Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., Apr. 10, 1996

Fourth Session


Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Inverness Co.: Mabou Coal Mines Rd. - Pave,
Mr. C. MacArthur 389
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Halifax Co.: Elmsdale Back Rd. -
Speed Zone Post, Mr. B. Taylor 389
Anl. Rept. of the Auditor General, The Speaker 390
Highlights of the Auditor General's Report for 1995, The Speaker 390
Res. 144, Nat. Res. - Moose River Gold Mine Rescue (60th Anniv.):
Rescuers - Acknowledge, Hon. E. Norrie 390
Vote - Affirmative 390
Res. 145, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Consultation - Commit,
Dr. J. Hamm 391
Res. 146, Human Res. Dev. (Can.) - CEC (Gottingen St.): Maintain -
Support Convey, Mr. R. Chisholm 391
Res. 147, ERA - East Chezzetcook Indust. Park: Businesses -
Congrats., Mr. K. Colwell 392
Res. 148, NDP: Strategy (Res. 34) - Grandstanding, Mrs. L. O'Connor 392
Res. 149, Official Opposition: Policy Guidelines - Absence,
Mr. G. Fogarty 393
Res. 150, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Consultation - Establish,
Mr. J. Holm 394
Res. 151, Educ. - Bedford Junior High School Band:
All American Music Festival (Orlando) - Congrats., Mrs. F. Cosman 394
Vote - Affirmative 395
Res. 152, Official Opposition - Stand (Res. 34): Disappointment -
Express, Mr. William MacDonald 395
Res. 153, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Input - Ignored,
Mr. R. Russell 396
Res. 154, Justice - Crime: Stop - Action, Mr. B. Taylor 396
Res. 155, ERA - Greenbrier Indust. (Trenton): Competitive Priorities -
Congrats., Mr. W. Fraser 397
Vote - Affirmative 397
Res. 156, ERA: Jobs - Create, Mr. A. MacLeod 397
Res. 157, Eastern Shore - Wooden Boat Festival: Seaside Tourism Comm. -
Efforts Applaud, Mr. K. Colwell 398
Vote - Affirmative 398
Res. 158, ERA - IMP Plant (C.B.): Support Past - Remind,
Mr. R. Chisholm 398
Res. 159, ERA: Yarmouth Waterfront Project (Clinton Hubbard &
Bobby Newell) - Commun. Applaud, Mr. R. Hubbard 399
Vote - Affirmative 399
Res. 160, Sackville - Lion's Club (60th Anniv.): Contribution -
Commend, Mr. William MacDonald 399
Vote - Affirmative 400
Res. 161, ERA: Unemployment - Alleviate, Mr. G. Archibald 400
Res. 162, Agric. - Richmond Co.: Camp Rankin (4-H) -
Continuance Congrats., Hon. R. Mann 400
Vote - Affirmative 401
No. 59, Health - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Suicides - Report, Mr. A. MacLeod 401
No. 60, Justice - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Admissions Procedure -
Public Inquiry, Mr. R. Chisholm 403
No. 61, Justice - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Suicides - Public Inquiry,
Mr. T. Donahoe 404
No. 62, Health: Yarmouth Reg. Health Centre - Funding, Dr. J. Hamm 405
No. 63, Sysco - Chinese Rails: Contract - Agreement, Dr. J. Hamm 406
No. 64, Justice - Seniors: Violent Crime - Action, Mr. B. Taylor 408
No. 65, Justice - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Suicides - Public Inquiry,
Mr. R. Chisholm 410
No. 66, Health: Laboratory Services - Privatization, Mr. R. Russell 412
No. 67, Health - Gambling: Addicts - Treatment, Mr. D. McInnes 412
No. 68, Health: Physicians - Recruitment, Mr. G. Moody 413
No. 69, Health - Reform: Reg. Council (C.B.) - Meet, Mr. A. MacLeod 414
No. 70, Exco: Mr. K. Thompson (Dep. Min.-Gov't. Serv.) - Firing,
Mr. J. Holm 415
No. 71, Environ. - Enviro-Depots: Licensing - Criteria,
Mr. R. Russell 416
No. 72, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Recycling -
Container Labels, Mr. J. Leefe 417
No. 73, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Recycling -
Container Labels, Mr. J. Leefe 418
No. 74, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Deposits -
Impact Study, Mr. T. Donahoe 419
No. 75, Sydney Tar Ponds Clean-Up Inc.: Contract - Cancel,
Mr. J. Holm 420
No. 76, Commun. Serv. - Small Options Homes: Moratorium - Lift,
Mr. A. MacLeod 422
No. 77, ERA - American Eagle: Hfx.-N.Y. Serv. - Cancellation,
Mr. G. Archibald 423
No. 78, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Deposits -
Job Creation, Mr. T. Donahoe 425
Res. 13, Health - VON Staff: Protest - Congrats.,
Mr. R. Chisholm 426
Mr. R. Chisholm 426
Hon. R. Stewart 429
Mr. G. Moody 431
Mr. J. Holm 435
Res. 63, Gov't. (N.S.) - Commitments: Broken - View,
Mr. J. Holm 438
Mr. J. Holm 438
Hon. G. Brown 440
Mr. A. MacLeod 443
Mr. R. Chisholm 447
Offical Opposition - Yarmouth: Outlook Positive - Recognize:
Mr. R. Hubbard 450
Mr. J. Leefe 453
Mr. J. Holm 455
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 11th at 2:00 p.m. 456
[Page 389]


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mrs. Francene Cosman

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.

MR. CHARLES MACARTHUR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from the people of Mabou Coal Mines and area. "We, the undersigned request your immediate attention and assistance with the long overdue upgrading and paving of the Mabou Coal Mines Road, commencing at the Mabou Harbour Intersection and ending at The MacDonald Glen Road, a distance of 6.8 kilometers.". I so want to present that petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of the Elmsdale Back Road in Halifax County. They request that the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Public Works Traffic Division endorse the posting of a 50 kilometre speed zone along this section of public highway.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.



[Page 390]


MR. SPEAKER: I have the honour to table the Annual Report of the Auditor General for the year ending March 31, 1995, and also to table a summary version of the highlights of the Auditor General's Report for 1995.

These reports are tabled.

Copies will now be distributed to all members.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.


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

Whereas this weekend will mark the 60th Anniversary of the Moose River gold mine cave-in and subsequent rescue; and

Whereas the rescue operation took nearly 10 days and was successful in saving the lives of two of the three men trapped underground; and

Whereas the rescue involved some 300 underground and surface rescue workers from mining communities in Halifax County, Stellarton, Springhill and parts of Ontario;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge the heroic and successful efforts of those rescue workers on this 60th Anniversary of the Moose River gold mine rescue.

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.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 391]


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 Premier is very close to signing a deal with his friends in Ottawa on the harmonization of the GST and PST; and

Whereas the Premier is, so far, unable to identify a single, solitary area now subject to GST, but exempt from PST which is on the negotiation table; and

Whereas no Nova Scotian outside government is being given any opportunity to review these services and items now on the block for taxation;

Therefore be it resolved that the government acknowledge that the issue of harmonization of GST and PST is simply too fundamental an issue affecting the lives of every Nova Scotian family to be decided in behind closed door meetings and the Premier commit now to a public consultation process to allow affected taxpayers to have an opportunity to express their views.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


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

Whereas Halifax Regional Council has passed a unanimous resolution urging the re-opening of the Canada Employment Centre on Gottingen Street; and

Whereas on March 29th, this House also passed a unanimous resolution calling on the Minister of Human Resources to keep the centre open pending completion of the community needs assessment; and

Whereas the federal minister ignored the unanimous resolution of this House and closed the CEC anyway;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Premier to convey directly to his federal cousins in Ottawa their responsibility to recognize the overwhelming support in this community for maintaining the Gottingen Street CEC.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable to the House?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

[Page 392]


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

Whereas the East Chezzetcook Industrial Park was a disaster left over from the previous government with only one permanent business three years ago; and

Whereas today there are 11 thriving businesses in the park, representing a diverse range of activities and expertise; and

Whereas these businesses represent an entrepreneurial spirit which is steadily growing and developing on the Eastern Shore;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the 11 businesses in the East Chezzetcook Industrial Park and continue every effort to support small business entrepreneurs, in whose hands the future economic growth and development of the Eastern Shore lies.

I would ask for waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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. (Interruption)

It is not agreed?

All right, unanimous agreement is not there.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.


MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas when this House debated Resolution No. 34, the NDP spoke vehemently against the resolution; and

Whereas the member for Sackville-Cobequid stated emphatically that he would be voting against the resolution; and

Whereas when the vote was called, neither member of the NDP saw fit even to occupy their seat in this Chamber and cast a vote;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that once again the NDP strategy involved political grandstanding but no conviction.

[Page 393]

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, waive notice.

MRS. O'CONNOR: I'll waive notice. I have no problem.

MR. SPEAKER: Is there unanimous consent in the House?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

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

Whereas the Minister of the Environment claims the Savage thirst tax is being welcomed by Nova Scotians as the most positive thing this government has done; and

Whereas the Minister of the Environment should ask Premier Savage how many positive calls he has received on his 1-800 line regarding the thirst tax; and

Whereas Liberal MLAs received such positive feedback from their constituents over the weekend that a special caucus had to be convened yesterday to explain the thirst tax;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment and all members of the Savage Government stop trying to pretend they hear nothing but positives on the thirst tax and recognize that Nova Scotians are as angry about the thirst tax as they are about casinos, health care and the refusal of the government to divulge any information on the impact of harmonizing the GST and the PST.

MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I think when we give these resolutions, we really should make an attempt to have them as truthful as possible. I think this past resolution is pathetically out of order. It just doesn't have any ring of truth to it. I challenge the member, you know, a special caucus, this is ridiculous.

MR. SPEAKER: Might I please see this resolution.

". . . a special caucus had to be convened yesterday to explain the thirst tax;", is that the claim that is disputed?

I am advised that no meeting of the government caucus took place yesterday to discuss any subject.

The resolution therefore is ruled out of order.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.


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

[Page 394]

Whereas members of the Official Opposition accused the Finance Minister of something called jiggery-pokery when money was allotted for victims of institutional abuse; and

Whereas this may indicate the Opposition's talent for creative vocabulary but offers little in the way of an alternative government; and

Whereas our Liberal Government through its actions has once again proven that it is balancing the need for fiscal prudence and social responsibility;

Therefore be it resolved that we recognize the Opposition has no real policy guidelines driving their agenda, but rather a need to engage in their own form of jiggery-pokery in a vain attempt to regain power.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


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 Premier has assured us that he will protect the small people of Nova Scotia from the effects of harmonization; and

Whereas many small people who have already experienced the protective hand of this Premier may consider this akin to putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop; and

Whereas the small may therefore prefer to make up their own minds about whether they are the winners in the harmonization sweepstakes;

Therefore be it resolved that this government abandon its arrogant assumption that it alone knows best, live up to its pre-election commitments and establish a mechanism for broad consultation with people of all sizes in this province before entering into any harmonization deal with the federal government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[2:15 p.m.]

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 this coming week the 70-member band from Bedford Junior High School, under the direction of Mr. Gary Adams, will participate in the All American Music Festival in Orlando, Florida; and

[Page 395]

Whereas the Bedford Junior High School Band is one of only three bands in all of Canada to be invited to participate in this international music festival which draws 25,000 participants from around the world; and

Whereas in addition to participating in the international music festival, the band has been asked to perform at Disney World and the MGM Studios;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Bedford Junior High School Band members and director and acknowledge the fund-raising efforts of band members, families and staff, which enables the band to travel to the international music festival and represent Nova Scotia as goodwill music ambassadors.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that there be unanimous consent to waive notice for this motion?

It is agreed.

Someone wants it read again.

MRS. COSMAN: Oh, I would love to read it again.

MR. SPEAKER: I think that we have all heard the . . .

If it is agreeable to the House, I will put the question now.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank.


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

Whereas the member for Halifax Citadel, during debate on Resolution No. 34, stated that he found the resolution somewhat offensive; and

Whereas the member for Queens moved an amendment to the resolution which negated the expenditure of funds for victims of abuse; and

Whereas when the vote on the resolution was called, no member of the Opposition voted against it;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its disappointment in the Opposition's wishy-washy stand on the issue of compensation for victims of abuse.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 396]

I might, however, caution all honourable members that Beauchesne contains a provision somewhere - I can't cite the page exactly - which rules out of order reflections on votes of the House which, to my mind, means that a retroactive reflection on a past debate is probably out of order. Nonetheless, I have allowed the motion. It is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.


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

Whereas the Premier said yesterday he would protect the smaller people of Nova Scotia concerning any harmonization of the GST/PST; and

Whereas the Premier provided no definitive definition of exactly who the smaller people of Nova Scotia actually are; and

Whereas the Premier has also refused to appoint a special legislative committee to hold hearings across the province so that the opinions of Nova Scotians can be heard on the proposed harmonization of the GST/PST;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier explain to Nova Scotians, today, exactly who the small people of Nova Scotia are and why their input will continue to be ignored as plans for a national sales tax continue to unfold.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas on January 8th, a Grand Desert couple in their 80's and their daughter were robbed at knifepoint in their home and, on February 26th, a West Chezzetcook woman in her 80's was bound, gagged, tortured and robbed by two men in her home; and

Whereas on March 20th, two thugs committed an armed robbery against two seniors in Gays River; and

Whereas again last night, seniors were victimized in their own home in Cherry Brook;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice immediately meet with police officials from around the province to discuss the lack of resources, both human and financial, which are curbing the efforts of law enforcement officers to stop crime in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[Page 397]


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

Whereas Trenton Works recently received a contract for 500 covered hopper cars in addition to the building of 1,000 cars for a contract received last January for Canadian National; and

Whereas 14 months ago, the company started selling corporate clothing, sold to the employees at $1.00 over cost, as a fund-raiser for the IWK Children's Hospital; and

Whereas Trenton Works' 1,150 employees are experiencing a big morale boost, and product quality has dramatically improved with training and better working conditions;

Therefore be it resolved that the members extend congratulations to Trenton Works' new owner, Greenbrier Industries, for stressing safety, quality and efficiency as top priorities necessary to remain competitive in North America.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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 Cape Breton West.


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

Whereas the Liberal Government talked time and time again about creating 63,000 jobs during the 1993 spring election campaign; and

Whereas the unemployment rate for Cape Breton jumped almost four percentage points between February and March and now stands at an unacceptable 23 per cent; and

Whereas in spite of his many globe-trotting activities, the Premier of Nova Scotia continues to be out-maneuvered by his New Brunswick counterpart with 8,000 jobs being lost in Nova Scotia in the month of March, compared to the creation of 3,000 jobs in New Brunswick;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his government begin doing something constructive and begin offering Nova Scotians sustained economic growth and the prospect of more jobs, not less.

[Page 398]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.


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

Whereas throughout the month of April, beginning this week, the art of wooden boat building is being showcased at Dartmouth's MicMac Mall, together with a display of historic marine artifacts from the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas the Wooden Boat Festival is being sponsored by the Seaside Tourism Committee to highlight the culture, traditions, marine skills and spectacular beauty of the Marine Drive Tour; and

Whereas this Wooden Boat Festival will help keep alive the tradition of great Nova Scotia boat builders by demonstrating to the general public the skill and art of small wooden boat building;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the efforts of the Seaside Tourism Committee for the Wooden Boat Festival to attract tourists to the pristine beauty of the Eastern Shore and help keep alive the art of wooden boat building.

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 Leader of the New Democratic Party.


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

Whereas employees of IMP have formed a joint venture company to negotiate the takeover of the IMP plant in North Sydney; and

Whereas the heavily government-subsidized IMP is setting unrealistic deadlines for the arrangement of financing; and

Whereas these unrealistic deadlines are hampering the ability of the IMP workers to put together a viable plan that will preserve jobs in their community;

[Page 399]

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind Ken Rowe of the generous support his companies have received from taxpayers in the past and urge him to set aside artificial deadlines and give the workers sufficient time to put together their takeover plan.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek waiver of notice for this motion.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.


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

Whereas our government is committed to community economic development throughout Nova Scotia; and

Whereas a $2.1 million waterfront development and an industrial project was given the green light yesterday, April 9th; and

Whereas these projects are a result of community initiative, supported by all three levels of government, the private sector, especially Mr. Bobby Newell and Mr. Clinton Hubbard, whose generous donation of property makes the Yarmouth Waterfront Project possible;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the community-based efforts of the people of Yarmouth, exemplified by Mr. Clinton Hubbard and Mr. Bobby Newell, that will ensure a brighter future for Yarmouth and southwestern Nova Scotia.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?

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 Sackville-Beaverbank.


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

Whereas the Sackville Lions Club will be celebrating its 26th Anniversary at a charter night celebration on Saturday, April 13, 1996; and

[Page 400]

Whereas the Sackville Lions Club has, for these past 26 years, provided voluntary services to the citizens of Sackville; and

Whereas part of its service to the community, the Sackville Lions Club has provided citizens with electric wheelchairs, hearing aids, seeing-eye dogs, as well as contributed financially to the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the Sackville Lions Club for its ongoing voluntary work and contributions to the community and extend best wishes for a successful 26th Anniversary celebration.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas when it comes to job creation, the Premier enjoys blowing his own horn before analysing Nova Scotia's unemployment scenario; and

Whereas yesterday Statistics Canada reported disturbing trends in the actual employment data for the month of March in the metropolitan Halifax area; and

Whereas data for the month of March shows 4,000 individuals dropped out of the labour force and 2,000 more became unemployed;

Therefore be it resolved that in the future before patting himself on the back for job creation, the Premier and his government take a look at the real world and offer Nova Scotians some hope for an economic recovery.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Transportation.


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

Whereas in July 1995, fire destroyed Camp Rankin, a popular 4-H camp located in Richmond County; and

[Page 401]

Whereas this fire threatened the future of this youth facility, which has been such a valuable fixture in Richmond and which has provided quality services to hundreds of 4-H members for many years; and

Whereas many people, including the provincial and municipal governments, corporate and business sectors, area residents and volunteers, have stepped forward to spearhead a campaign designed to raise the funds necessary to rebuild this facility and restore the valued services;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to the promoters and directors of Camp Rankin and appreciation to all contributors for their efforts to see the good work of Camp Rankin continue.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried, unanimously.

Are there any further notices of motion? If not, I would like to advise the House that the Clerk conducted a draw for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 p.m., this afternoon. The winner today is the honourable member for Yarmouth. He has submitted a resolution:

"Whereas the Opposition Parties play to the negative, ignoring the positive aspects of the economy of Yarmouth, while failing to offer any constructive solutions to challenges facing the good people of Yarmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that the Opposition recognize the positive outlook for Yarmouth despite the many challenges faced.".

We will hear discussion of those items at 6:00 p.m. this evening. That concludes the daily routine. The Oral Question Period today lasts for 90 minutes, so from 2:28 p.m. it will run to 3:58 p.m.



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


MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Could the minister confirm that when he first met with the families of Ron White and Marion Godin, before the review by the psychiatrist from Dalhousie, he indicated to them that the review would clear up any of the questions that they had in respect to the suicides and that they would have access to the full report?

[Page 402]

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, that conversation and there were several, I am not particular sure to which one the honourable refers, except to say that I had a wide-ranging discussion with them and it involved several particular questions with regard to inquiries. I was hopeful that an internal review would, in fact, be very helpful, yes.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, thank you for that almost answer. In a radio interview shortly after that, there was (Interruption) Yes, it was almost an answer because he danced around the question.

The question here is that this minister had a change of heart, saying that the report dealt with some extremely sensitive information - I am so mad I can hardly speak right now - and that releasing it would expose the patients and the workers. He further said that it would be impossible to conduct any kind of review in the future if this kind of confidential information was released.

My question for the minister is, does he believe that the primary concern here is in protecting the workers and that the families of Ron White and Marion Godin or for that matter the general public, have no right to know whether the clinical decisions that were made at the hospital were appropriately made and was there no way of preventing the untimely deaths of Mr. White and Ms. Godin?

[2:30 p.m.]

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to engage in specifics on particular cases because it is untoward and, in fact, it is quite unethical to do so. The honourable member opposite knows that, or should. I will say very frankly and candidly to the honourable member and to members in this place, that the concern should be the patient and the individual's right to be provided with services in a timely and adequate fashion and that in light of the circumstances surrounding particular cases, one often does reviews, and those reviews contain highly sensitive information which, in fact, is the property of that particular individual.

We must be very balanced and careful. If the honourable gentleman opposite is angry, I hope he is angry at the fact that we need to give every attention to the care of the individual and the confidentiality of the information that might be achieved in a particular review, and that is but one of the issues that must be weighed.

MR. MACLEOD: In light of today's news about two more people who committed suicide after being assessed and released from the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, doesn't the minister agree that withholding this information surrounding the investigation into the hospital's handling of these cases is undermining the confidence of the people in this hospital and that the Minister of Health has a duty to help restore the confidence by insisting that the hospital release this report - complete, unedited - and, at the same time, call for a full investigation into what is going on there?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would ask all honourable members of this place that they refrain from speculation as to the cause of tragic deaths in this province and even beyond. We must be very careful, as public leaders, to be assured of the information. (Interruption) If this honourable member is suggesting that I would, in any way, countenance the full disclosure of all information pertaining to a mental patient or a psychiatric patient or a patient in one of our hospitals, he will never achieve that from me.

[Page 403]

We have a balance to strike here, as that honourable member should realize, between the ability to protect people; otherwise we are, in fact, being derelict in our duty. (Interruptions) A review was done, a review by a competent team, and we are working through those recommendations that were given, and those were released publicly.

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question, through you, to the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice will recall that on December 5, 1995, I raised with him my concerns, and the concerns of many Nova Scotians, about the suicides at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and the fact there had been two more, there had been some in the past at the old Cape Breton Regional Hospital, and that some felt there was a need to begin to look at the actual circumstances around those suicides and how, in fact, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and the Department of Health are conducting themselves with respect to the provision of mental health services to Nova Scotians and, in particular in that case, to Cape Bretoners.

I asked the minister at that time whether he, in fact, would use the authority at his disposal under the Public Inquiries Act to initiate such an inquiry. He suggested to me at that time that he felt it was somewhat premature, that there was an investigation being conducted by two psychiatrists, and he would wait for that response.

My question to the Minister of Justice is the following. The review has been conducted, none of us have seen the recommendations of that study yet, but we now have a reported two further suicides of mental health patients at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. My question to the Minister of Justice is, does he now feel that it would be appropriate to use the authority under the Public Inquiries Act to, in fact, initiate such an inquiry into the circumstances around the host of suicides that have been in one way or another related to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, when the matter came up just late in the year, an investigation was instituted around that time by the Department of Health. They requested two psychiatrists, I believe, to do a study and I did not feel it was appropriate to intervene at that time. I must update myself with regard to discussions between officials but we have not made any decision to recommend an inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act as of this time.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, back in, I believe it was, 1993, an inquiry was held under the Fatality Inquiries Act into the specifics around two suicides at the old Cape Breton Regional Hospital. The concern with respect to the suicides last year was that obviously any recommendations that came out of that fatality inquiry did not lead to sufficient changes and that is why, in fact, we asked in December for a public inquiry which would provide a full-scale inquiry which would allow the public, including the families, to have full participation.

There has been a review now done, Mr. Speaker. There still are problems obviously with how mental health patients are being dealt with at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. My question to the Minister of Justice is, will he, in fact, report back to this House at the latest, the end of Question Period, on his decision with respect to holding a public inquiry into the matters relative to these suicides at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital?

[Page 404]

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I want always to be as cooperative as possible because I have great respect for the House and members of the House, but I think it is totally unreasonable to demand that within an hour, on a matter such as this, some judgment be made. The answer is no, I will not report back within an hour as to whether or not an inquiry will be held. I have already raised the matter with my officials as to what discussions have occurred in recent days with the Department of Health and I will update myself on that and I will be prepared to report back to the House on the matter on a future day.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am not giving the minister one hour. I raised this question back on December 5, 1995 about a public inquiry. In response to my question at that time, the Minister of Justice said that he will take the appropriate actions after reports are provided to him.

Mr. Speaker, there have been a reported further two suicides related to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. How much time is it going to take for this government to act in a matter that is of such concern to people in Cape Breton and to people across this province? I ask the Minister of Justice . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You have already asked your question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . will he move with haste . . .

MR. SPEAKER: That is your second question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . to initiate a public inquiry around the suicides at the Cape Breton Hospital so Nova Scotians can get to the bottom of what is happening in Cape Breton?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, once again, we have the Leader of the Third Party rushing to judgment. He should know the full picture. He is going off, as some might say, half-cocked. (Interruptions) I understand that the College of Physicians and Surgeons has not reported on this matter and I think due process is important even though that honourable member may not think it is. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.


MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. I have listened to the exchange here the last few moments and, quite frankly, I really do find it quite astounding. I wonder if the Minister of Justice would offer in the plainest, simplest, most straightforward language he possibly can, what rationale or justification - legal, moral, ethical, otherwise - can there possibly be for him failing or refusing to ensure that a public inquiry or an inquiry under the Fatality Inquiries Act is undertaken immediately when we are aware of the situation where a 31 year old woman who was taken to the hospital by the regional police last week for assessment killed herself after having been sent home? Can the minister please explain why that factual situation is not sufficient (Interruption) Well, the Minister of Health is sitting next to him saying, it is not factual, maybe that is what I have to hear. Maybe that is what the people of Nova Scotia have to hear but we certainly haven't heard that yet. Would the Minister of Justice please indicate why that factual situation that I have described does not demand an appropriate inquiry?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Citadel makes a specific allegation about a certain death. Now, that may or may not be so, he takes it as if it is the gospel the way he says it. But as I reported in response to the previous question, there is information due, a report from the College of Physicians and Surgeons due on this general matter. In consultation with the Minister of Health, I felt it was inappropriate to make any decision. I have already indicated I am going to continue my discussions with my officials for a recent update.

MR. DONAHOE: I wonder, by way of first supplementary, the Minister of Justice might indicate to us whether he expects those discussions will take longer than 24 hours?

[Page 405]

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with a very complex matter, a very sensitive matter, a matter of people's privacy as I think has already been referred to by the Minister of Health, talking about how people die, which is very traumatic for everybody, it is a very sad occasion.

Mr. Speaker, again as I said to the previous questioner, I don't want an arbitrary time line, 24 hours or otherwise, but I promise the House and I will keep my promise to continue my discussions with my officials. They have been talking to the officials of the Department of Health and we will have a better knowledge as soon as reasonably possible.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, I wonder how many more tragedies we have to face before this minister and his colleague Minister of Health will undertake what in the face of extreme facts just simply screams out for some serious action rather than some rhetoric that we are getting here today.

I ask the Minister of Justice, Mr. Speaker, through you by way of final supplementary, if he will make this commitment to this House and to a community which, whether he knows it or not or whether the Minister of Health - who shakes his head and says, be careful, be careful - I am being careful. The people who are affected are scared to death. That's the problem. I ask the Minister of Justice if he will give this House this commitment, in the event that the Minister of Justice finds that this particular woman who was taken to the hospital, was then taken back home and then died, if the Minister of Justice determines that the death was death by suicide, will he commit to this House that he will then undertake an appropriate, public inquiry or inquiry pursuant to the Fatality Inquiries Act?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, it may well be that there is an ongoing police investigation into the death that has been referred to. I will certainly look at the matter. I will have discussions with my officials and will continue to discuss it with the Department of Health. But blindly, it is not reasonable to make a commitment to make an inquiry when that may not be the right course of action. But we will do what is right.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Health. On November 9th last year, and it is reported on Page 2696 of Hansard, the minister said, ". . . that the people of Yarmouth will, in fact, receive their health care in a system that is reinvigorated and renewed.". Now, we all are hearing reports that due to budgetary restraint 20 beds are being eliminated, acute care beds are being shut in the Yarmouth hospital, reducing the number from 104 to 84. Would the minister explain how he considers health care is being

[Page 406]

delivered in Yarmouth in a reinvigorated and renewed fashion by eliminating 20 beds and eliminating the equivalent of 25 full-time jobs in the health care delivery system in Yarmouth?

[2:45 p.m.]

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I have every confidence that the board and the administration of that facility will, indeed, deliver proper and reinvigorated health care, in cooperation and, in fact, in partnership with the regional health board.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Minister of Health. Now the minister was on CBC Radio this morning, on Information Morning, being questioned on the same issue. At that point the minister said he hoped that home care service would be in place for those unable to receive treatment at the Yarmouth hospital once the closure of beds takes place.

Then, as well, the chairman of the hospital board in Digby said that if the proposed and talked about 4 per cent cut in the budget of the Western Regional Hospital were to materialize, he said it would be simply catastrophic for residents of Digby County.

My question to the minister. In view of the impending hospital cuts in Digby and in Yarmouth, what measures is the minister prepared to undertake to make sure there is a back-up service, in terms of community home support, to make up for this loss of hospital beds in southwestern Nova Scotia?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, in response to the honourable Leader of the Opposition's last question, home care has been available and will continue to be available in that region, serving up to 80 per cent more clients. It has been available since June 1, 1995.

In respect to the cuts to which he alludes, the budgets of the regional health board in the western region have not been set. They are going about the western region in a very diligent way, looking at the service delivery and the needs of the particular citizens there.

DR. HAMM: Well the minister has just said that the budget cuts to which I referred in my question have not yet been determined. My final question then to the minister. In view of the opinion expressed by the chairman of the hospital board in Digby, that a 4 per cent cut in the budget of the Western Regional Hospital would be catastrophic for the residents of Digby County, is this minister prepared to commit here today that there will not be a 4 per cent cut to the budget of the Western Regional Hospital in Digby?

DR. STEWART: To the honourable Leader of the Opposition, of course we know his stand, I believe we know his stand on regional health boards, he has outrightly condemned them. The regional health board will, in fact, make that decision, citizens put in place to make decisions and to ensure that communities are well-represented.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation. Now the minister responsible for Sysco as well sits on the board of directors of the Sysco Corporation. It is my understanding that he, therefore, is the trustee and the custodian of the provincial interests, the interests of Nova Scotians in Sysco. He is, in fact, the person to whom we all turn when our interests are at stake in the operation of Sysco.

My question to the minister is simply this. When Sysco agreed to sign a contract to ship $30 million of rails offshore, without on-site inspection by the Chinese purchaser, and when that contract also contained [Page 407]

a clause which allowed the arbitration process to be carried on in Beijing, in the back-door of the purchaser, was this minister in agreement or was this minister not in agreement to Sysco signing that contract?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable Leader of the Opposition for the question. I appreciate the trust and confidence he places in me as custodian of the public interest, with respect to Sydney Steel. I would just like to remind him, as a preliminary response, that every board member of Sysco - Sysco is a public corporation - I hope that every board member takes seriously the responsibility that they have to act in the interests of the shareholder and the shareholder is the public of this province.

The honourable member has questions about a particular contract. Board members are not involved in the day-to-day operations. He knows that.

He has asked already in the House for information on this particular contract. I have undertaken that I would give them such information. I wrote a letter yesterday to the senior management of Sydney Steel, following up on the undertakings I gave the honourable Leader of the Opposition. I followed it up this morning with a telephone call to the president to ensure that all of the information that the honourable Leader of the Opposition was requesting would be available and I was informed that the honourable Leader of the Opposition is meeting with him tomorrow morning. So you will probably get the information before I will but in any event, when I get the information, Mr. Speaker, I will give it to him.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Minister responsible for Sysco, I thank the minister for his energy in attempting to procure the information which I requested in Question Period and I look forward to receiving the information.

My question to the minister is, as custodian of the public trust, to which he now says he shares with other board members, and I accept that, but in his 14 months as the Minister responsible for Sysco, since the new arrangement was put in place with Minmetals, could the minister inform us as to how many official meetings of the board of Sysco did this minister attend?

MR. BOUDREAU: All of them, Mr. Speaker.

DR. HAMM: Well, I am certainly not going to have any difficulty with my final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. My question to the minister is quite specific. Would the Minister responsible for Sysco indicate to the House the exact number of meetings of the board of directors he attended since Minmetals became a partner with the province in the running of Sysco, the exact number?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the practice was established very early that the board would meet on a semi-annual basis, that is twice a year, and in the interim, because of the distance required for certain board members to travel, whether the meeting was here or in Beijing, it required at least three people to travel a great distance, that otherwise there would be interim meetings between the regular board meetings by the executive committee of the

[Page 408]

board. I have attended both board meetings and executive committee meetings of that board and I believe we have kept to that schedule.

I might say, Mr. Speaker, that we have adopted the position from the earliest days of this government that we would not be involved in the day-to-day management of Sydney Steel. That was the case for about 15 years of the former government. Everything from who delivered equipment to the site to who was hired, interference in the day-to-day, the politicization - at great public expense I might add - of that operation. We will not engage in that type of activity. (Applause)

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


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Justice. Many areas of rural Nova Scotia are encountering and experiencing an increase in violent crime. The thugs and cowards, the perpetrators, are committing (Interruption) You think it's a joke, do you?

These thugs and cowards who are committing these felonies are picking on what some people might say is the most vulnerable of our society. They are singling out and targeting and zeroing in on seniors. I want to know, Mr. Speaker, what the Minister of Justice and his government are doing to reverse this reign of terror?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, we have competent police forces in Nova Scotia, in part municipal police forces, which do their job in an exemplary manner. In addition, a good part of the province, rural Nova Scotia, is policed by the RCMP and the fact of the matter is although unfortunately there have been some high profile incidents in the last six months, say, the facts, as indicated by the RCMP themselves, quoting national crime statistics, including Nova Scotia is, in spite of these high profile incidents, that the number of violent crimes have increased just slightly over the past number of years, if at all. So, the reality is different than the perception given by the few high profile cases that have come along. I have full confidence in the RCMP and the municipal police forces. (Applause)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I can take from that response that the Minister of Justice in this province has done absolutely nothing. I recently had a chance to talk with an RCMP officer who is investigating one of the criminal cases that has taken place. This officer told me that violent crime in Nova Scotia is on the rise. The seniors told me and I saw it first-hand that the thugs that came to their door, kicked the door down, they actually kicked a hole through the door, walked in the house, one had a Halloween mask on, the other one had an animal mask on and that person was dressed appropriately. What I want to know is what action will the Minister of Justice of this province take to restore the lost level of comfort for victims of crime, who today live in fear in our society?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member quotes information he received from one individual police officer as to the prevalence of violent crime. That is fine for that member to take that information and to act as he sees fit on it. I am reacting based on information from the Assistant Commissioner or other senior officials of the RCMP of Nova Scotia, who have access to the latest statistics which say the rate of violent crime is quite stable; any crime is too much but it is fairly stable.

[Page 409]

In response, I will redouble the department's efforts through policing services and my senior officials to talk to Assistant Commissioner Falkingham just to see that they are satisfied and also get in touch with Chief Edgar MacLeod, head of the Chiefs of Police Association of Nova Scotia, to see that everything possible is being done to protect the innocent.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it is important that the Minister of Justice realize that many of our seniors - specifically our seniors - are living in fear, they feel that they are captive in their own homes. That is not an exaggeration, that is fact, that is truth. By way of final supplementary, I want to point out to the Minister of Justice that just last night, armed thugs victimized two senior citizens in the community of Cherry Brook. (Interruption) The question is coming, Mr. Premier, now that you are awake. The RCMP says that no arrests have been made on any of these crimes, there hasn't been one arrest relative to these crimes. Will the Minister of Justice immediately meet with the police and the prosecutorial staff - if the prosecutorial staff is not already out on strike, will the minister meet with police and prosecutors - across the province to discuss the need for resources, be it financial or human?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the member is referring to one particular incident . . .

MR. TAYLOR: No, I am not, four or five, Gays River, Grand Desert, West Chezzetcook . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Please be quiet.

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, in his question to me and I was trying to respond to the question, as unusual as that may seem, he mentioned one incident. I had already indicated in earlier answers that I would raise the matter with the police forces responsible, the municipal forces and the RCMP. Of course, I guess that member wants the Department of Justice to do the policing and take the jobs away from the municipal and the RCMP, I don't believe that is the way to do it. I will tell that honourable member this, just as an example, we have this scaremongering by that honourable member here but for 20 years . . .

MR. TAYLOR: . . . that is a bunch of crap . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order. I heard the honourable member over there saying "that is a bunch of crap.". Now that is unparliamentary language, sir, and I am calling on you to withdraw it or to leave the Chamber, take your pick, which will it be? (Interruptions)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the information that I am providing the Minister of Justice is essentially what is going on . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I am calling on you to withdraw the observation, "that is a bunch of crap", or else leave the Chamber for the remainder of the day.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, what he is feeding us here today is a bunch of crap and I will leave the House, gladly.

MR. SPEAKER: All right, Mr. Taylor, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is named for unparliamentary conduct for the remainder of the day and will please leave the Chamber. Sergeant-at-Arms.

[Page 410]

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, for 20 years in Nova Scotia, the citizens of part of Nova Scotia, just to give an example that it is not all bad news, that there is good news for 20 years, and I had representation from the member for Eastern Shore, about (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, there are senior citizens and single parents and many ordinary, law-abiding citizens (Interruptions)

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, do I have a chance to respond to the question?

MR. SPEAKER: Absolutely.

MR. GILLIS: Well, I just want to give an example of the other side of what the honourable member raised. For 20 years there were complaints from the Eastern Shore, down around Moser River - and we have all heard about them - but since the Government of John Savage took over, we acted. There is a policeman living there and there is law and order there. (Applause)

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the Minister of Justice on a topic that I was raising with him earlier. I want to do so because the minister was sort of suggesting that perhaps I was being unreasonable in asking for some considerable haste in making a decision on a public inquiry. I just want to remind the minister that when I raised this issue back in early December 1995, he said at that particular time that there was a review being conducted and that he would wait for that review and then take appropriate action.

I have in my possession a letter from that minister's department with respect to an FOI that I had sent with respect to that particular report that resulted from that review and the Department of Justice says that report ". . . is not in the custody or control . . ." of that department. I will table that for your records. We went back to the department in April and they said to us that they never did get a copy of that report. Mr. Speaker, when I asked here in this exchange for the minister to act on an obviously very serious matter that is concerning considerable numbers of people in Cape Breton and across the province, he responded to me that he would review this matter with officials, that it is very complex, and so on and so forth.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Justice is the following. The matter with respect to suicides resulting from contact with the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and how they were dealing with mental health patients is a matter that has been around for some months and years now and the matter has not been adequately addressed obviously because we have had two reported incidents, just last week or just this month, where individuals supposedly, reportedly, committed suicide after having been in contact with the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, this is an extraordinarily serious matter. I ask the Minister of Justice if he will commit himself and his department officials to examine this matter immediately, to get to the bottom of this issue, relative to what is at stake, and call a public inquiry at the earliest opportunity, if not sooner?

[Page 411]

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Well, again, the member has prejudged this and the bottom line is to call an inquiry. I already made the commitment to this honourable member and to another honourable member that this matter will be examined right away with further consultations with the Department of Health and we will deal with the matter as soon as reasonably possible. But I think what he had asked was before the end of Question Period, which is approximately an hour, and I said no because it wasn't a reasonable time to deal with a serious matter.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a serious matter and I am somewhat sceptical of the response from the Minister of Justice because it is the same response he gave me in December and his department has done absolutely nothing in respect to this issue. My first supplementary to the minister, I was concerned back in December, when I raised this issue, that the minister was going to base his decision on whether to have a public inquiry on consultation with the Minister of Health.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated at that point, and it is still the case today, it is in fact the involvement of the Department of Health which is at issue and part of the need for a public inquiry because of the lack of a protocol for dealing with mental health services in the Province of Nova Scotia. The Minister of Health has indicated that he, outside this House, is studying the whole question of a public inquiry. I want to ask the Minister of Justice if he will commit to this House that the decision relative to a public inquiry will be made by the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Justice alone, which is the authority afforded under the Public Inquiries Act?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member said that the answer now is the same as December. It is not; it is completely different because there was a report being ordered at that time, and that was the answer, that that would be done. I think it is only reasonable that there should be consultation on these matters with the Department of Health. We have a study and a complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. I have already made the commitment that we will continue our discussions on this and whatever conclusions are necessary, we will try to arrive at in the near future.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in my final supplementary, I revisit my earlier question. The reason for calling for a public inquiry is that we need to examine not only the role of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, but also the communities involved, also the Department of Health and their protocols - or lack thereof - in dealing with questions of mental health services in Cape Breton and across this province. I beseech the Minister of Justice - and this is my final question, Mr. Speaker - to make his decision relative to a public inquiry on the merits of the issue and not on the basis of consultation with the Minister of Health, whose actions and the actions of his department will be subject to review under a public inquiry?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I think it would be totally irresponsible not to consult with my colleague, the head of the ministry which is involved in this important matter, but if the honourable Leader of the Third Party thinks that the minister might say anything to sway me from doing what is proper, he can disabuse himself of that right now. I make the commitment that I will hear from the Minister of Health and his officials, but I am also hearing from the Leader of the Third Party in the matters he raised today, and the member for Halifax Citadel. All of these things will be considered; we will try to do what is right and we will do it as soon as possible.

[Page 412]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.


MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The Medical Diagnostic Systems Health Group, a Toronto group, are very much engaged in running laboratories out West, I believe, in Alberta and British Columbia. I understand they have ongoing discussions with the Government of New Brunswick, at the present time, with regard to taking over laboratory services in that province. Would the Minister of Health confirm that he, too, is having conversations with that group, or some other group, with regard to privatization of lab services in Nova Scotia?

HON. RONALD STEWART: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not having conversations. There are no official contacts with MDS.

MR. RUSSELL: I ask the Minister of Health then, Mr. Speaker, whether or not, for instance, a regional health board might have the power to privatize hospital laboratory services in their area. To the minister's knowledge, are any regional health boards, or anyone within his department at all, having any conversations with regard to privatization of lab services?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, if that is the case, it is without my knowledge or consent.

MR. RUSSELL: My final question, Mr. Speaker, is a very quick one to the minister. I was wondering if the minister would check with the regional health boards, and others within his department, with the Queen Elizabeth II to determine whether or not there have been discussions with regard to privatization of the laboratory services in the province, and if he would get back to me as soon as possible?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I would certainly do that. I might reassure the honourable member in this regard, and I don't wish in any way to appear coy; I wish to open this because this is a question of privatization of services and all of the ramifications thereof. I doubt if a day goes by that there aren't 10 private companies looking around the province for opportunities. I suspect MDS has been sniffing around as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.


MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I understand that the tender for the gambling addiction Help Line closed in February and that the Help Line was supposedly to be up and running by April 1st. Could the minister indicate if in fact this is the case and if not, why is it not?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly take that and the details of that question under advisement to report more fully to the department as to the status of the line and the other issues surrounding problem gambling services.

MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister would take this one as notice too, then. The minister announced last fall that $1.2 million was to be dedicated to treat problem gamblers. I wonder, of that $1.2 million that he announced last fall for the gamblers' treatment, what has been spent?

[Page 413]

I might as well just do the third supplementary too. As to the breakdown for education or whatever, would the minister commit to report that to the House?

DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I certainly could do that and I will endeavour to do that today, after Question Period.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.


MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. My office recently contacted the College of Physicians and Surgeons to get the latest counts on the number of doctors and residents registered in the province. The numbers indicated that from December 1995 until February 1996 there was a net loss of three more doctors in this province. Obviously, despite the efforts of the recruiter that the minister hired the government's plan to attract doctors is not working, we are going in a negative and not in a positive. My question for the minister is, what specific actions, beyond those of the recruiter, are being taken to stop the exodus of doctors leaving this province?

HON. RONALD STEWART: I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member opposite relies on his information in terms of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, there will be gross inaccuracies. It is not on the part of the college at all; it is the fact that there are, because of last year's contract, quite marked changes in the way physicians are registered. For example, some of us, heaven forbid, have lost our billing numbers so we were taken out of the stream entirely. We have within the contract various ways of estimating how many are actually practising. We do it by billing numbers and the billing of the past several months, not in terms of a register, because that is not an accurate way.

In terms of the actual question as to what we are doing, we are working very hard with the recruiter and with the local communities to recruit. We have had some success, I might say, in respect particularly to some of the rural areas.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I had to go to the College of Physicians and Surgeons to get information because it is not forthcoming from his department, so the only way I have is to go where, obviously, they will give me the information.

Many rural doctors who have been practising in small town Nova Scotia for many years have said the government's incentive practice to lure doctors to their area favours the new people coming in over the established physician. I am sure the minister has heard that. My question for the minister is, does his department have any intention of addressing the concerns expressed by rural physicians, some of whom have said that the government can expect more rural physicians to pack it up and leave if their concerns aren't addressed? I am sure the minister is aware of those concerns that rural physicians have brought forward. Is he addressing that issue, and how?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member opposite for the specifics of his question in respect to the difficulties certainly faced by rural and small town, I would say, physicians in the province regarding the last several years. In fact, our difficulty in this province in terms of having to recruit and appoint a recruiter resulted from the loss of a full graduating class in 1994, which was the result of approval of a change in the curriculum in 1992 and 1993. So we missed a whole graduating class and we had to put in place some of the incentives to which the honourable member refers.

[Page 414]

In respect to rural physicians specifically, we are working very hard with the section on rural practice in the Medical Society to come up with agreements and alternative ways that we might address their particular needs, in particular the problem of lifestyle changes that need come about in order to be more satisfying to them.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. MOODY: I know the minister is aware of the problems in many of the rural areas and small towns in this province. One rural doctor recently speculated that unless something is done, he could see up to 50 per cent of rural physicians leaving Nova Scotia in the next five years. It has been suggested that even those who are graduating from medical school are not qualified for the demands of rural practice, and the minister indicated about some changes taking place.

The problem is that we have, I think, in this province a serious problem in the rural areas and small towns. I am asking the minister, since he has looked at the package he has put together - I don't know if he is happy with the results or whether other things have to be done; from what I am hearing from rural doctors, other things have to be done - one, is the minister actively considering a program to stream medical students, or an incentive package to keep existing rural physicians in that rural setting, because of the very lifestyle the minister talked about?

DR. STEWART: The honourable member opposite mentions a few of the broad approaches that could be taken. In terms of not qualified, I would say, rather, that rural practice and small-town practice, particularly general practice, is, I believe, a very specialized area. We are in discussion with the medical school in respect to certainly adding, not a curriculum again but some emphasis in this regard. So we must start, in fact before that in my opinion, if I might express it, Mr. Speaker, through you, that we start, in fact, in recruitment in small towns, in rural areas, in which we might find individuals who are dedicated to their communities, who are qualified and able and could come into the stream of medical training and, thereby, have a greater chance to go back to fulfil their duties within their own communities.

It is a broad approach but it will cover both recruitment of new, plus the changes which must come about in respect to both remuneration and in respect to lifestyle changes of those who are so dedicated and are working so hard.

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


MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is also to the Minister of Health. Yesterday in response to a question from the member for Pictou Centre, the minister said, "In respect to working with the groups, we continue to work with groups. I would welcome every representation and specific cases so that we may assure that every Nova Scotian is not denied appropriate care.".

My question for the minister is, given his commitment yesterday in the House to the people, to address different concerns in specific cases, would the minister agree to meet with the Cape Breton Regional Council to address what they have termed a crises in home care?

[Page 415]

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I have met and continue to meet with groups. I would meet with groups. I have met with the regional council; had a three hour meeting with them some months ago. We discussed reform. I heartily disagree with his suggestion that there is a crisis in home care. Cape Breton has, in fact, increased in respect to the number of patients being cared for in home care by 109 per cent, the greatest increase around the province.

We have put in place an unfettered system of home care and I would gladly stand and defend it. I would say that we take representation, written and oral, and we are continuing to do so. My public meetings in Cape Breton were well-attended, were vigorous and were very helpful in the decisions we had to make.

MR. MACLEOD: I appreciate the fact that the minister is willing to meet, but my question was, will you meet and put to rest their fears that there is a crisis in home care because they passed a resolution in the council saying that. So would the minister be willing to meet with the Cape Breton Regional Council, in a timely manner, to address this concern?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, this is not the place to convey indications of meetings. I would certainly entertain a request and I will do my best to fulfil any requests given to me but my honourable friend opposite insists on having an exchange for administrative purposes here. I would say that I certainly have every indication of a meeting with people and of taking their views and I do so individually with council members as late as this weekend.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, again my final supplementary is to the Minister of Health. Could we simply have a yes or a no? Will you or will you not meet with the Cape Breton Regional Council to put this matter to rest in their mind, yes or no?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I will communicate with the Cape Breton Regional Council.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address my question through you, sir, to the Premier. Now, of course, when the Liberal Government came to power back in 1993, it did not take it all that long to purge itself of a number of former deputy ministers because, as the Premier said at that time, it was necessary in order to revitalize the professionalism of the Public Service. That revitalization, the severance packages, the consulting fees, et cetera, cost us approximately $2 million. Now we have seen that three of those deputy ministers have either been fired or their resignations asked for, which has cost us again a couple of hundred thousand dollars. The most recent one to leave was one Mr. Keith Thompson.

My question to the Premier, quite simply, is why was Keith Thompson fired?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think the record will show that Mr. Thompson resigned after a departmental disbandment. It is as simple as that.

MR. HOLM: Well, it is as simple as that, Mr. Speaker, the Premier would have us believe.

[Page 416]

You know, Mr. Speaker, it is a common practice for governments and for Premiers not only to shuffle their Cabinet Ministers but also to shuffle deputy ministers as well. Mr. Thompson was shuffled out the door and given over $100,000 severance package whereas the work-a-day Nova Scotians, the small civil servants, are not treated quite so generously.

My question to the Premier, through you, Mr. Speaker, is simply this, if the Premier still had confidence in Mr. Thompson, why wasn't he shuffled to one of the other deputy minister's positions that became available instead of spending additional monies - approximately $100,000 more - to hire a replacement deputy minister when one, who supposedly you have confidence in, you have given a golden handshake to?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I could only assume that the member did not hear my answer. Mr. Thompson resigned.

MR. HOLM: Well, the Premier says he resigned. There are an awful lot of Nova Scotians, the small people who the Premier says he is going to be protecting, who would love to be offered $100,000. My question to the Premier then, through you, Mr. Speaker, is simply this, why was it, if in fact a job still existed there for him within the government, why did the government accept his resignation and provide him with that $100,000? If he wanted to resign, why didn't the government just simply say, you are out of here then? If you resign, no severance.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there was one year left on the three year contract. This is a personnel matter and that is really all that I can say because obviously there is a need for no discussion on this kind of issue relating to personnel.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.


MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment has indicated there are approximately 72 functioning enviro-depots around the province at the present time and most of those, I believe, are up and running. I wonder if the minister could inform the House as to the number of processing centres that are in place and what the criteria was to award a license to run one of these processing centres?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the number of enviro-depots is growing on a daily basis, practically, across the province. It seems like every day we have identified a place where we have a need for one and we do have applicants coming forward who would apply and be successful. The member asked a question about processing centres and those centres are primarily in the City of Halifax, Lunenburg, Cumberland and Colchester Counties.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister could indicate whether the Resource Recovery Fund is an agency of government and is subject to the same procurement and tendering policies as all other agencies and units of the provincial government? Did the minister hear the question?

MR. ADAMS: No, I did not.

[Page 417]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat the question. I don't think the minister understood what I said. I was wondering if the minister could inform the House as to whether or not the Resource Recovery Fund is an agency of government in that the tendering policies and the procurement policies of the province apply to its processes?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the Resource Recovery Fund was not set up as an agency of government. It was set up as a private, incorporated, non-government agency.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, if that is the case, as I understand it, the Resource Recovery Fund has no need to apply to its purchases any tendering process, it does not necessarily have to follow any of the processes that we have in place, for instance for hiring people or anything that the provincial government has in place at the present time with regard to those services, is that correct?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, by way of a fuller explanation, the Resource Recovery Fund have agreed that they will comply with policies that we do have in place as the provincial government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.


MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. I was contacted earlier today by a young mother here in metro, who informed me that she had received a flyer from the recycler who picks up blue bags in her neighbourhood. The flyer informed that the 5 cent deposit to be returned would only be returned on beverage containers which had stamped on the container words something like, "return for deposit where applicable". Is that information that that young mother received correct?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, not being familiar with that case I will take it under advisement and find out for the member.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I didn't ask the minister about the case, I asked the minister, is it or is it not correct that the only beverage containers which can be returned for the 5 cent deposit return are those containers which have on the side of them, "return for deposit where applicable". He is the minister; surely he knows. Are they legitimately returned or are they not, yes or no?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, obviously if a can says, "return for deposit where applicable", that would be pretty common sense that you return the can for the return deposit.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I can see this is going to be a long afternoon. The other day I was in Sobey's and I picked up a little Gerber juice bottle, I think it was apple juice. We now know that it is necessary to put a 10 cent deposit on those. It does not say on the side of those little Gerber juice bottles, "return for deposit where applicable". My question for the minister is, even though it does not have those words on it, is that container eligible for the 5 cents deposit return? If it is, then obviously the information provided by the recycler is wrong. If it is not available, then the information from the recycler is right. Which information is correct, that is all I am asking the minister?

[Page 418]

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, those non-refillable containers which you pay a 10 cent deposit on have a 5 cent return back to the purchaser at the enviro-depots. It is a half back deposit system.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens on a new question.


MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, for the third and final time of asking we did finally struggle to an answer. I want to ask the Minister of the Environment, in view of the fact that a flyer was distributed in at least one neighbourhood in metro, stating that all beverage containers on which a deposit has been paid are not eligible for the 5 cents refund, will the minister undertake to answer this question for me? If a recycler were to convey that information to the public and were the public to believe it and were the public to put in the blue bag a number of containers which were beverage containers upon which the 10 cent deposit had been paid but the consumer believed the flyer which said that it did not apply to containers which were not appropriately marked, could an unscrupulous recycler then pick up not only the 2.5 cents for picking up the containers, but also the nickel that the consumer had been led to believe would not be returned because the bottle was not marked, "return for deposit where applicable"?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member seems to be nit-picking the program. I would ask him to table the brochure that is coming from the Resource Recovery Fund or the Department of the Environment which shows that we have clearly misrepresented the facts as they apply to the return deposit. I don't believe we have, but if he could table the brochure, we will answer the question for him. The program is clearly laid out. If you pay a 10 cent deposit on a non-refillable container, you get one-half of that back when you return it to a depot. I can't surmise what somebody may or may not do if they had the opportunity.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, the minister is not listening. I did not say that the Resource Recovery Fund nor did I say that the Department of the Environment had sent out such a circular, I said it came from a person who was said to be representing a recycler here in metro. I did not, for a moment, cast aspersions upon his department nor upon the Resource Recovery Fund in that respect.

My final question to the minister is this, in the event that an unscrupulous person should undertake to scam the public, by way of the kind of situation which I provided as an example in my previous question, what provision does the law provide for dealing with such scam artists?

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I don't believe that question to be in order. It asks a legal opinion of the minister as to what the law provides as a remedy. But you have another supplementary left, so you can perhaps take it from a different angle.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, where in this minister's legislation is there provision for dealing with such a situation?

MR. SPEAKER: All right, we will try that one.

[Page 419]

MR. ADAMS: Could I hear that again, Mr. Speaker, please?

MR. SPEAKER: Very well. Again.

MR. LEEFE: Where in the minister's legislation is there provision for dealing with situations, such as that which I described in my preceding, preceding question?

MR. ADAMS: I thought it was the same question, Mr. Speaker. He is being hypothetical when he asks what provisions are in the Act for dealing with people who are devious. The Act will be exercised as all Acts are, under the law; if somebody violates it, they are dealt with.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.


MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. DONAHOE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I wonder if, through you, the Minister of the Environment might be good enough to indicate to this House whether or not any economic impact or cost-efficiency, cost-effectiveness study, or review of any kind, was undertaken by him or his department or Resource Recovery Fund or any consultants, or anybody in the world of whom he is aware, before the government took the decision to embark upon the present 10 cent deposit program? Is he aware of any study?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, there was a great deal of consultation done in the preceding years to this program and a lot of the consultation did have feedback from the public, from municipal units and from businesses who made various suggestions for a deposit-return system. I think that as a conglomeration, if you will, of all of the findings, we settled upon the 10 cent deposit as opposed to a 40 cent deposit that was predicted by another body earlier.

MR. DONAHOE: The honourable minister today, and other members here in recent days have had a great deal to say about a 40 cent deposit arrangement. I put the honourable minister to the test, if I may, as I put my second supplementary, to table any papers that he has or any of his colleagues have in their possession which indicate that any previous government had committed to any such 40 cent deposit program. (Interruption) I put that challenge to him.

So I take it, as I put my first supplementary, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of the Environment, that there was sort of an assessment of a whole lot of earlier reviews and discussions and consultations and so on, so that the accurate answer to my first question is that this government did not undertake a study specific to the program which they implemented. I wonder then, in that light, can the minister explain what he proposes to do now in light of the fact that had he undertaken such a study, he would have found that the amount of waste that is able to be diverted from landfills through this program that he has now embarked upon, represents something in the order of 2 per cent of the waste-stream. I would like the minister to indicate to Nova Scotians, what immediate initiatives is he about to embark upon to address the 98 per cent remaining and still making its way to the province's landfills?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member refers to 2 per cent of the waste-stream being what is applicable on the 10 per cent deposit. I think it is more than 2 per cent. He is talking about beverage containers, primarily soft drink containers, and that 2 per cent bounced up to a tremendous amount of waste that we find on the roadsides and beaches of Nova Scotia in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. I think that we are going to reach our 50 per cent diversion within the specified time of the year 2000 which is only four [Page 420]

short years from now. I am confident when I look at other jurisdictions and see what they have done in terms of reaching their targets that we will reach our targets and perhaps surpass them. (Applause)

MR. DONAHOE: There was a little bit of background noise and I may not have heard everything that the minister just said (Interruption) Perhaps I might, by way of final supplementary, ask the minister if I heard him right. Is he saying to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that the deposit back arrangement which has been instituted by his department and the government of which he is a member, is in fact going to divert 50 per cent of the waste from the province's landfills by the year 2000? The program that is in place now, the minister has said today, is going to divert 50 per cent of the province's waste from the province's landfill sites? Is that what he just said?

MR. ADAMS: Of course not, Mr. Speaker. That is a small part of the overall waste management strategy for Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians understand it given their response to the program. The answer to him is no.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works in his capacity being responsible for the Sydney tar ponds. (Interruptions) The minister says he forgot about that. I am sure that he would maybe wish that it wasn't something that was transferred to him.

Anyway, the minister, of course, will know that his predecessor, the Minister of Supply and Services, had announced that he was going to be slagging over or covering the tar ponds over with slag and that the PCBs that are contained in that site are supposedly going to be treated separately. The former minister had announced in mid-January that he had actually entered into a contract with Jacques Whitford Environmental Ltd. and International Technologies Corporation, a contract worth approximately $20 million to do that design work and to do that clean-up. Mr. Speaker, that they did before they had done their homework to find out the levels of PCBs and the amounts that are actually contained within the tar ponds.

My question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, through you, Mr. Speaker, is simply this, given the fact that the government had not done its homework before it chose its option, and given the fact that the levels of PCBs in the tar ponds now are three to four times higher than what they thought they were at that time, will the government cancel that contract and review the options to ensure that the most viable and environmentally and health-conscious solution is, in fact, to be followed?

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, one promise I made myself with respect to the tar ponds was that I was not going to jump in too quickly. But seriously, this is a matter that has been of grave concern to many Nova Scotians. Personally it bothers me that this province has expended, or governments have expended perhaps in excess of $50 million and where are

[Page 421]

we? What has been done; what has been accomplished? I am personally bothered by that and I think perhaps there has to be a lot more accountability on the whole tar ponds issue.

I take exception to what the honourable member opposite said, that the government has not done its homework. The government certainly has done its homework on this. There have been a stack of studies done on the tar ponds issue over the years, by this government and by other governments. As I just said, I think we have to assess where we are and be accountable for the money that has been spent.

I certainly intend to review this entire file. Toward that end, I have arranged meetings to be held in the very near future with the CEO of the tar ponds project and the individuals in the former Department of Supply and Services who are responsible, as well as the deputy minister.

As I said, I am not going to jump into this too quickly. We will give it a very serious review and make decisions as we go. There is consultation going on in the community, you would know that, and that consultation will continue.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister says he is not going to jump in too quickly. On a personal note, I hope he doesn't fall in too quickly either.

Mr. Speaker, the minister says that the government has done its homework. When they announced that their solution was to cover the tar ponds basically with slag, they believed there were about 5,000 tons of PCBs in those tar ponds. Reports we have received now are that the amounts range between 15,000 to 20,000 tons of PCBs in those tar ponds. Those amounts keep going up because the government did not have the detailed survey work done in advance to determine exactly what is there.

Mr. Speaker, the former Minister of Supply and Services said that that undertaking, that project, was to be registered as a Class II undertaking back in January of 1996. The federal Minister of the Environment, Sheila Copps, wrote to the Minister of the Environment on January 24, 1996, looking for information, details, terms of reference, because there is a potential impact that the decisions this government makes may not meet the federal requirements.

My question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, whom I appreciate has not had responsibility for this area for a long time, is simply, why had that project not yet been registered and the terms of reference developed that the minister promised would be done back in early January?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, the member makes reference to the extra PCBs, the extra layers of PCBs and the extra tonnage of PCBs found. That is part of the original work of the consultants hired to identify, and taxpayers' valuable money was spent to find that out. I think one of the things we have to ask and have to find out is why, in fact, after spending tens of millions of dollars or taxpayers' money, why are we being surprised with this information today? There is increased sampling going on and testing, to try and determine exactly what is there and what levels are there. That work will be ongoing. As I said, I will be reviewing this entire file, meeting with the CEO and the others involved who have the responsibility at a staff level. I will be looking at making those decisions after reviewing those files.

[Page 422]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, a lot of people and a lot of Nova Scotians are, indeed, asking the kinds of questions that the minister posed, like how is it that we ended up spending all these many millions of dollars, and we don't know the answers yet to these kinds of questions.

Mr. Speaker, people are also asking the question, how could this government choose to enter into what was the cheapest of the options without even having done the work to know exactly what is there? Because as the amounts of PCBs increase, so too do the potential costs of treating it.

One of other things that the former deputy minister announced back in January was that he said - not that he was going to but that he had already ordered - that an internal review of the decision-making process since the project's conception under the previous government was to be done, the decision-making process before it was turned over to Sydney Tar Ponds Clean-up Incorporated. Also, a lawyer had already been seconded to lead that review.

My question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Surely he will know what lawyer has been seconded to do that work. Could he tell us who has been assigned and where in the process of things does that review currently sit? Nobody I have talked to has heard of it.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. MANN: I will give an undertaking, as I have with the previous two questions, that I will review this file. I will meet with the CEO, I will meet with the staff people involved from my department and we will give the entire file a complete review, including the status of all investigations, internal and external, and we will be prepared to make that information available when we have completed that review.

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


MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Community Services. In a letter to me on March 21st, the minister said that the moratorium on new small options was deemed necessary because it was recognized that there was a need to ensure the necessary safeguards were in place to protect the residents. My question for the minister is, given the increasing demand for community-based services as a result of deinstitutionalization, will the moratorium be lifted as soon as the new standards are adopted?

HON. JAMES SMITH: We have kept our commitments and developed new small options where the commitment had been made earlier and where the need arises and we will adjust to that. Moratorium has been a loose term, used usually by the Opposition. There has been a slowness in developing the community-based options until we have had a chance to access all of those that are currently in the small options and as we develop the new standards and regulations.

As budgetary matters evolve and we are able to do that, the answer is yes, we will move for it, that is part of the plan of deinstitutionalization. I would point out that in some cases people coming from institutions are going into homes and not necessarily small options. Sometimes children are going into their own homes and that continues.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, as outlined in the provincial-municipal service exchange and in keeping with the government's commitment to support community-based living, will this minister's department provide 100 per cent of the cost for new small options once the moratorium is lifted?

DR. SMITH: We are now currently providing 100 per cent under community-based options and we will continue to do so unless there are unforeseen difficulties that would interfere with that type of funding. We propose to continue.

[Page 423]

MR. MACLEOD: I thank the minister for his answer. Given that this moratorium has been in place now for almost a year, could the minister indicate how his department has been accommodating those Nova Scotians with a mental handicap or a mental disability who are being out placed from different institutions?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there has been some commitment, as I mentioned in my previous answer, that when we were working with sponsoring agencies, such as municipal units and we have, in fact, established new community-based options, it has not been a total moratorium. Some have returned to their homes with additional supports, so it is all part of a program. The whole program does not necessarily depend on the community-based option itself as we refer to the three units. Sometimes there is use of group homes, supervised apartments and there are other options within the program.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.


MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. The airline, the American Eagle, has announced that they are pulling the plug on the Halifax to New York air service effective May 1st. A spokesman for American Eagle has said that the flights between Halifax and New York have not been profitable and the airline can no longer afford to operate them.

Less than a month ago, a senior official within the Economic Renewal Agency was indicating what a great policy the open skies was and that between Canada and the United States the number of people in dollars heading to Nova Scotia was going to be boosted. Now there is a definite contradiction here between a month ago and today and I am wondering if the minister could explain just what happened with the rosy picture that his department was painting a month ago and the reality of today?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member opposite, I am sure, is aware, open skies means that we have access to all sorts of airlines. As he would also know, in the very same newspaper that reported American Eagle's decision, there was a positive editorial about Icelandair's decision and more importantly about the memoranda of understanding between Air Atlantic and Icelandair to provide better service. So, when you are in an international market place, business decisions are made - some good, some bad. The fact is, there is incremental progress being made. There is more revenue generated by virtue of open skies and we welcome any and all airlines to come to Halifax with tourists and business people alike. (Applause)

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the answer very much. Again to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, the marketing agency director, Mr. Brennan, was also talking about an agreement that had been cemented and what a coup it was that the

[Page 424]

Government of Nova Scotia was able to submit an agreement between Nova Scotia and the American Eagle airline to travel to Nova Scotia and JFK. Can the minister tell us the status of this agreement today and how much funding the Government of Nova Scotia had tied up in this coup of an agreement that has now disappeared?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, again, as the honourable member knows, when you are attempting to market internationally and you have limited resources as a result of the fiscal discipline being exercised by this government as compared with the government opposite or the members opposite when they were in government, what you attempt to do is form partnerships with the private sector. We have talked openly about cooperative agreements on advertising and marketing that we have done with a variety of airlines. The answer to the second part of his question is none.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, that was quite a coup. The officials from his department were saying what great work they were doing and so on and really it was just nothing.

The minister should be able to clarify to us and Nova Scotians why on March 18th there were such glowing reports in the Daily News - the paper that so much likes to write about this government - there were glowing reports talking about (Interruptions) Read it yourselves, gentlemen. Read it. I will table it. Any of you who have not received it, I will table it and read it. They were writing about coups. The department staff were talking about coups and what a great job they were doing and how well they were organized and here the minister stands up and says, well, we were trying to do something. So, either this was a load of baloney or today's is not factual. Now the minister cannot have it both ways.

Could you explain to us how your department can be so out of touch that in the space of two weeks you have gone from a coup to a bust and you are standing, trying to explain about Icelandair and other airlines when, in fact, it is evident that the minister has absolutely no notion, and his department has no notion, of the real facts in the airline industry. So, if the minister could explain the big change in two weeks? (Interruption)

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to let my honourable colleague know that my Daily News arrives about 4:30 a.m. so I am sure about a 25 minute drive further to Centreville would gladly supply him with a daily subscription of the same fine newspaper. (Applause)

However, the issue here is, are we disappointed when business decisions are made that don't go the way the province would like? Absolutely. Will we attempt to attract other airlines to this province to make sure that visitors have access and business people here have access to American centres or European centres? We will. Will those airlines be approached in much the same way that American Eagle was, and that is with welcome and open arms to Halifax International? Yes. Will we form agreements with them that ensure a good return on investment? Yes.

In all of those cases, we make no apologies for welcoming international business airlines to Halifax and we will continue to welcome airlines as they come. Unfortunately, some decisions don't go our way. The incremental growth in the airline industry for Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, to the former Minister of Transportation, speaks for itself.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

[Page 425]


MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment, and other members of government, have suggested that the new deposit system will create something in the order of 600 jobs. I wonder if the minister would be good enough to indicate whether he has any personal knowledge today, as to what employment expansion or creation, if any, has been occasioned as a result of the undertaking of this new policy as of the first of the month?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I don't have any exact numbers to this date, but I can say that, certainly, if you look at 100 depot operators, that is 100 more jobs than before we started the program. (Interruption) We don't have the exact numbers to date, but if you look at the program of enviro-depots, if we have 100 in operation today, that means 100 more jobs than we had before we started; minimum. (Applause)

MR. DONAHOE: Well, the Premier applauds loudly. My supplementary . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You have one minute remaining.

MR. DONAHOE: . . . to the Minister of the Environment is, if we would tell this House how many of those enviro-depots were, in fact, existing businesses prior to their being designated enviro-depots under this new program? (Interruption)

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I can get the answer to him. I heard somebody over there say all of them, but that is absolutely not the truth. It is certainly a lesser number than the total number.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many? (Interruptions)

MR. ADAMS: Less than 100.

MR. SPEAKER: I think there is time for a final supplementary.

MR. DONAHOE: I would like to challenge the Minister of the Environment to prove me wrong, that something in excess of 80 per cent of the businesses, which his department has designated as enviro-depots, were in business before this new program started. I ask if the minister will table a document here in this place tomorrow to indicate how many were in business prior to being established or certified as enviro-depots; will he give me that undertaking today that he will file such a document tomorrow?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to table a document that will show the kind of job development and growth that we produced with this program, as soon as it is available.

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

[Page 426]



MR. SPEAKER: Today is Opposition Members' Business for the New Democratic Party.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 13.

Res. No. 13, re Health - VON Staff: Protest - Congrats. - notice given March 29/96 -(Mr. R. Chisholm)

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to rise and speak for a few moments today to initiate debate on our resolution that was introduced back on March 29th. The operative clause reads as follows:

"Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the courageous VON staff who have said enough is enough, and now walk the picket lines to protest the attack on their wages and benefits done in the name of meeting low cost competition which brings with it poorer quality care for Nova Scotians.".

Madam Speaker, the purpose behind this resolution was not only to raise the issues around the battle of those nurses, but also to raise the concerns that many Nova Scotians, health care workers, health care consumers and others have about the changes in health care and the delivery of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[4:00 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, you and other members of this House will know that over the past number of years there has been some considerable discussion at the federal level and, in fact, North America-wide, over the provision of health care and how best to do that. In Canada, primarily the debate has been around the fact that we spend well in excess of $60 billion on health care and commentators and politicians in power say that we can't afford to pay for that level of health care any further.

The issue that tends to get raised at that point is that therefore we need to change our system of health insurance, that we need to reduce the universality of our system, we need to introduce the whole question of user fees and so on into our system in order to pay for it. What that fails to recognize is the fact that we can afford to meet the health care needs of this country, of this province, with the money we are putting into it. What we need to focus on is how, in fact, that money is allocated. In fact we have had a bevy of studies in this province that have pointed to that very issue, that have said that if the province were to refocus its attention to the delivery of health care in the communities with the communities having much more responsibility, with health care consumers having a stronger and more effective role in decisions with respect to the provision of health care, that that would, in the short, medium and long term, end up saving us more money.

[Page 427]

Madam Speaker, the studies have shown, in fact, that by depending more on user fees, by looking at the issue of turning over more of the control of the system to insurance companies is the wrong way to go; that it is the more expensive way. All we need to do is look south of us to see that in its reality, where a few short years ago we understood there were between 35 million and 37 million Americans who had absolutely no health care coverage whatsoever. Over the duration now of the last four years, while that country has been embroiled in a debate over the question of how health care is going to be delivered and funded in that country, all the while that debate has been going on, coming to no conclusion effectively to change the status quo, the numbers of uninsured Americans has risen to 39 million. That certainly does not consider the other estimated 37 million-plus Americans who have just the very basic health care coverage.

What has happened in the debate in the U.S. around the whole question of how we are going to fund health care is that what needed to be done was a challenge to the insurance companies, to the control that insurance companies and financial institutions have over how health care is provided in that country. Madam Speaker, I think it is clear to anyone who is paying attention that the battle for those people who were looking for a publicly funded, universally accessible, quality health care system in the United States has been defeated and that the insurance companies, those people who are, in fact, doing very well, thank you very much, as a result of the way the health care system is organized in the United States, have won the day, and the AMA.

Madam Speaker, the reason that is important is because in that whole debate those who were fighting for the status quo, the insurance companies, the medical management companies and others, looked on the Canadian system with great disgust and cited on TV ads and in many articles that were circulated throughout that country, examples of nightmarish circumstances around the type of universally accessible insurance system that we have in Canada, to say that that is not, in fact, the way that we should go in this country.

The problem that we have to recognize is that Canada is a very large market for many of those very same companies to expand their network, to increase their service provision, to in fact take over control of our health care system and provide that health care system for Canadians and Nova Scotians. Again, I think it must be recognized that certainly any study that I have seen shows that the American system, the for-profit model of health care delivery, has been shown to be the most inefficient in terms of per capita dollars spent on health care, whereas alternatively in Canada, we are found to be a very efficient system.

That is not to say that we don't have problems, that we don't have to recognize the fact that we need to revisit the way public dollars are allocated in order to provide health care to Nova Scotians and to all Canadians and to ensure that that health care is provided in a way that maintains quality and ensures that our population not only maintains its healthy status but, for that matter, increases its healthy status.

We do that by engaging in the kind of reforms that we have begun here in Nova Scotia, the kind of reforms that were recommended by the Blueprint Committee in their report tabled in this House in April 1994. Clearly, those recommendations talked about services being delivered in the community, being determined by consumers and health care professionals in the community. But what must be recognized is the fact that the Blueprint Committee and others have recognized that in order to do that, it is incumbent upon the province, the Minister of Health and his department, to establish very clear standards and guidelines by which those services are going to be provided.

[Page 428]

I think that Nova Scotians and Canadians would agree that it is simply not in the cards for health care, for people to be making profit on the ill health of others. I think that is a firm principle that we must recognize. We must all recognize also, that members of this House have supported unanimously just last year the 10 goals for quality health care in this country. If we are committed to that, then I believe, as do many Nova Scotians, that we must do our utmost to prevent the continual erosion of health care services in this province and in this country as a result of for-profit agencies, for-profit companies, coming in and delivering those services.

I think it is important that the Minister of Health make a clear statement, followed by legislation, followed by regulations, that would ensure that services that are going to be provided to Nova Scotians be provided on a not for-profit basis and that they be delivered with the highest standards of quality in mind. The only way that that is going to be done is if we decide what is the standard of quality that is going to be set and we put that in legislation and we ensure that anybody delivering services, any company that is delivering services, in fact meets up with that standard and that we do not fall into the trap of simply considering the bottom line as the most important issue with respect to the delivery of service.

That whole issue has come to light, most specifically as a result of the current dispute between the local chapter of the VON, covering Halifax and Halifax County and the Halifax County local of the Nurses' Union, Madam Speaker. Because, as we have heard from the managers of the VON here in Halifax, they have responded in presenting to the union, to their nurses, positions in bargaining that ask them to roll back their wages by 3 per cent, retroactive at least a year, ask them to forgo their vehicles and vehicle allowance, as well as other concessions that were asked for in contract negotiations and that they were doing that as a result of the pressures they were feeling, that they felt they had to respond to from companies that were going to be competing for the nursing services contract being let by Home Care Nova Scotia, by the Department of Health.

The reason why I think that they were in a position where they did not have to succumb, I guess, to that pressure, they could have just simply said no, as the Cape Breton chapter did and perhaps negotiate an extension like they did. But they felt that that was not the way for them to go. I guess the problem is that there was such uncertainty surrounding the provision of nursing care services under Home Care Nova Scotia that they were left in a vacuum and that they went ahead and made that decision. The vacuum existed because of the fact that the Province of Nova Scotia, the Minister of Health and his staff in the Department of Health, Madam Speaker, have failed over the past 9 or 10 months, since this program originally started in June 1995, to establish a clear protocol of how those services are going to be provided, ensuring that quality be the paramount issue in that determination.

As a result, we have that dispute happening. As a result, we continue to have concerns around this province, as the provision of health care services, either in the form of laboratory services, in the form of home care support, nursing care in the home and so on is being provided because of the lack of direction and clear guidelines that the Minister of Health and his government need to come forward with, Madam Speaker.

In conclusion, as you indicate my time is up, I would just say that I think it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we fight against this for-profit incursion into health care service delivery in the Province of Nova Scotia and stand shoulder to shoulder with those nurses at the VON and other health care workers and health care consumers who are working hard to fight that battle.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. RONALD STEWART: Madam Speaker, I must say to the member opposite, in response to the honourable Leader of the NDP, his tone in his address belies the substance and the tenor of his resolution. But the resolution certainly can be judged by it being written, filled with inaccuracies and downright, in fact, unacceptable in the extreme because it makes statements which, in fact, are not, in any way, consistent with what is happening. His tenor of his discussion and, I think, very appropriate tenor of that discussion, leaves [Page 429]

me to believe that perhaps we are not too far off from agreeing with what may be necessary in terms of Nova Scotia's health care system, in this respect at least.

Madam Speaker, this is a question of dedication and commitment to the principles, as the honourable member opposite just suggested, of the Canada Health Act, very simply. I want to set the record straight and make a few things clear. We have heard a lot of political rhetoric in the last week about this and we have had some political grandstanding even in this regard. I want to state, categorically, that this government and this ministry is committed to the principles of the Canada Health Act, to a universally accessible and to a publicly funded health care system.

I want to emphasize today, for the purpose of debate, the publicly funded elements and public administration particularly to which the honourable Leader of the Third Party has referred. We have struggled in this province, Madam Speaker, over the last three years to in fact protect this, to protect these elements of health care, to protect the Canada Health Act and all of its ramifications. We will continue to do so and we will do so in a way that is planned, is appropriate and is consistent with the sustainability of our resources. We are committed to the preservation of publicly funded and publicly accountable Medicare. That is the system to which this government dedicated itself, both in the development of policy before, during and after the election campaign of 1993.

[4:15 p.m.]

Home Care Nova Scotia is an integral part of that system and the guests who came - and might still be present here in the gallery - representing the on-line troops, if you would, that slog it out daily in the very difficult area of care that is the provision of service to people who are in need in their homes, in nursing homes as well, and throughout the system, certainly have every reason to question the direction in which they feel we are going and to express their views. We appreciate very much having those views expressed in the reasonable and effective way in which they have done so.

Let me talk a little bit about Americanization of systems, Madam Speaker. I would say that the American system - if there is one, and there isn't, there is really a system in which it is a hodgepodge of private operations - the American system or systems have at the bottom line, the dollar. That is true, the honourable member very wisely testifies to that. But it also is very restrictive. It is so restrictive that up to 40 million people in the United States do not have medical care coverage that is adequate to fulfil their needs, but in addition, it is very restrictive as to who will receive, for example, home care.

We had that system in this province up until 1995. It was restrictive according to age, income and to certain disability. We said no to this system. We said, no, this is a universally accessible system and we removed all of those requirements, Madam Speaker, and we continue to do so. Home Care Nova Scotia is the result of that, an umbrella under which exists the delivery of services through the Victorian Order of Nurses and Martha Home Health in terms

[Page 430]

of nursing. In terms of home support services, some 60 per cent of the home care given in this province, we have accepted what was in place as we rolled out the program. But we worked simultaneously and carefully on the development of standards which are going to be put in place and, in fact, are now in place through the venerable orders that I have mentioned, both the VON in terms of nursing and Martha Home Health in terms of nursing care in Antigonish and we will continue to apply those.

This debate that we are having today is about standards. It is about setting benchmarks, it is about being responsive and responsible to those who depend on us for service. The honourable member opposite, the honourable Leader of the NDP, knows full well that I have the responsibility of being very careful in intervening in any way in a labour action and we do not want the politicization of labour issues in this province in terms of the Ministry of Health and I will adhere very closely and very diligently to that. We need not debate the value of home care. That really is not debatable in the sense that we would all agree that surely the provision of the appropriate care in the homes and in the nursing homes of this province is key to the reform to which the honourable Leader of the NDP pays tribute.

We must look, however, to what it means to provide service and how we can best do it under the umbrella of a publicly accountable, public funded system. Home Care Nova Scotia is and will remain publicly funded and publicly accountable. There is no question of that. (Applause) In the same way that long-term care is publicly funded, Home Care Nova Scotia is publicly funded as well. Long-term care provides service to our seniors and to those who need special care in various ways, one-third through private, non-profit organizations, one-third through private, for-profit organizations and one-third through actual direct funding from government sources.

What we will not compromise on and what the honourable members opposite, I am sure, would support, is that we will not compromise on quality. We will not and must not compromise on standards, but what we will search for are ways to preserve the services, to provide that quality and provide that care as efficiently as we can. I don't think that that is asking too much of a system. Because if we look at where we can, in fact, provide better service, more patient-oriented service, and with every due regard to those who are providing it, we must look for efficiencies in administration and efficiencies surrounding how we convey that service.

I think that during this debate it would be unassailable to pay tribute to those hard-working home care coordinators, home care nurses and managers of the system, as has been done in this House by all political stripes and we continue to say that. What is getting misunderstood and mixed up, Madam Speaker, if I could suggest, is the fact that we have not yet contracted with anyone but those very providers that have standards in place, that are accountable and we will continue to favour that. I have said in this place that we will continue to favour those who could provide quality, but we also will demand accountability and efficiency.

So it is unfair of the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party to suggest that the bottom line will drive everything. It will not drive everything. It cannot be allowed to drive everything. But we must have standards in place and we must commit, as a government, as I do frequently, to the provision of a publicly accountable system.

[Page 431]

We have expanded home care, obviously, in this province. We have expanded it in terms of the numbers being served. There is well over 100 per cent increase in the number of patients served. I am sure we would all agree in this place that this is a good thing, provided again that we maintain control through public administration.

Yes, indeed, I would agree and sympathize with the honourable members opposite who have repeatedly raised the alarm flag and rung the alarm bells of "privatization in the American model". That is not on. That is not the agenda of this ministry, this minister or this government and it will not be. But efficiency of operation and the provision of care through a publicly funded umbrella of services, that is on. How we best do that will be decided as we go along the road, to unroll, unfold the rest of the home care programs.

Again, we have referred frequently to the provision of services and the satisfaction of those who are receiving it. Surely, that counts for something. Surely, the satisfaction of those who are receiving care by the very people who may well have rung alarm bells this week in press conferences and elsewhere, that we have some problems in the system. Well, I invite them to bring those problems and we will, in fact, work with them to solve those problems together.

Most importantly, Madam Speaker, we must again commit, as we go along, to make changes to those principles of Medicare that I have alluded to. We certainly must not shrink from the fact that we must do things more efficiently and effectively. We will commit to that. We have said, in fact, that part of the formula for judging success, only part of the formula is the efficiency with which we deliver service so that we can serve more and employ more people to provide that service. We have already increased the number of people providing care by some 60 per cent to 70 per cent in the province; surely, that counts for something. That has been done under the umbrella of a publicly funded and administered system.

We have in our system, and I have drawn attention to this because I fear in many respects some of the questions raised today in the House, about are there discussions about privatizing a given laboratory service or X or Y service, there is always the danger that we might be indiscreet in looking for efficiency above and beyond anything else, or the cost above and beyond anything else. I stand in my place today to say no, this government, this ministry and this minister will not have the bottom line as the driver.

Speaking practically, very much will depend on the definition of the services that we will ask partners to contract for. We look with respect on those who have partnered with us over the last three years and beyond that, such as the VON and such as Martha Home Help. I would draw attention to the fact that the greatest threat to our Medicare system is not the incursion of the Americans south of the border but, rather, it is debt and deficit financing; it is the inability to sustain programs through reckless, careless and inefficient spending; and it is, frankly, politicization of the system and political grandstanding. This minister, this ministry and this government supports none of those. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I couldn't help but note the minister's last comment on political grandstanding. When he went around the province holding bags and bags of medications, talk about grandstanding; he knows better than anyone else how to grandstand. He does it subtly, but he knows a great deal about it.

People are worried in this province about health care. You can talk about what is happening in health care. Well, I happen to believe that people have reason to be concerned. I know that my daily calls that I am getting are not people that have made up the situation that they are calling me about.

The minister talks about not Americanizing our system. Well, I happen to know that the emergency measures system, the EMHS system that he is talking about, he is modelling that after a county in Florida. [Page 432]

If that is not Americanizing, I don't know what is. I happen to know that many of the things that this minister has introduced, he has actually gotten the idea from the Americans.

The minister says that in the United States the bottom line is the dollar. Well, that is what is happening here in this province, because when the minister talks about what is happening and I talk to people, nurses and doctors and other health care workers, they are being driven by the bottom line. In other words, this government has not, at any time, shown the compassion that it should show for people who become ill and need help.

The minister talks about the home care system and its expanded program, and I acknowledge that the government has expanded the home care program. I had a family situation where a call to home care last fall did click into a coordinator. The person was assessed and it was said, yes, this person needs home care. We are now in April and the person is still on a waiting list. The person is going to have to leave their home, probably within the next few months, because they are not able to cope. I thought home care was to help keep people in the home. If you are on such a long waiting list that you can't get home care, that doesn't keep anyone in their home.

[4:30 p.m.]

I can cite examples and the minister can tell me how wonderful the program is. If he was at all interested in listening to the nurses and the health care workers who came down from the VG Hospital during the last session, to hear some of them recite stories about how they couldn't get their patients access to home care, if the minister was willing to meet with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, which he won't do, he might hear first-hand what is happening to many of the patients being looked after by those nurses.

This minister fails on every attempt, when you ask him to meet with these groups that have hands-on. The minister has decided that his ivory tower and his policies are going to work. He got after the NDP because everything they wrote in this resolution was politicizing the whole issue and wasn't correct. Well, Madam Speaker, I listened day after day to the Minister of Health who is incorrect many times because he hasn't taken the time, he won't go to the communities, won't allow various groups to meet with him so he can fully understand that there are problems in the system.

When the minister said that we need accountability in the health care system, no one argued that. Here we have the VON celebrating 100 years in this province. I don't think there is a member here who wouldn't agree more that the VON have been accountable for 100 years. And all of a sudden this government is saying to the VON, we are going to have more accountability, so we are going to put this out to tender.

I think that the strike we have in metro, Madam Speaker, is more than just the issue in this local area. Yes, it has to do with their contract but it goes much beyond that. Those nurses and this VON are fighting for something they believe is happening, I am sure that has driven

[Page 433]

this strike, is putting this out to tender and allowing somebody who can come in and bid under the VON, to provide the service in a given area.

What does that tell us, Madam Speaker? That is the American way. The Americans haven't had the VON for 100 years; Americans haven't had the VON, and I quote an article by David Swick who says, VON nurses know health care better than anybody. I don't think there is anybody in this Legislature who would argue that. But I don't hear the government members standing up for the VON, I don't hear them. They must be applauded, the VON, for what they have been doing over the last 100 years. They have taken on a bigger role in the last number of years. Now they are being driven not by patient care, because the minister talks about standards, the VON has standards. When the VON goes out to your home they have manuals and standards that they must follow, well above, I am sure, any the minister would come up with.

Madam Speaker, how come we are allowing a system that has been so effective, and I don't think that any one of you or any family member who has ever had the opportunity or needed the opportunity to have the VON service, I have never, you know as an MLA since 1978, from time to time we have had complaints about various groups and various things. I think every day I have had every complaint possible. But in all those years, I have never had a complaint about the VON, but I have had a lot of people tell me about the fine service that the VON gives but never a negative comment.

Now can you imagine? We have had comments about facilities in the province, we have had complaints about facilities in the province, many times, maybe unfounded, sometimes they are. It goes back to the facilities being strapped regarding funding and people being rushed out. I had a lady in the Valley who was all prepped to go to the OR for an aneurism and, all of a sudden, the nurse comes in and says to this 70 year old, you have to leave your bed, you are going home. She says, Mr. Moody, I was so upset, I refused to go. They said that there was an emergency and they needed this bed. She said I was so upset, I refused to go, I cried and I pleaded with them and I know if I left that bed I did not know whether I would get back in time. She had to leave that bed. This was very traumatic for this individual.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I hesitate to interrupt the member opposite, but I just came from the members lounge and I would like to advise members of the House that the Legislative Television cameras are not featured on the speaker, but in fact are taking shots of other people in the Chamber. Perhaps we could advise Legislative Television and see what the problem is.

MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. The Clerk will call up to Legislative Television regarding that matter. Thank you for that intervention.

MR. MOODY: I appreciate the House Leader drawing that to your attention because I think that has always been a policy in this Legislature, that the panning is not done.

This lady was very upset and she said to me, I do not blame the staff, but she says, because of the cuts, I have gone through a very difficult and traumatic time. I am not going to cite example after example, but I can tell you that this whole issue of where we are going with regard to not only home care, but our health care system totally, has to ring alarm bells with many people.

[Page 434]

When the minister talks about the Canada Health Act and about things being publicly funded, I think one of the things that we all acknowledge is that we like the Canadian health care system. Canadians have been very proud of the Canadian health care system. We know that it is not perfect, that there are efficiencies and changes because of technology and other things that have to happen to make changes. What people are afraid of is that the changes that are occurring are being driven by this Minister of Health because of the dollar and not because, in actual fact, it is going to be more efficient.

When the minister talks about home care and he refuses to meet with the Cape Breton council and I have to say, why is it that we now have a minister who has sort of removed himself from any leadership in this province regarding many of the issues that are out there in this province. If every MLA on the government side thinks that everything is rosy, that the system is working perfectly with the cuts that are being made, all you have to do is talk to the front-line workers. Yesterday, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union held a press conference in Dartmouth where we heard from five nurses, four from every region of the province, who talked about how the cuts are having an effect on the patients that they are looking after.

People are afraid to speak out. They are afraid to speak out because if they do, they may in some way find themselves penalized from the place they work because they think it may be a bad reflection on the institution when it's actually not. Some people who have had difficulty in the system are afraid to speak out because they do not know if they go for attention whether that will play a part in them on the waiting list. We do have longer waiting lists.

Nurses told us that yesterday that our waiting lists are getting extremely long. They told us about people with early discharge ending up back in the outpatients department sicker than when they went home, because there was not the kind of care that the home care could provide, that these people needed before they were discharged. I can't imagine that all of these nurses were making up stories. Somebody can say, well he's up there making up this. I will have to tell you, Madam Speaker, every one of those nurses spoke from the heart. They were telling example after example. Somebody has to start to listen.

We had a task force on nursing, we had other task forces that this government has collecting dust, where nurses actually had input. I saw the Premier just yesterday point to the gallery at the nurses, saying we consulted with them. When I went up to check, not one of them was consulted about the changes that are taking place, not one of them. Maybe they are amongst the small people that really don't count. I can tell you one thing, Madam Speaker, the people who do count are our front-line workers - our doctors, nurses, technicians - and the patients, the general public. I believe that when the time rolls around, the message will be given to this government that what they claim is reform is actually cuts that have gone too far. I have heard this time and time again by many of the workers, that the cuts are now putting people at risk.

We have an issue in Halifax that I think well goes beyond the strike in Halifax. It is time you as MLAs said, we support the VON, we have supported you in the past and we are going to support you in the future. For this minister to say, nothing I can do, is ridiculous. There are a lot of things that this government can do if it wants to resolve that issue. It is time this government takes some leadership and demonstrates to the people of this province that it is committed to the kind of service the VON provides and that it is committed to making sure that the many quality health care workers out there are provided with the tools they need to provide the kind of care and the kind of systems that Nova Scotians want and deserve from one end of this province to the other.

[Page 435]

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: An introduction, if I may, Madam Speaker. I would like to introduce to you and to all members of the House some nurses from the VON, members of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, who are here to listen with interest, I am sure, to the debate on the resolution that talks about their efforts as health care providers in fighting what they think is an incursion of privatized health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. I would like to introduce Erica Orlando, Tina DiQuinzio, June Pedde, Alison Holwell, Anna Cruickshank, Dorothy Woods and ask if those guests would rise, if they are still here, and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: I recognize the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I, too, certainly want to add my very warm welcome to our special guests who are with us this afternoon and welcome them to their House of Assembly. Of course, this House belongs to the people of this province. We are only those who are privileged to be occupying its Chamber for whatever term of office our electorate may happen to give us. It is truly the House belonging to the people of this province and it is great to see representatives and members of the general public joining us in their home.

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague and the Leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party for introducing the resolution for debate here this afternoon. The topic that we are debating is a crucial one and it certainly is a topic that is on the minds of Nova Scotians, whether you are in Cape Breton, Yarmouth or any points in between. It is one of the foremost concerns that they had.

[4:45 p.m.]

I listened with a great deal of interest to the Minister of Health in his remarks during the debate. I have to say, Madam Speaker, that he was very crafty, very clever, in his presentation. How, when one listens to the minister, one cannot help but conclude, according to what he is saying, that everything is in good hands. However, when you look at the reality of what is happening here in the Province of Nova Scotia with regard to health care and home care, the reality speaks of a different truth.

The minister, in wrapping up his comments, said that he does not favour an Americanized health care system in Nova Scotia. He said that that, of course, is not the greatest threat to health care in this province. What he said is the greatest threat to health care in Nova Scotia is the politicization and grandstanding. Obviously, Madam Speaker, the minister's comments were directed to members on this side of the House and to those hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians who have very grave concerns about what this minister, but, more importantly, this Liberal Government is doing.

Because decisions that are being made are not being made by an individual. They are being made by the Liberal Government and that includes each and every sitting Liberal MLA in this Chamber and each and every one of the sitting MLAs on the government side shares in the responsibilities and must be held accountable for the decisions of the government of which they are part, Madam Speaker.

[Page 436]

The minister also said that one of the greatest threats is the debt and the deficit. He is talking about financial debt and deficit, of course, for the provincial government. He does not talk about the human debt and deficits that are being created by the policies of this government, nor, Madam Speaker, does he talk about the fact that the province is offloading much of its debt and deficit onto the backs of the health care providers in this province and onto the backs of those who need their excellent services.

The minister said he will have none of any of that. He said that he will not have any part to any politicization of a labour dispute, in reference to the resolution that my colleague, the Leader of the NDP, brought forward, Madam Speaker, with regard to the VON staff who are, unfortunately, forced to be out on strike, rather than delivering the quality of home care services, in-home health care support that they want to be offering and that they feel most comfortable doing.

Yet, Madam Speaker, even though it is the minister and this government that says that they do not want to politicize it, it is this Liberal Government that is saying that they are going to be putting out for tender, those health care services, and is forcing the VON management into a position, or into what they believe is a position, where they have to try to cut costs to compete with the private for-profit companies that are bidding for this service, who are dreaming of expanding their U.S.-based model here into Canada so that they can make more profits for themselves and for their shareholders.

Madam Speaker, it was not too many years ago that we were standing in this Chamber, it was before your time in this House, Madam Speaker, but other members here will remember arguing against - some of us were, the Liberal Party was and the New Democratic caucus was as well - the privatization of Nova Scotia Power. The government of the day said that that would result in greater efficiency and savings for Nova Scotians. I don't know about you, but my power bill hasn't gone down.

MADAM SPEAKER: Mine has, because my two kids moved away.

MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, you have one very obvious reason for an economy. I would suggest that your rate hasn't gone down in terms of the meter charge. Maybe there are less people using the showers and turning on the lights, which means the household consumption has gone down, but the price has not.

This government was very opposed to that privatization when they were in Opposition. This government is admitting that it, now that it has assumed office, doesn't know how to run things, because they seem to believe that the only way that you can have efficiency is for somebody else to do the administration and management. I don't buy that; governments have to be held accountable. This government has got to ensure the people of this province that there will be proper standards, proper quality of home care and home care services provided to the people of this province. That is especially crucial now as since, for example, up to last fall, they had already closed down approximately 25 per cent of the hospital beds. The VON nurses, who have been forced to go out on strike, are the ones who have been providing in this area the top quality in home hospital support to replace those stays in hospital.

The government is setting the agenda. If we are going to be allowing for profit health care delivery services, that means that that company and its shareholders are going to want to - and nobody can blame them because they are in business to make money - skim off the top a portion of the monies as profit; that is why they are in the business. I would suggest that the vast majority of Nova Scotians - except for those who maybe the government might be

[Page 437]

listening to, who have dreams about getting into the business and making some profit - but the vast majority of Nova Scotians would rather see that money, instead of going to New York, Boston, or Toronto, or somewhere else in the way of shared dividends, they would rather see that money put back into providing the top quality care that they, their families and friends need in their homes. That is what they want to see done with that money.

Also, they also want to see those workers who are caring for and providing top quality, excellent service to their clients, to see them treated fairly. Nova Scotians don't want to see public health workers and nurses in this province have to take a 3 per cent cut in their wages, so that 3 per cent can be shipped off to New York, Toronto, or to Montreal or wherever it is going to happen to go in the way of shares. This government, I suggest, has already politicized this dispute because it is this government which is setting the funding levels and opening the process up to that for profit system.

My Leader, in his opening remarks, spoke extremely eloquently about the need for reform of our health care system. He talked very eloquently about the Blueprint Committee Report and the recommendations made. Not for one moment did he suggest that we want to have any inefficiencies in how we deliver our services.

Madam Speaker, I do not believe for one moment that the government, under public or non-profit health care delivery systems, cannot be every bit, if, in fact, not more efficient than a private, for profit, and not be siphoning off those scarce resources. We don't want in this country a system like they have south of the border, where those who are coming and advocating this for-profit system mainly are coming from. Do we want a system where the Minister of Health himself pointed out that there are over 40 million Americans who do not have health care coverage and, where many of those who do have it, have coverage that is inadequate? Surely to Heavens we don't want in this country and in this province a system where workers have to worry about their jobs not only for the paycheque, but for fear that if, for some reason, they should lose their jobs, that not only has that income been lost but so, too, has the health care that they and their families have through an insurance program tied to that work.

I am very proud of the fact that here in Nova Scotia and in Canada we have a universal, publicly funded health care system. But that is under attack and we are already seeing some provinces moving to initiate user fees and also private clinics, Madam Speaker. We are starting in this province to open that door here with this service as well.

It is a simple system. What we need from this government is a clear and unequivocal statement. We need a vision, we need a strategy. What we have to have this government clearly state is that we will not permit in the province the delivery of the home care services on a for-profit basis, Madam Speaker. We need the regulations to enforce that. I don't think that is an unreasonable request.

I know that you have indicated that my time for this debate is now expired, Madam Speaker. I say through you to the Minister of Health and to all his colleagues, you are all going to be held accountable for what you are doing to the health care system here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 438]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, as I jump to my feet on my next topic. It is amazing, it is very easy to tie the two things together here and I might actually touch on that. I am calling, to obey the rules, and the Government House Leader has pointed out that I have not yet officially called Resolution No. 63.

Res. No. 63, re Gov't.(N.S.) - Commitments: Broken - View - notice given Apr. 2/96 - (Mr. J. Holm)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, the resolution, the operative clause, says:

"Therefore be it resolved that this House urges Nova Scotians to view this Liberal Government's self back-slapping and huffing and puffing, in the context of its broken commitments and lack of intestinal fortitude to stand up for Nova Scotians.".

[5:00 p.m.]

Obviously, Madam Speaker, that resolve clause gives one a great deal of latitude to canvass all of what the government has or, more appropriately, has not been doing over the last number of years since it assumed office.

Now, Madam Speaker, a few weeks ago, we had introduced in this Chamber what was supposed to pass as a Speech from the Throne. It is interesting when you take a look at the comments made by, for example, an Auditor General, and talking about the budgetary process, that what you need to have is not only accurate projections and strategies, but you have to have, as well, an accounting for the progress that has been made to date in achieving those strategies. We have talked quite a bit over the last little while about health care. Madam Speaker, this government has been seen to be very wanting in regard to how it is proceeding with that.

If we take a look at some of the other things that I want to touch on briefly this afternoon, Madam Speaker, whether that be harmonization, whether that be job creation, whether that be the obsession with deficit cutting and the phoney approach that it is taking to balance its budget, to the changes in unemployment insurance, even to the unwillingness of this government to approve resolutions opposing the closure of the employment centre in north end Halifax, this government seems far more intent, I'll take that back, is far more intent on playing smoke and mirrors games, shells games, then they are, in fact, in standing up for Nova Scotians.

The first area I will touch on, very briefly, is changes to the unemployment insurance system that are going to imposed here and across the country. Madam Speaker, it would be my hope that the day will come when there will not be the need for one single person in this province, or across this country, to have to draw unemployment insurance benefits. That would be my hope, because it would be my hope that governments would not only proceed, but would be successful in having a full employment strategy, instead of continuing with their policies of artificially keeping up unemployment rates and cutting the benefits off from those who find it impossible to find work.

[Page 439]

Madam Speaker, back in 1992, there were $841 million worth of benefits coming into the Province of Nova Scotia in the way of UI payments. That number, by 1995, was reduced to $652 million, or a reduction of $189 million. People might say, well isn't that wonderful. Isn't that great? There is less UI coming into the province, that must mean that more people are working. But, unfortunately, you get the gong to that suggestion. You would be wrong if you thought that only those workers who are losing their premiums or losing their payments are suffering, because each and every one of those workers have less money or no money to be spending in their communities supporting other businesses within those communities. So the entire province is suffering as a result of that.

We also know, Madam Speaker, that those reductions resulted because what the federal government did was not help the provincial government create more employment, they made it more difficult for workers to get the insurance. In 1993, when this government came to power, 85 per cent of unemployed workers qualified for unemployment insurance. As of October, that number has dropped down to 54 per cent and dropping with the new changes that are coming.

Now, of course, the government would like to imply that it must mean that workers are lazy and the only way to get people to work is to cut off their insurance premiums and force them to take work. This government runs around and it is congratulating itself, it is pounding itself on the back saying how many jobs it has created. When you take a look at those figures, for example, if you take a look at the most recent figures, you will see that - March 1994 to March 1996 - we actually had 2,000 fewer people working in the Province of Nova Scotia than we did two years ago.

This is the time when the government is introducing a Speech from the Throne congratulating itself for supposedly all the jobs that it is creating. We know that 1 out of 5 jobs in this province now are part-time workers. We also know that the majority of those people who are on part-time employment would like to have full-time employment. What is the government's response when new jobs are threatened? All we have to do is look at this government's inaction, unwillingness to stand up to people like Ken Rowe at IMP when they are talking about closing down and eliminating these jobs in North Sydney. Government which has put millions of dollars into IMP over the years is, of course, unwilling to stand up and to fight to maintain those vitally important jobs in a part of this province where unemployment runs so high.

This government in its Speech from the Throne and in the wisdom or lack thereof that gets heckled across the floor from time to time from members over there would have Nova Scotians believe that they are doing a wonderful job. This government which is so concerned about consultation, this government that when they were on this side of the House argued strenuously, in Opposition, to discussions that the former Tories in Ottawa and Nova Scotia were having with regard to the harmonization of taxes. This government and this Minister of Finance, in his former life as Finance Critic, argued strenuously that we needed to have a fair tax commission. We had to listen to Nova Scotians because then, when in Opposition, they were under the view that Nova Scotians, even those who the Premier, I guess, calls the small people had something worthwhile to contribute.

Once they took over government, they will invite the big people, the movers and shakers, those who have the most powerful private sector positions in this province, those who do not need to worry about whether or not they can afford to pay the very modest increased costs for school supplies for their children, clothing and so on. Those people the government cannot only consult with, but can invite at the government's ticket to the Digby Pines. The average workaday Nova Scotian that the government praised in their Speech from the Throne, they have not time to consult with them.

Some people would suggest that we are starting to move toward the election cycle. In the Speech from the Throne, the government talked about supposedly, they have again discovered jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. They are now in that strategy. At the same time, of course, they are setting aside millions of dollars to lay off more public sector workers. At the same time they are placing health care workers and their jobs at risk by talking about contracting those services out to for-profit and probably come-from-away firms from the United States.

[Page 440]

This government has broken so many of its commitments and promises. What I guess they think people will do is forget about all the commitments that they made just three short years ago so that they can tote them out again. Maybe it is something like the Minister of the Environment's plan, you are going to recycle them. What would be interesting and it might go a long way to reduce the provincial debt, maybe the Minister of Finance could impose a deposit fee on the Liberal promises that are made, that deposit to be paid from one of those trust funds that exist. Then when they keep some of those promises, maybe they can get a refund back to that fund. Nova Scotians put a lot of trust in this government and in the commitments that were made just a few very short years ago, only to have that trust sadly betrayed.

Look what is happening in the education system right now with the increased class sizes, reduction in resources. (Interruption) Now I know the effervescent member for Cape Breton South over there has his usual 2 cents to say from across the floor. Maybe he is going to be the government's spokesman in this. Maybe he will stand up and explain to the people in Cape Breton and Sydney why it is that this government refused to decentralize and move some of the government jobs to the area that he represents, as they promised to do back before the last election. Maybe he will explain to the people in his community why it is that the province has chosen to take the cheapest option possible to do the slag over, the cover over of the Sydney tar ponds. Maybe he can explain why it is that every time there is a problem like the lay-offs of over 1,000 coal workers in the Cape Breton area, his government's response is that it is a federal responsibility, it has nothing to do with us, therefore we have to wash our hands of any responsibility. Then they hide out. Obviously, Nova Scotians are getting a little bit sick and tired of this.

Nova Scotians don't expect that governments will have complete success, that is not an issue. Nova Scotians are fair minded, they are reasonable people. What they expect of their elected representatives is, first of all, that they will speak and when they speak they will say what they mean, they will not make false promises; that they will attempt to carry out honestly the commitments that they have made and if not able to do that, to give an honest accounting of some of the problems they have encountered which meant that they were unable to be successful. First and foremost, they expect the politicians to stand up for the best interests of the people of this province, rather than trying to gloss over their concerns in the interests of their own selfish, partisan, political considerations. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. GUY BROWN: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in Resolution No. 63. I want to tell you that what we just heard in the past few minutes is unbelievable. He wants us to go out to Sackville, Nova Scotia and close out all those jobs that are out there and transfer them to all other areas of the province. That is what he said. He said transfer the government jobs from the metropolitan area to all other areas of Nova Scotia. I wonder what

[Page 441]

his union friends in the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union think of that. (Interruptions)

[5:15 p.m.]


MR. BROWN: If you don't want to listen, I say everyone was quiet when you people were talking, (Interruption) so at least show us the same respect on this side of the House.

Now, they talk about laid off workers. Well, the NDP sure got experience in laying off workers. Let's look at Ontario, what happened there under the former NDP. Let's look at Saskatchewan where they closed about 30 hospitals. Let's look at B.C. where the new Premier two weeks ago said, I have to lay off 2,000 before an election. He is going to take the other approach that the Tories have taken in Ontario where they are going to lay off over 10,000 or where the federal government is laying off over 45,000. I want to tell you, Madam Speaker (Interruptions)


MR. BROWN: . . . I am proud of the decisions that our Premier and this government are taking and I want to make that very clear. Yes, some people didn't like the 3 per cent roll-back. I didn't like it in a way but at least those people, under $25,000, we exempted under the program. But let me tell you, Madam Speaker, we did not take the cold-hearted approach that the NDP and Tory Governments have taken in this country by laying off thousands of people. We had compassion. Our Premier had compassion and understanding with regard to those issues.

Madam Speaker, we have the best government that this province has had in about 20 years. (Applause) I welcome this opportunity to address the statements coming from the other side of the House, not only because they are dead wrong - and they are - but because I feel very proud of the way our government has handled the situation. There was no question that when we came into office - time and history will prove, a moment of history that will be well reported in this province - that this province was almost on its knees. We were in the middle of a deep recession. Our traditional role as economic leader in the region and in Atlantic Canada had left us a few years before that. Unemployment was at a record level in every corner of this province. Fifteen years of lack of leadership and direction, we have paid the price and Nova Scotians have. Programs that so badly needed reform, indeed, countless commissions that were done by previous governments, by previous private groups, and studies were on the shelf where they warned the government years before that, that they had to start making some changes. Did they? No. But we dealt with those issues because we had no other choice.

Madam Speaker, when we took office in June 1993, Nova Scotia was literally on the verge of bankruptcy. Our programs and services were in serious jeopardy in this province because there was no money to pay the bills. This is what we inherited. We could have gone along and tried to do the same thing, and some would say, the wheels are going to fall off the car on you guys, we had better not plan to travel very far at the state of the economy in this province when we came in, in 1993. But this government not only got the car back on the road, but this government has made Nova Scotia a leader again in this region and in Atlantic Canada and we are going to be at the top in 1996 and they are now forecasting that this government, through its committed leadership and through its responsible decisions, will be number one again in Atlantic Canada in 1997, (Applause) so our young people will have opportunities that they haven't had in the previous 10 years. That is what this government is all about and that is what leadership is all about.

I want to touch for a minute, if I may, just on the budget. This is from that government's Finance Books, not ours. I want to talk about 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, in which there was no budget. Imagine, we came into this province, elected in June, and there was no budget or no plans to table a budget in this House of Assembly. It never happened before. I am proud of the way we dealt with those things and the way that we showed the leadership with regard to it.

[Page 442]

I want to tell you, Madam Speaker, our revenue forecasts for that year, that is total income, through transfer payments, through everything, was $3.3 billion. Do you know what our forecast was for expenditure? It was $4.3 billion, $1 billion more than the government was taking in. You talk about leadership and direction, you talk about the hard decisions that we made, which was in the right frame with regard to this province. If I took the total expenditure in Economic Development, which was $112 million; if I took the total expenditure in Environment; if I took the total expenditure in Finance; in Fisheries; in Housing and Consumer Affairs; in Industry; Trade and Technology; in Justice; in Labour; in Natural Resources; in Supply and Services; in Tourism and Culture; and Transportation and Communications, those 14 departments of government - and anybody can go out to the library and do that - and added it up it would not come to what we were paying in debt services for that year. It would not come to that much, 14 government departments that were spending not quite as much as we were spending on debt services and you wanted to know the financial situation of this province.

The net direct debt per capita is $9,000. How about the debt, Madam Speaker, with regard to debt charges on education? In 1993-94, we were spending a lot more on debt than we were spending on education. What are we giving our children? Let's all stand up here and look at the real world. We took over a government in this province that was spending more on debt than they were spending on education for their children and their grandchildren. That is an absolute disgrace and it should never have happened.

I want to tell all Nova Scotians, through you, Madam Speaker, that they better watch out for the tricks because we have a crowd over there that would spend more money in the New York banks, in the European banks, in the loan companies around the world than they want to spend on their own children in this province here on education. That is a fact. That is not propaganda, that is a fact. People can go to any library in this province and get the Estimates Books for this province and check that out very clearly.

Look at what the province is spending on debt services, Madam Speaker. Nova Scotia is spending about 23 per cent. But where is poor old New Brunswick? Only 14 per cent of their revenues are going on their debt services. What about Quebec, only 15 per cent; what about Ontario, only 14 per cent; what about Prince Edward Island, only 15 per cent; what about Newfoundland, which was one of the poorest provinces in Canada at one time, only 16 per cent. But the former government put this government into a position and the people of Nova Scotia where they were spending about 23 cents out of every dollar they took in to service the debt. That is what we did, we mortgaged our children's and grandchildren's future.

Now, they talk about reforms under health care. I will tell you, I could get into that and touch on it very quickly because under health care, I want to tell you, we have 85 people employed today in Cumberland County offering home care. I want tell you, I had constituents

[Page 443]

five years ago who were under 65 years of age who couldn't get home care in this province. They were discriminated against. You talk about leadership and you talk about government and you talk about reforms, where there are young people today where the parents need help and they can qualify for home care, which they never could before under the previous government.

Let's look at the Pharmacare Program in Nova Scotia. It was running out of control. Some people want to criticize the Pharmacare Program and that is fine because I don't mind anybody criticizing it, but I wonder what they want to compare us to, Madam Speaker. How about New Brunswick where the only people who qualify are those on GIS? Those who are not on GIS don't qualify. And what is the co-pay? Nine dollars and five cents on every prescription. What about the co-pay ceiling; $250.

What about Nova Scotia? We saved the Pharmacare Program in this province and I am so proud of this government and what they did for senior citizens. (Applause) All seniors qualify in Nova Scotia, it doesn't matter what their income is. It is not like New Brunswick and other provinces. Premiums: Low income, none; in fact, they all got a cheque from us on the basis of old age; higher incomes, up to $215, all 20 per cent co-pay, but we have a ceiling of $200.

Let's look at P.E.I., our friends: All seniors, co-pay $14.85 on every prescription, with no ceiling. Do they want the P.E.I. program in Nova Scotia? Let's look at Newfoundland: GIS only. Do they want the Newfoundland program in this province, where it is $6.50 co-pay with no ceiling? Let's look at B.C.: All seniors, let's look at their co-pay, $7.55 in the Province of B.C. Alberta: Seniors independence, 30 per cent to a maximum of $25 on every prescription. Do they want the Tory program of Alberta?

Let's look at the Saskatchewan program of the NDP. Is that what they want for our seniors? GIS, $400 deductible; $400 for GIS. Do you know what the co-pay is? Thirty-five per cent after that. The ceiling is based on an income, if you are over $50,000. Those with no GIS in good old Saskatchewan, do you know what they pay? They pay $1,700 deductible for those not on GIS. You know, 35 per cent. In Manitoba, $130 deductible, 30 per cent thereafter. Ontario: All seniors, not GIS; and then Quebec which is under reform right now, I don't have the last figures on it. Is that what our Tory and NDP friends want?

MR. GEORGE MOODY: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I hope the minister is willing to table the document he is reading from when he is finished.


ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Happy to table.

MR. BROWN: Anyway, and you want to talk about unemployment. I know my time is up, I guess. Madam Speaker, I want to tell you that I thank the Opposition for bringing this resolution forward because it is time that the Liberal Party and those in the field and those in this House get up and defend all the good things we have done for this province. I will do it at every opportunity. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to get up and speak on Resolution No. 63. I must admit it is quite intimidating to have to speak after such a fine and eloquent speaker as the Minister of Labour. It certainly is a tough act to follow but, with that in mind, I certainly will try to do my best.

[5:30 p.m.]

I cannot help but take issue with some of the things that the Minister of Labour has stated here tonight. One of the things that I really do not understand is when we talk about unemployment in this province and we talk about numbers. The Premier in his response to the Speech from the Throne said that as of January [Page 444]

of this year, 26,000 more Nova Scotians were at work. Those were his words. Yet, on April 4th, the labour force numbers that were issued by their Finance Department said that on June 11, 1993, there were 58,000 people unemployed and, as of March of this year, there are 62,000 people unemployed.

I find it hard to believe the numbers from our Department of Finance would be incorrect. I find that hard to believe, but I find it even harder to believe that the minister and the Premier of this province would get up and say that there are more people working now than there were when his government came to power. I find that hard to believe and I hope he checks his figures.

The Premier spoke about this new policy that was in place for maintenance enforcement. Well, if you talk to any of the women who are involved in this new program, they will tell you it is a shame that there are major problems with it and it is another promise that has been broken by this government.

We heard of the many issues that this provincial government has no responsibility for. They talked about the Devco situation and the Deputy Premier stood up and said it is a federal responsibility. The Premier was asked why he did not contact Marine Atlantic when we had the problem with the ferry in Yarmouth. Well, he said, he did not talk to Marine Atlantic, we went right to the owners, the federal government, which, granted, is not a bad idea, but what happened when the contract for the EH-101 was cancelled? Did they go to the federal government then? No, not that we are aware of. Did he speak to the owners? No. That is the problem with this government; they do not think they have to talk to the people of Nova Scotia. The government of this province is responsible to every individual, regardless of their political persuasion, and you do not have the right or the ability to tell me that we are not allowed to know what is going on in this province.

When Cornwallis was closed, did they go to the owners? When the fisheries were in trouble, did they go to the owners? (Interruptions) Yes, I am probably one of the small people in Nova Scotian. Although my stature is a little bigger and I am a little on the large side, I still am a small person in the Province of Nova Scotia. I remember where I came from and it would do good for the people on the other side of this House to remember where they came from and why they are here.

When Debert was being closed (Interruption) I know where the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works came from. Unfortunately, most times he forgets and so does the Minister of Education forget. You are here to be responsible. Your responsibility is to the people who sent you here and it is not to the aims and goals of the Liberal Party. It is to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia and that is what you should be doing, and you should be ashamed of yourself for not doing it.

MADAM SPEAKER: I hesitate, as Speaker, to interrupt this fine flow of the debate, but I am going to ask now to tone it down a tad, please. It is getting to the point that I cannot

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hear the speaker and the speaker then is required to shout and that is not particularly easy on our ears, so I will ask for order and a little toning it down. Thank you.

MR. MACLEOD: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Again, if I would get the same courtesy as we offered the Minister of Labour when we did not heckle him, if his caucus would give us the same opportunity, I am sure I would not have to holler.

The issues that we speak about have to be heard and if the members on the opposite side of the House will not take the time to listen, then I will shout and I will holler because the message is important and the reason we are here is to deliver that message.

I would like now to take some time to review some, and only some if I might say, Madam Speaker, of the promises that were made and published in the Liberal policy paper during the election campaign of 1993. We can look at these, subject area by subject area and see how they have turned out.

Municipal reform, Madam Speaker, if I might quote from the Liberal Municipal Reform Policy, "A Liberal Government will not change municipal boundaries and structures before providing full information to the public on the impact of such change, including the costs and benefits of available options, nor before members of the public have had full opportunity for input and critique.". Again, I am trying to keep my voice down so that we will be able to be heard but if . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Well, I am able to hear you, honourable member, so you are doing fine.

MR. MACLEOD: I suppose that the decision to force municipal units making up Halifax County to unite and the results of which have just come to fruition was a special case and it wasn't covered by this promise. I recall the expressions, Madam Speaker, on the faces of the metro area mayors when they were summoned to Province House just days after the election. (Interruption)

You know, Madam Speaker, the job of this House is to represent the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. The issue that was brought forward today is a resolution dealing with some of the broken promises that were delivered by this government and certainly those are the types of things that we are trying to address. Now, if the Minister of Transportation and supply and services wants to get into a different debate that's fine with me, but I thought the rules were we had to speak on the resolution that was put forward, but apparently that side of the House, those members including the Minister of Education, have their own rules.

I recall the expressions on the faces of the mayors, Madam Speaker. After being elected for a three year term, they were summoned to Province House and they were told their communities were to disappear.

Again, "A Liberal Government will test regional delivery of services, especially measuring the real costs and savings, through two pilot projects - one rural, the other urban.". I suppose the Minister of Municipal Affairs has been too busy with other things to develop these pilot projects, Madam Speaker, which would have had the support of the Federation of Nova Scotia Municipalities. Perhaps this promise would be directed at that group hoping that they would swallow the bait and, apparently, they did.

[Page 446]

Madam Speaker, the member for Cape Breton South says I should pick on somebody my own size. Well, only he and the Minister of Transportation who would fit into that category.

Madam Speaker, although we are having some fun at some people's expense here. (Interruption) Well, apparently, right now it is mine. (Laughter) But I can live with that, because the issues are a lot more important than what people on the opposite side of the House think of me. The issues that we are dealing with here are bigger than the personalities in this House and the issues are what we have to deal with to help the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. It does not matter what the personalities in this House are, the objective should be to do the best job that we can, regardless of our political stripe.

One of the other things was to prevent the province from downloading and deferring costs to the property taxpayer, Madam Speaker, but with some of the policies that have been put in place by this government, the taxpayer, the individuals who have lived in their homes for many years are being taxed, taxed, taxed and everything is being downloaded.

Fine words that this wouldn't happen; the fine words that these things wouldn't happen without any action. Well, there was no consultation and there is no charter. There are, however, a lot of unhappy municipalities, Madam Speaker, looking at road maintenance, looking at policing costs and are wondering about the cost of social services.

Madam Speaker, let's take another quick look at some items that are found in, Jobs for Nova Scotia A Liberal Strategy for Growth. In this policy paper, we find such sentiments as labour relations in the province will rely on the old us versus them mentality. Well, that will no longer do in this province. We have to realize that in order for this province to grow and to move on, we have to work together.

I wasn't in the House when the value of the new labour relations policy was demonstrated right here in this very Chamber. But did the Liberal Party really mean that by sharing positions on the constituency executives when they said, a Liberal Government will seek to work in partnership with labour. Well the labour Party wanted to join the Liberal Party but there seems to be some roadblocks. The labour Party actually wants to attend the annual meeting in Sydney on the 26th of this month. (Interruption)

The labour force of our province. There have been many promises of jobs, Madam Speaker, 30-60-90, and I am not going to get back into that. We already know what the Premier had to say. The Liberal Party in its job policy paper promised to, ". . . publish annually a five-year capital budget for each department. The Minister responsible will have to justify to the House of Assembly any proposed significant deviation from the capital budget.". I can't wait to hear from the Minister of Health when he tells us about the budget process for the renovations at the QE II.

Madam Speaker, let's move on to government fairness and its policy paper. That was the document that talked about access to information. Here we find the statement, "A Liberal Government will amend the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that, with few exceptions . . .", (Interruption) apparently I am taking the House down, Mr. Speaker, and I apologize. Again, to continue on with our more serious business, but we did find a statement from this government dealing with access to information, and again I quote, "A Liberal Government will amend the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that, with few exceptions, it meets the intent of providing the people with access to government information.".

It would appear that virtually every one of the few exceptions have been discovered by the Opposition Parties in this province and found not only does it not, (Interruption) not only does it take a long time for retrieval, but it often is so cost prohibitive that the information cannot be gained.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on about some of the promises that were made by this government and all the promises that were broken by this government. But I would like to close with the opening lines of the policy papers that the Liberals presented dealing with, "Accountability and Accessibility in Government". I will let you judge how well they have lived up to these words and I quote, "Government in [Page 447]

a democracy derives its powers through the consent of the governed.". I find that this government has failed and failed desperately at its own test. Thank you.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to rise this afternoon and speak to the motion introduced by my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid. I think it is quite an insightful resolution that talks about the lack of substance to the government's Throne Speech, referred to in the first clause, "Whereas our sleeping giant awoke last evening to huff and puff against his government's critics during his Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, in a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from his government's failed and broken promises;". I think we have seen a lot of that over the past three years and if the intervention by the Minister of Labour is any indication, we certainly are going to see a lot more of it in the days leading up to the next election.

[5:45 p.m.]

I am really excited about that because I tell you there are a lot of Nova Scotians out there right now that would love to hear the Minister of Labour and his colleagues come into their community and pat themselves on the back and tell them what a great job they have done for Nova Scotians. They would love to have the opportunity to line up those ministers and MLAs in their sights, in order to try to address some of their specific concerns relative to health care, job creation, education and on and on it goes.

The problem that many Nova Scotians have found in the past few years is that the people that they elected to form the Government of Nova Scotia back in May 1993, have become ever more difficult to reach, ever more difficult to nail down in order to have them address some of the specific problems that are being dealt with. They have found that more often than not the response to the concerns that have been raised, whether it be the failures of health care reform, the holes, the gaps that exist in the delivery of home care in many communities, whether it be the absolute, utter and total failure of any job creation plan in this province, the response often, whether it is fishers, unemployed people, people in education, parents, whether it is health care activists, consumers or professionals in the communities, as they protest and raise their concerns with government members, more often than not the response from this government from members both front and rear benches, is to call them malingerers, is to say that they don't understand.

You even hear the Premier from time to time referring to Nova Scotians as the small people that he will look after. He suggests that there are political motivations behind people's protests, suggesting that the protests are merely being generated by agitators and labour activists and that there is no substance at all to the protests. When we in this House rise in our places and talk about specific examples we hear members on the Government side,

[Page 448]

denouncing us for grandstanding or for otherwise trying to politicize the very difficult situations out there in many of our communities.

The problem is that the only way Nova Scotians seem to be able to bring their concerns to the attention of these ministers, of the members of the government, is to have them raised here in this House through members such as myself and my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid. Even though our motivations are also questioned by this government, we will continue to represent those concerns regardless of whether this government is prepared to hear. As we raise our concerns and as Nova Scotians raise their concerns, the last thing they want to hear about is Ontario, about Saskatchewan or about British Columbia. Those people in those provinces have the opportunity to vote in or out a government of their choice.

If you talk to people in Saskatchewan, they are quite happy with the progress that that government has made in areas like economic development. You may not have heard that phrase in this House for a long time because this government seems to have forgotten what the concept is all about, economic development. In a province like Saskatchewan, where after 10 years of Tory mismanagement and abuse they were able to take per capita, a debt from the highest in this country to one of the lowest in this country, they have done it in a way that has included people in Saskatchewan and the communities in the decision-making process. They have reformed the health care system. They have done it in a way that people trust and appreciate the changes that have been made. They have insured that communities understand where the money is going that is being redirected in the health care system. They do, in fact, exactly what the Blueprint Committee recommended here in Nova Scotia back in April 1994. It worked successfully in Saskatchewan, Mr. Speaker. We only wish that in Nova Scotia we had the opportunity to see those kinds of insightful and responsive and progressive decisions being made by this government.

AN HON. MEMBER: They had 10 years to do it.

MR. CHISHOLM: What do you mean, they had 10 years to do it? The Minister of Health says, oh yes, but in Saskatchewan they had 10 years. Mr. Speaker, the NDP Government was elected, I believe, in 1990, 1991 and started then to clean up the mess created by 10 years of mismanagement by the Tories.

The problem is that whether it is one year or two years or three years or four years, this government, this Minister of Health have done it wrong from the start and continue to do it wrong, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians understand that and they are trying to tell him, they are trying to explain to him where the problems are.

Before I leave health care, because the Minister of Health has been so kind as to jump in, let me table in this House a little flyer that came out of the election back in 1993. It says, ". . . a Liberal Government introduced universal health care. In 1993 a Liberal Government will build on this foundation.". It says, ". . . and what are the Cameron Conservatives doing?". It lists a few things that you may have heard Nova Scotians talking about in the last couple of years. It says, "Cuts in hospital beds without options for care.". It sounds like we are heading down the same road, aren't we? "Cuts in Health Care workers increasing unemployment.". Tick, done that. "Spiralling costs". We haven't done that but we are going to see that if we allow privatized medicine to get into the province. "Increased user fees". We see that. So here we go. The minister ran against the Tory record in that campaign and three out of the four items, tick, tick, tick, they fall along the same route. He says, "For a real change, for a healthy change, vote Dr. Ron Stewart, Liberal, Cape Breton North.".

They made promises to the people of Nova Scotia back in the election of 1993. They said and they have said since they got into power, we didn't realize how badly in debt this province was. I have said it before and I will say it again: we knew, Nova Scotians knew. We remember, for example, the then Leader of the Liberal Party and the then Liberal Finance Critic, over here in the Red Chamber, Mr. Speaker, in a press conference complete with charts and graphs and the whole bit, holding a press conference in February 1993, where they indicated just how badly in debt the Province of Nova Scotia was, how badly in need.

[Page 449]

Nonetheless, this irresponsible bunch who are sitting on the government side now, Mr. Speaker, went to the people of Nova Scotia and filled them with hope. They talked about the fact that we are going to create jobs in this province, we are not going to lay off public sector workers, we are not going to cut out hospital beds and hospitals in the Province of Nova Scotia. We are going to generate economic activity, we are going to grow this economy. We are not going to deal with the debt and deficit on the backs of Nova Scotians. We are going to work in partnership with you, they said, and we are going to move forward.

Do you know what? After 15 years of the Tories, where they mismanaged the economy, where they got into trouble time after time in terms of the way they conducted their administration, and because of the fact that Don Cameron had just gone through two years of the same foolishness that this government has been involved in, cutting and slashing and hacking away at the Public Service and at the economy of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotians said no, we don't want that; we want jobs, we want economic growth, we want a government that is prepared to work with us, we want a government that has some confidence in the future and is prepared to work with us shoulder to shoulder to try and solve our problems.

They said, we want the 57,000, the 61,000, the 63,000 jobs that the Liberal Party promised for Nova Scotians in the spring of 1993. But do you know what? Nova Scotians voted for that overwhelmingly. The deepest emotion that is out there right now and that has been out there for the past two years is the disgust and the feeling of disenchantment and despair at the way this government has flaunted the trust that Nova Scotians put in them, have absolutely thumbed their nose at them. We now, three years later, have the Premier of Nova Scotia proposing to make a significant change in the taxes that Nova Scotians pay in this province, and he will not even talk to them about the impact that that is going to have, about the fact that all of a sudden people are going to be asked to pay 15 per cent on top of the groceries that they buy, Mr. Speaker, an extra 5 per cent on the electricity bill, an extra 8 per cent on their fuel bills.

The Premier of this province says to Nova Scotians, listen small people, I will look after you. I will look after you says the Premier, the Minister of Finance and the whole lot filling the government benches. They say to Nova Scotians, we will look after you, but I will tell you what, Nova Scotians are saying, thank you very much, we have had enough of your form of looking after. We want the opportunity to vote on your record and make a decision to turf you out of office in order to get some real action on the problems that are facing the people of Nova Scotia.

You know, you will hear, and you heard it from the Minister of Labour when he said, what are we giving our children? We are mortgaging our future. But you know what Nova Scotians are saying right now, they are saying, what about our children's future in terms of access to quality education? What about jobs in this province? The only jobs that are being created in the Province of Nova Scotia are part-time jobs. You cannot build an economy on part-time jobs, Mr. Speaker. Those are the concerns that Nova Scotians have. That is the concern that young Nova Scotians have, that there is no future along the Liberal track, that

[Page 450]

the Liberals would have a future where there are no jobs, where access to education is unequal and where access to health care will depend on your ability to pay and that is not what Nova Scotians want for their future.

I say that this government, including the Minister of Labour, has to get out of the thin air, come down to earth and recognize that Nova Scotians have a role to play in making some of the decisions that are facing them and that this government has a responsibility to work with Nova Scotians to try and solve those problems, not to ignore them like they have in the Speech from the Throne and ever since they were elected in 1993. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the Opposition Members' Business has now expired. I am going to call on the honourable Government House Leader to indicate tomorrow's order of business and move the adjournment for the day.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will sit from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The order of business following Question Period will be Public Bills for Second Reading in the order they appear on the order paper.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

The motion is carried.

On the Adjournment debate, the honourable member for Yarmouth won the draw, and without rereading the entirety of his resolution, he wants to debate the topic:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Opposition recognize a positive outlook for Yarmouth, despite the many challenges we face.".



[6:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.


MR. RICHARD HUBBARD: Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to speak of the community most dear to my heart. Yarmouth is not merely a collection of people brought together by circumstance, there is a heart and soul inherent in the land, the sea and the people. I don't want to get too sentimental here tonight, but I think these aspects of our community are often overlooked in the dollars and cents game of economics. Of course, you can't eat sentiments, but it is the soul of our community which makes us one of the best places in North America to do business. The potential of Yarmouth is great if we dare believe we can be great.

Unfortunately, there are some roadblocks in the way but I am confident they will be overcome. Ferry service reduction by the MV Bluenose is a situation that has to be addressed. Not by a short-term, band-aid solution as advocated by the members of the Opposition, but a long-term solution that will allow Yarmouth [Page 451]

businesses to exploit the many business opportunities in the New England market. We are only a short distance from markets in Boston and New York.

In my Reply to the Speech from the Throne, I outlined the other challenges we face. They include our three-way transportation infrastructure; our roads, air and water, and some of the loss of federal government service. These are problems but, on the whole, the basis for our economy is structurally sound.

The fishery, while in crisis in most of Atlantic Canada, is particularly strong in our region. Yarmouth has exported $50 million from our fish plants. Yarmouth and southwestern Nova Scotia are the backbone of Canadian fishing. There have been problems with federal government management but, on the whole, it remains lucrative. The recent dispute between DFO and local fishermen could not have come to a resolution without the direct intervention of our Premier to the Prime Minister.

Without overstating the case, and I don't believe that I am, our Premier demanded that DFO sit down and talk to the fishing community. There was a crisis and the Premier acted. Now the Premier would not talk about it and I am sure DFO would deny it, but it is true. Our Premier is not boastful like other past Premiers. The Premier also discussed the MV Bluenose situation at the highest levels, and I am confident there will be a solution to the reduction of winter ferry service.

While there are challenges, they are not insurmountable. The people of Yarmouth believe in themselves, but it seems the Opposition has little faith in the people of Yarmouth. The people of Yarmouth know that we cannot rely on government as our sole source of income. We know we have the will and desire to succeed. We ask for our fair share and nothing more. We have seen what happens when regions depend on government. Independence is our future, not dependence.

Yesterday, for example, $2.1 million in government-assisted projects were confirmed. They required government assistance but the projects did not originate from government. They were initiatives put forth by the community. The waterfront development projects are a case in point. The local community saw a potential for growth, they initiated the project and the government offered some assistance. The Domtex facility also showed promise. Community business came forward with initiative and government helped them follow through. What is the result of these projects? Fifty-four permanent jobs, and this is considered conservative by some analysts.

There is another overlooked portion of the waterfront development story. In an age of facts and figures, reports may sometimes fail to get behind the whole story. Two Yarmouth residents made a difference - Mr. Bobby Newell and Mr. Clinton Hubbard allowed their property to be used for the project. They donated the said buildings and wharfage to the town which, in turn, contributed that back to the project. There is no bottom line here other than two people who want to see their community grown.

It is unfortunate that the Opposition Parties and others see no redemption in any situation. They travel the breadth and width of the province condemning the government of the day while, in fact, they are telling the regions that they are incapable of solving their own

[Page 452]

problems. They say, elect us and we will tell you what to do from Halifax. The people of Nova Scotia, threw the last government out for precisely the same arrogant reason. Make no mistake, the NDP are no better, they invented central planning. They symbolize the phrase, Big Brother knows best. These attitudes are unacceptable because I know we are strong. We have what it takes to become an economic dynamo.

Mr. Speaker, while the traditional fishery remains vibrant there are many changes taking place. Aquaculture is new and exciting and there are a great number of projects taking place in the field of aquaculture. There have been 29 aquaculture sites issued in Yarmouth County as of April 9, 1996. This represents 8 per cent of the provincial total.

Before I conclude, I want to list a number of projects and initiatives that have taken place or are taking place as we speak. I have stated them before and I will list them again for you this evening.

Community Business Loan Program: 16 Yarmouth County businesses helped for a total of $276,000; 23 jobs, maintained 92 jobs and 8 new businesses were created.

The Yarmouth waterfront can become a draw for tourists. I am very pleased that our government could provide $200,000 to this important project.

The establishment of the industrial mall at the Domtex site was welcome news. The $1.32 million project was launched in cooperation with the federal government.

All three levels of government have contributed $2.7 million for the renewal of our town's sewer system. Along with the region's pledge of $8 million, the province has committed $32 million for the expansion of the Western Regional Hospital over the next few years.

Recreation Facility Development grants have been awarded throughout Yarmouth County, including $25,000 for a playground at central school and others I could list: the development of the $1 million seniors complex on Parade Street; the Hebron Residential Centre opening.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you I know Yarmouth is well positioned for future growth. I can speak passionately about it, some say I am being overly positive. I suspect the Opposition members are chomping at the bit to vainly try to refute what I have to say.

A recent report prepared for ACOA by KPMG Management Consulting backs me up with fact. The cost advantage of Yarmouth was compared with 15 Atlantic Canadian cities, including Halifax, Moncton and Sydney, as well as 12 U.S. cities. We have many cost advantages. In fact, Yarmouth is least expensive of 15 Canadian cities and towns included in the study. This gives us the potential to compete with Halifax and Moncton in attracting new jobs. Yarmouth also proved to be among the best places to do business among 12 U.S. cities compared in the study, including Sacramento, California; Newark, New Jersey; Baltimore, Maryland; and Austin, Texas.

Most of all, we have a high quality of life. We have the kind of intangible benefits that are lacking in many parts of the world. There is no doubt that we can compete with the best of the best. It is unfortunate that Opposition Parties show little faith in our ability to succeed. With our advantages, the future is unlimited.

I see that I do not have the time, but I would conclude by letting the KPMG study speak for itself. In it, they talk about the community profile, the economic profile and the things we have down that way, the francophone university and so on. With that, I will conclude my remarks, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

[Page 453]

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise this evening to speak to the resolution brought forward by the member for Yarmouth. In preparing for debate on this resolution I turned first, as I so frequently do, to the local newspaper and I found an editorial dated January 12, 1996 in the Yarmouth Vanguard which makes the following observation. "Yes, there's still a Yarmouth. But it's one where store closures are so common these days hardly anyone pays attention to them. One where every time they haul yet another government service from this region or announce closures of phone stores and the like we hardly take notice. We've come to expect it'll happen. But worse, we expect nobody's going to do anything about it. And they don't.".

However uncomfortable the fact may be, no matter how uncomfortable the bitter truth may be, the buck stops on the desk of the government and the buck stops on the desk of the member who speaks for that government in that particular constituency. It may be difficult but it is nonetheless a naked truth. We have heard a great deal this evening and earlier this afternoon with respect to the economy of Nova Scotia and the current job situation. We heard the member for Cape Breton West, using the government's own statistics, remind us that in June 1993 when this government took power, there were 58,000 unemployed in Nova Scotia. In March 1996 when this government is almost three years into its mandate, there now are 62,000 unemployed in Nova Scotia.

To make matters worse, there has been, in fact, by the admission of the Department of Finance's own little tabloid, Nova Scotia Monthly Trends, both in January and February 1996, very clear evidence by the government's own admission that there has been a net loss of full-time work in Nova Scotia. That tells me and it should tell all Nova Scotians that most of those jobs that the Premier crows about are jobs which are part time. They are jobs which do not carry with them good salaries. They are jobs which do not have a good future, they are jobs which do not provide tremendous opportunity to those who take them up, they are jobs without benefits; they are jobs that we in our communities should look upon as a last resort, not as a first resort, let alone jobs that we would want to brag about.

And all of that, in spite of the fact that the KPMG report to which my honourable colleague just referred, says that Nova Scotia should be a good place to invest, that southwestern Nova Scotia should be a good place to invest. If that is true, and we have no reason not to believe KPMG, then there is something terribly wrong in Nova Scotia that is causing investors not to want to come here in spite of the facts that KPMG puts before us. I suggest to you, sir, that one of the principal reasons for that is the approach that this government has taken with respect to the economy of Nova Scotia. Certainly those Nova Scotians who are now dependent upon part-time jobs or who indeed have fallen out of work altogether would have to agree with that.

Let's focus a little bit on Yarmouth itself. What do we find in Yarmouth? We find the MV Bluenose service curtailed for winter service. We find a change in the airport, new user fees imposed by the Government of Canada. We find, again, headlines in the Yarmouth Vanguard, Local Air Nova Connections Threatened by User Fee Increases. But, of course, as

[Page 454]

with the MV Bluenose, that is a federal problem. We must not say that the province has a role to play there; that is a federal concern, a federal responsibility.

I read the other day the MLA's report, the report of the very gentleman who preceded me, and he spoke in his report of the Premier giving the go-ahead for a $40 million expansion to the hospital complex. Well, buildings are worth nothing if we don't have the money to run them. What do we find more recently? More recently, we find another story just out of this week's paper with $1 million being cut out of the Yarmouth Hospital budget, $800,000 is going to be allocated in cuts in jobs. That means, probably, 25 more full-time jobs gone from that community.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, the $40 million renovation sounds like a very strange expenditure in the face of the cut to the operating costs of that hospital.

[6:15 p.m.]

Well, we left here last April, I think it was. The Honourable Doug Young, then Transport Minister, made it very clear to this government that he was going to cut the subsidy for the MV Bluenose service. This government sat on its hands praying that somehow manna would fall from heaven and that the problem would be resolved. Of course, they did not want to have anything to do with it. It was a federal responsibility. What happened? The service was curtailed. I am no great fan of Doug Young's, but I can tell you this, when Doug Young says he is going to do something, you can take it to the bank.

Mr. Speaker, why was the government so silent with respect to the MV Bluenose for so long? I think the reason will be borne out by what I believe to be the fact that this same government which is so disappointed with respect to the ending of the subsidy for the MV Bluenose ferry, is also preparing to end the subsidy which the Nova Scotia Government has made available for many years to the Prince of Fundy.

So, we must ask ourselves the question. Does that also put the Prince of Fundy in jeopardy, as well? Of course, looking at southwest Nova Scotia, one cannot help but look at the link between Saint John and Digby which also, we are told by Marine Atlantic, is due to have its subsidy ended and, probably by the turn of the century, that service will either be privatized or gone, or perhaps privatized and gone. In any event, it is not much to look forward to.

Transportation is the key for southwestern Nova Scotia. We have the airport in difficulties, we have our shipping in difficulties and, if that were not enough, this government, whose responsibility indeed it is to provide transportation routes on land, is not prepared to invest in continuing and, indeed, completing Highway No. 101 from Halifax to Yarmouth. Nor do we see, according to the Shelburne Coast Guard, I believe, that it is prepared to enter into such a modest project as the Barrington By-pass. So Yarmouth continues to be cut off by Liberals - whether they are Liberals in Ottawa or Liberals in Halifax, it matters not - that seems to be the Liberal policy with respect to southwestern Nova Scotia.

We also take a look, Mr. Speaker, at other factors with respect to this community. My honourable colleague has spoken of the fishery and how strong it is. In fact, the fishery is not as strong as it has been in the past, not nearly so. While there is economic value, the flow out of that economic value to people in southwestern Nova Scotia is reducing all the time. Why don't we hear very much about that? Well, for two reasons; firstly, many of the people who have worked in fish plants who are now unemployed are on unemployment insurance benefits. There are others who are unemployed but are on TAGS. They, for the moment, are quiet. Don't let that quietude fool you. There is a problem there and it is going to burst out in a very real way in the not too distant future.

There also is a problem in that although fish is being caught, something like 85 per cent to 90 per cent of the fish which is landed in Nova Scotia is being shipped out round. That means it is not being processed. There is no value added to our fish plants and that means fewer jobs to workers in Nova Scotia. Yes, one [Page 455]

can look at it and place a dollar value on that fishery, but the flow-through in the economy down to, as the Premier would say, the small people, has been reduced and reduced significantly.

Mr. Speaker, I know that my time is almost completed. I started with a quote from the Yarmouth Vanguard and I would like to finish with a quote from the Yarmouth Vanguard. That quote says, "Cheerleading has a place but at some point the question becomes `where are the jobs?'". Where are the jobs that this member, when he campaigned in 1993, promised to Nova Scotians? Where are the jobs that the Liberal Government promised to Nova Scotians. We know by admission of their own statistical analysis that those jobs are not there. The editorial says, "Cheerleading has a place but at some point the question becomes `where are the jobs?'". What we have had tonight from my honourable friend is cheerleading. What we need from this government is action, action it promised but action it has not yet delivered.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my comments will be relatively brief because most of what I would want to say has been said quite well, I suggest, by the previous speaker.

I had not necessarily intended to speak this evening on this topic, but I was motivated, I must admit, by the comments by the member for Yarmouth who, during his remarks, criticized members of the Opposition for always being negative, seeing nothing positive, and the member suggested that members of the Opposition Parties don't seem to recognize that people within the community of Yarmouth can solve their own problems. He said that the solution is independence, obviously implying that the government didn't have a key role or responsibility.

Then he turned around, Mr. Speaker, after saying that the solutions had to be found at the community level and be independent, and started to talk about numerous projects and the government money that was inserted to make those projects happen. Obviously the member is correct. The energy, the ideas, if something is to be successful, the impetus has to come from the community level.

I congratulate, I commend the residents within the greater community of Yarmouth for all the hard work, all the energy, all the ideas they have been coming forward with to try to turn around the economic situation in that beautiful part of our province. It is a part of the province of which we need to be extremely proud.

Mr. Speaker, governments also have a responsibility to ensure that the kind of infrastructure systems that are needed in order to support that community, to assist that community to grow and develop, the potentials that exist, are, in fact, there.

The member knows very well that not only is the Yarmouth airport facing high user fees, but there is a very real risk that they can lose their air service. He knows that. He knows

[Page 456]

that the loss of the MV Bluenose ferry service throughout the winter is a tremendous hardship upon the businesses in that community that are trying to export their product to market. He knows that if there are any threats placed to the Scotia Prince that that threat, that difficulty, is going to be increased, just as, Mr. Speaker, the problems will yet again be increased if the ferry service from Digby to Saint John is threatened.

The rail service is already gone. There is no rail service; the VIA rail service and so on is gone. If we are going to be trying to assist the communities to develop their potential, we have to work together. It is not just a matter of standing up and saying that the government did this or the government did that, or should have done this or should have done that, we are casting aspersions at the Opposition. Here we are in this new age of technology and government is spending millions of dollars, a great deal of time and energy, on connecting to the World Wide Web. We even have a minister now who is in charge of this technology, some people say the "Minister of the Web", Spiderman, Mr. Speaker, in a good-natured way.

We talk about the need to develop those bonds of communication and those links. But if the community of Yarmouth, and across the province other communities like Yarmouth, if we are able to assist them, if we are going to be able to assist them to develop their economic potential, the jobs that are needed in those communities, surely to heavens we have to recognize that the government, whether that be municipal, provincial or the federal, have a responsibility to ensure that the key infrastructures are in place to enable them to get their goods and products to market in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

I am not going to use my whole time. I hadn't intended to speak and it wasn't my intention to get up, quite honestly, to cast any stones toward the member for Yarmouth, who has a right to be proud of his community and the members in his community who are working very hard to try to turn around those economic conditions. They have suffered a great deal over the last number of years with the loss of the tin mine, the textile mill and many others.

I am pleased that there is going to be some assistance and some jobs will be created as a result of the boardwalk and the waterfront development and the other things that were announced. That is important, but equally important, if we are going to be developing beyond that, we have to ensure that those links are there. People aren't going to be coming to the waterfront as a tourist destination if the transportation links to get there aren't there. We can't forget that all members of this House have a responsibility to try to assist all parts of this province to develop to their maximum economic benefits.

As I have said in this House on many occasions, if one part of this province is unwell, then none of the province is fully well. We have to work to ensure, in a cooperative way, and recognizing that government has a responsibility to play to ensure that the residents in the County of Yarmouth get their fair share of assistance to make sure they can develop as they deserve to be able to develop. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If there are no further speakers on the Adjournment debate, the House now stands adjourned until 2:00 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

[The House rose at 6:27 p.m.]