern that many Nova Scotians have, that this government, in the guise of deficit reduction and trying to reduce the short-term costs, is sending education in Nova Scotia down a road that it will be difficult to recover from.



Mr. Speaker, I have attempted throughout the debate on this bill to express myself and the concerns of my constituents and many others who have raised concerns with respect to Bill No. 39. Unfortunately, because of the process and because of the will, particularly the majority in numbers of this government, we have been unsuccessful in making some significant changes. We have slowed up the deliberation of the bill to the point where the general public, the partners to education and the teachers, the unions, the school boards and the home and school associations have had an opportunity to impress upon the minister the need for some changes. Those have been taken care of so I guess that we have served some purpose. Nonetheless, there are a number of other areas which I have touched on which I think need to be changed and, unfortunately, we will see down the road just what happens with respect to Bill No. 39.



With those few brief comments, I will take my seat and listen to interventions of other members.





[5:45 p.m.]



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



The honourable Acting Minister of Education.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I just have a few comments to make in wrapping up debate on Bill No. 39. There is not a lot that hasn't been stated with respect to this bill in second reading, Law Amendments, Committee of the Whole House and, now, at third reading, and perhaps even more stated outside of the process that the Legislature allows. There have been many interventions by many groups and people and many opinions expressed and I am, perhaps simply going to put on the record my thoughts about this bill and the process it went through.



The Minister of Education has been assailed for, among other things, failing to communicate. Quite frankly, as someone who has sat with that minister, travelled with that minister and practically lived with that minister on occasion, that astounds me each and every time I hear a member of this House of Assembly indicate that he has not communicated. We have seen White Papers on education, on amalgamation we have seen numerous meetings with committees, with school boards, with Teachers Union locals, with executives, with representative groups, with individuals, and the input from all of those groups went into this bill.



For the last year and one-half or more, the Minister of Education has gone out of his way to attempt, on many occasions, to deal with the various components of this bill, this legislation in several ways, to seek input and to give us in this province an Education Act that is suitable for the 1990's. He solicited the help of people like the member for Argyle, and the Acadian side. He also travelled the province and met with people involved in the Acadian side of education, and my own constituency is one of those areas. The minister and the member for Argyle have been there several times meeting with the special interest groups, meeting with the educators, meeting with students, seeking input into a piece of legislation that this province requires.



What has impressed me the most about John MacEachern, the Minister of Education, for the past two and one-half years as minister, but even before that, each and every time he went to speak about education, students are number one, the students are first. The emphasis on education was that the students had to come first and it did not matter, it mattered less what happened to anyone else as long as the students were looked after. At a very difficult time financially in this province, a time when we as a government and we as legislators faced many difficult economic challenges, this minister was able to meet the challenges he faced within his own budgets. He was able to cut the spending that was asked of him, but he did not allow it to impact on the classroom. History will show, history will be kind to John MacEachern for the manner in which he was able to deal with the budget cuts in his department and not have the impact on the classroom that we have seen from previous administrations. Not for a long time.



When he talked and when he brought about the idea of amalgamation and identified the departments to be amalgamated, did he talk about saving money for government? No. Members opposite would have people believe that this a Bernie Boudreau, a Minister of Finance measure; in fact, the savings identified and the savings which will be realized through amalgamation are going to be returned to the classroom. Not to the provincial Treasury, but to the classroom. Bravo to the Minister of Education for that.



As I indicated today at the outset, one of the reasons for bringing this bill forward first at third reading and having it in a position where it can be proclaimed, if necessary, is the anxiety in the Strait area to get on with the amalgamation. Recognizing that this will work, this is good for education, the four school boards have come together and have asked us to do this, to put this in a position where we can finally get on with the amalgamation and get moving forward for the best interests of education. Change is difficult, everyone knows that and some have more difficulty adapting to change than others do.



We've seen, through the introduction and subsequent debate on this bill, battle lines drawn. We have seen one, two, three, four and five groups enter that battle. Things have been said during the heat of battle which, I believe, people believed when they were saying it that it was the truth. I believe it could perhaps be summed up as part truths, but there has been much said that has not done a great deal to enhance the quality of the debate or to give this Education Bill the credit it deserves.



In the course of battle there is often a struggle for support. There is a struggle for an edge in getting your message out for appealing to the media and through it all come some very diverse reports, some very conflicting statements are made that obviously any clear thinking individual would realize one or the other can be correct, but both cannot be correct. I believe that we have seen much of that in this discussion. That it has taken place in so many areas. Yes, some serious and some insignificant, but all being raised and blown out of proportion, raised to a level where it is difficult to deal with the very important issues.



The Opposition would have us believe there was not enough time given to debate all the issues in all the bill, but I think it is fair to say that when the most important thing becomes the fight and not the content of the material, that something will be lost. In this case, Mr. Speaker, the battle became most important and the puts and takes on both sides. All of sudden there was a resolution to the problem. Then others looked for a way to get involved in the fight, but there was no more fight. Through it all, I am not sure that we have been well-served by that because we have put, a minister has put and a department has worked very hard to bring an Education Bill into the 1990s, 1995, 1996. Bringing a modern bill forward to replace antiquated legislation.



We should not lose sight of the fact that we probably have right, now in Nova Scotia, what is arguably the best Education Bill in the country. Probably by far the best Education Bill in the country, but many are confused about that because of this battle that went on. Losing sight all the while about the content of the bill and choosing to focus on the fight instead. I want to say, yes I am very serious to the member opposite. I am extremely serious because I have been very close to this for two and a half years, extremely close to this.



I would pay tribute to a Minister of Education who has lived, he has eaten, he has breathed and slept education for the past two and a half years. I have personally pulled him away from meetings late at the night, always the last one to leave the meeting, always willing to stay and talk as long as someone was there who wanted to talk about education. A Minister of Education who has probably met with more individuals, more groups, more professional organizations, teachers unions, PTAs, home and school associations, small representative groups, large representative groups than any minister in this government, than any Minister of Education in the history of this province. (Applause)



Let me simply say by summing up, let me say this, that I think, despite what he or others may say, that the first love in the life of the Minister of Education is education. It has been and he continues to demonstrate that. I am proud to stand here and salute the accomplishments he has made, his commitment to education in this province and the fine job he has done in giving us the best Education Bill in Canada. I am proud to move third reading of the bill. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 39. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.



A recorded vote is being called for.



Ring the bells.



[5:55 p.m.]



[The Division bells were rung.]



MR. SPEAKER: I will call the House back to order at this time.



Are the Whips satisfied? Apparently. Turn the bells off, please.



The Clerk will now conduct a recorded vote on the motion that Bill No. 39 be read a third time.



[The Clerk calls the roll.]



[6:49 p.m.]



YEAS NAYS



Mr. Barkhouse Dr. Hamm

Mrs. Norrie Mr. Russell

Dr. Smith Mr. Moody

Mr. Gillis Mr. Holm

Dr. Stewart Mr. Chisholm

Ms. Jolly Mr. Archibald

Mr. Mann Mr. Leefe

Mr. Casey Mr. McInnes

Mr. Gaudet Mr. Taylor

Mr. O'Malley Mr. MacLeod

Mr. Harrison

Mr. Adams

Mr. Brown

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. M. MacDonald

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Richards

Mr. Surette

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Carruthers

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson



THE CLERK: For, 31. Against, 10.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.



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



The honourable Government House Leader.



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



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.



[6:52 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 some progress and begs leave to sit again.



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?



It is agreed.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will sit tomorrow from the hours of 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. The order of business following Question Period will be Committee of the Whole House on Bills, beginning with Bill No. 40.



I move that we adjourn until noon tomorrow.



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



The motion is carried.



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

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)



HOUSE ORDER NO. 104



By: Mr. Terence Donahoe (Halifax Citadel)



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



(1) A list of all employment contracts entered into by the department between June 1, 1993 and January 1, 1996;



(2) The title of the position; and



(3) The terms and conditions of the employment contract including the salary and benefits.



HOUSE ORDER NO. 105



By: Dr. John Hamm (Pictou Centre)



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



(1) Value of trade done between Nova Scotia and South Korea including both imports and exports in the calendar years 1994 and 1995; and



(2) List of Nova Scotia companies doing trade with South Korea in the calendar years 1994 and 1995 as well as a breakdown of products by company of both imported and exported commodities.



HOUSE ORDER NO. 106



By: Dr. John Hamm (Pictou Centre)



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



(1) Value of trade done between Nova Scotia and India including both imports and exports in the calendar years 1994 and 1995; and



(2) List of Nova Scotia companies doing trade with India in the calendar years 1994 and 1995 as well as a breakdown of products by company of both imported and exported commodities.