MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time to commence the day's business. Are there any introductions of guests before we begin? If not, we will go directly to the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I beg your indulgence to table a reply to a question on the status of the development of community health boards.
MR. SPEAKER: The reply is tabled.
The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I beg your indulgence to table this afternoon, in response to a question, a registration update on the Nova Scotia Seniors Pharmacare Program.
MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.
HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the Official Opposition, regarding this ministerial statement, that there is a copy on the desk of the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition that I delivered earlier so they would be apprised of it.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table today the Department of Community Services' response to the Report on the Family and Children's Services of Lunenburg County which was prepared by the independent review team of Brian Hillier and Andrew Koster. Their review was thorough and when I made the original document public, I indicated that the Department of Community Services accepted every single recommendation. It was important, therefore, that the department and the agency move quickly to develop a process to implement these recommendations so that we could begin to rebuild public confidence in child welfare.
Accordingly, I asked a four person team composed of departmental officials and staff from child welfare agencies to oversee the implementation process. Team members encompassed a broad range of skills including staff training, program evaluation and design, and inter-agency planning. As their report makes clear, action has been taken on every single recommendation and the majority of them have been fully implemented.
Section A of the report made recommendations to the Department of Community Services regarding complaint procedures, foster parent tracing and support, protocols for the investigation of abuse allegations in foster homes, standards for both agency and private adoptions and case load size. In concert with our partners in other departments, the Foster Parents Association and other community agencies, the Department of Community Services has moved to implement every recommendation in this section.
Section B addresses specific weaknesses with service provision in Family and Children's Services of Lunenburg County. In accordance with the Hillier/Koster findings, a Child-at-Risk Committee has been established in Lunenburg and a working protocol has been established which will help the agency, the police and the Crown Attorney respond consistently to allegations of abuse.
It is important to note that the work which the agency has done on these two initiatives is of such a high calibre that the Department of Community Services is recommending that all agencies throughout the province adopt a similar plan. To make sure this takes place, departmental staff have recently completed a new manual on Child Protection Services and, in conjunction with staff from the Department of Justice, a procedures manual for a coordinated response on child abuse investigations.
Evaluating the effectiveness of these protocols and refining procedures and communication with community partners will continue to be a high priority of the Department of Community Services. In a real sense, this is an ongoing accountability which will have no end date.
In Section C, the review team made specific recommendations on case load size. On April 1, 1995, we were able to implement the first phase of a two year plan to increase child protection services across the province. We intend to implement Phase Two in the coming fiscal year at which point we will have increased child protection staff by 36 and brought case load size to the range recommended by the Child Welfare League of Canada.
The final section of the report also contained recommendations of a province-wide nature relating to the assessment process, the use of mediation and amendments to the Children and Family Services Act. All of these initiatives are currently under way.
Mr. Speaker, the provision of high quality child welfare services is a priority of this government. Such a commitment requires much more than talk - it requires ongoing vigilance and unceasing attention to every aspect of service. The accompanying report reflects the Department of Community Services' commitment to these principles and to our collective resolve to ensure the well-being of children.
We cannot afford to stop here and feel confident that the task has been completed. I have therefore directed my officials to begin the planning of a report card on child welfare services - including case load size, training initiatives, inter-agency work and measurable outcomes in service - which the Department of Community Services can present on an annual basis to the members of this House. Key stakeholder groups such as the Advisory Committee on Family and Children's Services and the Nova Scotia Foster Parents Association will be invited to participate in this process. Keeping our process open, accountable and responsive will help us all protect our most vulnerable children. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for providing a copy of his statement. We have been waiting for the minister's response to the initial report done by Hillier and Koster now for, I believe it is, 14 months since the report was made public in December 1994. That report, of course, opened up a lot of questions and the report did have some specific recommendations. We had occasion to ask the minister, I believe as recently as last week, as to how this process was coming along.
One of the initial comments of the minister about how this process would proceed, in terms of the fulfilling of recommendations as to who in fact would monitor the department and the various agencies in fulfilling the recommendations of this report, again the minister made reference in his statement today to the Advisory Committee on Family and Children's Services as being an agency which, in fact, could be used as a monitoring agency.
In response to a question, the minister made reference to the fact that when initially challenged with that, that particular committee did not feel it was in their terms of reference to, in fact, fulfil that requirement for the department. So, we will look with interest to see who, in fact, will monitor the efforts of the department and the agencies to fulfil the recommendations of the report.
The other mention of interest in the minister's statement, of course, is case load size. Across the province there are a number of agencies which have reported publicly that, in fact, their case load is above acceptable levels. The minister made reference to the fact that Phase Two, which will come about in the current fiscal year, which isn't very far away, will result in increased child protection staff of some 36 persons, and he indicates very clearly that this will bring the case load size to the range recommended by the Child Welfare League of Canada. We will be looking with interest to ascertain to which areas of the province the assignments will be made and in which the new officers will, in fact, be employed to look after the needs of that particular area.
The minister, as well, made reference to a new manual on Child Protection Services and a procedures manual for a coordinated response on child abuse investigations. The minister may want to very quickly make us aware of when, in fact, the manuals will be available for perusal and will be available to the agencies which are in charge of child protection.
There is much to commend in this report; however, the report, in a statement of the minister, still points out very clearly that there is need for an independent agency to monitor the department and the agency's efforts to fulfil the recommendations that were laid out very clearly in the report, which is now some 14 months old. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate receiving the report on the implementation of recommendations in the Lunenburg review. We will certainly have the opportunity a little later today to go through it in some more detail and consider the actual contents thereof, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to make a few comments. That is, that I am concerned that one area dealt with by the review team, that actually led to the review team, was the matter of the abuse of children under the care of the Hendersons and that there was an attempt throughout this past year to resolve some matters of compensation for those victims.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is suffice to say that it did not go smoothly. A couple of the victims have settled with the province but there are still others outstanding. I would hope that in light of what has happened, the department would have come up with a protocol on how to deal with these kinds of issues. If they haven't yet, maybe they would consider that in the event that it is determined that there is this kind of abuse that has happened as a result of children in the custody and in the protection of the agencies of the government or the departments of the government, that some kind of protocol review and resolve of those problems be developed in order that the process itself doesn't re-victimize people.
Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to say that I think the matters that were raised throughout this review are serious problems. They are problems, I think, that result as much as a consequence of the lack of protocol and the lack of vigilance by the department and its agencies as it does by the ensuing pressures that are brought to bear on families and, in particular, on children that are living in poverty. I think while we can certainly do our best to encourage proper maintenance and review of regulations and procedures and develop protocols to resolve disputes or problems when they come to our attention, clearly the greatest onus on this government and on any government is to try to remove the alarming numbers of children that are living in poverty today in Nova Scotia.
I think the government has an obligation to move forward, for example, to ensure that there is a one-tiered social service system in the Province of Nova Scotia and, secondly, to ensure that they halt the shifting of the burden of pain for our debt and deficit onto the backs of people who can least afford to pay it, Mr. Speaker, with the slashing of eligibility requirements and benefits that are paid to people living in poverty.
I think until we actually deal with the fact that people need to work - we need jobs in this province, that is the best challenge for dealing with poverty - we need to provide some assistance and some protection for those people who through no fault of their own end up in poverty, Mr. Speaker. Only when we deal with those problems are we going to be able to begin to relieve the pressure that comes to bear not only on families but, more importantly, on children that are living in those circumstances.
Again, I am pleased to have received this response from the minister on the report. The staff in our office will have an opportunity to review it in more detail later on but I just wanted to make points relative to the whole problem of poverty and how we deal with families and children who live in those circumstances and how we can address those issues, Mr. Speaker, as a government. Thank you.
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the newly elected mayor and councillors for the Halifax Regional Municipality will be sworn into office this afternoon at 4:00 p.m.; and
Whereas Mayor Fitzgerald and the councillors will face the daunting task of organizing and administering one of the largest municipalities in Canada as a result of the Savage Government's last minute decision to amalgamate these metro municipalities;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates Mayor Fitzgerald and councillors and extends best wishes to them on the occasion of their swearing in this afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Order of Canada was formed in 1967 to recognize the outstanding achievements of Canadians in the arts, education, public service and business; and
Whereas David Sobey of New Glasgow is one of three Nova Scotians to be honoured this year with the Order of Canada; and
Whereas David Sobey's contribution to the field of business has greatly enhanced economic growth and stability throughout the province;
Therefore be it resolved that this House commend David Sobey, Cora Greenaway and Donald Mills for the contribution they have made in their communities and for representing Nova Scotia with pride within the Order of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.
MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Bedford Constable Richard Derek Lane has been awarded the St. John Ambulance International Lifesaving Silver Medal Award, the highest award ever to be given to a Nova Scotian by the St. John Ambulance Order; and
Whereas this international award was given Constable Lane in recognition for his heroic actions in saving the life of a man trapped underwater in his car at Paper Mill Lake Stream in Bedford, on Christmas Day of 1993; and
Whereas Constable Lane's award certificate says "Constable Lane fearlessly entered the nearly six-foot deep, powerfully flowing water, tried numerous ways to enter the wreckage in his search for casualties and finally discovered the lone occupant trapped underwater entangled in his seat belt. He dove under water, cut the casualty free and extricated him from the quickly submerging vehicle.";
Therefore be it resolved that this House praise Constable Richard Lane for his heroic and selfless courage in rescuing the life of a human being in grave danger and, while saluting the bravery of Constable Lane, let us honour all men and women in Nova Scotia who, through their kind deeds, help their fellow human beings.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Liberal MLAs and Cabinet Ministers have made repeated promises to relocate provincial Civil Service jobs to Cape Breton Island; and
Whereas data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the Department of Human Resources shows that the number of Civil Service jobs in Cape Breton has decreased from 801 positions in 1991 to 714 in 1995; and
Whereas the ratio of Civil Service jobs to population in Cape Breton is now at a record high, meaning that there is only one Civil Service job for 176 people over the age of 15 years;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Liberal Government, and especially the Cape Breton Liberal MLAs, to fulfil their commitments to Cape Breton to seriously address unemployment in Cape Breton.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Cape Breton South.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Mrs. Joan Harriss of Sydney has dedicated a great deal of her time and talent to help restore Jost House in downtown Sydney; and
Whereas Joan Harriss' love for the heritage of Sydney has resulted in the restoration of the Jost House Museum, with the help of dedicated volunteers; and
Whereas Mrs. Harriss has organized an endowment fund for Jost House which she hopes will raise $100,000 to help with maintenance, artifact acquisitions and library additions;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the efforts of Mrs. Joan Harriss and the Old Sydney Society in preserving the rich heritage of Sydney.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas construction is currently underway on Colchester's Material Recovery Facility at the Kemptown site; and
Whereas the facility is designed to incorporate a full beverage container redemption centre and is sized to act as the designated regional processor for all recyclables; and
Whereas the balefill facility, material recovery facility, in-vessel composting facility, construction/demolition debris salvage yard and household hazardous waste site have been developed without provincial funds;
Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the sincere commitment of the citizens of Colchester County in meeting common environmental goals.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable that notice be waived on that matter?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas a recent analysis by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council shows that cuts to federal transfers to Nova Scotia, under the Canada Health and Social Transfer, will exceed $90 million a year; and
Whereas cuts of this magnitude amount to 5 per cent of total social program spending and will have a severe impact on the health, education and income assistance available to Nova Scotians; and
Whereas the Liberal Government has known about these impending cuts for nearly a year, but has absolutely refused to involve the public and members of this House in attempts to ameliorate their impact;
Therefore be it resolved that this House instructs the government to establish an all-Party committee to devise a strategy in opposition to the cuts to the social safety net.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
Are there further notices of motion? If not, that would appear to conclude the daily routine.
Before we commence the Orders of the Day, I have an application from the honourable member for Cape Breton West, whom I will recognize shortly, for a request for an emergency debate pursuant to Rule 43.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West. (Applause)
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I wish to move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance under the provisions of Rule 43(1) of the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly.
I refer to the announcement made at a news conference, just minutes ago, about the layoffs at Devco. As most of you may be aware, there has been a notice of a temporary layoff of some 1,200 people out of a work force of around 2,100. That amounts to about 57 per cent of the work force of the Cape Breton Development Corporation.
It has been stated in this news release that there will probably be a reduction of some 800 people over the course of the next four years, 400 of them most likely by March 31, 1996. I would like to say that the impact this is going to have, not only on the community but on the Island and certainly the province itself, is quite devastating.
As this was just announced minutes ago, unfortunately it was not possible to meet the requirements of Paragraph 43(2), that two hours' notice be given to the Speaker, and that this is the earliest time that was practical to provide such notice to the Speaker. I, therefore, move for an emergency debate of this extremely important subject at the time of Adjournment today.
MR. SPEAKER: It may not be possible, under the circumstances, to strictly follow the letter of the Rule Book. I would like to entertain submissions from the government and from the recognized Party.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we share the concerns of the honourable member opposite. Certainly the impact in Cape Breton at a time when, in recent days and in recent weeks we have had some good news with Stora and with Statistics Canada announcements, and this type of set-back is certainly of great concern to all of us. We would agree, in fact we had anticipated this request, and we concur wholeheartedly with setting aside business at 8:00 p.m. tonight to enter into a debate, and certainly anticipate fully engaging in that debate and participating, and perhaps sharing with members opposite some of the measures already taken by this government.
We would agree to, if there have been provisions in our rules that have not been able to be complied with, we wouldn't object in any way to ignoring those today and with the unanimous consent of the House going forward with this debate at 8:00 p.m. tonight. We will be prepared to provide a list of speakers to the honourable Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion by the member for Cape Breton West and to say that we have stated on a number of occasions in this House that the coal industry is central to the survival of Cape Breton Island and the plan that was introduced today by Mr. Shannon, I think, leaves some real question as to whether or not the coal industry will, in fact, be viable. I think it is important that we have a full debate on that plan, on what the province is going to do about that plan in order that all Nova Scotians, perhaps, recognize how serious it is as we seem to be heading down this road towards the dismantling of the coal industry in Cape Breton.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, under the circumstances, I think there is no doubt that the consensus in the House is that the motion should be granted and that we should proceed with the emergency debate at 8:00 p.m. this evening. This will mean that at 8:00 p.m. we will have a two hour discussion of this topic. It does not amount to a contested motion which is voted on at the end, it is a two hour open House type discussion, perhaps similar to the one we have under the late show debate at 6:00 p.m. but with a 15 minute maximum time limit per member. We have done one of these already this session, so this will be the second time that we are going through this. There is no requirement for a quorum, but all honourable members are invited to attend and to participate if they wish. There is no question of the importance of the topic or its impact upon the people of Cape Breton and of Nova Scotia and I look forward to joining with you this evening at 8:00 p.m. at which time we will discuss this important matter.
The motion is granted.
Now, to proceed to the Orders of the Day, the Oral Question Period today will last for one hour. The time now being, I will say, 12:33 p.m., the Oral Question Period will run until 1:33 p.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, will be to the Acting Premier. As we all heard last week in the House, there were some figures released regarding the job rates and the unemployment figures in the Province of Nova Scotia. Some of them, actually, were quite favourable. However, this morning's news from Cape Breton is very bad and it is news that will have a devastating effect on the whole province. My question to the Acting Premier is, can the Acting Premier confirm that the loss of jobs at Devco this morning, the numbers, and if, indeed, his caucus has had an opportunity to discuss some strategic plans as to how we are going to deal with this effect?
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I can only confirm, based on the copy of the press release that Devco has put out, indicating 1,200 temporary layoffs, for 8 to 10 weeks and 800 permanent layoffs, 400 by March this year and the rest over the balance of the time. But those are the Devco figures.
In terms of trying to alleviate the problem, I think it is up to Devco and they promised (a) to try to keep the coal industry in Cape Breton viable, which is so crucial to all Nova Scotian and I guess part of it is to do some downsizing. That is the view they take. Safety is related. One of the reasons there are layoffs was because of roof-falls at Phelan and they had to lay off people because they can't work there. Finally, and I have raised this with representatives I have spoken to today, is that they say that they are going to try to find programs that will be acceptable, that will help any permanently laid off workers in terms of early retirement and severance and possibly a bridge package. So, I would hope the Government of Canada, with its resources will do everything possible to keep the coal industry viable, which is so crucial to all of Nova Scotia.
MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Acting Premier for his answer. My first supplementary to the Acting Premier, also, would be, when we realize the impact of what has taken place today, could we get a commitment from this government, through the Acting Premier, to do everything in its power to help assist the management of the Cape Breton Development Corporation develop whatever contingency plans that can be developed in order to make the announcements today have as minor an impact as possible?
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what type of assistance we can render. It is a federal responsibility financially and Heaven knows there are enough responsibilities fiscally in Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton Island, that we are trying to deal with, health matters, matters of education and all the rest. We are trying to deal with them.
The federal government have said that they intend to put up money, for example, for the people who are permanently laid off. They are talking, I believe, a sum of $25 million to help alleviate those layoff situations so I trust that everything possible will be done to look after any person who is permanently laid off; on the other hand, to get the 1,200 people back to work as soon as possible and, above all, maintain a viable coal industry in Cape Breton.
MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, again to the Acting Premier, I respect the answer that the Acting Premier did provide but the question was, will this government become active in trying to help and make sure and maintain that we do everything in our power, as elected representatives, to help the people of Cape Breton Island, in particular the workers of the Cape Breton Development Corporation whose jobs and lives are going to be affected. Will this minister please indicate that this government will do everything in its power to help those people?
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, of course we will do everything possible but I know the honourable member would not want us to reach into another jurisdiction. It is the responsibility of the Government of Canada, the people of Canada, to help Nova Scotia and Cape Breton in this particular case. It is a federal Crown Corporation. The Province of Nova Scotia has the responsibility to provide jobs for all parts of Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton, by proper management and getting on with the business, not by creating government jobs but by encouraging the environment.
For example, the unemployment rate in Cape Breton has dropped from 25.1 per cent in December 1994 to 16.9 per cent, down 8 per cent, more than 8 per cent, over a year. So that is what our government is doing. We are taking our responsibility and we will continue to do that. It is up to the Government of Canada to accept their responsibility.
MR. SPEAKER: A new question, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to direct my question to the Deputy Premier in the absence of the Premier. It should come as no surprise to anyone, the announcement that was made today with respect to the future of Devco and the fact that Devco is going to be further pared down by hundreds of workers. In fact, the very survival of that corporation, I think, is more clearly in jeopardy because the subsidy from the federal government ended in April of last year. There have been only two mines operating for the past two years and one of them has been in extreme difficulty.
In this House, we have asked, from this caucus, on a number of occasions for this government to involve itself directly in the operations of and the response by Devco to what is happening in the coal industry in this province. I want to ask the Deputy Premier, . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The Acting Premier.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . the Acting Premier, the Deputy Premier, if he would explain to me and to other members of this House why it is that his first knowledge and the first knowledge of his government of this response was in the press release today, why it was that his government has not been integrally involved with the federal government in trying to resolve this problem?
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: I am sure if Premier Savage was here he would indicate that he has been working with Devco and Mr. Dingwall and the Honourable Anne McLellan, the federal minister, about these matters over the years. I am sure Premier Savage would tell us that he has been trying to get the Government of Canada to accept their responsibility and, again, as part of the member's comments, to get intimately involved.
As I say, we are trying to do the best we can with our own provincial responsibilities and we are encouraging the Government of Canada to live up to theirs to see to it, as best we can, that there is a viable coal industry in Cape Breton. But the record will show that the government, through the Premier and I am sure the Minister of Natural Resources and the acting minister can tell us that if he is called on as well, representations have been made over the years to try to support Devco and to keep it in operation so it will not collapse.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this government has had at least two opportunities, two specific instances to become involved with the coal industry and supporting the coal industry in Nova Scotia since they became government. One was ensuring that Nova Scotia Power Inc. purchased Nova Scotia coal in the operation of their facilities and they also had the opportunity, as was directed in this House, to support and to push the proposal of the United Mine Workers for the development of Donkin.
I want to ask the Acting Premier why it is that this government has not moved to actually do something to protect and support the coal industry in Nova Scotia since they became government?
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, knowing where that honourable member is coming from and how his philosophy thinks, he would order a private enterprise company, tell them exactly, legislate where they buy their coal. We would rather discuss and have meetings and try to convince them it is proper to support Nova Scotia industry; in this case, the coal industry. We don't happen to share the particular approach that he had taken.
The government has had mediators involved and agreements were reached so that coal was not brought in from offshore as I understand it, and Cape Breton coal is, in fact, being used. The other thing that honourable member should know, he mentions the Donkin Mine, if he would go back in time he would see that during the time of the Government of Gerald Regan, before 1978, offshore drilling was done to prove up those reserves, so it was a Liberal Government that helped find the coal and he should know that.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what I know is that since this Liberal Government has been in power, they have done absolutely nothing to shore up the coal industry in Nova Scotia. In fact, their lack of action has led us to this position where hundreds of jobs are in jeopardy and, let's not forget, the coal industry and its spinoffs represent probably at least, a conservative estimate, 25 per cent of the economy of Cape Breton.
I want to ask the Deputy Premier, in conclusion, what it is that his government is going to do now to respond to the plan that Mr. Shannon is bringing forward, the plan that would do such things as to have the Prince Mine operate on a part-time basis, which would lead to its deterioration? I want to ask this Deputy Premier to tell me and all Nova Scotians what his government is going to do, or are they going to wait until the federal government gets out completely, like they did with the MV Bluenose, before they get involved?
MR. GILLIS: Once again this honourable member wants to be everything to everybody and take other peoples' responsibilities with money he doesn't have. That is his philosophy. He doesn't care because (Interruption). Mr. Speaker, he will never have responsibility for government so he doesn't care what he says. That is an easy approach; talk is cheap. But I would like to know because I have taken the time to contact some of the people responsible today. Maybe that honourable member who is a candidate for the leadership of his Party, I contacted Mr. Shannon to urge him to be fair to any people who are laid off and come up with a plan. I have a call in to Anne MacLellan, who is the federal minister responsible; I haven't heard back from her. I talked to David Dingwall and I asked for some action to try to alleviate this problem as best we can. That may be more than that honourable member has done.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I know the Minister of Health and the Premier, on a number of occasions, have suggested that all is well with the new Coordinated Home Care Program. I had a call from a family in Cape Breton and I would like to raise this specific case.
There was an 86 year old man in Cape Breton who is dying of cancer. This wife is 80 years old and she has been the primary caregiver. On November 10th, he was sent to hospital by ambulance on the urging of a nurse and there was no bed available. Home care does send in a personal care worker for two hours a day and someone through home care, a personal care worker, stays from 12:00 midnight to 7:00 a.m. every other night. However, the problem is the man will probably die within a month, is in a great deal of discomfort, and the demands of this man's illness has put a tremendous amount of strain on the marriage of 62 years and the family is quite concerned. My question for the minister, is this kind of situation in keeping with his vision of health reform and a comprehensive, Coordinated Home Care Program?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, if there are cases in which family or someone, a neighbour or whoever, feel that there is a need being unmet, I would urge the honourable member opposite to encourage those families to approach the care coordinators. I have every confidence that those care coordinators and the hard work that is being done at the grassroots in this province in terms of home care will be both compassionate and helpful. If there is a problem, and there are always difficulties that can occur with these terribly difficult and tragic circumstances, I should hope that that is being done. If the honourable member opposite has specifics that he wishes to refer on to our staff, I would encourage him to do so, but I would be happy to indeed refer them on, as well.
No need such as he outlines can ever be met adequately. These are difficult times for families; I understand. It is my intention certainly as Minister of Health, and I am sure it is his intention in doing what he is doing, to improve these conditions to try and do a better job. I would again ask that the local care coordinators and the staff of home care be approached.
MR. MOODY: I agree with the minister, the idea is to improve the situation and hope these situations don't occur. The nursing people involved in home care had recommended that this gentleman go to hospital but obviously there was no bed.
My second supplementary. The daughter-in-law of this gentleman did call the minister's office and couldn't speak to the minister but did speak with Mr. Jeff MacLeod. Mr. MacLeod said he didn't believe that a hospital bed was not available so the daughter-in-law went back to the doctor and in her presence, the doctor called the hospital and, in fact, confirmed there was no bed. When she called Mr. MacLeod back yesterday morning, Mr. MacLeod laughed and questioned the doctor's professional credibility. That is when she decided to call our office.
I would ask the minister if he would personally check into the circumstances of this matter. If what the minister has said is true, and I believe him when he says that, then when these circumstances occur and are reported to his office, he wants to ensure that the holes that may be out there are plugged and that the whole Coordinated Home Care Program runs smoothly as possible. Will the minister, now that he knows his office has been contacted, check into these circumstances? I agree with him, our objectives should be to try to solve these problems so that they don't reoccur because they are difficult times for families.
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, there is a process in place for these cases. I am sure that if my staff is not aware of them, in Cape Breton or wherever, I would have appreciated certainly that the honourable gentleman call our staff at home care and not necessarily have to bring them to the floor of this House. This is a question of the provision of care of equal and of as high quality as we can reach around the province. My staff and I will certainly check with them; if the staff of home care is not aware of the specifics of the case, I will have the staff call the honourable gentleman opposite to apparently get the case history.
MR. MOODY: Thank you very much. I would be pleased to do that. I am kind of amazed that the minister's executive assistant didn't inform him but if you can't get the information from the executive assistant, I would be pleased to provide that.
I would ask the minister in a final supplementary, can the minister indicate if there are minimum standards established for providing home care to patients? I mean standards that apply throughout the province. It doesn't matter if you are in Meat Cove or Halifax or Yarmouth, if you are chronically ill, are there minimum standards that are applied throughout the province? If there are, I am wondering if the minister, if he can't briefly outline them, could see that I get a copy of those minimum standards?
DR. STEWART: Again, I am trying to understand the question in its entirety. I assume the honourable gentleman is asking whether or not nursing care standards exist within the Home Care Program. As I have explained here at some length in the past, there are indeed standards that are in place in terms of home care promulgated by the VON or by Martha Home Health in Antigonish, with whom we have contracts. The area of home support services, which the honourable gentleman opposite has brought to our attention in the past, those standards are being developed; they are in the process, they are quite well along in that process. That is a different area, the area of home support services. All of the contracts that were in place from the time past have been retained in order that we have some continuity of provision of care.
The standards which are being developed are being developed across the board for home care services in support of the social services that might be needed as well as nursing care. In terms of nursing care, the standards of the VON and Martha Home Health would be applied across the board. The standards in relationship to in-home support services are the same as they have existed in the past but are being formalized by our staff and there is a committee working on that.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, a new question but a part follow-up. I think the minister has been trying to be helpful and I appreciate that. I think what I am trying to find out from the Minister of Health is if you are chronically ill in any part of Nova Scotia, are the services and standards the same in all of those areas, whether you are in Yarmouth, Truro, Sydney, Meat Cove, are those standards and services the same for all residents of Nova Scotia if you are chronically ill, through the Coordinated Home Care Program?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the honourable gentleman means Home Care Nova Scotia as it now exists rather than the coordinated program. The nursing standards provided by the VON and Martha Home Health, the standards of nursing care should be the same. In terms of in-home support services, we have elected to continue the contracts that have been in place so that continuity might be realized and that we could get the program expanded as quickly as possible. They may vary from community to community, it depends on what was done before but we are trying to standardize that at the moment.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I know that through the service exchange with municipalities that the province, I think, effective April 1, 1996 - or maybe they already have picked up the total cost of homemakers - as I understand it, the Homemakers Services would be transferred from the municipalities and regional health boards. My question to the Minister of Health is, will that authority take place on April 1, 1996? In other words, the Homemakers Services component of the Home Care Program, will that be transferred to the regional health boards on April 1, 1996, and are they ready to take them over at that date?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, yes, I understand better the core of the questioning. It certainly is the intent, I would certainly check with my staff to give a more accurate answer. I would suspect that that is an optimistic date but it would be a target date that we would try to meet. It depends on the different regional health boards and the phases that they are going through. Their priority is the establishment of community health boards and the transfer of this as of April 1st, I think, is an optimistic date.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I understand now that this is going to be transferred but we are not exactly sure when. My final supplementary is, I have asked the minister on information that he might have compiled to date that assessed the effectiveness of the Home Care Program that he announced. I wonder if he has at this particular time any information that assesses the Home Care Program that has been run to date, on its outcomes? In other words, the minister indicated that we are now getting into programs that we assess their effectiveness. I am wondering if there has been any assessment done on the Home Care Program to date and its effectiveness and, if there has been, could the minister share any of those results with us?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the assessment and the data which are collected from the provision of home care in the province are now centralized and computerized. We have a computer program that is designed to collect and analyze data concerning certainly numbers, the number of given cases, the number of problems with those cases, the diagnoses, whether or not it is home/hospital, whether or not it is long-term care, whether they were in palliative care and so on, in volunteer agencies. Those are being collected. The analysis certainly has not been done on every factor but I can certainly give some report on where we are in that spectrum.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. It was reported that yesterday the Premier met with the federal Minister of Transport. He made reference that a tentative deal has been struck to provide ferry service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor and that that tentative deal has, in fact, been submitted to the federal Minister of Transport.
Will the minister confirm that, in fact, a tentative deal has been struck by area officials with a private operator and that it has been submitted to the federal Minister of Transport?
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, what was reported by the Premier's press release yesterday was, in fact, that a proposal that has been developed between the private sector and the regional development authority was placed, as it was intended to be placed, on the desk of the federal Transport Minister in a meeting with the Premier.
DR. HAMM: I believe from the minister's answer then, what he is saying is that there is a tentative deal and that it has been placed on the desk of the Minister of Transport. Would the minister then indicate to the House that when, assuming that the federal Minister of Transport will give his blessing to the deal since he seems to be abandoning winter service in Yarmouth-Bar Harbor, when does the minister feel there will be a winter service available from Yarmouth to Bar Harbour, if this deal is approved by the federal minister?
MR. HARRISON: The choice of words by the Leader of the Opposition, I wish to correct for a moment. What was presented to the federal minister, as I stated earlier, is a proposal that was developed between the private sector and the regional development authority for an alternate service, both short-term and long-term.
As the Premier indicated, that is a confidential document, one that the federal minister is reviewing and we would hope will respond to as soon as possible to what was hard work by the regional development authority and, in this case, by at least one private sector operator.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am getting a different drift from the minister than I certainly received from what the Premier is reported to have said. The minister talks about a proposal and not a tentative deal. There is a significant difference in everyone's mind, I am sure, between a proposal and a tentative deal.
My question is again to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. Is there a specific tentative deal with a specific operator to provide a service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor on the table at this time?
MR. HARRISON: The term, tentative deal, we are talking about a proposal, as I have stated earlier, that is based on an agreement between the private sector and the regional development authority in the area of southwestern Nova Scotia that, upon request from the federal minister, was placed on his desk and discussed by the Premier. That is a private sector proposal to provide an alternate service, one that is under consideration by the federal Minister of Transport.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, I am still unsure by what the minister has said in response to my previous questions as to whether or not this is a general proposal or if it has absolutely identified a specific private sector partner who is interested and has engaged in a tentative deal with this government to provide service. Does that situation with a private sector partner exist today?
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Perhaps I can help the honourable Leader of the Opposition by reading the paragraph that was in the press release that I am sure he has a copy of but I would be glad to table. The Premier presented Mr. Young with a proposal worked out between a proposed private sector operator, the provincial government, and the South West Nova Scotia Development Authority.
As we have indicated in debate in this House, it is our intention as a government to facilitate an arrangement between private sector operators, and the local development authority, in response to a request by the federal minister for options to the service. We have done so. He is considering it and we expect a response as soon as possible.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the minister. The proposal or tentative deal, whichever it is, does this involve a replacement during the summer months of the Marine Vessel Bluenose; in other words, does it provide an alternative service to the service that is now proposed by Marine Atlantic and that is, they will continue the summer service? Does the proposal that the minister is describing to us now include summer service from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier indicated, the proposal that has been placed before Minister Young is one that is both a short-term and a long-term solution to the essential problem at hand, and that is making sure that we have trade links that are established by air and by water to get goods to markets; in this case, the market of New England. We have done as the federal minister asked us to do. We have in a relatively short time come up with private sector proposals for both short-term and long-term solutions for his consideration with, I might add, considerable assistance from the people of southwestern Nova Scotia throughout.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary to the minister. When the minister talks about a proposal that is now sitting on the desk of the federal Minister of Transport, does that proposal involve a subsidy from either the federal or the provincial government to allow winter ferry service to continue from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor? Is a subsidy involved in that proposal?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I think the Premier indicated that the detailed contents of any proposal, at this point in time, are not to be revealed. The issue here is that the federal minister has asked for something and the people of Nova Scotia have responded. The request was for alternatives to a problem that he had and we have come up with what we think are creative solutions. I will be pleased, once he has had a chance to respond to the detailed, short-term and long-term proposal, to provide the Leader of the Opposition with any and all details.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you, sir, to the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs. The first question is really a quite simple, straightforward question. When a tenant provides a damage deposit to a landlord and that landlord holds that deposit in trust, who is the legal owner of that money? Is that the landlord or is that the tenant?
MR. SPEAKER: I don't think that question to be in order. It is requesting a detailed legal opinion from the minister.
MR. HOLM: Well, no, Mr. Speaker, according to . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I can give you umpteen quotations from Beauchesne that would say that type of question is out of order. If the minister wants to respond to it, it is at her discretion. The questions doesn't have to be . . .
MR. HOLM: Does the minister want to respond?
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I think the Leader of the New Democratic Party is asking questions regarding to the new regulations that have just been released by the Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs. We are very pleased that we have been able to release new regulations. There are about 95,000 rental units in this province and we are the regulator. We have dealt with the landlords and with tenants' advocates to bring forth regulations in fairness to all therein concerned, and it is my understanding from his question that the tenant is actually the legal owner of that deposit that is paid.
MR. HOLM: Yes, indeed, the minister did know where I was going with my question and yes, indeed, her understanding and my understanding as to who the legal owner of that money is is the same.
Yesterday's announcement, which goes back to a recommendation made by the minister in October 1995 and which became effective a year ago, January 1995, in those regulations the minister is giving the landlord the ability to invest the tenants' money in secure deposits that will provide to the landlord a higher rate of return on the investment yet, at the same time, the minister is reducing by 2 per cent the amount that the landlord has to provide to the tenant in terms of interest on that money. My question to the minister is quite simply, why did she and her government pass regulations that will ensure that the landlords are going to receive increased profits made on the tenants' money without ensuring that the tenants received any of that increase instead of giving them the short end and in fact having to take a decrease in what they are entitled to?
MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member opposite can predict rates of return and the amount of return on investment that anybody gets when they do make an investment. What we have done for the landlord and for the tenant's sake, we have provided an opportunity for them to put the security deposit in a secured investment that is government backed and government guaranteed. At the same time we have changed the rate of return. I think the member opposite should really contact the department and get a little more detail on the rate of return, on the percentage of return to the tenant depending on the number of years that they are tenants under a lease with any landlord across the province.
I think you have to remember also, usually your rate of return for an investment is depending upon the amount of money you deposit for the length of time it is deposited. There are some landlords who are very small in this province who don't have large returns that are invested. In this way, we feel that we are being very fair to all concerned.
MR. HOLM: Yes, Mr. Speaker, some landlords are very small and some are very large. The minister's own regulations that I have in my hand say that the rate of return, the amount that is to be paid was, for example, back in 1985, 7 per cent. It was reduced to 3 per cent in 1992 and effective January 1, 1995, this minister reduced that, by her regulations, to 1 per cent.
In the minister's statement yesterday to the press, she said that there was consultation with the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, and that certainly shows. The minister also said that she contacted tenants' advocates in the province. We have contacted a number and we haven't heard of a single one that was even aware of what this minister and her government were doing. So my final question to the minister is, who specifically, what tenants' advocacy groups did this minister and her department consult with before they changed the regulations that very clearly favour the landlords?
MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, those regulations very clearly favour both the tenant and the landlord.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Housing in her capacity as Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. I was wondering if the minister could inform the House whether or not it is the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission's policy to have a standard pricing for a product that they sell across the province?
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I guess it is something that I would like to take under advisement. From my understanding, the pricing would vary maybe according to the product. I would think it is standard across the province, but I will have to take that under advisement.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there is a fine old Scotch whiskey called Old Smuggler Scotch. It is regularly $35 a bottle. It is a fine old Scotch. You can buy this Scotch down here at the Agricola Street Store for $29.95. Now, it is on sale. However, if you are in the know, you go out to Bayers Lake. They have a liquor store out there, and you can get it for $22.95. So, here we are, we have Liquor Commission stores in competition with each other. My question to the minister is, is this now the normal practice whereby you can shop around among the various Liquor Commission stores to obtain booze on sale?
MRS. NORRIE: I am glad the member opposite has such good detail on the price of Old Smuggler Scotch whiskey. I am afraid I don't have the access and haven't travelled quite as extensively as he has in the pricing of alcohol across the province. The Bayers Lake store has been set up to try some different types of marketing and different types of promotions and in fact they are providing a product at a cheaper value, then I would suggest that anybody who is interested in the product take advantage of that opportunity.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, in all seriousness, I mean, we have to consider that people are not aware of where these bargains are. (Laughter) There will be a great rush out to the Bayers Lake liquor store. I was wondering if the minister would give due consideration, as Minister of Consumer Affairs, to letting the consumers know where these bargains are. If, indeed, we are going to have a bargain basement, a Frenchy's store selling booze out in Bayers Lake then people should be aware of the prices. I was wondering if the minister would give consideration to informing all the consumers around this province where the current buys are, insofar as liquor products are concerned?
MRS. NORRIE: Yes, I will certainly take that under advisement and I would like to thank the member opposite for taking the step in that direction for me.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. There has been considerable discussion during the last number of days in the paper in regard to a film sound stage for Halifax. You were quoted as saying it would be very good if private sector involvement can be found. I don't disagree with that, if we could get private money involved.
However, the producer/director of Salter Street Films contends that the Burnside development will not attract film-makers to Nova Scotia and that he had already checked it out and felt that it was undesirable. Can the minister tell me where we are in regard to the film stage today and whether we are going to use that facility or the one down on Water Street?
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I think what he was quoting was that we probably should not have private and public sector dollars competing for the same business in the province, as a general rule of thumb. I will take the honourable member back to the concept that was developed some time ago about a needed piece of infrastructure to add yet another competitive aspect or incentive to bringing film industry to Nova Scotia. We have the most competitive tax regime in the country and it is paying off. We have a project still under consideration for a publicly funded, public/private funding for that needed piece of infrastructure, a sound stage.
The announcement on Friday of a private sector opportunity that could very well supply some of those needs at the very time that we are considering the business case for the sound stage in the first place obviously affects our decision-making. We have meetings this afternoon, we will continue meeting throughout the week to determine just whose opinion is of most value when it comes to assessing whether what has been announced here of the private sector is, in fact, an opportunity for the film industry in Nova Scotia to capitalize on what is already very competitive infrastructure and, perhaps in this case, to capitalize on some private sector funded infrastructure that can take us to the next level of competitiveness nationally and internationally.
MR. MCINNES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's answer to that question. On Wednesday, November 22nd, I had asked a question in regard to where we were in regard to the film sound stage. The minister told me that it was moving along but he couldn't give me a specific date. While I was asking the question, and I shouldn't put the Premier on the spot, but he was going like this to me with two fingers, that it was very close.
Now here we are, today, January 9th . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: The Premier announced it in the paper.
MR. MCINNES: . . . and they said that it was going to happen and there has been money input from the City of Halifax and from your department and federal money, ACOA money, et cetera. When will this minister get this done and have the film sound stage in place so that we can get back to making movies here in Nova Scotia again?
MR. HARRISON: I don't know whether he is referring to Mr. Russell, the honourable member for Hants West, talking about that $22 scotch or not. The fact is, what we are talking about here is a needed piece of infrastructure and the comment as to how were the plans progressing. As I indicated earlier, before we would spend the kind of money we are talking about here, upwards of $2 million or in that vicinity, we would want to make sure there was a solid business case.
There is no question that there are many who would argue that the sound stage is a needed piece of infrastructure, that in order to attract incremental business in an industry that is burgeoning in the province, we need that, there is no question about that. We have to make sure that the due diligence that is necessary to ensure taxpayers get a return on investment for every cent that we invest in this province is part of our responsibility. So that is the process we are in now, a business case analysis. The announcement on Friday affects that, we will fold that into the decision-making and make the best decision for the film industry and for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary? No, all right.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of the Environment. The minister will know that the Colchester balefill facility is the first and only permitted second generation landfill in Nova Scotia. The minister is also aware, I am sure, that construction is presently underway on a material recovery facility at the Kemptown site as well. I wonder if the minister can tell us when he is going to select a site for the region that would include Colchester County for the regional processor for all recyclables? The material recovery facility that Colchester County is constructing is intended to incorporate a full beverage container redemption centre.
HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question because it is relevant and his point is made to this point. I want to commend him for that. He asked me when, for a specific date, and today I can't give him that date. But I will take it under advisement and inform him and the House very soon as to when that date will be.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I was hoping that the minister, in view of the fact that a deposit is going to be required when purchasing certain beverages, would have had a site selected by now, but it will be coming along very shortly, the minister tells us.
Now, I have also learned that there is a ban, Mr. Speaker, on scrap tires, scheduled to take effect on April 1st of this year, which isn't that far away. The final designation of a regional provincial site and, as I understand it, there will be one site selected for all of Nova Scotia and perhaps even Atlantic Canada relative to scrap tires and processing and reprocessing of scrap tires. I wonder if the minister can tell us if he has a short list of proponents or has he, in fact, named a site that will be the site for scrap tires and the processing of the tires?
MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, another good question. My department staff is working with one final proponent, if you will, in terms of how to handle scrap tires in the province. We are moving toward a date which will be in the very near future whereby we will see scrap tires from across the province collected, hopefully recycled into a value-added process for Nova Scotians.
MR. TAYLOR: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is a good job that this is called Question Period and not answer period but nonetheless I do appreciate where the minister is coming from. Some of these things do take a lot of time and, obviously, in this case I believe too much time, when you look at the fact that the ban is scheduled to take place on April 1st and there has been no site selected as of January 9th.
Mr. Speaker, Colchester County has been very proactive relative to waste management and waste management strategy and many of the initiatives that Colchester County has developed have preceded the province's waste management strategy. The county is also formulating a plan for management of household hazardous wastes.
MR. SPEAKER: Please come to the question.
MR. TAYLOR: Well, the question is this, the county is concerned that the province doesn't really have a precise and concise provincial strategy relative to household hazardous waste. Can the minister, perhaps, update the House when he will have a strategy relative to hazardous household waste?
MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the questions are very interesting. He starts off making some accusations about the lack of our provision of a tire facility and he gets into hazardous wastes. He did well at the start, but he blew it. He went on with some good positive points and then he came along and misinformed the House and the public by saying that we had no idea when we were going to be coming down with tire recycling. I told him that we were very close to some final deals with a finalist, among the many who applied for the facility.
We have one person in mind and we are dealing with that person, doing some final strokes, if you will, towards bringing about that facility that will recycle over a million tires from landfills across this province and it is a positive note. When we make the final decision we will announce it to this House so everybody will know where and when it is.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The minister will be aware that when the Pharmacare Program was originally set up, the premium portion of the program was based on the fiscal year, whereas the co-pay was based on the calendar year; that was the original way it was set up. Eventually, the minister changed that so that both the premium and the co-pay period terminated on March 31st. I was wondering if the minister could inform the House as to whether changing that termination point for co-pay from December 31st to March 31st has affected, well it would have affected the amount of funds that the Pharmacare Program has, will that necessitate a change either in the co-pay or a change in the premium in the next fiscal year.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable gentleman for the question. This was an issue that the Opposition raised some time ago in respect to the period of time, the 15 month versus 12 month and equalizing the dates. We have analyzed that, it certainly would be an amount. We just can't predict exactly an amount but we would not and do not anticipate it will change, in the future, the premium or the fiscal status of the plan.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that response. My second question though dovetails into the first one in reality because as I understand it the premium and the co-pay is based upon the usage of the system but also it must, to some extent, depend on the number of premium payers. My understanding from the document that was tabled this morning by the minister is that there are approximately 7,000 seniors who have either not been able to be contacted, have not joined, or have elected not to join, so there are about 7,000 who are no longer in the system. These 7,000 would be the ones, I would guess, who would be paying the $215 premium but not getting a rebate from the province. Will this change affect the co-pay program, the premium, or will the province kick in more than it has this fiscal year?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, there is one assumption that I think is rather tenuous on the part of the honourable member and that is that the 7,000 would be, in fact, receiving rebates or would be paying the total amount of premium. In terms of the randomization of this sample, if you would, it would probably equalize out and the amount of money, all of them would not necessarily be paying the full premium, so that is not quite accurate to say that. However, in terms of the 7,000 as a figure, that has been, in fact, entered into the formula that we have looked at for the setting of the premium and so on.
Keep in mind that despite the fact that those 7,000 are not in the program, the average amount of consumption in the province, of seniors, is about $600, meaning that if we have 7,000 who are not consuming that, despite the fact that they would not pay the premium of $200, we are still, in essence, several hundred thousand dollars to the good. In addition to that, the actual number of seniors served by the program is reduced by about 12,000 because of the federal payments. We are now the payer of last resort, so that is also an added insurance that we would not go over in terms of the amount of money we are paying out for the program.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I did follow what the minister had to say and although I don't entirely agree with him in that I think that the majority of these 7,000 are what you would want to have as preferred payers into the system, because of the fact that probably their take-out would be lower and also they would be a non-subsidized group.
My final supplementary to the minister is this, is the amount paid by the province of $45 million into the fund, is that number a solid number for years to come or is it predicated on what the profit/loss is of the total Pharmacare fund; in other words, does it fluctuate to take care of differences between the outgo and the income to the fund?
DR. STEWART: It is a requirement that we pay 50 per cent of the cost of the program. That is estimated to be $36 million up to, we have some estimates of $43 million if the fund would increase, if the Pharmacare Program increases in cost. We have had to be very careful in our estimates because, obviously, being a new program, we can't predict with accuracy some of the needs of the program. But that is a fixed amount and 50 per cent is the amount we need.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Labour. The minister announced, on September 1, 1995, extra resources allocated to the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board for the purpose of trying to resolve the excessive and problematic backlog of cases that had developed. I wonder, could the minister indicate here in this House what success the appeal board has had in resolving that said backlog?
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. I don't have the exact figures here for today but, as of last week, I believe there were still 105 that were outstanding, of the ones at the appeal board, and about 52 of those are ready to go for hearings. The other 50 or so, the legal people were not ready to bring the case in, or else they were still waiting for some outstanding medical evidence from doctors. So I think it has gone along well to this point. I would hope to have most of it that we can move ahead with cleared up by the end of the month, as we move out of that field into the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, part of the reason why the proclamation date for the new Act was put forward to February 1, 1996, was to give the appeal board the opportunity to deal with this backlog.
I want to bring to the minister's attention, something that I find somewhat troubling and that is the increasing number of cases that are coming to my attention that have been ruled on by this appeal board, decisions have been rendered, but the Workers' Compensation Board is failing to implement. We have just seen last week the case involving Ann Thompson, with respect to environmental illness, which went before the courts. In speaking with the workers' counsellor, the program, I understand there are another four definite and possibly another two more that are going to the courts, Mr. Speaker, and a number of other decisions outstanding that have not been implemented by the Workers' Compensation Board.
I would like to ask the minister, would he explain why it is that the Workers' Compensation Board is not carrying forward with the decisions of the appeal board? If he doesn't have that information at his fingertips today, perhaps he could provide that information to me and to the House at a later date?
MR. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, the Workers' Compensation Board is a board that is set up with both labour and management. I am only aware of the one case; I am not aware of the two possible, and the four, but I will certainly take your question as notice and see what I can find out with regard to those other questions that the honourable member has brought to my attention.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's response and commitment to provide an answer to that question.
I would say in my final supplementary that the concern by many is that in fact the Workers Compensation Act with respect to the granting of pensions, in particular, are waiting for the implementation, the proclamation of the new Act, which will have an impact on whether or not pensions will be granted. The fact remains that the appeal board, which the minister has strengthened with additional resources to provide an opportunity for them to make decisions, have rendered decisions.
I would ask the minister in his capacity as the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Act, to do whatever is in his power to ensure, in fact, that the sanctity and the integrity of the appeal board are maintained, at least until it goes by the wayside once the new legislation is brought in on February 1, 1996?
MR. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I believe the integrity of the board has been maintained. I will take it as notice, which I have indicated. I am only aware of one case. The honourable member has said there is a possibility of four others and I will certainly check into those four to see where they are at this stage.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Time's up. (Laughter)
MR. SPEAKER: You have two minutes remaining.
MR. ARCHIBALD: All right.
My question through you, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone really of Kings County industry. It is worth over $100 million at the farmgate, so I am deeply interested in the agricultural industry. The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture put out a press release a little while ago and they indicated in the press release that there was some question about who was making the real money in the beef industry. It was a question that many of the local farmers are wondering, as well. They were indicating that local dairy farmers are feeling the pinch as their retired cows are bringing 40 per cent less, bob calves are worth half the previous value that they were. The price of beef in Montreal at the wholesale level is declining; however, the retail price is increasing.
MR. SPEAKER: The amount of time available is declining, too. Please come to the question.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I had to put in the background so we know where we are going, Mr. Speaker.
Has the Minister of Agriculture met with the Federation of Agriculture to discuss the beef industry?
HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the point that he raises. In terms of the comparison between the farmgate prices and what consumers are paying, there is certainly a significant difference between both sets of prices. For the last couple of months there has been some work being done by the department to look at these price differences. I can inform the honourable member that we have had discussions with beef producers.
We are continuing to have meetings with beef producers and I actually have one scheduled to meet with the Southwest Nova Beef Producers Association. I know that the staff has met with some beef farmers in Pictou County. We certainly understand that the prices are low. Our department is presently looking at all options and we certainly will look in terms of providing some type of program in the next short while. We anticipate to have something probably by the end of this month, to help the beef producers of this province, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.
I neglected to advise the House before Question Period that the Clerk conducted a draw for the late show debate at 6:00 p.m. The winner this afternoon is the honourable member for Queens. He has submitted a resolution which reads:
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage the idea being resurrected by the Cape Breton County Development Authority to recruit retired expatriate Cape Bretoners back to the Island.
So we will hear that matter at 6:00 o'clock this afternoon.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Bring all the Acadians back from Louisiana for the opening of the Fleur-de-lis Trail, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
[1:35 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]
[6:00 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The draw was won by the honourable member for Queens.
[Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage the idea being resurrected by the Cape Breton County Development Authority to recruit retired expatriate Cape Bretoners back to the Island.]
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of the member for Queens who has allowed me to take this topic today. What I want to speak about this evening is a little bit unusual in the fact that so often in the Chamber we are critical of one another. We are critical of things that happened in the past and we are even critical of things that might happen in the future.
One of the things that I was doing over the weekend was reading my newspapers as I am sure you were as well. One of the articles that I saw in the Chronicle-Herald was the heading, "Expatriate Cape Bretoners will be wooed home.". I also saw on the television news, an interview with a couple that were moving back to Cape Breton after they retired. After reading the article in the paper and watching it on television and the news, I thought, my gracious. I think that the Cape Breton County Development Authority deserves the congratulations of Nova Scotians and members of this Assembly and certainly our caucus because they have hit upon an economic development tool that may have been overlooked for some time.
For years we, in Kings County, have known the value and the benefit of retirees moving to the community because the Annapolis Valley for so long has been an area of retirement choice for military personnel from the air force, from the banking community, people who have worked in the Valley and they want to return. We see many hundreds each year coming back to spend their retirement years.
So I was reading, Eileen Oldford is the Executive Director for the Cape Breton County Development Authority and she indicated that they wanted to focus on inexpensive housing and the amenities available in Cape Breton. This is just tremendous because people want to live their retirement years in an area that is pleasant, but still it has the services that they demand. Think of the services that are available in Cape Breton, the post high school education facilities. There is the scenery, golfing, skiing both water, cross-country, downhill. We have to look at retirees, not as old people with a walking stick, but we look at retirees today as active and that is what creates a whole new vibrant industry.
It is a good idea to remind Cape Bretoners it is time to come home, bring your pension cheque with you. That is the bottom line truly and it is not callous. It is not hard-hearted. It is reality. People on a pension have a fixed income. They are not going to be fired. It is a steady income and in many cases it is a good income. Those people can pay bills, those people can employ, those people are going to be spending and creating a greater input into the economy than many people who even are working today.
Cape Breton is famous. It is truly the heart and the soul of Scottish tradition. Cape Breton is known, if I say the names Rita, Ashley, Natalie, the Rankins, right across this whole country of ours and indeed into the United States, people have heard of the famous musical talents of our Cape Bretoners. Opportunity is knocking on the door and Cape Bretoners are saying come on back, come on home.
Retirees are returning and they are bringing their cheques. This will work. I know it will work because I was reading a little while ago about Elliot Lake. Elliot Lake, you all remember, is famous because of the uranium nines. In 1990 Elliot Lake was told, we are closing three of the five mines. In 1992 they were told, we are closing the other two as well, putting 50 per cent of the work force out of work, 75 per cent of the work force out of work when they closed the other two, 86 per cent of the income gone. Well, suddenly the people in Elliot Lake said, look, we have to do better. Retirement living became the buzz-word and the catchphrase.
I do not want to confuse the issue, Mr. Speaker, because of the terrible news that we heard earlier today about the Devco closure. I had chosen this topic for debate prior to and I do not want to draw any relationship between the Elliot Lake mines and Devco. I do want to draw the parallel with Elliot Lake and what they have done. The circumstances are a little different. There was a great deal of housing available from the mine companies that came on the market. There were living quarters and so on, but there the similarity ends. Truly, if they can attract 3,000 people a year to move to Elliot Lake, can you imagine how many we can attract to come back to Cape Breton?
There is a list of over 200,000 Cape Bretoners that have moved away. I cannot think of one of them that would say, look I really do not want to come back. I think that there are 200,000 that would like to come and retire in Cape Breton. You just have to plant the seed in their mind and remind them how great it really and truly is to be a Cape Bretoner and to live there.
The provincial government in Ontario helped Elliot Lake with some housing grants. The mining companies hopped in as well and over 3,000 are arriving in Elliot Lake. The biggest beneficiaries in retail are the hardware store, the furniture store, the fashion shops with clothing and the drug stores. Over $30 million has been injected into Elliot Lake since they have suddenly said, look, let us bring the pensioners, let us bring the retirees back to Elliot Lake; $30 million, what a great industry. I know that if the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency could announce that he has a $30 million industry coming to an area, he would get headlines in the paper, but very quietly, very delicately this is what is going to happen in Cape Breton, because there are going to be thousands of Cape Bretoners that are going to want to come home for the golf, for the skiing, for the outdoor activities. Sailing on Canada's most beautiful cruising grounds, the Bras d'Or Lakes, noted around the world as being in the top seven cruising areas in the world. I mean, not just in Canada, in the world. Great fishing. Sport fishing has been famous in Cape Breton longer than you and I both have been alive, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: That is a long time.
MR. ARCHIBALD: We have an opportunity. We have the service clubs, we have the churches. We are fortunate that the Cape Breton County Development Authority has decided to target retirees to come and fill the void and to help create a more viable economic development for the future of Cape Breton. Thank you for the few minutes, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening and join in the debate on the resolution presented here this evening: Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage the idea being resurrected by the Cape Breton County Development Authority to recruit retired, expatriate Cape Bretoners back to the Island. I want to thank the honourable member for Kings North for his remarks and suggest to him that it is evident that he does have strong Cape Breton roots. I know that he is sincere in what he has said here this evening about people coming back to Cape Breton Island.
The idea, Mr. Speaker, is not new nor is it unique. Various plans have been put forward over the recent years in this regard by Community Futures, by the Cape Bretoner newspaper in the past couple of years headed by Kenzie MacNeil who is a very strong supporter of this particular initiative. Father Greg MacLeod has made reference to it in the past number of years as an economist catalyst and it has also been touched upon by municipalities and tourist organizations alike. It became one of the key recommendations of the future economic strategy for Cape Breton County and that has given this project the priority and indeed a life of its own. It is doable.
Mr. Speaker, this project has enormous potential for the Cape Breton area. The Cape Breton County Development Authority should be congratulated for taking this initiative to put this project to work and it will work. I have seen evidence that former Cape Bretoners are returning in the past few years and a planned program to inform and recruit expatriate Cape Bretoners will only enhance this welcome development greatly. What are the benefits? The benefits are many. First of all, Cape Bretoners, I know, who have lived away from our Island, would like to have an excuse to come back to live in Cape Breton. A planned recruitment program might be the catalyst that decides the issue for some of these people.
An example I could give you, Mr. Speaker, is a close friend of mine who left Sydney some 30 years ago to work in the automotive industry and ended up in northern British Columbia, of all places, 300 miles north of Vancouver. He took advantage of an early retirement program a couple of years ago and decided to return home to Cape Breton, packed up his wife and two children and drove across the country to come home to Sydney. He had sold his property in northern British Columbia and received a good return on his money, decided he would take that money and whatever other assets he had, and come home to Cape Breton. He was pleasantly surprised to find out that when he arrived in Sydney he could purchase a home for one-third of the cost of a comparable property that he had purchased in northern B.C. Heaven knows what the cost would be if you were equalizing it to a property in Toronto, for example. But anyway, he purchased a home at a very reasonable price, close to Sydney and has settled down there and is using the facilities. He has a good retirement income and people in our community are benefitting from the fact that he has relocated here in his retirement.
Many Cape Bretoners, I know, are waiting for their retirement and an opportunity to come home. As I mentioned, there are many advantages. Many Cape Bretoners want to be reunited with their close family members who are still living in Cape Breton and also the extended family. I think that is always important to people who have been away for a number of years; they like to get back into the area where they have close associations and to literally get back into the family mode in our particular area of what they were used to, prior to leaving Cape Breton for work.
The other big plus is affordable housing. The housing stock in Cape Breton County is excellent and it is reasonably priced. People will come home to be able to purchase properties at very affordable pricing and they know that. It has been told to them and the kind of initiative that is coming out now is even making this information more readily available. Real estate salesmen are starting to get involved in informing people directly, sometimes by direct subscription or, in some cases, phone calls to these people saying we can get you a property at a third of the cost you might pay for in the present area you are living. Reasonable cost of living. Cape Breton's cost of living in a number of areas is much more realistic to their needs than they are presently paying in some areas of Canada, particularly in Ontario, and in some cases, the western parts of Canada, as well.
Another thing, Mr. Speaker, are the amenities that Cape Breton offers. The previous speaker alluded to, for example the golf situation on Cape Breton Island now is steadily improving and, you know, people who retire like to take up leisure activities such as golf, swimming, skiing in the winter time, and to be able to take advantage of the numerous club activities that are in the Sydney area for senior citizens. But I refer specifically to the vast improvements that are underway now in the provision of golf facilities on Cape Breton Island, as well as the skiing facilities that have meant so much to the economy of Cape Breton in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
As the member for Kings North mentioned earlier, the Bras d'Or Lakes are a mecca that most places in the world would love to have, and we have the Bras d'Or Lakes in Cape Breton Island and expatriate Cape Bretoners will be able to enjoy the scenery along the Bras d'Or Lakes and also to enjoy the amenities of the Bras d'Or Lakes, sometimes only within 10 to 15 minutes of the greater Sydney area.
We also have the Mira area. We have a new regional hospital in the Cape Breton area which will be giving them a measure of comfort if they do decide to come back and relocate in Cape Breton. We have, also, up-to-date entertainment facilities such as Centre 200. We also have, by national standards - by anybody's standards in Canada - a low crime rate in comparison to other urban areas. Those are some of the things that expatriate Cape Bretons will be looking for when they decide to relocate to the Sydney area.
The advantages to our area, never mind the advantages to the people who might want to come home, but the advantages to the people who are there, who are waiting for them to come home, is the purchasing power that they will bring with them, the disposable income that they will bring with them as a result of having wisely invested, perhaps, in their lives or the fact that they no longer have to provide for children, they no longer have to provide for education costs, for mortgages or that type of thing. Their disposable income has risen and, as a result, small business people in the Cape Breton area would benefit from that.
I think another thing that we should not underestimate is the vast experience that these people will bring back to Cape Breton and the benefits that will accrue to real estate people and small businesses who do business in the commercial sector on a daily basis. All of these things will have an important impact on the future economy of the Cape Breton area.
The member for Kings North was absolutely right. There are over 200,000 ex-Cape Bretoners out in the world, from away. I class "from away" as anything west of the Canso Causeway, so there are in excess of 200,000 from away who, I know, would dearly love to get back to industrial Cape Breton and to Cape Breton Island itself. There are some from the Port Hawkesbury area, Richmond, Inverness, Victoria Counties, who, for one reason or another, had to leave in the past for work, and those counties will reap the benefits of those people coming home as well.
Cape Bretoners have had a habit over the years of coming home for regular vacations, Mr. Speaker. You know that and everybody who is from Cape Breton knows that your relatives are coming, usually in July or August, for a couple of weeks and they do come. They always say that the next time they come, they are staying. I can tell you that with the initiatives that are being put in place, I think that is going to be more evident than ever in the future.
I am pleased that the authority is making it easier for these people to make up their minds to come back to Cape Breton to live, and the economic impact of such a move in our area should be nothing short of phenomenal in the future. It is something, Mr. Speaker, that I said before is doable. It is a project that is considered a priority by the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority, and it is a project that I think its time has come.
Elliot Lake was an example that was mentioned by the member for Kings North earlier; a good example. There are some other examples in North America of communities that have gone out and tried to attract their people back to their particular areas in their retirement age. In the 1990's, we are not talking about people in their 70's and 80's now, we are talking about people in their early 50's, late 50's and early 60's, people who are still in relatively good health, who can take advantage of the many amenities that we have to offer in Cape Breton and can also contribute to the social and economic life for our particular area. Some of these people will, I think, contribute greatly to the future development of Cape Breton and we would certainly welcome them when they decide to come home. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this resolution about bringing Cape Bretoners home. I think the first thing that needs to be said is that I don't know anybody, any Maritimer who has ever left who had to be reminded about coming back home. In fact, anybody that I know or anybody I have ever talked to, that is all they think about, no matter now long they have been away, is thinking about coming home, about returning to their roots, returning to the peace and tranquillity and beauty and the important cultural history that we have in the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't think that is something we have to remind people about whatsoever.
As the earlier speakers indicated, when anybody goes away, you and I and all of us here in this Legislature know what it is like when they come back to visit. Generally it is on an annual basis and people are always looking for ways to get back to Nova Scotia.
We have had a long history, unfortunately, at least over the past 50 years, of people going down the road. It has been estimated that there are now, in terms of Cape Breton, 200,000 Cape Bretoners who are living in other parts of the country, other parts of North America. People who have gone down the road have determined that for them to make their way in the world, make their way to earn a living, to meet the challenges that they wanted for themselves, that they had to leave home and go elsewhere. Never does a Nova Scotian, a Cape Bretoner or a Maritimer ever lose that burning sensation in the pit of their stomach for home, for Nova Scotia, for Cape Breton, for the Maritimes.
I wholeheartedly support the idea that has been talked about for several years now and certainly has been put to paper by the Cape Breton County Development Authority in its report presented to the community, I believe, in the fall of 1994, where they talked about the whole question of retirement location. They did that in their definition of areas that they could promote to generate the economy of Cape Breton, they called them clusters. One of them, Mr. Speaker, had to do with tourism, heritage and lifestyle. They said that within that cluster that there was a real potential, in terms of relocating people who were either about to retire or who were in their retirement years. The estimates made by the Cape Breton County Development Authority was that just 20 retired couples would have a direct contribution of $840,000, with spinoffs in real estate development, services and health care. That is an extremely important contribution that those people could make.
I think there are some things that we need to do in this province, other than simply putting out the welcome mat. I think that again expatriates know that they are always welcome at home. What we have to do is try to make it as attractive as we possibly can, going beyond the obvious, going beyond the wonderful beauty of the Cabot Trail, of Baie St. Lawrence, of Cheticamp, of the Bras d'Or Lakes, of the wonderful lifestyle that can be enjoyed by people in Cape Breton. You have to go beyond that a bit, I think, and look at what it is that people in their retirement years require in order to be comfortable, in order to feel secure, in order to feel satisfied; not only access to those amenities, to those leisure activities, to that lifestyle that would occupy their time and make them contented but also, Mr. Speaker, the question of affordable housing stock that was mentioned by an earlier speaker.
I think that we need to ensure that there are appropriate investment vehicles available for people who are retiring, some of those who have disposable income to invest. Father Greg MacLeod, among others, has often talked about the need for the government to bring forward legislation to provide for investment vehicles in the community so that people who have disposable income can contribute to businesses in their community development, non-profit type businesses, many of them, including co-ops, that have existed in communities like Sydney for 25 and 30 years who have a very credible and stable history and would be a good investment opportunity. There needs to be the incentive that is also there with respect to RRSPs and that is provided for investment in private business. That kind of opportunity, I think, would be of interest and would be attractive.
We also, I think, have to ensure that the services that people near retirement ages require are in place and I talk primarily about health services. There are many people and I have talked to many people in Cape Breton and elsewhere who are concerned about some of the changes that are being made in the province, are concerned about the fact that in some communities there are no physicians available, that no longer are the hospitals there that they could normally have depended upon and they are feeling somewhat less secure with being 25, 30 and 40 miles away from a medical facility without there being a physician in place. I think that whether we believe that is right or wrong, we have to recognize that those are legitimate concerns that people who have reached retirement age would have and do have.
I have heard and you have heard, undoubtedly, Mr. Speaker, from a number of seniors across this province who have already moved to communities like Pugwash and elsewhere, where hospitals have been shut down. They are concerned that the medical services that they require and that they may require are not available. I think we have to recognize the fact that those kinds of services have to be in place, that people are making decisions on whether to relocate or not on the basis of not simply the environment, not simply on family, not simply on culture, but on the services that will be in place in order to ensure that they are able to live out their retirement years in a safe, healthy and happy fashion.
I think that the province can perhaps assist the Cape Breton County Development Authority and others as they pursue this plan to try to bring expatriate Cape Bretoners back to the Island, by not only doing up the glossy brochures that basically are redundant; they tell people who have been born and raised here how beautiful it is, they know that, let's not waste our money on that. Let's spend our time and resources in ensuring that those people who we want to come back will come back feeling that their needs are being met, that services are available for them, that they will have the opportunity not only to have access to recreational opportunities but also to the life-maintaining services that are so important to you and I and so important to people in their retirement years.
Let me say on behalf of our caucus that I am very much in support of this plan, of the strategy by the Cape Breton County Development Authority and will encourage and have encouraged and will continue to encourage the Government of Nova Scotia to assist that plan as it begins to develop into something real and tangible. Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in this debate.
MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the Adjournment debate has expired. The House will now revert to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.
[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Acting Deputy Speaker Alan Mitchell in the Chair.]
[7:09 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]
MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:
THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bills:
Bill No. 40 - Expropriation Act.
Bill No. 53 - Marketable Titles Act.
Bill No. 59 - Medical Act.
and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each with certain amendments.
Also, Mr. Speaker, the committee has met and considered the following bills:
Bill No. 48 - Provincial Berry Act.
Bill No. 54 - Cosmetology Act.
Bill No. 57 - Medical Society Act.
Bill No. 65 - Workers' Compensation Act.
Bill No. 52 - Barristers and Solicitors Act/Cape Breton Barristers' Society Act.
and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read for a third time on a future day.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could get consent of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Premier.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I am on my feet as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments to report two bills but before I do so I want to thank all honourable members of the House who served time this session both spring and fall/winter on this committee. In the fall session alone we had hearings involving at least 300 individuals and groups who came before our committee to express their views on various bills. I want to thank all honourable members of all three Parties who spent a great deal of time, thank you very much. (Applause) I think we all benefitted from the people who took the time to come to the committee and from the members who sat in and listened and reported these bills.
Finally, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:
Bill No. 58 - Medical Professional Corporations Act.
Bill No. 66 - Public Service Superannuation Act.
and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.
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. 47.
Bill No. 47 - Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading of this bill.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, in speaking on third reading of Bill No. 47 to amalgamate the Victoria General Hospital and the Camp Hill Medical Centre, the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre and the Cancer Treatment Centre, I want to say that I listened as the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee reported back and I appreciate him indicating the support that the members gave him and his committee. The problem, Mr. Speaker, is Bill No. 47 was one that we did have a large number of presentations on.
The difficulty that I am having is that most of those that came before the Law Amendments Committee had asked for some amendments to Bill No. 47 which the government did not approve. I guess the point I am making, of 300 presentations overall, probably well over 280 or a very large percentage asked for some change in a particular piece of legislation. Even though they were heard they were not listened to because the changes did not come forward and Bill No. 47 is no different.
With Bill No. 47, we had nurses, dietary staff, technicians, cleaners, electricians, we had many of those individuals who are so dedicated to run our health care system and to work at the Victoria General Hospital, come forward asking for some amendments that they wanted enshrined in this bill to make sure that, Mr. Speaker, they were protected all through this process. Even though they have not had an agreement with the new QE II board on some issues that had agreement with that board, they know that legislation overrides any side agreements. They were saying if the government was really committed then those things that were put in that agreement would be in this legislation.
The government disappointed them, each and every one of those workers, disappointed the union and disappointed all of us in not accepting one of those recommendations that came forward. Every one of those members talked about what would happen when we have this amalgamation. Every one of those health care workers talked about the sacrifices that they have made in the last number of years to try to give the people of this province an excellent service. Every one of those people talked about the dedication that they and their professional colleagues had in making sure that Nova Scotians received the best of care when they went to those institutions. Whether it was the NSGEU or the Nurses' Uunion, every one of them agreed that some clauses of this bill should be amended. There is even one clause on seniority that was amended incorrectly, that the government failed to correct when we were in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, one that they have a lot of concern with because they feel that the security and the time that they spent with government prior to their count time at the VG Hospital now no longer counts. So there is great concern. I asked the government and pleaded with the government and I talked to the union members who felt that the government would at least correct that amendment that they made that in actual fact is going to hurt their seniority.
Did the government offer to do that? No, they talked out the bill and said, we don't have time. We offered them free time in Opposition Day last Wednesday if they wanted to go in and we would limit the time and we would even only make that correction, if that was all that was achieved. Again the workers didn't count. Again the workers were pushed aside. They said, we know what is best for you as workers and you are not going to have any say in what kind of amendments we put forward.
So the workers have not really been listened to by this government and the workers who are most affected by this legislation have not had a real voice. Maybe there were some people at the higher level who had some input but I can tell you that the workers I listened to, and I sat there day after day as they came before the Law Amendments Committee, some of them in tears because they feared for their jobs and they know that through this legislation we are going to have a reduction in the number of employees working at those institutions. They recognize that but all they were asking for, Mr. Speaker, was fairness in deciding how all this would be worked through.
I don't think fairness is too much to ask for. I think if we are going to make changes, that we have to recognize that those who are affected most by the change at least are treated in a manner that their voices are heard. Some people who came before the Law Amendments Committee said that they didn't understand sometimes the legal terminology but they could read. They couldn't understand why the terminology couldn't be so that lay people could understand that it means what everybody says it means and in actual fact that they did have the kind of protection that they should have.
So as we move to our last reading of Bill No. 47, there are a couple of things that bother me. The one about the employees bothers me a great deal. I don't think this Legislature is showing the respect for those workers that we should have shown, in that surely all of those workers who came here with all of those concerns were all informed. I know that is not true. Many of them left situations and drove for miles and came here, found time, did shift work, some people came with very little rest because they felt it was so important and an opportunity for them to indicate to the government and to members of this Legislature some of the changes that they wanted to happen.
I had a real feeling for those people, Mr. Speaker, a feeling that they were dedicated to health care, were dedicated to reform, were dedicated to changes in the health care system. But they are feeling pretty lonely. As workers they are feeling pretty lonely because they don't feel that the government really has any feel for them or has any time to take for them to have an opportunity to be part of that overall change that is so important. So it is for the workers that I stand here tonight and plead with this government to at some point try to ensure fairness as this amalgamation takes place.
The other issue is the cost. No one has been able to come up with any figures, Mr. Speaker, to tell us in actual fact, through any particular study, that this cost will actually save the taxpayers money. I guess, if we look at duplication, we know that there is no duplication at the Rehab or Cancer Treatment Centres, but someone said all the savings will come in administration. What about the costs of downsizing? What about the costs of renovations and changes that have to occur? I do not disagree that we have to plan for the future and maybe there are some advantages, and the one advantage that we seem to always come back to is to have one out-patients in downtown Halifax, one emergency centre. That makes a lot of sense and, I think if it is done correctly, it can fill the need.
Does that mean we have to upset all these people in order to do that? There are a lot of unanswered questions with regard to this legislation. I have not been able to figure out that they are going through this now, they are going to be working for a QE II board that reports to the Minister of Health or the regional health board, where the other group, with regard to the regional health board, will eventually, these people end up employees of the regional health board. Where do they fit with regard to seniority with those nurses and other health care workers at say, for instance, Dartmouth and any other institution, the Nova Scotia Hospital and others that comes in and whether or not it is the IWK or whether it is the Grace that are going together, how is all of this going to fit with regard to the regional health board?
The minister might say this is tertiary care and I agree this is tertiary care, so it has to be treated a little differently and I acknowledge that; I do not disagree with the minister when he makes that statement. What I have not been able to find out is that even though it is tertiary care, how all of this fits together with, like who is running the ship eventually? How are the dollars going to be allocated? As we know, in the regions, the regional health boards are going to decide the amount of money. We also know that these institutions are tertiary care, but we also know that between the VG and Camp Hill, they will be taking care of some of the other needs in this area. In other words, it is not going to be totally tertiary care.
How is all of this going to shake down? There are many unanswered questions. One thing that I think was disappointing was the fact that the government announced this over a year and one-half ago. Over a year and one-half ago there was some planning by the administrations of these centres and one administrator was chosen. There was a lot of other work not done, the cost-analysis, cost-effectiveness was one of them. There are issues in this bill about the future of pay equity and one has to wonder whether this government is committed to pay equity in the QE II Health Sciences Centre under the pay equity legislation or not; any amendments that were put forward would lead one to believe that this government does not support pay equity down the road.
Those kinds of questions, if we are really committed, could have been enshrined in this legislation so that we would have known that this government recognizes pay equity and recognizes the importance of pay equity down the road and in the future for as many people as possible. That did not happen, so the question of pay equity and the commitment to pay equity for these employees that are not now receiving pay equity is not known. As a matter of fact, there is no commitment; either you are already receiving it and you will be working along side somebody receiving it and you will be doing the same job and you will not get pay equity.
Why not make the commitment that, as we move down the road, this legislation would come under the pay equity legislation if we really believe that that is what we want to happen.
So as we move along with this, not a lot was talked about regarding patient care. I think that we are going to end up, as I understand it, with some reduction obviously of staff and of beds. I know the minister will argue, and rightly so, that beds do not equate to quality health care and I acknowledge that. But given the fact that this is a tertiary centre and given the fact that x number of beds are needed, and I know how difficult it is because I have known of patients who have had to stay in the Valley Regional Hospital and the doctor says if you don't stay there I can't get you into the bed because if you are at home the urgency won't be seen as the same and you are going to wait longer. I have known that to happen. There we are, taking up a bed at the regional hospital that we would not have to take up if the person could have gotten in when they needed to get in, get treated and get out that that should happen.
So as we look at the amalgamation, and where, as the budgets are split, the emphasis is going to be; when we had the cancer treatment centre the cancer treatment centre itself got a budget. Now it is going to be lost in all of the budgets. Will it have the same priority that it has now in itself, or the rehabilitation centre? These are areas where there is no duplication in other institutions.
So we have to ask ourselves, as we sort of go through this legislation, why the government wasn't willing to make some changes to better serve. I guess, Mr. Speaker, it is not that I am opposed to the bill and the basic principle of where the minister is going, not at all. The difficulty I am having is that I may have to vote against the bill not because the principle isn't right but because the protection for workers and pay equity and all those things that I see as being so important are not addressed in the legislation. What they have done is actually attacked these areas with the legislation.
The patient itself and the health care itself, it is difficult to find or to note where it says in actual fact that is the end result, but I think that is the end result we are all trying to achieve. We are trying to achieve a better quality of health care. I have to tell you I couldn't argue the quality of care at the VG Hospital at the present time; I couldn't argue against the quality of care at Camp Hill, the Cancer Treatment or the Rehab; excellent people, the staff are dedicated, the staff are what make it work.
You know when you are going to do an amalgamation and you want it to work, wouldn't you think you would want staff on side? They are the important people in this whole process. If they are involved and happy in their work place, they will do even better. But when they are in their work place and they are grumbling and growling about the way things are being done, it is difficult for them to do it in the same cheery way as if they were part of, and had an understanding of, what is being done.
I know we came close to having a strike. It wasn't this government that stopped that, it was the Board of the QE II Health Sciences Centre that had the foresight to say we have to sit down with these people, these workers, and draw up some agreement where rationale will prevail. So they did, but the workers have asked the government to go another step. I, for the life of me, have not been able to figure out why not. I know those workers will remember coming to the Law Amendments Committee for the rest of their lives. They will remember their presentation, they will remember what happened as they made their presentation to the committee and watched this government dealing with their concerns. It is an experience that not a lot of people have.
Now there were a few people who were before the Law Amendments Committee before but the largest portion of those workers who came here probably had never been in the building, let alone appeared before the Law Amendments Committee. They were genuine, they really believed in the cause and the reason that they were appearing before the Law Amendments Committee.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the results have been devastating to them. They have been devastated, but neither the Minister of Health or the Minister of Human Resources showed the kind of leadership to take up their cause. I think they have been disappointed, even though the crisis has passed and the bill will pass because the government has the majority. They will never forget that experience and they will never forget the non-commitment of this government to the health care workers of this province. I think that is what this issue is all about. It is about fairness. It is about treating people in a manner with respect and allowing them to be part of change.
Mr. Speaker, it is sad because it could have been done differently. There was an opportunity for the government to listen. There was an opportunity for government to allow these workers to be part of change and part of this merger and allow them to say, with government, we are so proud that we have gone with a merger and are so proud that we will be able to plan together for the patients that we will see and so proud that we are making a difference in the kind of health reform and the cost-cutting measures that Nova Scotians want, but we are making it together and we are going to assure Nova Scotians that the health care they receive is still top notch and we have been part of it. Wouldn't that have been a great day when I could say that that actually happened on behalf of the workers of this province. It is unfortunate that did not come to pass. But, unfortunately, as the union and its workers, time after time, asked small favours from this government, they were totally denied.
I, obviously, Mr. Speaker, will have to vote against the bill, not because of the principle of the bill to amalgamate, but because government did not listen to the workers, did not allow the workers to be part of this bill and part of the changes that should have occurred. It is a sad day when we have a basic principle of a bill, but yet we are not allowing those that have to make it work the opportunity to be part of those changes and really not only heard but listened to as we move on.
So, Mr. Speaker, you can probably guess, as we move third reading of this bill, I will have to vote against the bill, unless the government does make some of those changes. Then I would support the bill. But in the present state of the bill, I find it very difficult to support and very difficult to understand the rationale of why some of those small amendments were not accepted by the government.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the right to stand and speak in this House and to address a few comments relative to the bill that is before us, but I cannot say that I am pleased to be debating on the bill that is before us in its current form. I would far prefer to be standing up and saying that I am able to support the bill because the government was, in fact, willing to listen. That the government was, in fact, willing to put its ego aside and to make the reasonable, responsible amendments to the bill that would have been respectful of those workers who have provided and continue to provide such excellent health care for the people of this province, but also provide amendments to the bill to bring it in line with the agreement that they themselves, by way of side agreement, were prepared to endorse. But I guess it is some of this macho image that they are not able to change or allow themselves to be seen because it must be a sign of weakness if we will amend our bill and make our bill actually reflective of the side deals that we are willing to support.
What a phoney message, Mr. Speaker. What poor excuse can the government provide for that kind of action. This bill, yes, was introduced by the Minister of Health. But, quite frankly, throughout the whole process, all of the discussions, all of the debates, it was not the Minister of Health that was speaking for the government and, quite honestly, it was not the Minister of Health who was making all of the denials and all of the accusations. One would have believed, if you were an observer, if you had not read the name on the bill, that it was the Minister of Human Resources who introduced this bill and was sponsoring it because he was the spokesperson for the government.
When concerns were raised in this bill about what was happening and what was being done, people were told and the representatives of the workers were told, no we will not meet with you, no, we will not talk with you because the proper way to make amendments and changes is down the hall at the Law Amendments Committee. Bring your concerns there, we will be open, we will listen, we will make changes. Those workers took the government at their word and they came, hundreds of workers came. Workers, many of whom, as previous speakers have said, were unfamiliar with being in this House let alone making presentations before committees of this House, many members who were very nervous, but, Mr. Speaker, they came because, not just out of self-interest, but because they wanted, they needed, they felt the desire, the burning need to express their concern for what they saw happening to health care in the Province of Nova Scotia and what they saw happening to the patients, to the clients, to those who they serve in our great world-class institutions, medical facilities that are being merged.
They came and they talked about patient care and their concerns for the patients and what is happening. Mr. Speaker, we had members who appeared before the Law Amendments Committee, both men and women who were so emotional that they actually broke into tears. These people have every bit as much, I would suggest, and much more commitment to providing top notch quality health care to the people of this province than any member of this House. They were told come to the Law Amendments Committee and we will listen to your concerns. We will hear your concerns and we will be willing to amend and adjust the bill to make it fair. These are workers who have seen their work loads increase, the work force reduced, them being devalued by wages being cut back, knowing that over their heads are hanging hundreds of layoffs which will make the work load that much heavier, knowing that they are unable to spend the time with patients who need some time for counselling, for some explanation, for some of that one-on-one caring. They know that they cannot do it and it is gut-wrenching to them because they are concerned about the health care that they are providing to their patients.
Then, on top of all of that which they are being asked to do, this government is not even prepared to listen to what their concerns are and to sit down with them in a respectful, give and take way. Mr. Speaker, they have had it. You can push people so far and then they will push back. We were that close to having a strike and there was absolutely no need for that. Why do we have to always go and treat and deal with employees on the basis of confrontation? Why can't we show some mutual respect? Why can't we sit down and recognize that sometimes face to face discussions, honestly listening to what people are having to say, is the best way to resolve issues and disputes between them? To work out collectively, together, compromises that are aimed at achieving that which both sides want, and that is top notch, top quality health care for the patients at these hospitals.
But, Mr. Speaker, told to come to the Law Amendments Committee, and the government was unwilling to sit down and negotiate and discuss because the Minister of Human Resources said no, we won't do that as long as there are any threats that there might possibly be a strike. Then after the Law Amendments Committee, when we find out, thank Heavens that there are members on that Board of the new QE II Health Sciences Centre who are responsible, who are prepared and were prepared to listen, look, examine and say, yes, we do have a problem here and no we don't want an unnecessary strike and yes, we are indeed interested in wanting to be respectful to our employees because we care about health care and we care about those employees.
No credit to this government or any of the 40 members of this House, and I would say, especially to the Minister of Human Resources; no credit to them. That board recognized there was a difficulty and sat down with those workers and entered into memoranda of agreement to try to resolve, to try to provide the kind of assurances that they saw were needed, but that this government and the members of this government were too pigheaded, to egocentric to admit was wrong. Instead we were told in here, just look at the Act; anybody with a Grade 2 education can read that and understand that there are no problems at all. The concerns are addressed. That is what I was told by the Minister of Human Resources in this House. Well, Mr. Speaker, people far more learned than I in the law and in labour law, saw obviously that there was a problem. Those people are to be congratulated and thanked for their willingness to work long and hard to try to get a resolve.
Mr. Speaker, to get increased assurances, this government that said that there were no problems, this government that said somebody with a Grade 2 education, which is an insult in itself, could read and understand that there are no problems, they signed on. They signed on to support and endorse. But, to give greater security, greater insurance, because legislation overrides memoranda of agreement any time, . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: That is a fact of law.
MR. HOLM: . . . that is a fact of law, when asked, will you amend the legislation to bring it in line with what you promised in that agreement, which you signed, the government said, no. I guess that would be seen to make them look weak. It might be seen as an admission that maybe we weren't 100 per cent right. Therefore our egos won't let us amend the legislation to bring it in line with those agreements.
Mr. Speaker, that is not how good legislation is made. That is not how good labour relations in this province are made. These men and women - and I am one who has personally benefited from the fantastic care - and I am not just talking about hands-on technical skills, but I am talking about the interpersonal, the human relations and so on, the total care that I received at the Victoria General Hospital. Mr. Speaker, those workers deserved better than this. Those workers deserved to at least have been heard.
Mr. Speaker, some mention has already also been made about pay equity. That is another fundamental principle that I find great difficulty with being ignored in this bill. Pay equity was introduced supposedly on the basis that governments do not support and do not believe in discrimination based on gender, based on sex. It was introduced supposedly to correct those injustices that have been identified or could be identified in work groups of 10 or more, to provide justice and redress.
When this Liberal Government was in Opposition joined members of our caucus in opposition, calling for amendments to the Pay Equity Act that the former government introduced because they said, like we did, that it didn't go far enough, that there were problems with the groupings of 10 and that you should be looking at the jobs in terms of a position, not necessarily as a group and that if somebody is being discriminated against in terms of wages, if they are in a work group of 7 or 8 or 5 or 15, discrimination should not be allowed, should not be tolerated on the basis of gender, in terms of pay.
When in Opposition this government even promised that they were going to be introducing amendments that would require that those businesses doing business with the Government of Nova Scotia would have to follow acceptable policies on pay equity and equity hiring.
I have asked questions of the present and the former Ministers of Human Resources and Supply and Services to see where that has gone and it has gone nowhere. Here we have a bill now which is hiving off to establish a separate corporation and this bill is not going to provide pay equity to those employees.
Now yes, you can argue that it is true that those who had already received adjustments will not lose them and that is correct, so that those workers at certain hospitals, like the VG Hospital, which had received pay equity adjustments and had the discrimination based on sex that they had suffered before addressed so that they received fair compensation now, they will get to keep it. But the employees in the other institutions with which they are merging who didn't qualify for it before, not because they may not have been discriminated against or not have been receiving fair pay, but that they didn't have 10 people, 10 women in their dominant work group; only on the basis of how many employees were involved they have been denied.
Now we have a situation where we have the two groups working together, that pay equity is not going to apply so that under pay equity those who had not received it before now cannot be brought up. The only way it will now be able to be addressed is through contract negotiations, but not on the basis of pay equity. So what you are now going to be looking at whenever the freeze comes off, and of course if the government keeps giving away special benefits, in the way of tax breaks, to other professionals, there may never be that money, they don't have the money to ensure that pay equity is applied equitably to all those employees, but they have money to give tax breaks to doctors and lawyers.
Not too long ago, Mr. Speaker, on another bill, I said that that would be coming back to be used against the government because there would be example after example of where it is relevant. Well here, certainly, is one situation where it is relevant.
Mr. Speaker, I think I honestly do believe that the Minister of Health himself does have genuine concern for those employees. I would like to think, quite honestly, that he does. But this bill I really quite honestly do not think, by and large, is a Minister of Health bill, not certainly in a lot of the other elements of it. In this bill one of the primary objectives is to reduce costs without there being any kind of feasibility study or economic impact study done, anything to determine, actually, what those costs are going to be for the amalgamation. It is aimed at primarily finding ways to reduce the budget line for the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Human Resources is the one, in his department under him, to find ways to reduce those human resource expenditures.
Mr. Speaker, here we have situations where workers were telling us that often it seems like a revolving door where because of the shortages in some areas patients were being released out the front door only to be returning, sometimes time and time again, through the emergency door because there were not and are not sufficient in-home supports to meet those patients' needs and family members and others cannot provide the kind of expert advice and assistance they need. That kind of story, as related by these health care workers, was painful to watch because the concern that they had for their patients and their frustration over their inability to ensure that those patients continued to receive or did receive the kind of care that they deserved showed. It showed not only in what they said but, more importantly, in the expressions on their faces.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things in this bill that I could talk about. (Interruption) The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency would like me to come back and talk on it tomorrow. That is Opposition Day and I cannot. He says, give us a break. Maybe the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency will give the workers of this province a break and maybe the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency will actually go out and not just talk to but actually hear what these people are saying, with the view to try to be understanding, to be sympathetic to those concerns. If he did and his colleagues did, then maybe he would give those workers and the people of this province a break and stop doing the kinds of things that they have been doing to those workers and to the health care system.
This pretty well will be my last comment, workers who came forward were not saying that they were opposed to health care reform - quite to the contrary. They said that they supported it, they even were supportive of mergers. They even were telling of examples of ways in which the government could save money and they told of ways that they had advised and made suggestions that were followed, ways that saved thousands and thousands of dollars. They want to be respected, they want to be involved, they want to be treated as a valued partner in health care instead of being treated as they were by this government in this merger.
I say to the government, you show a little respect and invest a little time and interest in the workers in this province and that will pay you back dividends many times over because those workers will not only continue to be committed dedicated hard-working employees, but they will provide a lot of the kind of leadership and direction that this government, obviously, on their own is lacking. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: It is a pleasure to get up and speak again on Bill No. 47, an Act to amalgamate the tertiary hospitals in downtown Halifax.
This bill that was introduced by the Minister of Health some six weeks ago now, I guess, has had a rather torturous voyage through this House. In fact, when the minister first introduced this bill for debate in the House on second reading, I thought initially that he would describe to us, not only the purposes of the bill, but something about how the government was going to go about amalgamation. That is what I intend to speak about when we resume debate on this bill this coming Thursday.
For the moment, I would move that we adjourn third reading of Bill No. 47.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: The hours tomorrow will be 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and perhaps the Opposition House Leader could give us the business.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we will be calling Bill No. 38, which is the bill on toll roads and we will be calling Resolution No. 731 which deals with issuance of lottery licenses and following that, we would like to, in the event we are not sitting next Wednesday, we would like to clean up all the House Orders that are on the paper. If ministers who have outstanding House Orders, it would be very much appreciated if they would at least (Interruption) Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
Now on the adjournment we are going to have a two hour debate under the provisions of Rule 43 concerning the announcement made at the news conference today by the Cape Breton Development Corporation.
Before we get into that, I would like to make a couple of introductions of some people that are in the Speaker's Gallery. From the Pictou County Injured Workers Association we have Mr. David MacKenzie, President, stand up and take a bow Dave (Applause). Executive members Mary Lloyd, Kelly Buffett, John Moore and in the back Hugh Campbell (Applause). We would like to welcome the members of the Pictou County Injured Workers organization to the House here this evening.
Also, in the Speaker's Gallery, busily taking notes is my good friend, Hugh MacArthur, who is International Auditor for the United Mine Workers of America from Sydney, glad to have you here this evening, too. (Applause)
Now I propose to begin this debate by making a brief statement of a non-partisan character from the Chair, concerning what it is that is being debated here this evening. I don't know if all honourable members have received this document but I would like to read it. It is five paragraphs long, it is a statement from the Cape Breton Development Corporation and I will table it upon conclusion of reading it. The statement reads:
"Workforce Reduction Announced
Glace Bay, N.S. - The Cape Breton Development Corporation announced today that as a result of the financial impact of the November 14th, 1995 roof fall on 7 East Wall, Phalen Colliery, it will be forced to temporarily lay-off approximately 1200 of its 2100 employees, commencing January 15, 1996. Restoration of the section has been ongoing since the incident, however, progress has been difficult and slow.
The lay-off will affect employees from every area of the Corporation, and it is expected that it could take 8 - 10 weeks before operations resume.
During this period, work will continue on the rehabilitation of 7 East Wall, and the start-up of production on 2 East Wall at Phalen Colliery. Prince Colliery will continue production on 14 West Wall and equipment recovery on 13 West Wall. Only essential support services for these work areas, and for the supply of coal to customers, will be maintained during this period.
The Corporation further announced that as a result of necessary restructuring in order to achieve its corporate mandate, it will reduce its workforce by approximately 800 employees over the next 4 years. The recent corporate planning process indicates that the initial impact of this restructuring will be the permanent reduction of 400 of these employees by March 31, 1996. The balance of the reduction will occur over the following 3 years.
In accordance with the Canada Labour Code, a Joint Planning Committee, comprised of both Union and Management representatives, will develop an orderly workforce adjustment strategy to address the permanent reductions. It is expected that the strategy developed will include an Early Retirement Incentive Program, Severance Packages, and possibly a Bridge Benefits Program.".
I would like to table that statement here if a Page would please put it on the table. That is what we are here this evening to discuss and to express our concern about. The honourable member who introduced this topic is the honourable member for Cape Breton West, so he will be the first speaker in the debate. (Applause)
MOTION UNDER RULE 43
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I have learned in my short career here in the House that this, indeed, is a rare occasion although we have had emergency debates twice in the last four weeks, it is something that is not a common occurrence in the House. I am pleased that the members of the House have recognized the importance of this issue for not only Cape Breton Island but all Nova Scotians and I am pleased to have a chance to speak to it tonight.
You know the first thing that I think we should all realize and understand is that this is not an occasion to get up and point fingers, this is not an occasion to start placing blame. What it is is an opportunity for each member of this House, each individual who stands here tonight, to participate in trying to solve a major economic problem which is facing our province. That is what it is, it is our province and it is a joint problem that we all have to deal with.
I don't think we should stand here and rant and rave, I believe we should come together as legislators to put forward some sound ideas and offer our support to the people who have lost their jobs, to the municipal unit, to the federal government and to all those people who are going to be affected by this.
This is a situation that I hold very close and dear to my heart because prior to coming into this House, I spent 19 years in the employ of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. In those 19 years there have always been ups and downs, bad times and good times, but never in the history of the Cape Breton Development Corporation in which I have been involved has there ever been such an announcement of such magnitude with such impact on the community and certainly on the Island of Cape Breton.
I have worked underground and it is not an easy task. The problems that are facing the Cape Breton Development Corporation today are not easy problems. The mining industry in Nova Scotia has put a lot into the economy over the years. The best figures I could obtain on short notice, say at the end of the fiscal year, 1994, coal mining in Nova Scotia put $205 million into the economy: $108 million in salaries alone; $47 million in wages; $4 million in grants in lieu of taxes; $1 million to the provincial government for royalties; and $45 million spent on goods and services. In 1994, the industry of coal mining was responsible for somewhere in the area of 2,400 spinoff jobs. Of that total, it is believed that $5.00 worth of spinoff results from every dollar spent in the mining industry.
I guess with that little bit of background, everybody understands how important an issue this is. It is an issue that is important not only for the community of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and not only for the Island of Cape Breton, but it is something that is important to the whole Province of Nova Scotia.
Twelve hundred people have been informed that they are going to be laid off starting next week. Those people make up 57 per cent of the work force of the Cape Breton Development Corporation and that is a massive layoff. It is a short layoff, we are told it will be 8 to 10 weeks, and that is a blessing and I hope that management can make sure that happens and I know that is their intention.
We have to look at what this 10 to 12 weeks of unemployment is going to bring to the Island. It is going to give you a glimpse into the future, because 1,200 people who are receiving Unemployment Insurance Benefits do not spend money the same as people who are going out and figure they have a regular job. The thing that we have to keep in mind and in our focus is that out of those 1,200 people, there are 400 who are not going to get back at the end of March and nobody is quite sure which 400 they will be.
There will be studies done and it won't be all based on seniority; it will be based on what type of work you do and how important that job is. There is going to be a fear through the community for the next 10 to 12 weeks, and that fear is going to be relayed to the business establishments because they are not going to have the type of dollars spent in their operations that they are used to. The thing we have to be aware of is that some of those operations might not be able to survive and there may be some jobs lost there that will never be recovered.
What I am proposing and the reason we are here, at least I hope the reason we are here to debate tonight is so that this House will get together and offer whatever type of support we can for the members of the community that have been affected by this layoff. These aren't just faces; these aren't just strangers. I guess I take it a little more personal and maybe I shouldn't, but I have only been here a few short months and most of these people I can identify with. I have worked with them and, over Christmas, I partied a little bit with them and we were all worried about what was going to come down the tubes, and today, it was even worst than most of our speculations.
What are we going to do? To have 1,200 people put out of work in one fell swoop, for a person like me, it is hard to comprehend. We have had a lot of problems over the years, I will be the first one to admit that and there have been a lot of things that haven't gone right. The coal industry of Cape Breton and of the Province of Nova Scotia has always been there for the people. We have people working in our mines today, people who are well educated, who couldn't find jobs anywhere else and they were happy and they were proud to be able to partake in the coal industry in the Province of Nova Scotia.
These are people who want to make a difference in the province they are living in, who want to live in Nova Scotia. Today, the chances for that has slipped for those people, but we, the people of this House, the legislators that make the laws can offer our support to the community, to the workers and to the federal government.
There are many things that we have to look at. What are the effects going to be on the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality when you have 1,200 people who are not going to have the type of income that they had hoped to have? Will indeed some of those people slip through the cracks and eventually end up on the social services rolls? Again, if that happens and it is a possibility, Mr. Speaker, the social services costs in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are borne by the Province of Nova Scotia. So it has an effect on all the taxpayers in this province.
So we can stand here and we can rant and we can rave and we can point fingers or we can actually get together and be leaders the way the people that elected us to this House expect us to be. We can take the time and the thought and generate the type of ideas that can make a difference for those 1,200 people, 57 per cent of the work force.
There has been a business plan put in place in the Cape Breton Development Corporation as I understand. They were working on the assumption that we would have a $9.6 million operating loss. With the problems that have occurred at Phalen that problem and that deficit seems to have risen to about $20 million. By laying off some employees, 1,200, they are only going to be able to recover enough money to bring it back to the $9.6 million loss. We still have a major problem in the corporation.
We have an opportunity to stand together to make sure that we put forward some very significant ideas. We should probably be talking to our Premier who is on a trip right now and ask him, anybody he sees to mention that we have coal for sale in Nova Scotia. We should look at those kind of things, try something that is a little different and work together, work positively to make a difference.
The union leaders who are involved in the process realize the magnitude of the problem and they are concerned because they too do not like to see people walking the street. I know that the other members for Cape Breton Island understand how severe this problem is. I want to relate to the other members of this House that this is not a problem of industrial Cape Breton. This is a problem of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is not the type of problem that we, as legislators, want to come and have to deal with, but it is the type of problem that we should be prepared to stand up, be counted and try to deal with. We should work together as one body to bring forward some sound solid solutions to make this a viable alternative instead of the disaster it has all the potential of being.
Over the course of the next three years there will be, along with the 400 who will not be re-hired at the end of March of this year, another 400 people who will not be hired, who will be laid off. So we will have a total reduction in our work force of some 800 people in an industry that now employs 2,100 people. That works out to be something like a 38 per cent reduction in the work force. We all know that that, unfortunately, is the way things are going.
We have heard in the press releases and some of the news media that have been around, of a business plan and business plans are important but we have not heard if there is an engineering plan in place because roof problems in a mining situation do not go away because there are not people there. There has to be some sound thought put into the process of mining. We have had disasters before in our mining industry with what happened in 1926, a number of years ago with an explosion and again in Westray. Roof problems, rock outbursts and flooding are also major problems that face the miners each day that they go into the pit. So we need more than just a business plan. We need a sound engineering plan that will take the problem and solve it.
What will be the effect if the coal industry completely dies in the Province of Nova Scotia? How will our power be generated? Where will the coal come from? Will we turn to oil and where do we get the oil? Those are some of the problems that can come out of what has happened today and those are some of the things that we want to address in a progressive, positive atmosphere.
So I urge each and every member of this House not to get up and speak about whose fault this is, but, more importantly, let's get together and find out what the solution is for the 1,200 people that are affected today short term and the 800 people that are going to be affected in this long-term plan that is put before us.
Let us not forget that what we are hearing today in this business plan is if everything goes according to a good-case scenario. What happens, Mr. Speaker, if things get worse? What happens to the industry? What do we do then for the people that are so dearly affected by this problem? Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.
MR. RUSSELL MACNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to spend a few moments to talk about this what I call disastrous time. Before I start, I would just like to congratulate the member for Cape Breton West. He knows the situation really well. He has brought it to the attention of the House so that many members can speak about it. He has done it very intelligently. He did it with a great sense of dedication. I know how he feels. He has actually worked in the mine, I did not have the opportunity. But most of the people who are affected are in my constituency. It has a great impact, because when I first heard the statement around 2:00 p.m., shock, displeasure, sadness, sorrow and any other adjectival phrase that we could think about when these certain things happen in such an explosive, quick time.
As the honourable member mentioned quite eloquently, this has a tremendous effect on the community and the municipalities in which we live, because we know that the sense of loss is there. No one can take it back for us. The sense of loss is there. We also know that it creates an atmosphere of undecided future. It also means, in very practical terms, that the tax rate and the businesses within the community will suffer and there is no question about that. That is particularly hard on part of the constituency, or all of the constituency. Well, we do not have much now on the Main Street in New Waterford, Reserve or Dominion and if we get less, it does not give a great sense to the people who are trying to start a business. In fact, it scares them. But the worst part of it, Mr. Speaker, and the member mentioned it quite emphatically, is the sense of fear. That is the one that always gets into the people's minds.
How do I know about that? I lived in the community all my life. My father worked in the mines for 45 years. I know the industry. As the honourable member mentioned, we have had ups and downs in the mining industry for 50 years and each time it is scarier than the last. Various governments have tried everything. They have tried subsidies. They have tried a whole lot of things, but still the industry is not stable. So we wonder why. My hope was, and the honourable member may know this better than I, that I think in 1966 Devco took over the contract for coal, and I assume that they had a mission statement. I don't have it in front of me, but if I can make one up for them, the mission statement would be to assist the coal industry with hopefully a stabilization effect on the economy of the area.
Well, the statement sounded great but I am not sure that is what happened. But again we ask, or is it, because is the disaster that we talk about tonight, will it mean a stabilization of the industry? Don't know. As the member opposite mentioned, we can have a business plan, we need an engineering plan, we need a futuristic plan and I think we have to get that. I think we have to look for the future.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get too caught up in this but I have to know and I have to relay as much as I can myself, who are we talking about? Who is affected? We are talking about those who have dedicated themselves to the mining industry. We know that the miners have been dedicated to producing this resource for years and years. Excellent people, hard-working people, and they share a camaraderie that none of us can even know what it is like.
I also want to mention, too, Mr. Speaker, that they are led by the executive of the UMW who are top notch. They are dedicated people who are always looking out for the interests of their men, be it extra work, be it safety, and the future of coal. But I guess we shouldn't forget the people who are also affected, that is the wives and the children. Now you would have to live there. Those of us from mining communities have this feeling because the wives have a difficult time to try and make ends meet and to try and look for the future when there is not a lot, especially if they know of the possibility that their husbands will be let go. I mean, that is a disaster and if you talk to these people, as most of us in the industrial area can do, that is always there. What happens is that spreads over to the children. The children say, where is the hope. Where can I know that there is going to be a viable place where I can live or get my education or do all the wonderful things that they think other people have, and a lot of times that they do have? They don't have them; they don't see the hope and that becomes very difficult.
Most of us remember when coal was king. Remember that story? Coal was king. Now what happened, did he abdicate with the throne? What happened, as we know, is that the people who originally owned the coal mines, they took everything. They dragged everything out of those mines at the expense of the people who worked there. Safety conditions were not the greatest because my father told me all that. So they just took everything and put nothing back. Well, what also happened? Bad company, took everything, but we have had explosions, all kinds of them. What happens, you get an explosion, it hurts the mine so they say, close the mine. So we had cave-ins, too hard to keep, too expensive, close the mine. Mines are too far out underneath the sea, so it is costing too much to take the coal back, close the mine. So there always seems to be a crisis. We know that for those who work underground, they are very strong individuals because you have to imagine that somebody is going down three miles, four miles, five miles, six miles, underneath the sea. It doesn't seem normal for anybody to do that, but there they go to try to make a living for their wives and their children, to get them educated. Just as an aside, I want to tell you that the people who work in the mines, one of their biggest concerns is the education of their children; they will sacrifice anything so that their children can be educated in a fair and decent way.
Again, the oil crisis came, remember that? Everybody was going to oil. Close the coal mines because oil was cheaper. All of a sudden, oil went way up, almost out of reach, and they came back King Coal. They said that is what we need in order to stabilize our industries, and I have got to tell you - and you probably know better than I do - that because of that, industries in this province, especially Nova Scotia Power, benefit a great deal because the miners and Devco, and whoever, gave them a price so that they could stabilize the industry. So coal was back up there.
Then they decided to start modernizing it, I guess - and the member opposite knows, he worked there - but I am not sure that worked that well. I don't know whether the cost of coal, to take it out is too much, or what the problem is, but that is what they tell us. So what should we do? We should all agree that we are in a crisis. We should all agree that we should say as much as we can in order to save the industry. We should all say that we are dedicated to the miners and their wives and children. We should all say that the industry has a future because in all the geological reports that I have heard about, there is all kinds of coal. The one that is always the ticklish one is Donkin, should that go? I say yes, it should go because there has been $80 million, $90 million spent so far getting it ready, so we should be able to go after the coal. Probably that will help the business plan.
Should we blame people? Yes, I think we should blame people because either the business plans weren't properly installed or the people who are running the industries raped it. So I think, yes, there is blame all around. Maybe we are to blame, too. Maybe we didn't have the foresight to see that this was going to come. Should we look for solutions? You are darn right, short term and long term.
Well, what are the solutions? We all know it is a federal responsibility, but we have to remember that the people who work there live in this province. As the member opposite said, they are human beings, they live and breathe and wish things the same as everybody else in this country. They wish things and I think we should be able to help. Should we try to find new money, if that is what is necessary? Yes. Should we try to find some alternatives to some of the equipment or some of the things that Devco use whether it's the VJ Plant or whether it is the piers down at Whitney Pier, modern. I think we have to try all of those.
The one that scares me a little bit is will the interim measures, mentioned by the Speaker, be satisfactory? Some of the ones that took the bridge program before seem fairly content, whether the ones who are not going to get the full endorsement, maybe not for them. So if it is new money, we have got to say, what is it for? It is for what and it is for whom.
I would think that, as the honourable member mentioned in his opening address, it is a thing for all of us to worry about. It is a thing that we have to make sure that the people in our area are blessed with a day's work for good labour. I, like the member opposite, make this commitment tonight, that I will do everything in my power and I am sure that I can speak for anybody in this House, that if we can find anything that will make this industry go, then we were dedicated and I am dedicated to making that happen. I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak (Applause).
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the two previous speakers for their heartfelt, thoughtful presentations.
As I was listening to those two members talk about what was going on and how they felt about the coal industry and what was happening to Cape Breton, I just got more angry and more angry. I think to myself, how can the federal government and this province just shut off an industry that is so important to this province? You are talking about an industry that generates over $200 million in economic activity in Cape Breton. You are talking about an industry that employs in excess of 7,000 to 8,000 people in Cape Breton, both directly and indirectly.
The impact of that industry being shut down in this province will be phenomenal, it will be something that none of us will be able to appreciate. This is on top of record unemployment levels in many communities in Cape Breton. An increase in the number of part-time, short-term jobs in Cape Breton and the rest of the province and on and on it goes.
What is the plan of this federal government for Devco? We know that they cut the subsidy back last spring, in April. They talked about the fact that they were weaning Devco, the Crown Corporation, from federal money. What is their plan? What are they going to put in place in order protect that industry in order to ensure that that industry does not go down the toilet and along with it, the jobs and the livelihood of many thousands of Cape Bretoners and Nova Scotians? We have not heard that and I think it is time that we demanded some answers from our federal representatives up in Ottawa, all of whom are members of this government.
I look back to 1987, when the now Minister of Public Works was in the Opposition and look at some of the things that he talked about in those days when he was an Opposition member. He says and I quote from a Cape Breton Post article, February 26, 1987, Mr. Dingwall says, "We ought to send a clear message to the prime minister stating his policy of gutting a key resource sector of the economy is not acceptable.". He went to say, "Premier John Buchanan, Tory MLA's Mike Laffin, John Newell, Brian Young, `Big' Donnie MacLeod and Donnie MacLeod of Glace Bay ought to be standing up for the coal industry and not allowing the federal Tories to ruin the industry.". He said in response to the announcement at that time that 240 men will be terminated with another 240 jobs in the following year. He says, "This is certainly not the way in which to build upon an important cornerstone industry of a community.". Mr. Speaker, I say, Mr. Dingwall, you were right then and if you would say the same thing, you would be right today.
Mr. Speaker, $216 million of economic activity; over $100 million in wages; $47 million in pensions; $80 million in federal and provincial taxes that go into our communities to help pay for the services to Cape Bretoners in those communities. What has happened since this government has come into power, Mr. Speaker, I ask you? I remember standing in this House alongside the Liberal Opposition when we were fighting against the privatization of Nova Scotia Power. I know that those Liberals talked then as they talked during the campaign that Nova Scotia Power should be required to buy Nova Scotia coal, without question. Did they move on that when they took over power? No, they did not. The situation with respect to Nova Scotia Power and Devco continued to be tenuous and continues to this day to be tenuous.
Over a year ago, the United Mine Workers came forward with a very realistic and a very responsible proposal to develop Donkin, to open Donkin, to try to counter the proposals from the federal government that said it was going to cost between $400 million and $600 million to develop Donkin and we cannot afford it. The United Mine Workers came forward with the proposal, Mr. Speaker, that talked, in realistic terms, about $60 million to try to develop the coal industry, to try to develop Donkin, in order to support the coal industry. We in this House passed unanimously, again and again, resolutions that supported the development of Donkin, that urged this government and urged the federal government to go forward and to look at those plans and to put them into action.
Mr. Speaker, here we are one year later, all of the concerns that have been raised by the mine workers and by many Cape Bretoners over the past few years have come, I think, to fruition. They have said that if we do not do things like guarantee a market for our coal here in Nova Scotia, if we do not ensure that Nova Scotia Power meets up with its commitments and buys coal from Devco, it is going to cause problems for that corporation. If we do not respond to the reality that we have to ensure there is a good supply of quality coal by ensuring that there is another mine to go along with Prince and Phalen, that will jeopardize the supply of coal to the markets in Nova Scotia and in the world. What has happened? Phalen continues to cause problems. Donkin remains undeveloped. As a result, we are left with Prince, which has coal which is not up to snuff. What we are talking about, what Mr. Shannon's plan talks about, is 370,000 tons of coal over the whole of the year, which I understand from talking to the president of the mine workers can be produced within a matter of a couple of months. Why is that important? It is important because a mine that is as old as Prince needs to be maintained on a regular basis, almost a daily basis and if it is not, it will deteriorate to the point where it will not be able to be used.
Mr. Speaker, what else have we seen this government do? We have seen this government proceeding with plans to develop offshore natural gas and to bring it onshore. We have not seen this information developed publicly. We have not seen them talk about it publicly, but we have uncovered information studies, reports that they have commissioned, through freedom of information. I say to you that these markets, these products, our offshore natural gas is being considered as an alternative for coal. I and many of my colleagues and others, including the mine workers, have asked this government to show their commitment, to come forward with their plan as to what they are going to do.
But here we are in January 1996, Mr. Speaker, and we still do not have any indication of what we are going to do to respond to this crisis, not a crisis that any of us should be surprised about, but a crisis that we should have been able to predict, something that we should be working on, something we should have been working on. We must deal with it. We must do something about it in order to ensure that the very survival of Cape Breton is effected.
Stephen Drake, the President of the United Mine Workers Union, said to me this afternoon, if you get the opportunity, I want you to put this in Hansard on my behalf, that Cape Breton deserves jobs. He said, I want you to tell MLAs and anybody else that is listening - Mr. Speaker, he asked me to say this - that the coal industry and the jobs that it generates are directly related to the survival of Cape Breton. I say that Brother Drake is absolutely right. We have a responsibility in this House, this government has a responsibility not to stand back and ring its hands, not to stand back and say that it is the federal responsibility, that we have nothing we can do; $216 million in the economy of Nova Scotia, by God, I think it is time that this government acted.
I think that we began to take seriously the fact that the province and the economy of Cape Breton and the economy of this province is in jeopardy if we allow the coal industry to go down. Surely we all realize that by now, Mr. Speaker. I don't think the answers are easy. The solutions are not clear but I believe that we need to try to find them.
As the member for Cape Breton West, who introduced the resolution suggested that we all work together, that is fine. I am prepared to do that, I am prepared to try to work with this government to come up with the solutions, Mr. Speaker, but we need to see some recognition of the fact that there is a problem that deserves more than words, that deserves more than rhetoric, that deserves action, that deserves policy changes, that deserves some money, that deserves some commitment. It is not good enough to develop another part-time industry in this province, it is not good enough to stand back and say that this is a federal responsibility and it is not something that we can do anything about.
Let's deal with it now. Put together an all-Party task force, if that might be helpful. Do something, I say to this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, and to this government. Let's do something to go to Cape Breton to talk to the miners, to talk to the families, to talk to the business people in those communities about the fact that we, as members of this government, are prepared to do something and consult with miners, consult with their families, consult with Cape Bretoners and Nova Scotians about the priorities here.
If we allow the coal industry to go down, I would suggest to you that we are creating a crisis that we could have avoided. Nova Scotia Power Inc. has the capacity to utilize many thousands and millions of tons of coal. The world markets are good, we can sell coal on the world markets. We need to produce it. In order to produce it, Mr. Speaker, we need to develop Donkin, we need to examine the mine strategy, the development strategy that has been put forward by the mine workers.
I think most of all what this government has a responsibility to do, as the federal government, is it has the responsibility to try to provide some answers to the people of Nova Scotia, to try to provide us with some indication of what they have been doing, what the situation is, what the intentions are of the federal government so that everyone will know. If the federal government is planning to shut down the coal industry, I say to this government, let's find out now. The people of Cape Breton do not deserve to bleed to death, I say to this government, Mr. Speaker.
Let's find out now and let's decide alternatives that can be based here in Nova Scotia. We have the capacity to resolve this problem. What we need is the will. I look forward to hearing additional speakers on this important issue.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I want to take part in this debate this evening because I feel this is one of the most important debates we will have in this session. Let me assure you that all members of the House feel it is regrettable with regard to the layoffs by Devco that have been announced, that has taken place today.
I want to congratulate the honourable member for Cape Breton West who I think took his place in this House, as one should, and put out his hand and wanted to become involved in a partnership with regard to the future of those families that are associated in this province. (Applause) I also want to congratulate the member for Cape Breton Centre who accepted that and touched on another part, dealing with taxation and jobs and the impacts on the families in that area.
I want to tell you that the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, Mr. Speaker, gets up here in this House when we are talking about promoting coal, when we are talking about needing more money and we talk about markets, and makes a statement that the government has some sort of hidden agenda with regard to replacing coal with offshore oil, which is so far from the truth. I hope not one Nova Scotian heard his comments because we do not need statements like that at a time of a crisis like this. We do not need them, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the province, the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources who will be here tomorrow, I want to make it very clear that I believe that members of the Official Opposition, members on this side of the House have a very deep concern about the situation that is taking place in this province. The Acting Premier has been so involved today, talking to federal Cabinet Ministers, talking to Devco themselves, the management. We have been on this and he has a concern and we in this government have a concern. We are concerned for each one of the 1,200 miners and Devco employees who will be affected by this layoff.
Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, we have a concern for the families because this will have a major impact on the spouses and on the children of all ages that if this is not handled properly could live with them for many years and cost the people of this province a lot of money. I want to tell you, as a son of a coal miner myself and as an MLA for a mining region that represents Springhill, River Hebert and Joggins, where I have seen over 2,000 jobs lost in a period of two years, I know well, I know in my heart and I can feel the worries and the concerns that are generated by this kind of news in any community and let not one member of this House ever forget the impact that this announcement has on those people.
I want to assure the Devco employees and their families that the province will do everything it can to work with the federal government - and let us mention the United Mine Workers which I think are equal partners in this as well, Mr. Speaker. (Applause) - to work with the governments to try to resolve this situation and it is a problem. Problems are there to be resolved, and I believe if we all act as adults and work together in this, which the honourable member that opened the debate suggested, then I think we can resolve a lot of these problems for these people. They are important; not the members in this House because they are not that affected, some of them who represent those areas, more so than others, but let me tell you it is the people there that are affected. As everyone knows in this House, beyond any doubt, that Cape Breton has a long and a proud history of coal mining as other areas of the province have.
Coal mining started on a very small scale in Cape Breton well over 300 years ago. That is important for us to remember. On a larger scale organized coal mining began in Cape Breton around the year 1720. That is when coal was used as a fuel for the labourers who built Fort Louisbourg. Within a few years coal was being mined and exported out of Cape Breton. In fact, the first recorded exported minerals from Canada took place in 1724 when Cape Breton coal was shipped to Boston. That is our history. It is our obligation to use that.
For the next 125 years or so, coal miners in Cape Breton were operated by a general mining association. In 1893, a new era of coal mining began when Dominion Coal Company Limited was formed and I do not want to talk about them. Twenty eight years ago in 1968, the mine was taken over by the Cape Breton Development Corporation, a federal Crown agency. Mr. Speaker, let's not forget the proud heritage, the past and the history of that area and of those people, which is in their blood because I want to tell you, if any member of this House in any political Party forgets about our heritage and forgets about our history in the past, I can assure you that they have no future because our future is about the past.
Let me tell you that this government and this province will not forget about the past and this government, on behalf of the Premier and all my colleagues, we want to work together to resolve this. Although today's announcement of layoffs is certainly not good news, Mr. Speaker, I think there are some positive notes. What I would suggest and a couple of members speaking have suggested is I would like to see us put a Team Nova Scotia together, and I have that here before we were even speaking, a Team Nova Scotia for the future of this industry and the future of those who are associated with it and all Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, we have 11 MPs in this province. It is a federal issue but it is a federal issue to a point. But all federal issues reflect on the province so therefore they become involved with us. We have 52 MLAs in this House of Assembly and we have the greatest strength of all likely, which is the United Mine Workers which are national and international and have compassion all over this world. So I say we have Team Nova Scotia, we have the 11 federal MPs, not one or two, we have the 52 MLAs from all political Parties . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Fifty-one.
MR. BROWN: . . . 51, well you use the Speaker. He would be offended if I left him . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Empty seat here.
MR. BROWN: Well, it will be filled up before long. Anyway, I don't want you to point to the empty seats over there; (Laughter) anyway, and the United Mine Workers. First, the layoffs are expected to last only eight to ten weeks. Well, I have heard that before and let's hope it only does and let's hope they are back before that. But we can't stand here and take our place and hope that all those people will be called back because we have a situation.
Really, this was a whistle to get on with it in this province, for everybody. During the period Devco says they will continue to rehabilitate the 7 East Wall and the Phalen Colliery. Also, the start-up production on the 2 East Wall at the Phalen Colliery will take place. Production will continue in the 14 West Wall of Devco's Prince Colliery where essential support services will be maintained in order to supply the coal to their customers.
Now, I want to say one thing, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotia Power has bought a lot of coal from Devco and Nova Scotia Power is likely the best customer they have had over the years. It doesn't matter what government was in power and for somebody to suggest that Nova Scotia Power is going to go to the offshore, I will tell you, there is no such plan in this government to allow that to happen. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, we have solid indications that at least for some period ahead Devco will remain active in coal mining in Cape Breton Island. But that is not good enough. What we must do is say Devco must remain a partner of Nova Scotia in the years ahead and we must guarantee and work towards that goal. As we all know, the long-term outlook for Devco depends on the ability to become competitive, to be a supplier of coal, cost per ton and we can go into all those different things and I am not going to this evening.
A new business plan has been developed to help the corporation achieve its objectives. Let not one person forget, the United Mine Workers themselves have placed a business plan on the table for Donkin. This plan must be given every opportunity. This plan for Donkin must be assessed and given every opportunity and we must be prepared to work with the union in dealing with that. Regrettably, the work force reduction may have been necessary, I don't know, time will tell.
A joint planning committee that is now established in accordance with the Canada Labour Code will develop a work force adjustment to deal with the permanent reductions at the mine. It was announced today that Devco said that their strategy is expected to include an early retirement incentive program; don't forget these people pay into a pension program at that mine. They are not like some mines have been but they pay into a severance package, a possible bridge benefit program. We, as elected members of this House must support the union and must try to support as many of these employees as possible and work with, not against, the federal government to achieve these goals.
Our government is given a limited resource, that is no secret. To hear some people talk you would think we could go out and write a cheque tonight for $100 million. I mean that is sort of living in a dream world. Let me tell you, that doesn't stop us from cooperating, from working and from walking hand in hand with management and labour and with the federal government and with the United Mine Workers to deal with this situation, to the best of our ability. I make that commitment on behalf of our government. We continue to have great faith in the coal mining industry of Cape Breton. We are not negative like some people are in this House. We are confident that by working together, coal mining does have a future with regard to the Island of Cape Breton.
The union must be equal partners. It is not good enough to talk to the union five minutes a day and forget about them the rest of the time, they must be equal partners. If Devco wants to privatize, I want to leave this thought with everybody, if Devco privatizes tomorrow, have somebody private take it over, they are going to have to accept the liability for all the pension plans, for the environmental clean-up and for WCB, they will have to accept that liability, so they are going to have that debt anyway. Some people have told me, it is as high as $800 million or $900 million. I don't know that to be a fact. So why doesn't the federal government take over that liability anyway and why don't they let Devco start off with a clean slate and make the profit that they want to make there at that mine. Those sort of solutions are what we have to think about. Most of all, we have faith in the people of Cape Breton and their ability to adapt to change, I believe, in a competitive world.
If Devco wants to privatize, they will have to accept the liabilities and don't ever forget that, like pensions, environment, WCB and all those things. Well, let them accept that anyway and clear that slate off and let the United Mine Workers and management - and I don't care if we get new management but let's let them - start over with a strong agreement; you can't play any more games and let's start off on a clear slate and move on with Donkin. I can assure you, I have enough confidence in Cape Breton Island and the United Mine Workers and those that are associated that I believe they can deliver on behalf of the taxpayers of this country.
What is the long-term outlook? If there is one message I want to leave for all Nova Scotians it is that this is an opportunity for Nova Scotians to all come together in the best interests of about 5,000 Nova Scotians, plus it will have a major impact on the economy.
I pledge the support of the government to work with the federal government, the United Mine Workers and others, in achieving this goal for all Nova Scotians. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to engage in this debate this evening on this very serious problem facing the coal industry on Cape Breton Island. As I have in front of me, "Workforce Reduction Announced", the press release that came out today, entitled "FYI" at the top of it, for your information. I think that the date on it, January 9, 1996, will be a date to remember, well into the future. It is not a very good day for Cape Breton Island, its people and its major industry.
There are a few remarks that I would like to make and I certainly won't misuse the time of the House, Mr. Speaker, but in regard to the previous speakers here I do want to congratulate very much the member for Cape Breton West who brought this issue forward this evening. I congratulate him for doing that. I would also like to commend the member for Cape Breton Centre and the member for Cumberland South for adding to the debate in a most positive way.
The member for Cape Breton Centre, Mr. Speaker, was absolutely right, at one time in Cape Breton coal was king. I can remember when the coal industry employed 6,000 to 7,000 people, working and making good money, in Cape Breton Island. Today the industry has less than 2,200 people working it and that is about to downsize. As most Cape Bretoners would put it, the struggle continues in the coal industry. The struggle has continued for close to 100 years now in Cape Breton Island, regarding the coal industry.
Mr. Speaker, coal is vitally important to our future and the industry is hurting badly. I must say to members of the House that I am a firm believer that the federal government has to remain involved in the Cape Breton coal industry. (Applause) Now is not the time for the federal government to cut its ties, financial or otherwise. I can tell you that there are those who believe that if the federal government will continue its financial and corporate interests in the coal industry, that coal can come back again in Cape Breton.
I also want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, and the members of the House that the Cape Breton coal miners and their families are the number one concern of the people that I know, the people in this Legislature who are concerned and that they are my number one concern. I can tell you that I am 100 per cent behind the miners and their families in this particular issue. They are not and never were the problem in this particular issue. They must be protected. Whatever happens to the coal industry in the future, the people who work in this industry must be protected. Those who have worked long and hard in the industry and who wish to go should be able to go with dignity, considering what they have contributed over their working years, in some cases under extreme hardship in the mines of Cape Breton. They should be allowed to go with dignity.
The way of life of the Cape Breton miner has not been an easy life. Uncertainty has been a daily and common occurrence since the turn of the century. Mr. Speaker, the UMW in Cape Breton has been a most responsible union over the years. I have seen that firsthand, having worked all my life in Cape Breton, most of it in the public arena. They have contributed much to keeping the coal industry alive and viable by making valuable concessions over the years in the industry. Their plans and hopes for the future of the coal industry should be taken seriously by the federal government, particularly in regard to the development of Donkin and also to resurrect what I think had a chance to be a viable project, the coal liquefaction proposal that was put on the table. I can tell you that the proponents of that particular proposal over the past years must have been eligible for the tenacity of the decade award, in trying to get that particular proposal going in Cape Breton Island through two successive federal governments and it is still not there yet. (Interruption) That's right. I think it is appropriate at this point in time for the federal government to revisit that particular possibility of coal liquefaction.
NSPC was mentioned here earlier. They should be encouraged, in light of this recent crisis, to issue a future support strategy for Cape Breton coal that will stabilize the price received for Cape Breton coal in the future. I think that is important to give the coal industry something to work for in the area of stabilized pricing in the future.
Again, I see the member for Cape Breton West opposite and again I have to say that I congratulate him for bringing this debate to the Legislature. I believe he is very sincere in his remarks this evening and he knows the coal industry, he has worked in it. The other member, for Cape Breton Centre, my good friend has also spoken to me a number of times about the problems in the coal industry and what we, as legislators, can do about it together. Yes, we have a serious problem that we must address. It is incumbent on all of us in this Legislature, including the members opposite, to impress upon the federal government the importance of their direct intervention in a number of ways; direct support to the miners and their families, that is going to be needed in the future because we know that the corporate structure of the coal industry in Cape Breton is not going to grow, it is going to lessen in the future.
The people that go out of that particular industry have to be assured by the federal government that they are going to be looked after before any talk of privatization of the coal industry in Cape Breton continues or before any serious downsizing is contemplated. That goes for other corporation employees, as well. We have to remember, members of the House, that there are more than miners working for the Cape Breton Development Corporation, there are a number of support staff there who deserve our support, as well.
I mentioned earlier, a serious look at new construction has to take place in the coal industry and there is no doubt in my mind, in talking to UMW officials, both locally and internationally, that Donkin Mine can be a viable operation in the future. We all know that this industry will have difficulty sustaining its present level of employment in the future and we collectively must be prepared to support programs that will allow Devco employees who wish to retire from the industry, to do so with dignity, including a generous retirement package. As I mentioned earlier, that should be done before any thought of any major changes taking place in the corporation.
The people who have toiled in the coal industry have earned our respect and those of us in Cape Breton who do not work in the coal industry, who have never worked in the coal industry respect the miners and their families of Cape Breton. Not only for their hard work that they have done in the mines to keep the mines going over the years, the tremendous sacrifices and the extreme loss of life in our community because of accidents in the mines over the years, because they were generally interested in seeing that the coal mining industry in Cape Breton survived and it has survived to this point because of the dedication of miners, their families and support staff from the Cape Breton Development Corporation.
Again, I want to say this problem is a grave one and one that has to be resolved. There are initiatives underway for the future development of Cape Breton, but let us not lose sight of the importance of the coal industry in any future plans for the economy of our area. Let us hope that in the short term the layoffs will be short in duration and that operations will resume at Phalen as soon as possible.
In the longer period, let us all work to ensure that Cape Breton coal has a future by developing a plan that will sustain the industry for many years to come, a concentrated plan that is put on the table that spells it out, what is going to happen to the Cape Breton coal industry well into the next century. That has to come, there has to be some measure of security placed in the hands of the UMW and their families and the people of Cape Breton about that industry in the future.
I want to say again, that I fully support the employees of the Cape Breton Development Corporation and I hope that the UMW and its responsible leadership can sit down with President Shannon and work together to convince the federal government to continue to support strategies that will ensure the future survival of the industry and, ultimately, the economic well-being of the Cape Breton area and the Province of Nova Scotia.
Again, I want to thank the members who have taken part in this important debate this evening about the future of our industry and its people, the people of Cape Breton. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to join in the debate tonight, a debate which was introduced to the House as an emergency debate by the member for Cape Breton West.
I joined all members of the House in applauding the good news, just a few days ago, when Stora announced that they were going to start a new finishing plant for pulp in the Point Tupper area. You know, it is funny, we in Nova Scotia always have that fear that when good news occurs, bad news is not far behind. Well, it did not take long for the bad news to occur. The bad news occurred today when we heard there would be 1,200 temporary layoffs, of employees of Devco, and, even worse, 400 permanent layoffs by March 31st and another 400 permanent lay-offs over the next three years.
Well, this provides a tremendous challenge, again, to the coal mining industry in Cape Breton and, as well, a challenge to all of us here in this place as we come to grips with stabilizing the coal industry in Cape Breton, the underground coal industry that has been so important as a part of the economy of Cape Breton for over 200 years.
You know, I come from an area with a coal mining background. We do not have underground mining in our area anymore. I look at the area from which I come, where, over the last 180 years, coal mining was an integral part of our economy, and I understand what a coal mining community is and I understand how difficult it is when families that have been involved in coal mining for generations suddenly find that their livelihood is threatened.
However, coal is not dead here in Nova Scotia, but we are undergoing a transition in terms of what is happening out there in the world of coal. Of course, what has happened over the last few years, with the solution of the apartheid problem in South Africa, with the change in the Soviet Union and the changes in Poland, where now Polish and Soviet Union coal is available on the world market, where now South African coal is available on the world market, we have had a dramatic fall in the world price of coal. That is what has happened, and now we have the challenge here in Nova Scotia that our coal mining industry must respond to the lower price of coal available on the world market and that is what this is all about.
Isn't it unfortunate that, as we try to tackle the problem of the lower world price of coal, we are also faced with the technical problems in the Phalen Mine that are making it so difficult there to mine coal and, as well, the recent weeks of low productivity as they have tried to deal with the problems of an unstable roof? You know, the Phalen Mine is not very old; it was only opened in 1987. The Prince Mine, the older mine in Devco, was opened in 1975; an older mine and, as well, the age of that mine is creating additional expense and additional difficulties.
So the problems are understood. The question is now, can we respond to the challenge? Can we respond here in this Legislature? Can our government here respond? Can the federal government respond? Can the workers in Cape Breton respond? Can the management of Devco respond? I suggest, very strongly, that all of us can respond and we can solve this problem. (Applause)
There are estimates in Cape Breton of coal reserve somewhere between 200 million and 400 million tons. At $50 a ton that is an immense resource. All we have to do is find the way to mine that resource in a profitable way. That coal reserve is some 10 times greater than our coal reserve in Pictou County which is somewhere in the area, perhaps, of 40 million or 45 million tons.
In Cape Breton there is an immense reserve. We must find the way to turn that into an economic benefit. We cannot leave the coal under the ground and we cannot start buying our energy from offshore and having Nova Scotia dollars go offshore to bring home coal when we have coal here in our province. We have to find a way.
Devco is an amazing operation. Devco was formed, if I have it right, in 1967. The Cape Breton Development Corporation was formed in 1967 to close the mines and to find new job opportunities. So almost 30 years ago they were thinking of closing the mines. Well, the mines are still open. The mines are struggling, but it is 30 years down the road and we found a way. Devco opened the Prince Mine, the Lingan Mine and the Phalen Mine. Two of those three mines are still operational. Other speakers have mentioned the possibility of opening a fourth mine, the Donkin Mine. I will have a few words to say about that.
You know, this problem was predictable. We all knew it was coming. We just did not know exactly when. We knew when the federal subsidies stopped in April of last spring that it was only a matter of time when there would be difficulties created by Devco. The great pressure for Devco to produce coal in a more economical fashion would create problems for the corporation. It looks like today was the day that we were all expecting. Today is the day when, a previous speaker has said, the whistle has blown and we now must respond to solving in a real way the problem of coal production in Cape Breton.
In May 1995, a study was ordered by the John T. Boyd Company of Philadelphia to look at a technical and administrative study of coal mining in Cape Breton. That report was due in November 1995. We must look at that report. What does it tell us? How do we increase productivity? How do we reduce costs and how do we increase safety in the mines? Coal mining is a dangerous occupation. No job is worth dying over. If there is one thing that you do not have to convince me about it is the value of safety in coal mining, being a resident of Pictou County and with the litany of mine disasters that we have had in Pictou County over the last 100 years.
Devco is a unique kind of operation because it is a fully integrated coal facility and that has some tremendous value. It has tremendous value to Nova Scotia Power because Devco can do something that the world spot market cannot necessarily do. It can guarantee a coal supply month in, month out, year in, year out. They have responded to that and that is of value. Being able to guarantee that kind of supply makes that thermal coal from Cape Breton more valuable even than coal on the world spot market, which cannot guarantee you that kind of supply that is required by Nova Scotia Power.
Devco has a coal preparation plant. There is a stockpiling and a blending facility. There is a railway system, a shipping pier, a central warehouse, a shop facility and two collieries. It is a fully integrated coal supply operation. We cannot afford at this time to lose that kind of a resource. We have to start looking at how we can salvage this whole operation, how we can find a way to make Devco a profitable operation and to keep Cape Breton miners working at what they do best, mining Cape Breton coal.
Well, what is the solution? The solution is not to point the finger, at this point, at who may have made mistakes in the past. The first thing, and I mentioned the study, we have to get hold of the study and find out what it is that has to be done to make Devco more profitable, increase productivity, reduce costs and to maintain and improve safety. That is so obvious as the first step. We have to look at whether or not the UMW proposal to open the Donkin Mine has real economic merit. Now, I am not completely familiar with the UMW proposal but I have heard figures to suggest that the Donkin Mine could be opened for less than $100 million.
The Donkin Mine, I understand, could provide 2 million tons of coal a year. Now that is the amount of coal that could supply Nova Scotia Power Inc. because that is the amount of annual sales by Devco to Nova Scotia Power Inc. My understanding is that the Donkin coal is good thermal coal. The other interesting thing is the Donkin Mine is entering some 165 million tons of the Cape Breton reserve, probably half of the reserve. So there is a tremendous amount of coal that could be extracted from the Donkin Mine. With proper development of the mine, it could be a coal producer for decades to come.
The member for Cape Breton South made reference to the coal liquefaction process. We have to look at that. Is there a way that we can be utilizing some of our coal in that process? Certainly, this crisis will force all agencies to look at that process again. It well may be. Coal is an interesting resource and as time goes on, we will be looking at other ways of using coal other than our traditional ways. Remember when we used to heat our homes with coal? That was the traditional way we did it in Nova Scotia and the coal industry survived the transition to heating our homes with oil. Nevertheless we did that but the coal industry survived because they found new and innovative ways to utilize coal. There are literally dozens of chemicals that can be extracted from our coal. It is one of the uses of coal that we have not investigated or utilized here in Nova Scotia but it is done elsewhere in the world.
Now, even becoming more productive and, in fact, by becoming more productive, it well may mean that there will be those who will be displaced from coal mining and we must look after those people. We must have early retirement packages. We must perhaps have an incentive program, a severance package, bridge programs. It is very difficult for someone who has worked a lifetime or much of a lifetime in the coal mines to make a transition to another way of life. But having seen it happen in my area, one of the things that happened - how much time do I have, Mr. Speaker; one minute, and I have considerably more to say - a brief comment. Many of the coal miners when the McBean Mine closed, I believe it was 1972, made the transition into Michelin when Michelin opened in our area and they made a very successful transition. Each and every one of those coal miners made excellent employees at Michelin and many of those employees over the last few years have retired now from Michelin but they were able to make that transition.
Let me say one brief final thing in terms of the solution. I have mentioned four points. My fifth point - and this was mentioned by the member for Cape Breton South - the federal government to assume the unfunded liability of Devco in the same way that this provincial government, the previous Conservative Government, assumed the debt of Sysco which allowed Sysco to survive. Had that Progressive Conservative Government not assumed that debt of Sysco, Sysco would not be operational today. They would have been crushed by their debt.
So this is a crisis situation but it is a crisis that we can solve if we start to work, all working in the same direction. I will commit the efforts of this caucus in all reasonable attempts to return a viable coal industry to Cape Breton. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health. (Applause)
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the winter's night in Cape Breton is a bit colder this evening. The air is a bit chillier and it pervades this Chamber as well, warmed somewhat as you have seen and I have felt by the comments and debate that has produced some of the finest things that we have seen in this place, particularly the introductory remarks by the honourable member for Cape Breton West. (Applause) It is not a happy evening.
I rise proudly in my place this evening as a proud son of the coal fields of Cape Breton, a proud son of a coal miner of 45 years who left behind, in the mines when he left those underground pits, three fingers but came out with a proud spirit.
The announcement today, I must admit, brought me back many years ago to the year in which Devco was formed when I stood with my father when he received notice that he would be a part of a layoff and early retirement package. He was nearing retirement age, he was in his late 50s but wanted to continue but could not. It was not a question of economics, it was much more than that. It was a question of his spirit being tested but he, like many, not only survived but thrived, secure in his family and secure in what we Cape Bretoners are proud of, we are, indeed, all family in so many respects.
Some years ago my father and I built a home in the woods of Boularderie Island and in the masonry of that fireplace we implanted a small piece of Princess Colliery Coal because it was coal that brought us to the comfort of that home, to the material comfort that we had known throughout our years. In the same way, even though we might be far removed from the coal fields of Cape Breton, as has been mentioned by the honourable members opposite, coal still influences what we do in this province.
That fireplace had little connection with the coal fields of Sydney Mines but nonetheless it produced that fireplace and that house around it. Tonight we need to remember, as several honourable members have mentioned, that despite the fact that we may toil in different areas and in different vocations, the coal of this province has fuelled more than just the fires of Cape Breton.
I recall at my graduation from medical school, a dear friend of our family gave me a small gift and in the small box was a piece of coal with the message, don't ever forget what brought you here. Don't ever let us forget what brings us here. It is to represent those who sent us, it is to do the best we can and to solve the challenges and the problems we face. This is more than an economic problem, as the honourable member who just spoke, the honourable Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in this place spoke of the human element, as well. I might say that I was taken with the comments of the honourable member for Cape Breton West as he entered and in fact, opened the debate in a spirit of cooperation and his plea for working together.
This is no time for political rhetoric. This is no time for scoring political or leadership points, this is no time for baying at the moon to shorten the night. It is a time for suggested solutions, for working together. And what do we see from at least one member of this House? Instead of rowing the lifeboat, he is beating us with the oars. That will not work. It has never worked in times of challenge and crisis and it will not work now and we are not impressed. (Applause)
It is not helpful to point fingers, it is not helpful to rant and rave. The people of our Island, Cape Breton, deserve better than this and they will have it from those of us who really want to get on with the job of healing some of this and solving some of these problems. We need solutions, we need programs and projects, not politics. We need continued and fiscally sustainable and responsible programs and we need to be serious about why we are here.
I think there are a few people in Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, as has already been mentioned, who did not realize and who have not realized what was likely to come, at least in some measure. We are, indeed, in a time of transition but we are in a time in which opportunities now present themselves to us in a real way, as has been said. We need to always remember that this is more than an economic problem.
In Cape Breton we know the price of coal, we know that the price of coal is the price of tears and sweat and sometimes tragedy. We know that the price of coal includes uncertainty but we also know what we are made of. We also know that we don't need quick fixes, especially, Mr. Speaker, if they ever entail the compromise of safety. As other honourable members have said, we want to do better than that and we can and this can be solved by working together.
There is an immediate challenge here and there is a long-term challenge as well. We have the immediate challenge of a layoff of some 1,200; we have a business plan that suggests the downsizing of the coal industry in our island, but we have had some viable and reasonable suggestions from both sides of the aisle; investigation of chemical consolidation or chemical degradation of coal, the suggestion of liquefaction, the suggestion even of the establishment of greater laboratory facilities and research on the Island of Cape Breton for this resource. These are all reasonable and need to be considered. This can be done by the participation of all members of this place, on both sides of the aisle and I - as the member and the Minister of Labour have suggested - would welcome that.
Make no mistake, we cannot stop with the immediate solution to what we can perceive as an immediate problem, we need to look beyond that. We need to look beyond the decade, perhaps even to several decades, to what is in the future in respect to both the coal industry and the spinoffs that might come, or even the diversity that we might strive to achieve in the economy of our island.
This is not only a crisis in terms of the crisis for coal, it is a challenge for the whole economy of the province. We have some reason to hope here, we have an economic strategy spelled out by the economic development authority which we believe has great promise and can show great promise if we but work together to achieve some of those goals.
This plan speaks to diversity and to building on the strengths of Cape Breton, and they have been mentioned here tonight: its culture; its natural beauty; and its resources. But most of all, the resource of our people. If ever there was a time to pull together, it is now. If ever there was a time for reason to debate, if ever there was a time for cooperation, even in politics, it is now, for our people will expect nothing less of us and they deserve nothing less.
This afternoon, among the calls and the contacts I made concerning this issue was a constituent of mine, who is a very good friend and a 38 year old young miner who was about to go off, in fact, going as we speak, into the night shift of one of the collieries. A young man, in university he has a young lad, a family in Florence and he goes this evening with another concern, a concern about the future and about what it holds for him and what it holds for his family. The perceptive comments of the members tonight, to recognize that this is essentially a human element and a human problem, are important to our debate.
Let me come back to the focus of the solutions and what we can do together. We need, in no uncertain voice, to speak to our federal colleagues, to work with our federal colleagues, to work with the labour representatives, the United Mine Workers, the other groups that are represented in terms of the other employees of this company and this, yes, will be a challenge to do. Some of us here in this place carry some of the traces of the coal dust on their person and carry it proudly. That very fact will steel us to go on to insist that this warning sign must be heeded, must be acted on, and we must build on what our government has done already in terms of the economy. We have to build on the goodwill that we have developed, each on both sides of the aisle, with connections in leadership roles around the country. Again, it is a question of working together.
This cooperative venture, this cooperation may well, indeed, meet the challenges suggested by the honourable Leader of the Opposition. His optimistic approach and his leaving us with his optimistic comments in terms of what the options may be are greatly appreciated.
We, in Cape Breton and in this Province of Nova Scotia, have been challenged before. Devco was set up, as has been mentioned already, to phase out the mines, to close them but, 30 years down the road, we are still trucking on. This kind of persistence, this kind of determination is the legacy we have to build on, not only for the immediate problem, but for the future. The greatest legacy we could leave and the finest tradition of the very fuel that lights this room tonight is the vigorous work that we have shown can be done by the people of Cape Breton and by members in this place. We can, in fact, bequeath a legacy of a vital and vibrant economy in Cape Breton. This is the only legacy that is worthy of the home of our hearts, Cape Breton.
From whatever challenges present in the future, as the song says, we will rise again. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all the members who have spoken so far. I want to thank, particularly, the honourable member for Cape Breton West for introducing this emergency resolution today.
I think we all have a special admiration for coal miners, particularly the ones from Cape Breton who go underground as far as five miles to the coal face. The whole time they are travelling, the water is dripping on them and it is about the most unpleasant experience that man could endure. But the fellows that we have the great respect for enjoy it, they like it and they want to get back and they want to start working again.
We are debating tonight because today is a very sad day in Nova Scotia history. As has been stated before, the layoff at Devco will affect employees from every area of the corporation and it is expected it will take 8 to 10 weeks. In the end, there will be a reduction of at least 400 workers. This is a crisis, Mr. Speaker, make no doubt about it.
I was reading one of the editorials from September, just three months ago. If I can quote from the editorial, it is so important because it says exactly what happened today. Devco Chief, Joe Shannon, said, "`I don't know where you would ever go, and what you would ever have to do, to replace the jobs in today's environment,' . . . loss of the coal industry would be a setback from which industrial Cape Breton most likely would never recover.".
This is pretty serious, Mr. Speaker, ". . . where would one go today, and what would one have to do, to replace the 2,200 full-time, skilled, and well paid jobs . . .". The solution, the editorial goes on, ". . . depends ultimately on human resolve at many levels and among many people. A sense of collective urgency is infectious, just like apathy. The people of industrial Cape Breton have a right to demand of government, management and unions a best effort at saving the coal industry.".
Mr. Speaker, tonight, as my colleagues have spoken, we are speaking with a unified voice in that we all agree this is the most devastating event that would adversely affect Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. Nova Scotia has saved many millions of dollars in the last few years because the provincial government chose to replace offshore imported oil with locally produced coal for two reasons - to guarantee supply, and to provide jobs for Nova Scotians. That is an example of something concrete that government can do. It is something that was done and, by the way, it saved money in the meantime and that was an added bonus.
I think that is the sort of example that we have to look to in this time of crisis. What are the alternatives that we have to look forward to? I agree with the member for Cape Breton South when he indicated that we must count heavily and rely heavily on the expertise and the determination of our federal Members of Parliament. In this nation of ours, at the present time, all governments are bound to balance the budget. All Crown Corporations in each level of government, federal and provincial, are being divested and it is said, profit or close.
Well, we have a crisis. Devco is a case that we can build special because 2,200 peoples' jobs are at stake and the heating and electricity that is required for Nova Scotia is of primary importance to each and every Nova Scotian. We must get the full cooperation from the federal government to make sure that we do in fact have a coal industry and we have the 2,200 jobs.
The federal government is not an obscure, non-caring entity. We have many examples where the government has shown that it is interested in job creation in Canada. We have examples that we can draw our sights on. This year the governments at three levels, in fact, got together to make sure the G-7 happened; $20 million and we all agreed it was worth it, the infrastructure program the federal government worked out with the provinces and the municipalities throughout Canada; the Hibernia Project in Newfoundland. You see there are options that we have. We are not going cap in hand to the federal government and saying, help us out, we are giving it to you. We are saying that we want to work with you. The Opposition is saying that we are going to work with the government to solve this problem because it is a problem that affects each and every Nova Scotian.
Sometimes in our warm, well-lit houses far from the mines we forget that the electricity was generated because somebody was down in the bottom of the mine in the cold, the dark and the wet making sure that the coal came to the surface. We cannot forget that coal is an advantage to all of us and there is a future for coal. Sometimes people do not even realize that Alberta generates most of its electricity with coal. Most people think, oh no, Alberta, it is oil. It is not. Alberta has a dedicated policy of burning coal to generate electricity. So we are not alone, being committed to coal. As other speakers have mentioned, there is a future for other products in coal. Further processing, just as we do in agriculture, can add value to coal in Nova Scotia.
Speaking of the miners we have in Nova Scotia and the union representatives, I have met with the union representatives and the President, Steve Drake, on a few occasions. Let me tell you and remind you of the dedication to Nova Scotia of those gentlemen. Remember the mine always closes for a couple of weeks for the vacation. Last summer, they were behind in production. Well, they were not behind in production; they needed some extra production. What happened? The miners said, we will give up our vacation and we are going to work. These are not people who would say, I would rather be fishing or going to the beach. These were men who said, look, if you need coal, we will deliver. Right now, Mr. Speaker, those same men are telling you and telling me, we need a job. As politicians it is up to us to deliver the jobs to those miners. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.
MR. CHARLES MACARTHUR: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure this evening to speak in relation to the resolution brought forward by the member for Cape Breton West.
I also in my younger life spent 15 or 16 years in the coal mine. I know the conditions that most of those people work under. Certainly I want to say to each and every member who spoke here this evening, the members for Cape Breton West, Cape Breton South, the Honourable Guy Brown, the Minister of Health, the member for Kings North and also all the other members who spoke, I want to assure you that my full support is for the miners of Cape Breton. I know the conditions under which each and every one of those fellows day after day go to the mine.
Everybody seems to think that it is the worst thing that can happen to any person. I spent 15 years myself in the mine. It was like coming into this House of Assembly, it was a job for me, and for me to support my family and I enjoyed going to that work every day whether it was on the morning shift or the afternoon shift or the back shift. Let me tell you that some of them work under desperate conditions. I, myself, as a young man, worked in 34 inches of coal. I worked on my hands and knees with an oil suit on, for eight hours a day for 5 or 6 or 10 years. I worked hard and it certainly didn't affect me too much. I want to tell you that it was a pleasure for me every day to go to work, as I said, to support my family, as my father before me and all of his relatives. I want to assure you and the member for Cape Breton West that he has my full support in anything that I can do. I am sure I speak on behalf of the government, although I am not a member of the Cabinet, I want to assure you that we on this side of the House are prepared to cooperate and do whatever we can to make sure that the Cape Breton coal industry will stay alive for many years to come.
As the Leader of the Official Opposition quoted the figures, we are not looking for today or tomorrow or for next week or next year, we are looking for a long-term solution so that the people of Cape Breton Island will live in dignity for a good many years. I am sure that they have my support and they have the support of the Government of Nova Scotia. I want to assure you, also, that I speak for the 11 members of the federal government that represent Nova Scotia, I am sure that we can really feel secure that they will support each and every one of us. I hope that the efforts will be fruitful and I am sure they will be.
I know, and as the member for Cape Breton West has stated before, falls and those things happen every day in the mine or almost every day. Let's hope that it is not as bad as the one that happened in Phalen Mine the last number of weeks. I guess it was a major fall. But let me tell you in my years of experience I have seen a number of falls. I have dug a number of miners out - it wasn't the greatest thing in the world - from under falls and some of them we saved; some of them we couldn't save. So a fall in a coal mine is nothing that doesn't happen often. Let's hope it never happens again.
I remember in my own family, February 7, 1924, four miners were buried in the mines in Inverness. There were a number of other accidents after that and people survived. We in Cape Breton are survivors and I am sure we will survive this crisis and I would hope that the people - and as my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre said, the miner goes to the pit every day to support his family and to make sure that he is educated and he has a chance to survive in the world whether it is in Cape Breton or another place.
I want to tell you that we will support the people of Cape Breton and we will do what we can. I hope that it is not going to take too long. I am very sorry to hear of it. I went through it myself in the 1960's when the mines closed in Inverness. I was working at a coal mine with seven feet of coal. That closed and I had to go out to other parts of the province to get jobs. I did it. I survived. We in Cape Breton and in Nova Scotia are pure survivors and I am sure that we will survive this crisis with great success.
I congratulate the member for Cape Breton West for bringing this to the House this evening. I can assure him, as I said before, that he has full support in this concern. I was glad to hear that the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the NDP are certainly going to cooperate. I am sure that within the next few weeks that this crisis will go over. We will hope that the people of Cape Breton and especially the 1,200 miners and their families who are going to be laid off in the next number of weeks, that there will be some package put together so that they can survive in dignity and live a good life. I wish them Godspeed and I hope that things will settle in the near future. Thank you very much. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: That concludes the list of honourable members who indicated their wish to speak.
I will declare the House now adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
[The House rose at 9:54 p.m.]