Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., Apr. 17, 1996

Fourth Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Guidelines and Regulations for the Development of Community
Health Boards for Nova Scotia, Hon. R. Stewart 671
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 218, Estimates - Comm. of the Whole House on Supply,
Hon. B. Boudreau 672
Res. 219, Sports - Athletics (Boston Marathon): Mr. Johnny Miles
(Sydney Mines) - Achievements Congrats., Hon. R. Stewart 672
Vote - Affirmative 673
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 16, Health Care Act, Mr. R. Chisholm 673
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 220, Cdn. Bar Assoc. - Law Day: Activities - Congrats.,
Mr. T. Donahoe 673
Vote - Affirmative 673
Res. 221, Health - Krever Inquiry: Victims Reps. - Resources Ensure,
Mr. R. Chisholm 673
Res. 222, Fin./Commun. Serv.: Citizens Against Spousal Abuse (Digby Co.) -
Support, Mr. D. McInnes 674
Vote - Affirmative 674
Res. 223, Fin. - PST & GST: Harmonization - Consultation, Mr. R. Russell 675
Res. 224, Educ. - Science Fair (Metro): Brookside JHS Grade 9 Winners -
Congrats., Mr. B. Holland 675
Vote - Affirmative 676
Res. 225, Commun. Serv.: Volunteer Awards (Lunenburg Co.) - Congrats.,
Mrs. L. O'Connor 676
Vote - Affirmative 676
Res. 226, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Mun. Amalgamation: Costs Excess -
Meet, Mr. J. Holm 676
Res. 227, Sports - Hockey: AAA Midget Championship -
Dart. Subway Success Wish, Mr. William MacDonald 677
Vote - Affirmative 677
Res. 228, Educ. - C.P. Allen HS Band: Boston Competition -
Success Wish, Mrs. F. Cosman 677
Vote - Affirmative 678
Res. 229, Health - Care: Crisis - Reforms Contribution Recognize,
Mr. G. Moody 678
Res. 230, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
Negotiations Halt, Mr. B. Taylor 678
Res. 231, Environ. - Solid Waste Mgt. Strategy: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. A. Mitchell 679
Res. 232, ERA - Junior Achievement (Mainland N.S.) Business Hall of Fame:
Sir Graham Day Inducted - Congrats., Mr. R. Russell 679
Vote - Affirmative 680
Res. 233, Educ. - Science Fair (Metro): Sir John A. MacDonald HS
Grades 10-11 Winners - Congrats., Mr. B. Holland 680
Vote - Affirmative 681
Res. 234, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Cruise Ships: Marine Fees - Object,
Mr. J. Holm 681
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 104, Fin. - Casinos: ITT Sheraton - Construction Extension,
Dr. J. Hamm 681
No. 105, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Public Hearings,
Mr. R. Chisholm 682
No. 106, Fin.: Casinos - Equity Repayments, Mr. G. Moody 684
No. 107, Fin.: Casinos - Equity Repayments, Mr. G. Moody 685
No. 108, Fin. - Casinos: Regs. Changes - Public Input,
Mr. T. Donahoe 686
No. 109, Housing - Westville: Subsidence - Compensation,
Dr. J. Hamm 687
No. 110, Housing & Mun. Affs.: Mun. Amalgamations - Costs,
Mr. J. Holm 689
No. 111, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
Contract, Mr. B. Taylor 691
No. 112, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
Contract, Mr. B. Taylor 692
No. 113, Sydney Tar Ponds Clean-Up Inc.: Operations - Update,
Mr. A. MacLeod 693
No. 114, Human Res. - EAP Brochures: Mailout - Necessity,
Mr. G. Archibald 694
No. 115, ERA - Film Dev. Corp. (N.S.): Exec. Dir. (Mr. R. Bittman) -
Suspension, Mr. R. Chisholm 695
No. 116, Fin.: Casino (Sydney) - Equity Repayments, Mr. G. Moody 697
No. 117, Environ. - Enviro-Depots: Job Creation - Data Table,
Mr. T. Donahoe 698
No. 118, Environ. - Water Pump Installers: Licensing -
Requirements, Mr. J. Leefe 699
No. 119, Environ.: Water Pump Installers (Class 1) - Courses,
Mr. J. Leefe 700
No. 120, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Enviro-Depots -
Criteria, Mr. J. Holm 701
No. 121, Fin. - Growth Div. Fund: Rebates - Pharmacare,
Mr. R. Russell 702
No. 122, Fin. - Growth Div. Fund: Rebates - Detail, Mr. R. Russell 703
No. 123, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Cruise Ships: Marine Fees -
Deterrence, Mr. D. McInnes 703
No. 124, Human Res. Dev. (Can.) - UI Changes: Gov't. (N.S.) -
Position, Mr. G. Archibald 705
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 57, Environ. - Stellarton: Strip Mine - Permit Hold,
Dr. J. Hamm 706
Dr. J. Hamm 706
Hon. W. Adams 710
Mr. J. Holm 712
Mr. J. Leefe 714
Res. 70, Fin. - Taxation: PST & GST Harmonization -
Proposals Reveal, Mr. R. Russell 718
Dr. J. Hamm 718
Mr. A. Mitchell 720
Mr. R. Chisholm 724
Mr. R. Russell 727
H.O. 1, Carried 730
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Fire Marshal - Annual Report: Results - Applaud:
Mr. A. Surette 731
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 18th at 2:00 p.m. 732
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 235, Educ. - Week (15-21/04/96): Mr. Norris Whiston
(Tatamagouche Elem. School) - Excellence Congrats., Mr. E. Lorraine 734

[Page 671]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Paul MacEwan

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time to begin the daily agenda. Are there any introductions of guests before we begin? If not, we will go through the items on the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table, for the perusal of the House and members, the Guidelines and Regulations for the Development of Community Health Boards for Nova Scotia prepared in cooperation with the regional health boards. I have asked that these be distributed to all members this afternoon.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

671

[Page 672]

RESOLUTION NO. 218

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall:

(1) read and table the message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997, for the consideration of this House;

(2) table the Estimate Books;

(3) table the Estimate resolutions;

(4) deliver my Budget Speech; and

(5) move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997, being Supply to be granted to Her Majesty, be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, for the information of the House, I intend to present the Budget Speech on this coming Thursday, April 25th. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 219

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

Whereas Mr. Johnny Miles is a native of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, who won the Boston Marathon in 1926 and in 1929; and

Whereas Mr. Miles was invited to attend the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Boston Marathon last weekend; and

Whereas a foundation was established in honour of Mr. Miles which provides annual university scholarships to two students based on their academic and athletic abilities and character;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate Mr. Johnny Miles for his tremendous achievements.

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

MR. SPEAKER: That is agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

[Page 673]

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

The motion is carried, unanimously. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 16 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Nova Scotia Health Care System. (Mr. Robert Chisholm)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 220

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

Whereas this day, April 17, 1996, is Law Day across Canada; and

Whereas this day was originally established by the Canadian Bar Association to commemorate the spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and

Whereas the Canadian Bar Association, through its Nova Scotia branch office here in Halifax, aims to give Nova Scotians a better understanding of the legal system and legal issues with activities such as mock trials, lawyers visiting students and a law fair held this year at Dartmouth's MicMac Mall;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the legal community, namely the Canadian Bar Association, for making an effort through Law Day to help all Nova Scotians acquire a better understanding of a profession that often affects their lives.

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.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 221

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

[Page 674]

Whereas Janet Conners will be on Parliament Hill this week in a silent protest against the way victims of the tainted blood scandal are being denied full participation in court proceedings around the Krever Inquiry; and

Whereas this denial of full participation is the result of government refusal to provide adequate funding to pay victims' legal costs; and

Whereas the Canadian Red Cross has seen fit to pay its witnesses at the Krever Inquiry $1,000 a day for testimony;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to ensure that victims of the blood system are provided the resources for adequate representation during court proceedings that this government has helped to initiate.

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

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

I would just like to take a look at it, perhaps the Clerk could too. I just want to make sure that it doesn't violate the sub judice convention. Apparently not, no.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 222

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

Whereas Digby County based Citizens Against Spousal Abuse is sitting on pins and needles concerning operating funds for 1996-97; and

Whereas the Digby County service saw a dramatic increase in their hours of work last year from 158 hours to 422 hours of support; and

Whereas the Digby County service provides a number of services including emergency shelter for victims of spousal abuse, as well as court and lawyer accompaniment;

Therefore be it resolved that the Ministers of Finance and Community Services show considerable compassion and provide this Digby County organization with some form of support in the 1996-97 fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it 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.

[Page 675]

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 223

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

Whereas when the Liberal Government introduced the business services tax on September 30, 1993, the Minister of Finance said, "I have to re-emphasize so that no one will misunderstand, the tax is now in place and the tax will remain"; and

Whereas on November 17, 1993, the Minister of Finance said, "we believe that the application of this tax will not put those groups, be they accountants or engineers or whatever, at a competitive disadvantage"; and

Whereas eight months after the business service tax was introduced with a promise that it was here to stay, the Minister of Finance backtracked from his earlier statements that it did not put businesses at a competitive disadvantage stating that removing the tax would "improve the competitive position of Nova Scotia business";

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance learn from his past mistakes and that he broadly consult Nova Scotians on the implications of the deal he is looking to strike with his Liberal cousins in Ottawa before he signs any agreement that will see a new harmonized tax broadly applied to businesses and goods presently exempt from the PST.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 224

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

Whereas understanding science is vital to the education of our young people; and

Whereas the Halifax, Dartmouth and Halifax County-Bedford Regional Science Fair was held at Prince Andrew High School on March 28th and 29th; and

Whereas Grade 9 students, Janel Swain and Jennifer Coolen of Brookside Junior High School won the first place prize in the Grade 9 category;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Janel Swain and Jennifer Coolen of Brookside Junior High School for their first place finish and their strong commitment to science.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

[Page 676]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 225

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 tomorrow, April 18th, during the Nova Scotia Volunteer Award ceremony, deserving volunteers throughout our province will be recognized for their outstanding spirit of giving; and

Whereas voluntarism involves a great deal of work and self-sacrifice for friends and neighbours that binds communities together, making them stronger; and

Whereas Martha Walker of Lunenburg; Ellen Hunt from the Community of First South; and Mahone Bay's Mayor, Joe Feeney, will be among those recognized from our community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations to these outstanding residents and commend Nova Scotia Volunteer Award recipients.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried, unanimously.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 226

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

Whereas true to form, the Savage Government wildly underestimated the costs of its hastily conceived and implemented metro merger with the result local residential taxpayers will be forced to pay up to 3 per cent to 4 per cent more in property taxes; and

Whereas the Savage Liberal Government, again true to form, offloaded the higher than estimated costs of its Cape Breton merger onto the backs of local ratepayers; and

Whereas both the Cape Breton and metro mergers resulted from the Liberals' autocratic actions, the consequences for which they must accept responsibility and be held accountable;

[Page 677]

Therefore be it resolved that this House calls upon the Savage Government to become responsible and accountable by paying the true costs of their merger schemes that are in excess of their estimated costs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[2:15 p.m.]

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank.

RESOLUTION NO. 227

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 Dartmouth Subway AAA Midget Hockey Team recently won the Atlantic AAA Midget Hockey Championship; and

Whereas, as a result of their championship win, they have become the Atlantic Canada representative at the National Championship to the Air Canada Cup; and

Whereas at the present time the Dartmouth Subway AAA Midget Hockey Team is in Kamloops, B.C., participating in the Air Canada Cup Tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to all members of the Dartmouth Subway AAA Midget Hockey Team best wishes for success as they pursue their goal of winning the Canadian Midget Championship.

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. (Applause)

The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.

RESOLUTION NO. 228

MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas C.P. Allen High School offers excellent curriculum, sports and cultural endeavours to round out student education; and

Whereas recently the 40-member C.P. Allen High School Band garnered four first place positions at the Kiwanis Music Festival; and

[Page 678]

Whereas under the direction of Ms. Denise Grant this band is off to Boston to compete in the international Festival of Music - New England;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly extend their congratulations and every success to Ms. Grant and the 40 members of the Charles P. Allen High School Band.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 229

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

Whereas there are literally thousands of Nova Scotians without a family doctor; and

Whereas the most recent statistics from the College of Physicians and Surgeons indicates the problem is getting worse, with 29 fewer doctors registered to practise in Nova Scotia on March 31, 1996, compared to just one month earlier; and

Whereas one rural doctor recently stated that things aren't getting any better for rural doctors and, unless there are radical changes he could see up to 50 per cent of the population of rural physicians leaving in five years;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health recognize that his so-called health care reforms are contributing to this mounting crisis and that he immediately set out a comprehensive plan that will restore the medical community's faith in Nova Scotia's health care system and stem the flow of doctors leaving Nova Scotia to practise elsewhere.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 230

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

Whereas after many months of evaluating and studying 54 expressions of interest respecting a tire recycling plant for Nova Scotia, a provincial committee representing government Departments of the Environment, Economic Renewal Agency, and Transportation and Public Works recommended the Nova Scotia company, Atlantic Rubber Recycling; and

[Page 679]

Whereas subsequent to the provincial committee's report and recommendation, the Resource Recovery Fund, with the Minister of the Environment's authority and approval, engaged a private consultant to study the provincial committee's study; and

Whereas an inexperienced private consultant, whose expensive contract did not go to public tender, recommended that a Manitoba company be the successful tire recycling proponent;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment immediately halt negotiations with the Manitoba-based company until a full review of the tire recycling proposal selection process is conducted by the Public Accounts Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 231

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

Whereas I have personally witnessed several young residents of my community making a concerted effort to retrieve recyclable materials along the roads in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour; and

Whereas residents all over Nova Scotia are now more aware of the massive amounts of waste that overwhelm our landfills as a result of our disposable lifestyle that endangers our hope for a clean environment for future generations; and

Whereas this government's initiative to preserve the environment is encouraging personal responsibility for waste management through a new deposit system that has motivated Nova Scotians to make unprecedented efforts to clean up their communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the people of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour and all Nova Scotians who are taking an active part in this government's Solid Waste Management Strategy, which encourages personal responsibility and promises a cleaner, ecologically accountable province.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 232

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

[Page 680]

Whereas Sir Graham Day became the newest member of the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame yesterday; and

Whereas the head of the selection panel described Mr. Day as being able to provide outstanding leadership and said his selection is for his enormous contribution to the business community; and

Whereas the Hantsport native who was knighted in 1989 by Queen Elizabeth II is a chancellor at Dalhousie University, while also serving on the boards of a number of Canadian and British companies;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate Sir Graham Day for being named to Nova Scotia's Business Hall of Fame and recognize the representatives of Junior Achievement of Mainland Nova Scotia for their diligent work in creating the Business Hall of Fame.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 233

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

Whereas understanding science is vital to the education of our young people; and

Whereas the Halifax, Dartmouth and Halifax County-Bedford Regional Science Fair was held at Prince Andrew High School on March 28th and 29th; and

Whereas among Grade 10 and Grade 11 students Allison DeLaLis and Tara Ryan of Sir John A. MacDonald High School won second place in their category;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Allison (Interruptions)

If you would pay attention, you would know that it is a different one. (Applause) Sorry, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, order. Please begin with "be it resolved."

MR. HOLLAND: Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Allison DeLaLis and Tara Ryan from Sir John A. MacDonald High School for their second place prize and commitment to science.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

[Page 681]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried, unanimously.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 234

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

Whereas metro Halifax stands to lose $3 million worth of spin-off activities and the jobs that depend upon it, as a result of cruise line decisions to consider dropping Halifax as a port of call, due to the Chretien Government's proposed marine fee; and

Whereas major shipping lines are contemplating dropping Halifax as a port of call and re-routing cargo through New York, due to increased costs to be imposed by the marine fee; and

Whereas despite the Minister of Transportation's best efforts and guarded support for the federal Liberals' new fee proposal, Nova Scotia has gained little to effect meaningful change;

Therefore be it resolved that the Savage Government convey to their federal Liberal cousins that Nova Scotia will not tolerate continued attacks upon the sustainability and development of economic activities in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Are there further notices of motion? If not, that would appear to conclude the items that are on the daily routine. We can now advance to the order of business, Orders of the Day. The time now being 2:25 p.m. I will say, the Oral Question Period for 90 minutes will run until 3:55 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

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

FIN. - CASINOS: ITT SHERATON - CONSTRUCTION EXTENSION

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance, responsible for the Gaming Corporation. The minister will remember back last fall when an extension was granted to Sheraton International regarding the submission of a construction schedule, a construction budget and some design documents. This was carried out by an

[Page 682]

amendment to the Halifax Casino construction contract. That amendment only delayed the process of submitting the design documents, the construction budget and the construction schedule until April 30th. My question to the minister is, has he received any requests from Sheraton International for a further extension on this process of submission of these documents?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, we have had discussions and I say we, the Chairman of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, Mr. Fiske, has had discussions with the Sheraton with respect to the situation at the casino. We have received no formal request at this point but I am aware that discussions have gone on.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the minister, the minister knows full well that when he presented this proposal for casino gambling in Nova Scotia, that part of the proposal was some $6 million in commercial tax revenue to the City of Halifax, which would be accrued from the building of a $120 million casino on the parking lot north of Purdy's Wharf. To this point, those commercial taxes have not been forthcoming to the City of Halifax. My question to the minister responsible is, is he going to insist as minister responsible that the contract be honoured and that, in fact, there will be no further extension given to Sheraton International to start the building of this casino, north of Purdy's Wharf?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, let me see if I have this straight. The Leader of the Official Opposition, who I think were so opposed to the casino, are now urging me to have the new casino built without delay. I just wanted to be clear on that. The undertaking I will give to this honourable gentleman and all members of the House is that any decision will be made in the best public interests of the people of this province.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, as the minister pointed out, I had concerns about the casino. I also have concerns about the government making commitments that it doesn't fulfil, that is a real concern in this province. My final supplementary to the minister is, will he confirm that if the new casino in Halifax is not completed by September 30, 1998, that the province will, as per the contract signed with Sheraton International, start collecting a $10,000 penalty from Sheraton International for every day after September 30th that the new casino is not operational?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, all the documents relating to this are public. As a matter of fact, the former interim Leader of the Official Opposition required those documents in detail and pursuant to our undertaking, we gave him them. So, those documents can be read and the honourable gentleman can answer his own question. It is just helpful to me, and I know we have a difficult time with this, but it would be helpful to me if we knew what the position of the Official Opposition was. Do they want us to build this casino? Do they want us to proceed, or not?

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

FIN.: PST & GST HARMONIZATION - PUBLIC HEARINGS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Finance. You will recall over the last number of weeks we have been pursuing the Premier and the Minister of Finance on the issue of the talks that they are having with the federal government, harmonizing the PST and the GST. We are doing that because we are concerned about the significant tax change that is being proposed, basically, in the back rooms in a vacuum, without discussing the issue with Nova Scotians. The response from the Premier, until he left for Sweden, was basically he would look after the interests of small Nova Scotians and that it wasn't an issue.

Yesterday, we had some success in pursuing this issue with the Minister of Finance. He said that such discussions will take place with the people of Nova Scotia. It has come to our attention that the Government of Prince Edward Island has agreed to hold public hearings around the Province of Prince [Page 683]

Edward Island to discuss the whole question of harmonizing the PST and the GST, with the citizens of all sizes.

[2:30 p.m.]

I would like to ask the Minister of Finance, given the fact he indicated yesterday that such discussions will take place with the people of Nova Scotia, will he indicate here today -given the leadership shown by the Province of Nova Scotia - to the people of Nova Scotia that his government will also participate in some way, shape or form, be it public hearings, be it a fair tax commission, or whatever, in discussion of the PST/GST harmonization before a deal is entered into with the federal government?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, what I indicated yesterday, and let me repeat again today, is that the Government of Nova Scotia is having discussions with the federal government with respect to reaching an agreement in principle, the establishment of a number of basic principles upon which harmonization can proceed. If no agreement in principle is reached, then there is really nothing to talk about. If there is an agreement in principle reached, then obviously, before any detailed agreement is implemented or arrived at, discussions will be taking place on a wide range of issues with a wide range of Nova Scotians.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I remind the minister that back in 1991 when the then government, led by Donald Cameron, was talking about harmonizing the PST and GST, both the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party raised that issue in the by-election in Halifax Atlantic that I was so deeply involved in. The people in that constituency sent a very clear message to the government, and they backed off on any plans to harmonize.

This minister also thought it was sufficiently important that he brought a resolution into this House in 1992, calling on the government of the day not to proceed until a fair tax commission was called in order to review the implications of harmonizing the PST and the GST. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, in his reluctance to discuss this issue with Nova Scotians, will he explain to them what has changed over the past four years that is leading him to take this tack, that they can conclude a deal in the back rooms without discussing it with Nova Scotians?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable Leader is not being quite fair to the Conservative Party, now the Official Opposition, when he describes their position. I think, as I recall it and I think I have had an opportunity to review some of the news coverage at the time, that the Conservative Party, under then Premier Donald Cameron, was in favour of harmonization before the by-election, hedged during the by-election, and then came out in favour of harmonization again after the by-election. I think that is the appropriate sequence. So you missed the last part where they came back around.

Mr. Speaker, we have clearly stated, and the Premier has clearly stated here in the House, that we do not seek harmonization at any cost. We are looking for principles of harmonization which will do a couple of things, fundamentally: One, result in a significant

[Page 684]

tax reduction for the people of this province, where the Government of Nova Scotia will collect less tax, not more (Applause) - that is one principle - and two, an arrangement where all levels of income in this province will benefit. That is the type of principle we are pursuing and that is the type of agreement, if we have one, it will be in principle. (Applause)

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, you would think that this minister, of any Ministers of the Crown, would recognize the need to consult on an important issue like that. Let's not forget the flip-flop he had to do on the business services tax less than two years ago, where they brought in an extra tax on business services in the Province of Nova Scotia, and six months later they had to back off on it.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask this minister, in my final supplementary, if he could explain to Nova Scotians then, if he is absolutely refusing to put this matter before Nova Scotians and have full and open discussions with them on the implications of this tax, will he indicate what flexibility there will be to amend such an agreement that they will reach - and he has already said that is what they are going to do - with the federal government behind closed doors?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, when we have an agreement in principle then we will come to this House and to the public of Nova Scotia and outline the principles of that arrangement and answer the very questions that the honourable member asks.

I have indicated specifically with relation to the business services tax, we stood in this House after the introduction of that budget some three years ago, the first budget of this government, and indicated that we had heard from the business community in the province who said to us, there are two objections we make to this business services tax: one, there is no input tax credit, we get taxed on the outgoing end but we don't get any credits coming in; and two, it puts us on an uneven playing field with our sister provinces. We heard that. We listened to them. I stood in the House and I said, you know, they are right. Mr. Speaker, we changed. That is something the New Democratic Party hasn't done in 30 years, that is change. We will protect the interest of all Nova Scotians and we will be having discussions if we reach an agreement in principle.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

FIN.: CASINOS - EQUITY REPAYMENTS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister in charge of the Gaming Corporation. It was on January 3rd of this year, in the last session, I asked the minister a question regarding the equity repayments on the casinos and especially on the one in Cape Breton. The minister, I am sure, remembers Hansard back on that particular date, Wednesday, January 3, 1996. I asked him, and he indicated at the time that he would undertake to advise me on what is meant by equity payments on the Sydney Casino. I wonder if he would do that now?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I think my undertaking was to see that the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation supplied that information to the honourable member. I was under the impression they had but if they have not, I will undertake that within the next two days' sitting, I will give it to you.

[Page 685]

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I was hoping the minister would explain it. I did get some information from the Gaming Corporation but I was looking for some clarification from the minister. I would ask the minister if the equity repayments are fixed or are they floating amounts from period to period?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, in the interest of complete accuracy, I will certainly take that question on notice. I will review the documents that the honourable member has from the Gaming Corporation at my request and then I will be more than happy to address that question in detail with him either privately or should he wish to bring it back to the floor.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, knowing that the minister was involved and knows the agreement that was signed with ITT Sheraton to run the casino in Sydney, I am sure that he is familiar with the agreement. Is the minister aware that there was a shortfall at the end of December of $487,893 that will be carried over to the next quarter, with interest, which is at the prime rate plus 1 per cent? Is the minister aware that there is a continued carry-over from this equity repayments to the Sheraton from one quarter to the next?

MR. BOUDREAU: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: A new question, the honourable member for Kings West.

FIN.: CASINOS - EQUITY REPAYMENTS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, given the fact that Sydney Casino had a special deal by the government that is different than the one in Halifax, in that the operator is entitled to a base fee of 3 per cent gross of revenues plus an incentive fee of 10 per cent of the gross operating revenue, I would ask the minister why such incentives were put in place for ITT Sheraton at the casino in Sydney?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I can only assume that the people who negotiated that agreement on our behalf, and certainly with our concurrence, found that that would be a reasonable business arrangement to have under the circumstances. The difference between the Sydney Casino and the Halifax casino is that the operators do not participate in the profit in the Sydney Casino.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ. They do not get a share of the profit but they are guaranteed 13 per cent of the gross intake. In other words, whether they make a profit or not in the casino, they are guaranteed a percentage of the amount that is bet. In the three month period ending December 31st, for that quarter, ITT Sheraton, actually, through repayments, base fees and incentive fees, received over $1 million. I would ask the minister if part of that deal with ITT Sheraton, even though they have it worked so that the profit line is zero, ITT Sheraton still took home over $1 million, I would ask the minister if this continues with the interest being paid to ITT Sheraton, will he have a look at the arrangements so that the bottom line isn't always in favour of ITT Sheraton; in other words, no matter how much is bet, ITT Sheraton is going to walk away with x number of dollars, is he willing to look again at that?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the honourable member will be happy to learn that the casino operation in Sydney continues to grow and improve to the point, I think, that 17 people were rehired at that casino, a short time ago, to deal with the additional business which, I might add, came at a time of year when one might have expected that business would be dropping off, the winter months. So, I want to report to the honourable

[Page 686]

member that things are going well there, business continues to improve and I don't think his objection will be a significant one into the future.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, given the fact that in this last quarter they were about $0.5 million short, plus over $1 million that would be given to ITT Sheraton before the profits are given; given the fact that even though I am encouraged, he says, by the number of people that were hired, and that is encouraging; and given the fact that we may still, obviously, by the looks of the numbers I am given, operate on a deficit basis, will the minister give some assurances to the groups that were promised a part of the profits of this casino that, at some point within the year, these groups that have applied under good faith, guaranteed by this government and by the minister they would share in those profits, that there will be some money given to those groups that are non-profit and very worthwhile that have applied for some money under the package the minister promised out of the Sydney Casino?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am aware that there is a difference between this particular industry both in Halifax and in Cape Breton from those industries with which the former minister dealt when he was in government. This particular industry cost the taxpayers not one cent to bring into the area in Cape Breton, for example, and created well over 300 jobs. The other difference must be - and I just realized it now - that all of the industries that the former minister brought in when he was in the administration here, they must have made money right away. They must have all made a profit the first month because to listen to his question, one would have thought that was the case. This is a new industry, it is growing, its profits will grow and, when the profits are there, we will share them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

FIN. - CASINOS: REGS. CHANGES - PUBLIC INPUT

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: My question is also for the Minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation.

When the Liberal Government forced the casinos on Nova Scotians, reassurances were given that the public would have input in regard to the regulations and the methods of operation, days of operation, serving of alcohol at tables and so on. On December 20, 1994, this Minister of Finance said, "Let me say again that we have made the commitment to the public that they shall have their input and the regulations will be passed only after that input is taken.". Well, Nova Scotians know, Mr. Speaker, as you well do, that the regulations have changed twice in the past number of months without that kind of consultation. I ask the minister if he will confirm, today, that there will be no further changes in the regulations of the operation of either or both of those casinos without the legitimate public input that he referred to in that 1994 comment?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, that comment that the honourable member referred to about consultation before the regulations were improved was made and indeed that consultation took place. We were literally flooded with submissions with respect to those regulations before they were passed. He asks me now, will I give a commitment that those regulations will never change? No, that is not a commitment that I would give. Those regulations will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and, in fact, specifically, the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission has among its legislated authorities, the review of the whole gaming situation on which they will report annually. If people have submissions they wish to make on that basis, I am sure they would receive them.

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, the minister played pretty fast and loose with the words which I used. He knows perfectly well that I didn't say and I didn't intend to secure from him a suggestion or a commitment that the regulations would never change. I asked him for a commitment that they would not change without the public input that he has promised on so many previous occasions and he completely skirted the public input issue.

[Page 687]

May I, Mr. Speaker, by way of supplementary ask a further question of the minister? The Chairman of the Gaming Corporation has recently mused aloud about further relaxing the regulations - the very regulations we are talking about - and he said that he has reported to the Minister of Finance. He said that he has reported "often and in detail to the Minister of Finance" and that the Minister of Finance knows exactly what the casinos want and I dare say he does. I ask the minister if he will tell us today whether ITT Sheraton has requested further changes in the regulations to allow free alcohol, accommodations or any other kind of inducements to be added to the package of features available at either or both casinos?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I have the opportunity and the pleasure of meeting on a regular basis with Mr. Fiske who is the Chair of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. I do not meet with the senior officials of Sheraton on any sort of regular basis. I have discussions on regulations which are wide-ranging and detailed, as Mr. Fiske was quoted. In point of fact, I do not now have anything which I will be taking formally to the Cabinet because, as you know, the regulations are passed by Order in Council. But all sorts of discussions have taken place. I just don't think it is appropriate for me to go over the detail of any of those discussions with Mr. Fiske.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, it is one thing that the minister doesn't want to talk to us here where the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia can understand or perhaps have some chance of understanding where their government is coming from in relation to an issue as fundamental as this, but perhaps I might by way of final supplementary ask the minister not to answer a question for me about what he and Mr. Fiske are talking about but to make a statement relative to government policy. Will the minister again recommit to his own regulations which states that a casino operator shall provide goods in a casino at reasonable prices which are not predatory or exploitive of local suppliers of similar goods? In that context, will this minister confirm today that it is and will continue to be government policy that free alcohol will not be available in the casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the statement that I will make concerning regulations is a similar statement that I made consistently, including, I think, the day the casino here in Halifax opened. I think I was captured by one of our television media when I indicated to them at that time the regulations governing casinos, the regulations governing gaming generally, will be under constant review on an ongoing basis and I will make no commitments about any of those regulations indefinitely into the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HOUSING - WESTVILLE: SUBSIDENCE - COMPENSATION

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. The minister will be aware in her briefing sessions in relation to her new responsibility that she now is the minister who is responsible to those residents of Westville

[Page 688]

who, some two years ago, were victims of subsidence. She is now the third minister who has had this responsibility since that subsidence has occurred.

My question to the minister is simply this, what priority is this minister giving to providing some compensation to the victims of subsidence in Westville, those whose homes on Diamond Street sank into the ground some two years ago?

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on my first question with regard to the Housing portfolio. (Applause) It certainly has been very exciting and I am looking forward very much to following in the footsteps of my colleagues, the Honourable Eleanor Norrie and the Honourable Guy Brown, who did excellent jobs as ministers of that department.

This particular issue on subsidence is a very difficult issue, Mr. Speaker, because I have looked at it and had some brief discussions within the department and I can tell you that the honourable member from that area, Mr. Wayne Fraser, as well has raised the issue with me since my change in a number of occasions. I do not have a specific response to the question because I am reviewing it with the department and we are doing some research on it. So, it is one of those things that I would take under advisement and given an opportunity to put together some material, I would be willing to talk to the honourable member.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the minister, that is the kind of answer that, unfortunately, I received from the two previous ministers, who said that some kind of a solution was imminent to the problem. I stand here again asking the same question on behalf of the same homeowners, one of whom still is unable to return to his home because his home has been rendered uninhabitable due to subsidence.

So, I would look for a little more detail from the minister and certainly a lot more commitment that she will move this to the top of her pile of priorities in terms of housing. This has been sitting, now, on two previous ministers' desks, both of whom suggested that the solution was just around the corner. Will this minister commit to look at this problem as soon as possible and to provide some kind of answer to the people in Westville affected by subsidence who are becoming very tired of simply waiting?

MS. JOLLY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

DR. HAMM: I thank the minister for her commitment. Now, by way of final supplementary, would this minister give some indication as to when she will be giving an answer to the people of Westville who have been affected by subsidence, a definitive answer as to when they can expect some form of help from the government, bearing in mind that it is this government that is the custodian of the old mine workings that collapsed that resulted in the subsidence in the Diamond Street area?

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think as I responded in the member's initial question, it is under review with myself and the department. I will be prepared to give back an answer as soon as I possibly can.

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

[Page 689]

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS.: MUN. AMALGAMATIONS - COSTS

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the same minister but under a different hat, as Minister of Municipal Affairs. I say at the beginning that the predictable has happened and we see that the government is, indeed, batting 100 per cent in terms of consistency when it comes to amalgamations. The consistency is that each and every time they make a prediction, they wildly underestimate what the actual costs of those mergers are going to be with the result that the taxpayers, the ratepayers who live in those communities are going to be faced with huge bills in the future to pay for this government's actions.

MR. SPEAKER: Now, that sounds to me more like an appraisal than a question.

MR. HOLM: So, my question to the minister is simply this, is there any hope at all that this government will be accountable and that it will accept responsibility for the consequences of its actions by picking up the additional costs, above and beyond those which it had estimated, so that those costs will not continue to be offloaded on to the backs of the ratepayers in those communities who were supposed to save because of this government's actions?

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer this question. This government has consistently, since it has become government, been accountable for all of its actions. It will continue to be accountable for its actions as we have not seen in the last 15 years.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have trouble accepting that answer with a straight face, without getting a bit of a laugh on, Mr. Speaker.

My first supplementary then to the minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, we have seen what the government believes, certainly in terms of good business practices because any time you go to a business and you get an estimate, you expect that the final bill is going to be somewhere close to the estimate you were given, not double the cost.

So my question to the minister is quite simply this, as she travels around the province trying to sell, trying to urge other municipal units, like in Colchester County and elsewhere, to merge, on the basis that there are such huge savings in store for the taxpayers, what sales pitch does she use to try to gain some credibility for her arguments, given the dismal failure of their plans to date - of hers and of her government in this regard?

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many questions I have answered with regard to amalgamation in this House. There have been two or three years of them. I can tell you, as I have said before and I will say again to this honourable member, who obviously is not listening, there are a number of reasons why you would look at amalgamation. In the metropolitan area we looked at amalgamation in order to be able to provide a regional government to deal with regional issues.

As we saw in the Daily News on April 16, "Super City Aims First Sales Pitch at Sweden", we now have a business partnership between the business people in the metropolitan area and the municipality and they are out there selling. They are selling on a regional basis because they want jobs in Nova Scotia. That is exactly what there is going to be produced, because of amalgamation. Mr. Speaker, he should listen once in a while.

[Page 690]

Secondly, in Cape Breton, amalgamation was due to municipal units being broke. But let me tell you what they have been able to do; they, as well, have a regional government and they, as well, have been able to deal with issues on a regional basis. They have been able to do it fiscally responsibly and they have put their own fiscal house in order and they have it in order, Mr. Speaker. We will see many things come from that regional government.

The third one that we have done, which he likes to pretend isn't even there, is Queens, a voluntary amalgamation. Let me tell you, they are happy as clams down there in Queens. Things have gone well there. Mr. Speaker, we have had three amalgamations, three of them quite different from one to the other. As we have said, as he says I am around the province selling, yes, in Colchester they themselves did two studies that suggest that they want to amalgamate.

There are no huge dollar savings there but regional issues, such as their landfill as a regional area, is one of the things that is crucial.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I have said many times that amalgamation is not the answer to all the concerns we have across the province for municipalities. There are other ways to deal in other areas with some of the concerns. We have never said amalgamation is the only way to approach them.

MR. HOLM: I am pleased to see that the minister has some fire in her answers, I just wish she had a little bit more credibility in what she is saying. (Interruptions) This minister knows full well that the metro regional municipalities were already cooperating in economic development. This minister knows that she and her government argued that there were to be financial savings and that the tax rate costs were going to go down for the ratepayers in the metro area, as a result of what this government imposed autocratically upon the people of this area, without being willing to listen to them.

My question to the minister, Mr. Speaker, is quite simply this, when you said, when the government said that there was to be a $10 million saving a year, that was a commitment that the government made. What happened to that promise and why is it now that the government is trying to hide from the commitments it made at that time and is running away from trying to accept responsibility for the increased costs that you are imposing on every homeowner, every small business in this metropolitan area?

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer that question as well. We did a study - actually it was a study done by the previous government - the study is there, if you were reading your mail, Mr. Hayward's study, the commissioner, was done under your government, if you read your mail; $10 million of savings were noted in that study and the new regional municipality with Mr. Meech and with the mayor, as well, have confirmed that they see a $10 million savings there as well, there is a $10 million savings there. But what he would like to suggest (Interruptions) It has been there.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

MS. JOLLY: He can ask Mr. Meech and Mr. Meech will give it to him himself.

[Page 691]

Mr. Speaker, the other important thing that I think is very concerning to me, with the cost of the new amalgamation in metro, over 50 per cent of the cost to do this amalgamation is to deal fairly with employees. Over 50 per cent is to deal fairly with employees; $11 million of $20 million is to deal fairly with employees and they would like to suggest they are the defenders of employees, they are the defenders of labour, and they would not have those employees dealt with fairly? Shame on those individuals.

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

ENVIRON. - RESOURCE RECOVERY FUND: TIRE RECYCLING - CONTRACT

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of the Environment. It has been communicated to me, and I have stated on numerous occasions in this House, that the private consultant who was engaged by the Resource Recovery Fund, a Mr. Barry Alexander, is, in fact, not qualified relative to tire recycling. Will the Minister of the Environment confirm that the same Mr. Barry Alexander is on his way to Louisville, Kentucky, to become informed and educated respecting tire recycling and that Mr. Barry Alexander's price tag, so to speak, for the trip will be picked up by the Nova Scotia taxpayer?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member is asking me if I am aware that a gentleman named Barry Alexander is on his way to Louisville, Kentucky to have his expenses picked up by the Province of Nova Scotia. I thought I heard that question straight. Well, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that I don't know whether Mr. Barry Alexander is in Kentucky or in Montreal.

AN HON. MEMBER: What a surprise.

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, I think he is nit-picking and looking for a reason to get on top rather than stay on the bottom. This minister would not have any particular details on those people who are hired by agencies independent from government and I don't think it is our business to find out what the day-to-day activities are. (Laughter) Now they laugh and they scoff but perhaps they could reflect on how they used to deal with those agencies that were at arm's distance from government in the past when they didn't even want to either read the memos or messages from those arm's length organizations. The same applies now as it did then. Nothing different, nothing worse but better.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, Mr. Speaker, that is a very disappointing answer. In light of the fact that I called the minister's office probably an hour and one-half ago and advised his assistant that I would be looking for some information relative to Mr. Barry Alexander flying off to Louisville, Kentucky, at the expense of the Nova Scotia taxpayer, I would have expected that we would have had some type of reasonable response and not a bunch of gobbledegook like that. Absolutely unacceptable.

My question to the minister, on first supplementary, is simply this, as I understand it, the Resource Recovery Fund and the Manitoba-based company are now down, as you call it, to the short strokes relative to a tire tax in this province. Will the minister confirm that the tire tax for the Province of Nova Scotia and its consumers will be $3.00 per tire?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, no I will not confirm that because I will not interfere with the negotiations that are now underway.

[Page 692]

MR. TAYLOR: Will the minister tell this House and all Nova Scotians why the contract for Mr. Barry Alexander, the private consultant without experience in tire recycling did not go out to public tender?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I wish the member would ask the real question. He is obviously skirting the issue and making accusations which don't really come to the point. He made mention that he advised my assistant, who is in the gallery, he knows nothing of this phone call. He received no phone call from the member.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Misleading the House. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order!

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, there is obviously a question somewhere that he is looking for but he doesn't have the courage to come forward and ask the question. If he is asking me about the qualifications again, about this consultant that went looking for the best deal for Nova Scotia, at least this government took the time to reflect and look for the best deal for this province. We found an independent through our Resource Recovery Fund Board. That independent person went from coast to coast in this country and talked to the tire recyclers. As evidence of that, Mr. Downe and I were in Toronto on other business at the time we met this individual, by accident, and what was he doing in Toronto? Looking for the best possible tire recycling deal for Nova Scotia, meeting with tire recycling manufacturers in this country.

I am convinced today and I will convey my conviction to other Nova Scotians that we are working in the best interest and at the end of the day, we will have the best possible deal that will create jobs, remove the tires from the backwoods of Nova Scotia and from the landfills of this province and make Nova Scotia look better and be better for the jobs and the better environment which it has created.

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

ENVIRON. - RESOURCE RECOVERY FUND: TIRE RECYCLING - CONTRACT

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, by way of a new question to the Minister of the Environment, I would like to inform the minister that I did speak to one of his assistants, it was his press assistant. (Interruption) I don't know who is in the gallery. I made a phone call to his assistant. I don't retract that statement. I think it was Mr. MacEachern, in fact, that I was talking to. My question to the minister is this: has the consultant, Barry Alexander, ever worked or consulted on any facet of the tire recycling industry, be it transportation, collection, processing of scrap tires, value added manufacturing? Has the private consultant any knowledge of tire recycling? (Interruption)

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I heard a member opposite say that I can't answer the question and I guess that is probably the question or they do not know the question they are asking to get the answer. We are aware and we are very convinced that the person who was hired by the agency to search for the best tire deal has some experience in the petroleum business and I am sure he has experience in the business world. That would give him some objectivity, to find what we are looking for. We don't want people who are going to be currying favour to friends, which we have experienced for 15 years in this province. We want those who would be objective and go and look for those who will bring again to Nova Scotia the best possible deal.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, Atlantic Rubber Recycling of Truro, Nova Scotia, has different elements and components of tire recycling in place. The individual has an impeccable financial record. Why wasn't the Nova Scotian treated the same as the Manitoba-based company?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I think we have said in this House many times before and we will say it again, there were two finalists in the final strokes, if you will, for this tire recycling operation and both are Nova Scotia based companies. TRAC, Tire Recycling Atlantic Canada Corporation of Dartmouth, Nova [Page 693]

Scotia, were the successful ones in the end to be picked to negotiate with the Resource Recovery Fund Board. The Truro-based company was a finalist, no question. We wanted the maximum number of jobs created for Nova Scotians and we wanted to see the end result being an end use product that would add value to Nova Scotia, not shipped out of Nova Scotia to Quebec.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary, obviously, the Minister of the Environment would not be aware that the operation in Winkler, Manitoba, which is the same Manitoba-based company that the Resource Recovery Fund is negotiating with here in Nova Scotia, has markets to ship tires out of Manitoba to other jurisdictions where the tires are burned. The minister will know that by regulation in Nova Scotia, you cannot burn tires. I want to ask the Minister of the Environment, if he supports not burning tires in the Province of Nova Scotia, why does he support a Manitoba-based company that has an option to burn in other jurisdictions?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I am the Minister of the Environment for the Province of Nova Scotia and we do ban the burning of tires in Nova Scotia. We do recognize that tire-derived fuel from tires is the universally accepted method. We are not looking at that option in this instance in Nova Scotia. I said earlier, we are looking for that manufacturer in Nova Scotia that will create jobs in this province, clean up the tire waste that is around the province and make tomorrow better than it was yesterday. Again, the member keeps looking for the question but hasn't got the courage to ask the question.

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

SYDNEY TAR PONDS CLEAN-UP INC.: OPERATIONS - UPDATE

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I wonder if the minister could inform the House whether he has had an opportunity yet to meet with the tar ponds corporation and, if he has, would he please give us an update as to what is going on with the tar ponds?

HON. RICHARD MANN: No, Mr. Speaker, I haven't, but I believe it has been scheduled for some time next week.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for that answer. I wonder if the minister could tell us, from the survey that was released last week identifying that there are three times as many PCBs in the tar ponds now as in the original plan, are there any thoughts in re-looking at the plan of encapsulation that was first announced by the former Minister of Supply and Services?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, there has been no report released. I believe an employee from Jacques Whitford had spoken to a reporter from the Cape Breton Post, and they discussed some findings in the tar ponds, but as yet there has been no report forthcoming. I

[Page 694]

believe that will be forthcoming at the end of next week, probably around the time that I meet with tar ponds' staff.

MR. MACLEOD: Thank you for the gobbledegook, Mr. Minister. I find it very hard to believe that a situation as important as this hasn't been looked into by the minister at this point.

My final question to the minister would be, through you, Mr. Speaker, that I think it is time that this minister requests the federal Department of the Environment to make a full and complete study as to what is going on so we can get to the bottom of this situation and do what is right for the people of the City of Sydney?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I am astounded by the remarks of the member opposite to say that we haven't looked in or haven't done anything; there is work ongoing. We have Hector Jacques on-site, environmental consultants, doing samples (Interruption) Yes, finding more. Maybe the member opposite should ask why his government spent upwards of $50 million and didn't find the information. Maybe that is some of the questions he should be answering. (Applause) (Interruptions)

We will be responsible for this. That is why we had the environmental consultants on-site; that is why they are preparing a report for us. That member opposite would do it again. He would go forth, he would jump to a conclusion, he would spend millions more without waiting for the report to come forward. Is that what happened before? Maybe that explains the $50 million-plus. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

HUMAN RES. - EAP BROCHURES: MAILOUT - NECESSITY

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask, through you, a question to the Minister of Human Resources. My question to the Minister of Human Resources is regarding a new Nova Scotia Government Employee Assistance Program. Each employee of the Government of Nova Scotia received a very lovely fridge magnet, a high-gloss brochure, and I guess everybody's favourite is these little plastic cards to keep in your wallet. What I am wondering, this Employee Assistance Program, the EAP, was it decided it was needed because employees who work for the Government of Nova Scotia are under great stress due to this government's actions?

My question to the minister is, why this little bundle of treasures that each of us cherished when we got it in the mail, why he spent the 45 cents per employee, plus GST, for every single person in the Province of Nova Scotia who gets a paycheque, why couldn't he have put them in the pay slips, why couldn't they have gone interdepartmental? Does the government have so much money to spend on foolishness like this, these little brochures, these little magnets, when school children do not have any paper? The obvious question is, why did the minister feel he had to send them through the mail at 48 cents apiece?

HON. JAY ABBASS: The member opposite is focusing maybe on the price of a stamp, when really he should be focusing on the reality that what this does, is bring the Government of Nova Scotia and the Civil Service into, at least, the modern era, as compared to other jurisdictions right here in Canada and throughout North America. Indeed, you will find that there are EAP programs throughout the private sector as well.

In cooperation with the union side, that is the NSGEU and CUPE, we are proud to have finally come up with an EAP program, an Employee Assistance Program, which will again update us and bring us finally into the 20th Century.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that my refrigerator will now be in the 20th Century because I can stick this little badge on it. The minister failed to answer why he chose the most [Page 695]

expensive method possible to have this delivered to the employees; the government sees the employees, why couldn't it go on the payroll slips?

Mr. Speaker, he decided not to answer that question, so I will try him with another one. The campaign makes references to stress that employees are under, and I am sure you understand the stress that people get under, sitting where you sit, and perhaps you have this on your refrigerator and these in your pockets, just in case, but could the minister tell us the cost that his department has budgeted for this very important EAP program?

MR. ABBASS: Actually, I would be happy to provide that to the member via a letter. I will give him something more of a precise estimate than I could give off the top of my head. I should point out that this does not only relate to the alleviation of emotional distress, it relates to drug addiction problems, including alcohol addiction problems . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Gambling addiction.

MR. ABBASS: . . . potentially and it would relate to any number of personal difficulties that a typical member of the Civil Service might encounter in the course of his or her career.

I look forward, actually, to bringing forward a minister's statement on this because it is one of the better initiatives that this government has actually brought forward in fairness to its employees and in consideration of the various difficulties that from time to time they do encounter.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I anxiously await the receipt of my mail, because it will probably come with a 48 cent stamp on it. Also, I am wondering if the minister, since he doesn't know anything about the cost, he is not sure of any of the details, he doesn't know why it was sent in the mail, could the minister indicate if there is somebody, an outside consultant that perhaps he has hired to do this, and did this program go to tender or was this an in-house program? Perhaps the minister would know whether he did it within his department or whether it was done by a consultant and was there a tender?

MR. ABBASS: Maybe he could clarify which question he would like me to answer.

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

ERA - FILM DEV. CORP. (N.S.): EXEC. DIR. (MR. R. BITTMAN) - SUSPENSION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. We have just been notified of a news release put out by the producers' group with respect to the board of the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation. That producers' group represents Salter Street Films, Citadel Productions, Charles Bishop Productions, Imagexfilms, Cochran Entertainment. The issue

[Page 696]

raised here was the decision by the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation Board to suspend the executive director, Mr. Roman Bittman, because of decisions that a committee made relative to the sound stage proposal.

I would like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker - and I do this because his government has indicated considerable support for the film industry in Nova Scotia and the significance that industry has to the Province of Nova Scotia and its economy, estimated to be worth in excess of $40 million - could he explain exactly what was behind the decision by the board to let Mr. Bittman go, and what will he do to ensure that the confidence of this producers' group is restored?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I have only recently learned of the decision by the board to suspend Mr. Bittman. I have not received confirmation from my staff as to the details. I would appreciate the tabling of the press release that is referred to by the honourable Leader of the Third Party.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the honourable Leader wish to table the press release?

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will table the press release; it is being copied for the minister.

Mr. Speaker, back on April 5th, we learned that the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation had decided to reject the proposal of developing a sound stage. It was a proposal that had been put forward by the Nova Scotia Power Corporation and a committee involving the Department of Economic Renewal, ACOA, the producers' group - as I indicated - the City of Halifax and there have been some considerable amounts of money committed to that project. My understanding is that this committee recommended in favour of the development of the sound stage here in Halifax and in contrast to the decision by the board, I would like to ask the minister if he can explain to this House why it is that the Board of Directors of the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation went against this high-powered, representative committee of the industry and decided to turn thumbs down to an important initiative with respect to the building of the sound stage?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that the historical account that the Leader of the Third Party has just rendered is accurate but suffice it to say that the Film Development Corporation Board reviewed all of the elements of a business plan and a proposal to create a sound stage and rejected that proposal on the basis that it was not a necessary investment to make at this time; that the industry would do well not to spend that money in that way at this time. They made that decision to me and announced it publicly.

MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that the minister ought to focus his attention a little bit on this issue because the report from this press release and from speaking to people in the industry is that this move by the board to not only torpedo the sound stage but torpedo Roman Bittman, has sent a very clear message across this country that, in fact, this is not a stable place in which to produce major film productions, as they have done.

I would like to ask the minister to bring a full explanation before this House of the variance between the committee's report with respect to the sound stage and the report that the board of directors has come forward to support their decision to torpedo the sound stage here in the Province of Nova Scotia?

[Page 697]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the compiling of the detail and the business case and plan for the sound stage as envisioned in the Nova Scotia Power project site was not without its moments of disagreement along the way. The board had a fundamental responsibility to render and that was a business decision based on the best business case that was put forward.

MR. CHISHOLM: People who know the industry said that it was good deal.

MR. HARRISON: For that board, that board has responsibilities . . .

MR. CHISHOLM: People who were prepared to put up the money . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister has the floor, please.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I have no trouble accounting for the board's decision and maybe it will help the honourable member with his facts. What we are talking about here is a decision based on the best business case by the board that is charged with the responsibility of creating incentives and a positive environment for the film industry.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

FIN.: CASINO (SYDNEY) - EQUITY REPAYMENTS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and back to the Sydney Casino operation. In the first quarter report, the minister is aware that there was a line that said debt and equity repayment, that we have talked about. In the second report that came out, that was changed to payment and return on operators capital investment, base fee and incentive fee. I wonder if the minister would indicate that that change was made due to the fact that there was no profit in the first quarter or why the change of accounting was made between the two reports? I wonder if the minister could indicate to me why?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, undoubtedly for good accounting reasons, but I will take that question on notice and bring the answer back to the honourable member.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the minister could inform me as to why ITT Sheraton in the Sydney operation was given a base fee, based on the gross revenues, and also another incentive fee based on gross revenues? In other words, the gross revenues, as I look at the statements, are $1 million higher than the net revenues. Based on gross revenues, I am wondering if the minister could indicate why the decision was made to give ITT Sheraton a guaranteed percentage on the gross revenues and not on the net total revenues of the casino in the first section of the operation?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, let me answer in a general way to that question that when there is no profit sharing involved, when there is no possibility of profit-sharing involved, then Sheraton expends money, hires staff, does the management of the casino, is responsible for the management and success of the casino and they want compensation for that. Contrary to the Halifax situation, there is no possibility of profit in Sydney for them. That is why it was on the gross rather than the net.

[Page 698]

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I find it very interesting that all of the expenses, operating expenses, salaries, investment returns, all of those are covered. These sections that I am talking about, the base fee and the incentive fee are over and above all those expenses according to the way I read the agreement.

I would ask the minister, given the fact that that is millions of dollars that ITT Sheraton will take out of that Sydney Casino, even based on before the win tax comes out, given the fact that they are going to receive millions of dollars, plus all of the expenses are going to come out before any profits are shared, as I understand it, including the investment and salaries, I wonder if the minister could agree, given the fact that if this continues, that gross operating fee and base fee could be reduced so that in actual fact there would be some profit to share with the many groups that he promised in this province that would be given some opportunity?

No matter how you cut the cake, ITT Sheraton is going to make a profit because all of their expenses are covered plus they are guaranteed a base fee, as an incentive fee, on the gross revenue of the casino. Would the minister consider looking at that proposal?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is a little bit loose with his terms when he talks about them making a profit, they are guaranteed a profit. They are not guaranteed a profit, they have a management fee. Now, you may say the management fee is too high, it is too low, it is not the right structure but, in fact, that is what it is, a management fee. It is not unusual in the industry and not unusual in other industries.

What we are saying with respect to that is that I just ask the member to be encouraged, as I am encouraged, with the progress that that Sydney Casino has made, hiring back 17 additional people just recently. I have had the pleasure of attending there with my wife and a number of other couples and was very pleased to see the patronage that the local populace gives to that particular business. I think we are going to have a great success there and I think the major beneficiaries of that great success will be the charities of Nova Scotia and the Micmac communities in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

ENVIRON. - ENVIRO-DEPOTS: JOB CREATION - DATA TABLE

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. The minister will recall that on Wednesday, April 10th, we had an exchange here in this place about the establishment of enviro-depots. I issued a little bit of challenge to the minister to prove me wrong, that something in the order of 80 per cent of those places designated under his new thirst tax program as enviro-depots were already in business, and as a consequence, represented no job creation.

In fact, the men and women working in those places were working there and just one day they were recycling depots and the next day they were designated or certified enviro-depots. The minister gave me an undertaking that he would table a document to show the kind of job development and growth that we, meaning the government, had produced with the program. That was on April 10th and I ask if the minister is in a position to table that document for me now?

[Page 699]

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I am not today but I will be. I put the request in for the Resource Recovery Fund to provide that detail and they were very happy to respond but I have to say that they have been somewhat consumed with time in getting the program going. I am confident we will have that very shortly.

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if, in the course of the discussions with his officials, the minister has had an opportunity to determine that my estimate is more or less accurate, that something in the order of 80 per cent of the enviro-depots which are now certified under this new scheme were, in fact, in business, in place prior to April 1st and that there has been virtually no new employment as a result of the designation of these enviro-depots?

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I will be delighted when I get all that information to table it but I can tell the honourable member in this House that the only time you are ever close to 80 per cent of them being established depots was on April 1st. The number has diminished significantly since that time and, as recently as this morning I was informed by an MLA that two of his constituents received new jobs in enviro-depots.

AN HON. MEMBER: It wasn't in my constituency.

MR. ADAMS: I can tell you, according to our telephones, jobs are being created every day by this exercise and we are rather proud of that.

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, many Nova Scotians look forward to receipt of the document which the minister has agreed to table. It occurs to me that it cannot be a real big task and I would ask the minister if he would give me an undertaking that he would table the document. I asked him for it on April 10th. Today is April 17th. That is a week ago and I ask if the Minister of the Environment will give me an undertaking that he will table that document here at the beginning of business tomorrow. Will he give me that undertaking?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat myself. I will table the document when it is completed and delivered to me and I can't give that guarantee of tomorrow at this time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

ENVIRON. - WATER PUMP INSTALLERS: LICENSING - REQUIREMENTS

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is to the Minister of the Environment. Will the minister confirm that, effective January 1, 1996, that by regulation all commercial water pump installers in Nova Scotia are required to be licensed in order to practise their business?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, yes, I can confirm that.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, to date, the department has not offered any courses for water pump installers for Class 1 water pumps, that would be in excess of 1.5 horsepower. I want to know from the minister why no courses have been offered in view of the fact that the law, since January 1st, has required that these people be licensed? They cannot be licensed until after they have finished the courses.

[Page 700]

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, let me answer the question by saying that the course has been in operation. I have met several people who have taken the course and who have expressed their satisfaction with the course. We have had correspondents from New Brunswick who commended us on the course and they were sending people from there to here to take the course and are adopting some of our measures.

MR. LEEFE: I think, Mr. Speaker, the minister better go back and take a course because the fact is, and I checked with his department this morning, there are now in excess of 500 water pump installers in this province who would normally function at the Class 1 level who have not been given the opportunity to take courses because there are no courses. My question to the minister, why has he put them in a position where (a) they must either comply with the law and thereby not be able to practise their profession; or (b) they must break the law in order to practise their profession?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, it clearly is not the intent of the Department of the Environment to force any practitioner to break the law. The opposite is the task of our department and I will provide for that member, and anybody who is interested, the details of the training program for water pump installers.

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Queens.

ENVIRON.: WATER PUMP INSTALLERS (CLASS 1) - COURSES

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question again is to the Minister of the Environment. Class 2 operators have had the opportunity to take a course, to be tested and, having passed the course, to be licensed. Class 1 operators have yet even to have a course date established, in spite of the fact that these regulations have been in effect, regulations recommended by this minister to his Cabinet, since January 1, 1996. My question to the minister, when will he be having - at least a month would do, the name of a month - when will he putting on courses for Class 1 pump installers?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I will get the details of the various classifications, the various levels of courses and table them for the member.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that any plumber in Nova Scotia who installs pumps is clearly in breach of the law if he installs a pump in excess of 1.5 horsepower because he is not licensed, is the minister going to press charges if they break the law?

MR. SPEAKER: I am not sure that that is a proper question in Question Period. (Interruptions)

MR. LEEFE: With respect, Mr. Speaker, as the minister, he is responsible for the law of his department.

MR. SPEAKER: We do not press charges here on the floor of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to exempt them, then, from charges?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment can give any answer that he wishes. I am just making that observation as Speaker.

[Page 701]

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the Department of the Environment has kind of shed the image of being enviro-cops. We don't go around shaking sticks and threatening people that we are going to prosecute them if they blink the wrong way. What we are doing is working with the people who are in the industry, particularly this industry. We are cleaning up the bad habits of the past, in terms of how water pumps are installed, so that people are not stuck with the consequences after the fact.

I can only repeat what I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, that this program has received the accolades that we hoped it would. I will provide the information relevant to the questions asked about the various classifications of plumbers and the different classifications of instruction.

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

ENVIRON. - RESOURCE RECOVERY FUND: ENVIRO-DEPOTS - CRITERIA

MR. JOHN HOLM: My question is also for the Minister of the Environment. The Resource Recovery Fund, when it was advertising for environmental depots, put out a list of criteria that must be met in order to be able to get a contract to serve as an environmental depot. My question to the Minister of the Environment is quite simply this, if an individual or a company meets criteria that is contained on it, can they receive a contract regardless of where they may happen to be located across the province? If they met the criteria, can they receive a contract now to become an environmental depot?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I believe the question is in terms of a time specific, like now, after the April 1st date? There are enviro-depots being signed up almost every day in this province. So if you are asking is it too late, the answer is no.

MR. HOLM: The point in raising it is that on the front of that same Resource Recovery Fund notice, they had that February 21, 1996, was the date they would be processing the applications and that now it had been completed. When I take a look at the list of depots that exist across the province, certainly in some areas there are locations and in other areas there are not. Even in the metropolitan area where there are a number, it can still be extremely inconvenient and difficult for people to get to them.

So my question to the minister, and this government supposedly supports free enterprise and business, if an individual or a company meets the criteria for a depot, can that company or individual receive a contract and become a depot, regardless of how many other depots currently exist?

MR. ADAMS: No, Mr. Speaker, I think prudent management by the Resource Recovery Fund in allocating those depots will not put one next door to another. So the point is that they will be strategically located at distances that are most convenient to the public.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it sounds here like the Department of the Environment and the Resource Recovery Fund are deciding which businesses and which individuals will or will not make money and have a potential. Here the minister said that they will not be putting additional ones in an area, they will not allow several to develop in the same spot. My question to the minister is quite simply this. We don't control the number of corner stores and so on that are in an area. Why can't any individual or any company that meets the criteria contained in that notice apply for and receive a contract to become an environmental depot? Why are you selecting only a few?

[Page 702]

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the question is really a bit confounded. I will repeat, I did not say that we would dictate where a depot would not go; what we said is that in my interpretation of the Resource Recovery Fund, if they would exercise prudent management they would likely not place one next door to another. You made the reference about the local convenience stores. We don't tell them that they can't build next to each other, but municipalities take that responsibility by by-law and regulation.

So, Mr. Speaker, what we are really saying is that it is important that we have regulations in place and practices that would protect each of those operators from not being forced out by a new one on the block.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

FIN. - GROWTH DIV. FUND: REBATES - PHARMACARE

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. I finally got from the Minister of Finance the tax incentives for fiscal 1994-95 and 1995-96, tax incentives offered under the Growth Dividend Fund. For 1995-96, I notice that the first item, and by far the largest, is a refundable credit for senior citizens in the amount of $22.9 million. It is not identified as such but I was wondering if the minister could confirm that this is the government's share of the new senior citizens' Pharmacare Program?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Yes.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, under the seniors' Pharmacare Program, only $4 million of that $22 million is directly provided to seniors by way of a refundable credit. I was wondering if the minister could explain to the House how he is reducing the tax burden on Nova Scotians to the tune of $22.9 million when only $4 million is actually a refundable credit to seniors? With the balance of that $22.9 million, which would be $18-plus million going directly into the Pharmacare trust to offset the cost of the new premiums that his government has imposed, how can he say that that $22.9 million is actually reducing the tax burden on Nova Scotians?

MR. BOUDREAU: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is a measure which is based on the tax system. It is a refundable tax credit and it is directed to that purpose.

MR. RUSSELL: But it is not a refundable tax credit. It is simply money going into the fund. Again, Mr. Speaker, in 1994-95, I notice that the minister offers that as a part of the tax incentives under the Growth Dividend Fund, removed professional services from the health services tax of $16.9 million. This is a tax that this Finance Minister imposed about three months or four months previously. There is also an amount of $3.8 million for removing landscaping services from health services tax, again a tax that he just imposed four months previously; removed the recreation tax from health services tax, $2.8 million, et cetera. This is flimflam. How can the minister say that he is reducing the tax burden if he puts on a tax one day and then takes it away and says, look what I have done, I have given you a tax break? Would the minister explain the rationale on what is quite frankly, as I said before, flimflam? It is nothing else, but.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, at least it is not jiggery-pokery. (Laughter) We are rising on the scale. The program of staged tax reductions began with our second budget. That was when we put the expenditure control plan in place. That was clearly when it was done and it was in connection with that that we moved forward and staged tax reductions. In fact, when

[Page 703]

I rose in the House here, I freely admitted that some of the reduction that year was of taxes that we had imposed in the previous budget before we went into expenditure control. I made no attempt whatever (Interruptions) - and you can check Hansard - in this House to indicate anything else. What was responsible for that was the fact that the former government negligently, wilfully, refused to bring in a budget. They refused to bring in a budget. They wanted to go to the polls instead. So that was the result.

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Hants West.

FIN. - GROWTH DIV. FUND: REBATES - DETAIL

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable Minister of Finance doesn't really believe that himself. It is such obvious hokery-pokery that it is unbelievable.

MR. SPEAKER: Hokery-pokery.

MR. RUSSELL: Anyway, getting back to these things that the minister has done, and let's call them revenue measures, in 1994-95, he has a total of approximately $47 million and in 1995-96, he has $31 million, which comes to a total of about $78 million for the two years. I would like to ask the minister, how come? Since my estimates of the amount that should have been rebated under the Growth Dividend Fund would have been something in the order of $100-plus million. Can the minister explain where is the rest of this money stacked away? It is another slush fund for an election campaign possibly?

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: That is casting aspersions, I think.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the slush funds for election purposes we found within three weeks of taking office and much to our dismay and chagrin and we had to deal with those. That was one of the reasons, by the way, for the tax increase in that first budget was because of the slush funds for election purposes.

If the honourable member has done his ciphering and he comes up with a different number than does the Department of Finance, I would be more than happy to have him sit down with the senior officials and perhaps they can work it out together and come to a common understanding.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - CRUISE SHIPS: MARINE FEES - DETERRENCE

MR. DONALD MCINNES: My question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. There was a very disturbing headline in the Chronicle-Herald this morning, "Marine fees could deter cruise lines - $3 million in spin-offs at stake for Halifax port.". I will table that if the minister did not see it.

Considerable concerns remain on this issue and my question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is simply this, you wrote on March 22nd to the federal minister outlining your support for the new proposals, but you requested clarification on a number of points. Did the minister raise the issue of port fees of cruise lines in that letter?

[Page 704]

HON. RICHARD MANN: One of the problems, and I think the honourable member if he has been following this issue would be well aware of that, and he can indicate when he gets back up if he has. It seems each and every time that the Coast Guard Commission, or I think they now call him the Deputy Minister for Coast Guard in Fisheries and Oceans, it seems every time he comes to town, they have a different formula. The sands keep shifting.

When he first came in we made representation on a number of issues. The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and myself met with him on several occasions. We met with him along with the then federal Minister of Public Works and the acting federal Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Dingwall. We had a meeting with stakeholders and we made serious representations to the Commissioner John Thomas. As a result of that, the formula changed and you will recall the last letter I wrote to Mr. Mifflin and to Mr. Thomas, I guess, we had very guarded support for the formula at that time because it did address a number of the concerns that have been brought forward the first time we met with them and there was a significant movement on that.

As the letter indicates and you have just said yourself, there were a number of points and a number of concerns that we had and that the stakeholders continue to bring to us. As stakeholders, I believe I received a letter from the cruise ship lines yesterday and we will also be forwarding those concerns, as my staff and as ministers and others, we continue to meet with the Coast Guard officials and hopefully the federal government officials in this matter.

MR. MCINNES: I appreciate the minister's answer and his expressing his concerns and I know the cruise line business is a very important enterprise for the City of Halifax and anything that would deter that, the extra costs and if they would not be able to come in is certainly a concern.

The minister did not say whether he had a response to his letter, but he has indicated that he is going to be meeting with them and talking with them. Do you have a timeframe as to when you expect to have an answer back from the minister?

MR. MANN: No, Mr. Speaker, obviously when you ask someone a question or a series of questions, how quickly they get back to you I guess is up to them. We will continue to bring forward the concerns of the stakeholders.

The very first meeting we had with Coast Guard officials, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and myself indicated to them that we believe that the problem of cost recovery and marine services fees could not be solved within the Coast Guard box. We believe that to this day. This is a question now of you shift the formula here, you shift the formula there, you apply a different logic to it that you are going to, perhaps, appease the interest of some and upset others and that is what is happening. You appease the people who have concerns, for example, in the container business, you upset the people in the bulk carrier business. In each and every case, the impact to Nova Scotia, to jobs and to Nova Scotia ports, is significant.

We do not believe that this can be solved within the Coast Guard box. We will be recommending and are recommending, through officials who are in Ottawa, making presentations to the standing committee on this issue, we will be suggesting that this process be suspended until such time as the Coast Guard tells us what the true costs of marine service fees are, because to this day we have not received that information from them.

[Page 705]

MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister, and I know it is of very much importance to Halifax that these cruise lines are able to come in here. It is my understanding that Halifax is competing for these cruise lines with ports in the United States which do not have marine fees charged to them. I just say to the minister again, I would ask him to please continue to fight and work with his federal counterparts to see that this can be worked out and satisfactory to all. We like those cruise ships coming in here bringing the tourists to our very important tourist industry which, hopefully, will make $1 billion by the year 2000.

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, we want to see the cruise ships continue to come, as well, and we want to see ACL and Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd and Zim, we want to see the container ships continue to come. We want to see station terminals continue to operate and the aggregate business and we want to see the gypsum industry continue to flourish. What we are trying to do is find a solution; identify first and foremost what the costs of the navigational aids are.

Having determined that, then we have said all along that we will support user pay and we will pay for the services that we use in this area. The stakeholders have said that, the shippers have said that, the manufacturers have said that, and that is what we are striving to do. We are not convinced that by shifting a formula to help one, at the expense of another, that that solution can be found. We will continue to pursue it in the interests of all Nova Scotians, not just the cruise ships, but all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

HUMAN RES. DEV. (CAN.) - UI CHANGES: GOV'T. (N.S.) - POSITION

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Premier, I believe the designated minister to speak on behalf of the federal government's changes to the Unemployment Insurance Act is the Minister of Education. That is correct, because he is nodding.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister results from an interest that has been going on for several months now, and it was highlighted on Monday evening when there was a meeting in Kentville sponsored by the Brotherhood of Tobacco and Confectionary Workers. This union meeting was organized in the Town of Kentville so that those people could protest and bring to this government's attention, the fact that $50 million will be removed from the pockets of Nova Scotians if the federal government makes these changes. Over $5 billion will be added directly to the budgets of the federal government because the UI program is in excess of the money it pays out by $5 million and workers, in effect, will be paying an additional $220 per year.

In New Brunswick, Premier Frank McKenna indicated that New Brunswick would not stand for these changes to UI; in fact, he said there would be riots in the streets. The Premier of Nova Scotia said, well, it may not be too bad.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please! There is only one minute left, question!

MR. ARCHIBALD: My question to the minister directly, when will Nova Scotia make a clear and concise stand and tell us what their position is, dealing with the federal government and the changes to the Unemployment Insurance Commission?

[Page 706]

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, through you I thank the honourable member for the question. For two years we have been working on that, and that is the second question the honourable members have asked about probably the most important issue across this country. All of the provincial governments across this country have put together an agreed position in which they are going to sit down and negotiate with the federal government, not only on the EI arrangements, but on all the arrangements between the provinces and the federal government. This is not just about EI, it is about training of employees, training of young people. It is about many things, and those things are being engaged.

I am going to suggest to the honourable member and through you, Mr. Speaker, to all honourable members, the Government of New Brunswick has been part of this process and I don't believe that Premier McKenna has said any such thing. He said, basically, they are very concerned with two things, as we are: that seasonal workers be treated fairly - he has said that, that there be acknowledgement of the seasonal worker - and, at the same time, that there be a recognition of the impact of any changes on Atlantic Canada and that we be treated fairly. We have said that as well, Premier McKenna has said that, and we have joined with him in saying that. The presentation of the honourable member is patently untrue.

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, will you please call Resolution No. 57.

Res. No. 57, re Environ. - Stellarton: Strip Mine - Permit Hold - notice given Apr. 2/96 - (Dr. J. Hamm)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to this resolution. I encourage all members of the House to pay some attention to the details of my presentation to gain a full understanding of what has happened to the residents of Stellarton with the permitting of Pioneer Coal for a surface strip mine in the so-called Wimpey pit area of our town.

Since the first license to mine coal in Pictou County, which was let in 1807, coal has been a major part of our history. It is interesting to note that the earliest underground workings in our coal seam were in the so-called Ford seam. The Wimpey pit area is a project again involving that same Ford seam, the thickest seam of coal anywhere in North America; 40 feet of solid coal. In the area concerned, the Ford seam actually is only a few feet under the ground and becomes deeper as the seam slopes away to the north and the east.

The permitting, which was issued as of March 4, 1996, allows the extraction, over the next 13 years, of some 2.6 million tons of coal. The Wimpey pit area in Stellarton is immediately adjacent to the small community known as Evansville and to the north, the residents of Foster Avenue to the west of MacGregor Avenue.

[Page 707]

In 1978, the George Wimpey Canada Limited Company entered into negotiations to mine the Stellarton site. They were prepared to take the residents of Evansville, purchase their properties and relocate the entire Evansville community to the nearby area of Fox Brook Road. This company recognized the severe disruption that the strip mine in this area would have to local residents. As a result of this initiative, the area has been locally called the Wimpey pit site ever since. It is to be noted that back in the late 1970s, when these negotiations were in progress, the Evansville area contained more homes and families than are currently located there at this time.

In 1992, Westray Coal, a division of Curragh Resources, as making application to mine the Wimpey pit area and an environmental review was carried out. This company, as did the Wimpey company, recognized the disruption that would be caused to the residents of the Foster Avenue area and to the Evansville area and discussions were under way to arrange a compensation package to residents whose properties were in the area. I will table a copy of the letter prepared by Westray to the then Chairman of the Citizen's Committee, outlining various items of compensation to be offered to the neighbourhood residents.

These compensations were as follows. The company will reimburse property owners for property taxes for the years in which the open pit is operating. The company will provide vinyl siding for homes or an allowance of $2,500, this is a once-only item. The company will provide a window air-conditioner and an electric clothes dryer or an allowance of $1,000, this is a once-only item. The company will pay for the following services for the three years in which the open pit operates. They will pay the town water bill for a maximum of $200 per year, and the power bill to a maximum of $500 per year. The company will compensate residents whose wells dry up and the compensation will consist of tying the residents' homes into the town water supply and a one-time lump sum payment of $2,500. The company will pay for painting the inside and the outside of homes which have been impacted by the open pit. The company will pay a fixed amount of compensation annually, by February 15th, in any year in which the open pit is to operate and it will pay it to the residents in the impacted area. It will pay $500 per year to each resident in the impacted area and an additional $1,000 per year to residents who are deemed to be in the potential area of high impact. This will be for a maximum of 10 years or for the years in which the open pit is operating.

[4:00 p.m.]

It is clear that the coal company at this time recognized the fact that an open pit mine in this neighbourhood would have a severe impact on the residents. In addition, the company offered a package of remuneration to the Town of Stellarton based on a per ton mined basis.

Now, in September 1994, the Department of Natural Resources called for exploration and surface mine development proposals for the Stellarton area coal resource. It was subsequently decided that the successful applicant was the Pioneer Coal Company, the same company which had performed a strip mining operation in the Town of Westville during the preceding decade. In the summer of 1995, an environmental review was carried out by the Nova Scotia Environmental Assessment Board and four days of hearings were conducted. During these hearings a large number of residents of the Town of Stellarton put forward their objections to the inclusion of a strip mine project within their town and, as well, a number of residents of the Town of Westville gave testimony as to the environmental problems they experienced during the life of the project in their town.

[Page 708]

I was quite aware of the difficulties with dust control during the Westville project as I had visited homes along the Drummond path area in 1994 and witnessed the extreme dust conditions experienced by those downwind and living on the immediate edge of that mining project. At that time I was shown on the sides of homes unusual amounts of dust and, as well, witnessed screened-in porches which were virtually uninhabitable during the periods of high dust concentration and witnessed enormous amounts of dust on the furniture in these screened-in porches. At that time dust control consisted of a resident who experienced high dust concentration, calling the Department of the Environment and then, within half an hour or so, the watering truck would be out watering the areas, in an attempt to control the dust.

The kind of monitoring that was going on in this project is the same type that was proposed in the Stellarton area and improved by this minister, that is highball, 24 hour dust monitors which are placed by, and the readings taken by, the company, which reports two to four weeks later to the Department of the Environment. These 24 hour monitors do not capture peak concentrations of dust, and maximum allowable concentrations of dust can, in fact, exist for hours and yet an acceptable 24 hour reading can be obtained. This kind of monitoring process was not satisfactory in Westville nor will it be satisfactory in the Stellarton Wimpey pit site and will not adequately monitor the dust concentrations in Stellarton.

On October 16th, the Nova Scotia Environmental Assessment Board released its report for the proposed Stellarton pit mine project and required, among other things, the installation of seven units to monitor fugitive dust from the workings. Among the mitigating measures designed to reduce the amount of noise would include a 30 metre buffer zone between any property line adjoining the mine area and the actual work site. In reality, this means that 30 metres from the property line there would be either a 280 foot, straight down drop or a 75 to 100 foot high pile of overburden, called a berm. The raw berm is almost entirely inaccessible to a watering truck and creates an almost continual problem with dust in dry weather.

In addition, the Environmental Assessment Board Report recommended the proponent make an offer to purchase properties on the west side of Foster Avenue, where the mine site boundaries are in close proximity to adjacent private property homes. The board recommended a levy of $2.00 per ton be applied to the proponent on all coal mined or processed on-site and that $2.00 a ton be remitted to the Town of Stellarton. This would mean that the Town of Stellarton, over the 13 year life of the project, would realize $5.4 million from this project and would be a reflection of the devaluation of the tax base of the town, due to the high impact in the area immediately surrounding the project and, as well, a general devaluation of the tax base of the town, simply due to the presence of strip mining within the borders of the Town of Stellarton.

It is important, Madam Speaker, to note that over the last 30 years, particularly since the closing of the MacGregor Mine and the Allan Shaft, that the Town of Stellarton has changed its face from a traditional coal mining town to a progressive residential community which prides itself on its quality of life and the quality of its environment.

The approval that was granted on November 1st by the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment, just a day or so after the new minister was in his new portfolio, made no mention of the requirement of the operator of the mine to make any payment to the Town of Stellarton. During negotiations between Pioneer Coal, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of the Environment, the Town of Stellarton and its municipal leaders were not invited to play an active role in this process.

[Page 709]

Now, Madam Speaker, this project has created tremendous problems for the people of the Town of Stellarton. They have not received any recompense from the mining company as recommended by the Environmental Review Board. I want just to analyze what has happened to the residents who are living in the Evansville and Foster Avenue area, immediately adjacent to the mine site, including some 40 homes and some 40 families. The requirements of permitting regarding those living in the immediate area include a requirement that the proponent shall take into account the historic as well as the current market value of properties on which options are required and that the proponent make offers to purchase properties on the west side of Foster Avenue where the mine site boundaries are in close proximity to adjacent private homes.

This has been interpreted that only those homes, whose property line actually touches the property line of the mine site, are to be the recipients of offers and this has led to rather ridiculous situations such as follows. First, in the Evansville area, there are a number of mining homes of the duplex variety where the property line actually runs down the middle of the home and each home has a front yard, a backyard and a side yard. In one situation, one of the property lines of these duplexes touches the property line of the mine site. The company made an offer to purchase only half the house, no offer to purchase the other half of the duplex. In another situation, two brothers are living side by side on Foster Avenue. One brother's property extends back and touches the mine site property. The other brother - his sister owns a piece of field between his property and the mine site - has received no offer to purchase.

I wish to comment, Madam Speaker, on the way the offers to purchase have been made. Of the 40 properties, nine offers to purchase have been identified. The residents received an offer to purchase on February 6th based on an assessment and an appraisal, and did not realistically address the cost of purchasing a similar home in another part of the town. They were given until February 16th to accept or reject the offer. When they requested and I requested from the minister additional time, the additional time was February 26th, less than three weeks from the time they received the offer.

On February 26th, the company withdrew all offers and has now said to the residents, it has fulfilled its obligation to make an offer and, to this point, no other attempts are being made by the company to fulfil the requirement of the obligation to purchase property. One particular homeowner was interested in selling his property to the mine company and requested an extension until mid-May and has been ignored by the company. The offer has been withdrawn.

Madam Speaker, I have reviewed this situation. The minister has visited the site. The people of Stellarton have received no protection from the Department of the Environment. The conditions under which this permitting has been allowed are unbelievable and the compensation packages that previous companies were prepared to pay the town and the residents have been ignored in this particular project. I ask the minister to revisit this whole issue on behalf of the people of Stellarton. There is no one, other than this minister, who can protect the people of Stellarton against the environmental effects of the strip mine that is now permitted within the borders of the Town of Stellarton. The minister must review the conditions under which this permitting has been allowed. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 710]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to respond to Resolution No. 57. I would like to start by getting the House reacquainted with the facts as we unveil them and roll them out.

The mining project was subjected to one of the most extensive and rigorous assessments in the history of the Environmental Assessment Board here in Nova Scotia. It included weeks of public hearings and four months of investigation, including consultations with medical experts to assess any health effects; 94 witnesses took part in the hearings. There were 14 separate technical analyses of all aspects of the proposed operation.

Pioneer Coal wanted permission for a project much larger than the one I approved as minister. I scaled back the size of the mine by one-third of its original size. There are approximately 60 conditions to that release and they include extensive community involvement and opportunity for those who live near the mine to receive reasonable offers to purchase their properties.

I would like to talk a little bit about the properties. On November 1st, I invited the honourable Leader of the Opposition to a meeting in our Cabinet Room where I gave him an advance look at the decision I had made and the conditions of release. It is my recollection that at that time he looked at all of the concerns and didn't have any grave ones to express at that time. It was explained to him that the values of the homes west of MacGregor Avenue would include the historical values of the properties, that is the value of the homes would be estimated on the premise that the mine did not exist and that has been done.

If property owners felt the independent evaluation was insufficient they had the option and opportunity of independent arbitration which would be paid for by the proponent, Pioneer Coal. We want to be clear that we cannot and should not force either party on this issue. There are those who may choose for whatever reason to stay in their homes and we do not want to be party to a forced move of anyone who wishes who stay.

The company's record in dealing with its neighbours in other areas of the province would leave any reasonable person to accept they would do the right thing in Stellarton, as they have done elsewhere. It is surely a more just arrangement than the one that was employed by the previous administration when they made the allowances for Curragh to offer people washers and dryers. One might suggest that those people were taken to the cleaners, if you will, by their friends in government.

On January 8, 1996, to bring us more current, at the invitation of the Leader of the Opposition, I went to Stellarton and met with representatives of that community. At that time I made a pledge that if the Leader of the Opposition would provide me with a list of specific properties he felt should be included, then I, as a matter of courtesy, would approach the proponent and make a personal appeal on their behalf. We did that but I want to repeat once again that we are not in the position and we will not be in the position to force either party to make a move.

We should take a moment to talk about some of the other conditions of that release; we mentioned 60 conditions. My job, first of all, is to protect the environment and that is the primary reason why I scaled back the size of the project. We ordered extensive monitoring and established a community liaison committee to act as a watchdog in the interest of the citizens. The Citizens Liaison Committee ensured us that the public has open access to all information of what is happening in that mine. They get copies of all monitoring reports. Giving the public the facts frees them from the fear instilled by rumours and secrecy.

The Citizens Liaison Committee has been given the power to not only monitor reports but also to establish how the monitoring will be done. The committee has been given authority to work with the company on an agreeable dust monitoring system. To reduce the dust, no mining can take place in the summer months. Roads on-site must either be paved or covered with washed gravel to reduce the possibility [Page 711]

of dust migrating from that site. All trucks leaving the site must be washed prior to departure and all coal leaving the site, covered with tarps.

In the area of noise, to protect the residents from undue noise, I went further than the Environmental Assessment Board was willing to go and I ordered that no mining would take place after 10:00 o'clock in the evening or before 7:00 o'clock in the morning. A buffer zone around the site has to established. Noise baffles must be erected to deflect sound away from nearby residents. Noise monitoring stations must be established around the mine perimeter and on nearby residents' properties.

[4:15 p.m.]

In protection of the water, the water supplies and watercourses have not been overlooked. Test wells have had to be established close to existing residential properties and they are tested bi-monthly. Tests on a representative sample of residential wells have to be conducted on a weekly basis and if residential wells are negatively affected by the mine, I have ordered that an alternate drinking water system be provided to those residents by the proponent.

If we could take a moment to talk about the most bizarre aspect of the member's resolution, that the town will not benefit from this project, I have to be clear, once again, in supporting that we revisit the facts. While it is correct that some residential properties will be sold to the company, voluntarily, I might add, it is also true that the mine will probably be assessed for a value many more times the value of the properties that it replaces. This is in the town's interests. Surely the Leader of the Opposition knows that the industrial operations are taxed at a higher rate commercially than the residential properties. So, we have to ask the question, where are those municipal losses?

Surely the Opposition Leader knows that at least 50, his constituents, are now working at that operation earning salaries they did not earn before, paying taxes, spending money in that community. I have heard that at least 1,000 people had applied for those jobs, jobs that will last a decade according to the proponents' application. I would hope and I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition would not be against jobs.

As for the Town of Stellarton, let us remember that they wanted to open the mine themselves, the town wanted to open the mine. They only became opposed to this situation when a more experienced operator got the approval from Natural Resources. That is a point that has been diminished by many of those who would find areas to complain about this operation. It is important that it be stated clearly for the record, yes, the Town of Stellarton did, indeed, make application to mine coal in Stellarton.

The Leader of the Opposition may also remember the words from the proponent, Mr. Chisholm, when he appeared at the environmental hearings. I will take just a second to read from that. Mr. Chisholm said, "We do agree that Stellarton should benefit from the project in

[Page 712]

addition to the jobs, spin-off businesses, and taxes it will bring. We are ready, willing to sit down with the town to discuss other benefits to the town. To date, the mayor has refused our request.".

Madam Speaker, in response to the honourable Leader of the Opposition who has asked the question on many occasions, and so have members of the media, has Pioneer Coal at this point in time been made to compensate the Town of Stellarton, we have checked, to find out that the Town of Stellarton, through its Chief Magistrate, has not and, in fact, has refused to approach the proponent looking for the compensation which the proponent has offered.

I would repeat again, it is not my job and it will not be my job to force these parties to do things against their will. I have done my job in terms of protecting the environment in Stellarton. We have taken some extreme measures in those 60 conditions and we believe that the proponent is prepared to live within those conditions. To date, he has demonstrated he is prepared to do that. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to enter the debate to say a few words.

First of all, I would to congratulate the Leader of the Official Opposition for bringing forward the topic for debate this afternoon. I would also like to congratulate the member for having done a very thorough job in terms of the history and the circumstances that his community faces as a result of the contract that has been awarded to Mr. John Chisholm to mine the Wimpey site.

Madam Speaker, I listened to the Minister of the Environment's response as well, and I heard the Minister of the Environment taking some shots at the municipal officials within the town. I can't help but think that a quote that appeared in the press on January 11, 1995, by the Stellarton mayor, maybe had some credibility, not only when you are dealing with the process, but also with the concerns shown by this government towards the residents who are going to be affected. In that he said, this is like going to law with the devil and holding court in hell. When I read those comments by Mayor Clarence Porter and when I listen to and see the way the residents are being treated by not only the operator of this mine, the proponent and now the developer, but also by this government, I can't help but conclude that there is a lot to be said for the words of Mayor Clarence Porter.

Madam Speaker, what the province has given, certainly, is a major cash cow. Mr. Chisholm and his company stand to make millions upon millions of dollars from extracting coal that belongs to the people of Nova Scotia. He and his company are going to make millions. (Interruption) Now I hear the minister of whatever his new department title is, the former Minister of Natural Resources, the member for Lunenburg West, is saying, what do you want to do, leave it in the ground? Do you want to leave it there, do you want to create jobs, what do we want to do over here? Well, there is a possibility that if you deal with matters in a fair and honest way, then several things can be accomplished. Yes, indeed, resources can be extracted properly; and yes, indeed, business can go ahead and jobs can be created. But you can also insist that the companies show responsibility as well to the residents, to the people who live in the area who are being negatively impacted as a result of their economic development and as a result of their economic gain.

[Page 713]

Madam Speaker, we hear the Minister of the Environment talking all the time about how his department is responsible, and earlier in Question Period today he said, of course, Department of the Environment officials are not environmental cops anymore out there running around and checking up and everything. Well, they never have been. Take a look at the problems out at the Sackville Landfill, and if you ever have any suggestions or ever believe that this government, or the former government, had used the Department of the Environment effectively to control environmental problems and the nuisances that certain activities create on those who live in the area surrounding it, all you have to do is take a look at a number of sites. We have to have a very firm commitment and we have to have strict enforcement.

I have been taking a look through a number of press releases, and you are talking about treating people fairly. I am not sure if I am pronouncing the name correctly and I don't know this family at all, I just know of the little bit that I have read about them in the newspaper, but Mr. Zugay lives on a disability pension of $12,500; not a huge income to support him and his family and his several children, but they have a home. It is their home, it is their place, it is their property and it abuts this open pit mine site. Madam Speaker, I don't know if you have ever toured an open pit mine, but I have. I have seen those piles of slag and the dirt. I have seen those pits. I have seen the dust blowing. I have seen the consequences of living close.

What is this family offered by the gentleman who drives a Lexus? They are offered less for their home than the cost of the vehicle that the owner of that mine site, who is going to stand to make millions, is prepared to pay for their home, $28,500 is what they were offered. Madam Speaker, I may be a little bit old-fashioned in some regards, but I believe that governments have a responsibility to ensure that if they allow a project to go ahead in one area, that that is not going to be negatively impacting upon the quality of life and the ability of families in this province to be able to live a decent, enjoyable life.

There were discussions about compensation that was offered previously to homeowners in that area if a site was to be developed. The offer that was made, Madam Speaker, was made by the former proponents, a company that had hoped to develop it, Westray, and it included, as the Leader of the Official Opposition outlined, many different items, items that took into consideration and recognition that the quality of life would be affected.

One of the items, and I will just pick this one out off the top of my head, had to do with the company was going to be providing air conditioners, clothes dryers or monetary value in their place, in recognition that there was going to be dust created from that mine. Now, all you have to do, even the Minister of the Environment, you don't even have to go down to this site or to an open pit site. Members of the Liberal benches, members of the red team, you do not even have to visit a mine site to see the consequences of dust. Just go to any construction site, go to any farm, go to any area where there are large areas of open and exposed soil and have a strong wind and see how far that dust will travel. Find out what it is like living next to constant blasting, what it is like to live with constant light.

Now, of course, the owner of this mine site, which is going to be making millions of dollars in profits, said, why should we provide dryers. We are not allowed to create dust, so why would we provide dryers? Yes, Madam Speaker, you are not allowed to create and, of course, the Minister of the Environment will put on his little Captain Enviro cap and he will be out there as an enviro-cop, running around chasing to be on top each and every time there are violations.

[Page 714]

There are a number of things that should be done. First of all, I would suggest, and I would support, withdrawing that permit until the residents get fair and complete compensation. Secondly, I would suggest that the owner, John Chisholm, should be required to put monies aside for every ton of coal that he extracts. Remember, it is Nova Scotian coal. It belongs to you, Madam Speaker, it belongs to me, it belongs to the people who live next to that mine. It is our resource. He is coming and he should be required to put a portion of that, so much for every ton extracted, into a separate fund and for any time that there are violations, that parts of that money then would be used to compensate those who are affected.

I will go even farther. We have these air monitoring devices from which, I think, that reports have to be given. They have to be collected every so often. They have to follow a report. I cannot remember the regularity, but it is something like every two weeks or something in that regard. I would suggest, Madam Speaker, that those monitors should be hooked in electronically to the town hall where in the Works Department they can see a read-out constantly of what the air contamination levels are at each and every one of those monitors on a regular, constant basis. They should be where the records are in a public forum so anybody can see it, and on any occasions where they violate there is an automatic order that they shut down. Unless that is done, there is really no teeth to enforce that they comply.

[4:30 p.m.]

To turn around and say oh, we are going to offer to buy out nine families, their homes supposedly at the market value. First of all, their market value would have plummeted as a result of the application being filed to develop that as a strip mine; the value would have dropped immediately. Secondly, Madam Speaker, many of those people cannot get a replacement home that would be equal to theirs for the pittance they are being offered.

I think it is an extremely modest request, but an extremely fair one to suggest that those who are going to be adversely affected, their quality of life, in effect their home and their living environment ruined so that this individual and his company can make millions of dollars, I would suggest that it is not unreasonable to say that he who is going to make millions of dollars from our resources should have an obligation to ensure that those who are going to be negatively affected by his development will enjoy a quality of life and a home that is no less than that which they enjoyed before.

It is not good enough, Madam Speaker, for the Minister of the Environment to stand up, or the former Minister of Natural Resources to heckle across the floor, "What do you want us to do? Leave it in the ground?" No, we are saying be responsible, protect the individuals who are affected by the development you are promoting. Maybe they would also like to provide a list of those 50 people who supposedly got jobs as a result of this mine opening up, because that is in question, too.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, the matter we are debating this afternoon is one which is near and dear to the heart of the Leader of the Opposition because, of course, it is a matter which strikes at the heart of his constituency. It is also a matter which I think is of considerable interest to us no matter where we live in Nova Scotia, because it involves so many interests of each of us as citizens: economic interests; policy interests with respect to the provincial government; environmental interests; and so on.

[Page 715]

Now with respect to environmental interests, of course the legislation which allows the minister to permit an operation such as the one we are debating this afternoon flowed originally from the Environmental Assessment Act, now overtaken by the Environment Act. The purpose of the first and of the second Act are one in the same: to protect the public interest; to promote sustainable economic development, although, of course, we all understand that it is something of a contradiction to speak of sustainable economic development when we are speaking in the same breath of extracting a non-renewable resource. That is a contradiction that we have yet to work out respecting sustainable economic development. Of course, it is also intended to protect our communities.

We do have an understanding and an experience in this province with respect to open pit strip mining. Industrial Cape Breton is no stranger to it, nor indeed now is Inverness. There was a deep pit mine in Inverness, which now is run, I think, perhaps, by another Cape Breton company, but now as an open pit mine. We have the proposal, which seems to be dormant at the moment, to open a strip mine in Springhill. Of course, we have this strip mine at the Wimpey pit in Stellarton.

Now, at least the Springhill and the Stellarton projects have received, at best, very mixed reviews in the communities in which they are located and we all understand that. As a matter of fact, there has also been, as I recall from some of my past lives, both in Environment and Natural Resources, some criticism of open strip mining in the industrial Cape Breton area. At any rate, there certainly are mixed opinions within each of the communities respecting the desirability of such operations within them.

There is, clearly, going to be a significant impact on something in the order of 40 homes in the Stellarton area as the result of the opening of the Pioneer Strip Mine. Forty homes, all in a small community, that is a large number of homes. It does not even count for a small subdivision here in the metropolitan area, but in a place like Stellarton or a place like Springhill, or if we had coal in my end of the province, in a place like Liverpool, 40 houses is a very sizable chunk of housing, indeed. So we are talking about what within the context of that community is a very large and significant area of a small and insignificant area.

There are a number of questions we have to pose to ourselves. Try and put ourselves in the position of those men and women and those children and those families who live in those 40 homes and in the larger community which is adjacent to this operation. What would our response be to such a project, were we to own one of those homes? What would we do when we heard that such a project was going to be initiated? How would we react to such news? Would we be pleased that such an operation was going to take place near to our homes, homes that we have built or purchased by dint of the sweat of our own brow? I find it very unlikely that any of us would be happy to have a huge hole dug in or near our own backyards, a huge hole that would be there for a very long time, many years, and which would result in a significant change in the quality of life around my home and in my immediate community.

How would it affect our quality of life? Would it affect our health? Would it affect our environment? Would it affect the way in which traffic flows in our streets? Would it affect the way in which we use our properties? I think the answer is that to a greater or lesser extent it would affect all of those, but we do not know the extent to which it will affect all of those until after it has been in operation for some time.

[Page 716]

So the conditions that the minister lays down are, in a sense, based on a number of hypothesis, based on what he thinks and his officials think will happen as a result of that mining taking place, not on the basis of what we know will happen. That means that there must be a certain margin of error built into those permitting conditions.

I think it is fair to ask, as others have asked, would it impact on the value of those homes? Surely that would be a concern of each and every one of us if we lived in that community. Would it then also impact on the saleability of our homes? The answer, of course, is yes, it would. We all understand and understand very clearly that anybody who has a big hole dug in their backyard has less likelihood of selling their home, no matter how nice the home itself might be, than somebody who doesn't have a big industrial hole dug in their backyard. Madam Speaker, nobody would understand that better than you because of the experience of your constituents who live in the Waverley area and are very concerned about the gravel operation there, so you would have a feeling for these people that some others in this place might not have.

Should we, if we were living in that area, expect compensation? I would think that each and every one of us would believe that in fairness, we indeed should expect compensation and fair and just compensation. Not compensation determined by government, not compensation determined by the operator of the open pit mine, in this case, Pioneer, but compensation determined by a fair and independent process. You don't find that in the permits that the minister has delivered to Pioneer Coal.

Would we expect that if we felt that the quality of our homes was going to deteriorate to such an extent that we should be given new housing? I suspect we probably would. Certainly that is the view of many people who lived in the vicinity of the Sackville Landfill, and I believe many of those people had that wish realized as a result of the compensation provided to them. That being the case, why then should the people in the Stellarton area, which is immediately adjacent to this mine, be treated any differently?

It is not merely a matter of replicating the house that a person now lives in, in another part of town. The people who live in this part of the town, I am told - and I have driven through it and I would have to say from what I have seen and if the information I am given is essentially correct, that these are people who - are modest, who live in modest housing and are not high income earners. In fact, the vast majority of them are living on fixed incomes and are senior citizens. They cannot afford to go out and buy or build a new home without the funds causing that to happen, being provided by an external source. Clearly that external source should not be the taxpayer, it should be the company which will derive the greatest single benefit from this operation. I will give an example of how much that will cost towards the end of my remarks.

Should we, if we lived in that area, expect fairness from government and the answer, of course, is yes because if the government won't protect us, the people who are elected to protect us will not do so, then to whom can we turn? In fact, it appears to me that many, if not all of these 40 people who are, I think, probably, injuriously affected with respect to their property, are virtually facing expropriation without compensation.

Each and every one of them has the value of their houses so reduced that they cannot realize on the very substantial investment that these people have made in their homes over their lifetimes and that very simply put, Madam Speaker, is absolutely wrong. Each and every one of us knows that is wrong. Each and every one of us would militate against that if it happened to us and I have absolutely no doubt that if that happened to any of our

[Page 717]

constituents, we would be the first to rise in this place and to fight on their behalf, as my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, has done this afternoon.

There are many things that the minister should have required in permitting and some of the questions that I have raised in this sense are rhetorical because they answer the questions, what should the minister have done that he did not do? I believe that the minister should have - and I believe the minister has full legal authority, full legislative authority to do so. He should have - ensured that Pioneer purchased those homes at least at pre-permit fair market value. If the people did not wish to sell their homes for that fair market value, then I believe that Pioneer Coal as the operator - and I would put this to any operator - should be required to provide replacement housing. That replacement housing should be provided on the basis of equal to, but no less than the minimum standard, or with respect to Canadian building standards, whichever one is to the greater benefit of the homeowner.

[4:45 p.m.]

Now if we take a look at the minister's permitting conditions, Section 13, we find two here which reference property. One, the proponent makes offers to purchase the properties. Well let's just stop and think, now Mayor Porter tells us that Pioneer Coal will, in likelihood, make as much as $110 million off this strip mine; more conservative estimates are in the $80 million to $85 million range. Now just keep those figures in mind: a low of $80 million let's say, and a high of $110 million. If Pioneer Coal replaced all 40 of those homes at an average of $70,000 a home, that is only $2.8 million. Madam Speaker, $2.8 million out of a $100 million profit is only 2.8 per cent. So for less than 3 per cent of the profits that will be generated to Pioneer Coal, they could provide good, substantial, decent housing for these people who are going to be injuriously affected as a result of the open strip mine being opened in their communities.

Madam Speaker, that is not going to be done because the minister did not have the courage to order that it be done.

Stipulation 13(4) is very troublesome indeed, Madam Speaker. It states that the process of arbitration agreed to by the proponent be mandated. Now I've read that two or three times and each time it says the same thing to me. The proponent is Pioneer Coal, and that tells me that the process of arbitration, whatever that process is, must be agreed to not by the families whose homes have been injuriously affected but, rather, by the company which is going to realize the $100 million profit from the strip mining operation. That is unfair and it is wrong.

I believe the minister should not have made these permits available to Pioneer Coal but, beyond that, I think we need to take a larger look at the whole matter of strip mining in Nova Scotia. I think we have to look at providing compensation to communities where strip mines may be permitted in the future. But even beyond that, I think there should be a moratorium on open pit mining; I think there should be public consultations throughout Nova Scotian communities which have the potential to have open pit mines in them and that there should be a new provincial policy respecting open pit mining, including compensation to individuals and communities. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 70.

Res. No. 70, re Fin. - Taxation: PST & GST Harmonization - Proposals Reveal - notice given Apr. 2/96 - (Mr. R. Russell)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to enter into this debate on Resolution No. 70:

[Page 718]

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government stop wheeling and dealing behind closed doors on a new blended sales tax with their pals in Ottawa, and share with all Nova Scotians the proposals that are on the table.

I am pleased to enter into this debate because it is obvious that the kind of thing we are talking about will have tremendous ramifications for many Nova Scotians and all sectors of the Nova Scotian economy. We only have to look at what has happened in the recent months to the job situation in this province to realize how fragile our economy is and the mere fact that in the month of March we lost 8,000 jobs. When you look at what the Bank of Montreal predicts, the Province of Nova Scotia is predicted to have a growth in its provincial economy this year of 1 per cent. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island by the same Bank of Montreal are predicted to have a growth exactly double that. That is the kind of economy that we have here in Nova Scotia and that is why the blended tax, the GST/PST harmonization, is such an important issue in front of this government. Unfortunately, it hasn't become an issue in front of this House because we haven't been able to get any information.

The government has embarked on another deal and it has many similarities to those deals which brought us casinos and municipal amalgamation. The similarities hinge on the government's understanding of consultation. I don't have to remind the members of this House because there are 40 members in this House that campaigned in 1993 on the issue of consultation. In 1993, the government promised to consult with the people of Nova Scotia on important issues. The government has not and, still, they will not.

Today we are debating a resolution about harmonizing the GST with the PST. I remember full well when the now federal government was campaigning in 1993 and they talked about eliminating the GST. Well, we are not with this blended tax eliminating the GST but we are merely covering it up and I cannot help but be reminded of the proposal at the Sydney tap ponds to simply cover up the mess.

It is difficult to take a position on this issue as Opposition simply because we can't get any details. Now, the Finance Minister in the House tells us that with a blended tax Nova Scotians will, in fact, pay less tax. That is welcome news if, in fact, we can pay less tax but the minister doesn't have any details of how he is going to make up the shortfall. We would like to know where the shortfall will come from, how it will be made up, simply a matter of providing a few details.

Since the House opened, the Opposition has, in fact, consistently requested details of the discussions that are occurring between the federal government and the Government of Nova Scotia. Each time we have made that request, we have been stonewalled on each and every occasion. Although we, as an Opposition, do not like it, we are resigned to discovering the details of what is going on from the media; for instance, when the Premier refused to answer a question in the House about this very subject and then suggested to the media that there might be a deal within two weeks and it would take nine months to one year to implement. I find it passing strange that the Premier seemed to have such a great commitment

[Page 719]

to this House in 1993 that be wanted to ensure we had two sessions of the Legislature each and every year, but then when we come to the House, we find we have to read the newspapers to get the information, it is not provided in this House to this Legislature.

The Premier and the Minister of Finance are not being totally open with Nova Scotians and certainly not being transparent. They promised consultation but Hansard records on April 4th, when I asked what method of consultation they will employ, the Premier would only talk about consultation like the 30-60-90 fiasco. The Minister of Finance was perhaps a little less enthusiastic about this whole process and certainly a lot more careful in his remarks than was the Premier.

Again on April 4th, the Premier suggested that when an agreement was reached, if an agreement was reached, the government would lay out the agreement and tell Nova Scotians why they supported it and then and only then would they discuss the details. That is not consultation, that is dictating.

We have had groups speaking out publicly against harmonization because they believe it will have a negative impact on their particular activities. We had the example recently here in the House of the N.S. Restaurant and Food Services Association of Nova Scotia and their concerns which they do not believe are being addressed in the secret negotiations that the government is having with their friends in Ottawa. Is the Restaurant Association being consulted? They say not.

Families with children who are not used to paying the PST on certain items of children clothing and they are concerned about their cost of living and the cost of children's clothing. Are they being consulted? Not to my knowledge, Madam Speaker, perhaps you have inside information. What about the tax on electricity and fuel oil? As an MLA I am sure that I share an experience with all of you that those Nova Scotians who are on fixed incomes, one of the great problems they have is meeting, each and every time, their electricity and their fuel bills, particularly through the winter when those bills are unusually high. How many of you as MLAs have had constituents come and say, look I cannot deal with my fuel bill, I need a tank of oil. How many have come to you and said, look they are going to shut off my electricity, I am behind in my payments, what can you do to help?

Does this mean that the 3 per cent tax on electricity will be increased? Does this mean that we will now pay PST on our fuel bills? Well, let us look at that. Is that what Nova Scotians are looking for? Look at the book industry, is the PST now going to apply to that? Look at people who run and work in service businesses, like accountants, lawyers and business consultants. We went through a business services tax and it became apparent to the government after they imposed the tax, it was apparent to members of the Opposition and the public before the tax was introduced that it would be a negative impact on Nova Scotia business.

This is most important that since we lost 8,000 jobs in March that we do not further hamper Nova Scotia business and industry to ensure that more jobs are lost in the months to come. Our economy is fragile, the continent and the world is probably going into another minor recession. It is going to be hard to hold the line on jobs and it will be hard to hold the line on jobs here in Nova Scotia if, in fact, we further jeopardize the business environment that we have created here in Nova Scotia.

[Page 720]

How about our farmers? They are exempt from sale taxes on a great number of items. Has anyone, including the Premier, asked the agricultural industry what this new harmonization does to the purchase of implements on the farm? What will it do for our farming industry? Does the government know? Does the Premier know when he says it is a win-win situation? Will it be a win-win situation for farmers? I do not know and the government does not know because no one has been consulted.

Before I close, I would urge the government to stop acting in its normal reclusive fashion. It is all right if they wish to play political word games in the House, but I urge this government to keep at least one of its promises and consult with Nova Scotians before harmonization takes place. Understand before you sign the agreement, what will be the effect on the various sectors of our economy and what will be the effect on different Nova Scotians in terms of their lifestyle and their ability to provide for their children and to provide the amenities of life here in Nova Scotia.

These are questions that must be answered before the agreement is signed. The people of Nova Scotia deserve honesty and forthrightness from this government. I trust eventually that all Nova Scotians will receive it. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again and have a chance to discuss the issue of harmonization of the provincial sales tax and the GST. I am very pleased that the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition has brought this matter forward because I think it is an important thing and I think there are some things that we want to clarify here.

[5:00 p.m.]

I would like to start out first by talking about the GST and some of the problems that we have had with this. As the other night, I would like to remind this House that it was the federal wing of the Progressive Conservative Party that brought this tax forward, the Government of Brian Mulroney, the then Prime Minister. I also remember that, I believe, the Honourable John Buchanan, the former Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia, was so eager to see this tax go in that he resigned as Premier, ran up to Ottawa and was immediately appointed as a senator so that he could vote and make sure that this tax was imposed on the people of Nova Scotia and Canada.

I also recall, Madam Speaker, that a number of the members of the front bench were there cheering when he went. Now, whether it was because they wanted to see the GST put in or not, I don't know. But there have been problems with the GST ever since it has been brought forward. It is a tax which has been encroaching on an area of taxation which has normally been reserved for the province, the provincial sales tax. The result of this is that there have been conflicts between the two taxes. There has been duplication.

I had a chance to speak on this during the late debate and I talked about my experience in the business that I used to be involved with and how there were conflicts between the two taxes and I gave a couple of examples. If I might, I would like to give one more example. In the renovation business, you often offer to supply a product with one price. So you say that I will supply this window and I will install it for, say, $1,000. If you look at how the tax is treated on that, with a product, there is GST on the product and there is

[Page 721]

provincial sales tax on the product. If you do installation work outside the factory, then there is no provincial sales tax but there is GST.

So the problem that we had was how to figure out what your cost was and how to arrive at that particular price. Because if you bought the window, say, for $500, you then had to calculate what your cost was in order to mark it up. You obviously had to pay GST, which in that case would be $35.00 and, on top of that, you paid the provincial sales tax, which was $58.85, for a grand total of $593.00. Now, one would think that that would be your cost. But it is not your cost, because the GST is an input credit. So what you have to do, is you have to take that figure, subtract from that the GST in order to get your cost. That is what you mark up. Then you add on to that your installation service and then you add the 7 per cent GST on top of that.

But then some would say, well, now you are adding GST on PST. Aren't you supposed to add PST on the GST? It became, Mr. Speaker, very confusing for the sales people to properly calculate the cost and to mark up the product. It became very complicated for consumers to understand how you arrived at the calculation of the tax. This is the sort of duplication and the sort of conflicts that arose as a result of the federal government bringing in this form of taxation.

So in addition to that, Mr. Speaker, the GST, I think, has been one of the biggest deterrents to consumer spending for a long time. Consumer spending took a plunge right after the GST was put in place and it has not really recovered. It has been a dampening on economic activity. In some ways, you could say it is a tax on economic development and it is a tax on job creation.

Mr. Speaker, there has been talk of harmonization from the very start, from the first time the GST was brought forward. I recall there was an article, I believe, in the Chronicle-Herald, back on February 12, 1992, in which Mr. Cameron, the then Premier of the province, talked about how he was in favour of considering harmonization. Now, I have no idea what the policy of the present Opposition is. Their sole position at this point seems to be totally negative and I would like very much to know what their position is. I would say both Parties. I am glad that the member for the New Democratic Party is going to be following, because I am going to be listening with great interest to see what his policy is, if there are any circumstances in which he would consider harmonization of the two taxes.

Now, I am going to see if I can shed some clarification on that. The Right Honourable Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister of Canada, has announced that he would like to see a change in this tax. He would like to see the GST replaced and a more fair form of taxation brought in. He has initiated some discussions with the provinces and we, as the Province of Nova Scotia, are very pleased to take part in those discussions because we believe that there is a better way to collect that tax, there is a better way for Nova Scotians and a better way for our economy and that we can make improvements and we are very interested in doing that. So, perhaps just dealing a few minutes with what we are doing.

What we are doing is, we have entered into negotiations with the federal government to see if we can come to an agreement in principle. I have listened very carefully to the remarks of the Premier and of the honourable Minister of Finance. I think that what we are doing, there is no secret, he has said over and over again that we have entered into discussions on an agreement in principle, that we are not talking about at this time, the specifics of whether fuel oil or clothing or this sort of thing is going to be taxed. We are looking at the principles of whether harmonization of these two taxes should go forward or whether it should not go forward; whether this is in the interest of the people of Nova Scotia or whether it is not in the interest of the people of Nova Scotia.

Let's just talk a few minutes about what some of these principles might be. One is the elimination of duplication. These are hard and difficult times both here in the administration of our own province and federally, and between the province and the federal government we have been trying to eliminate duplication. We have been trying to do that because we want to make government more efficient. We want to lower the cost of government so that we can continue to supply the services that the people of Nova Scotia want and [Page 722]

the services that the people of Nova Scotia deserve. Are they in favour of that principle? Would they consider harmonization if you could eliminate duplication, if you could reduce the cost of government and the cost to the people of Nova Scotia?

Simplifying and avoiding conflicts between the two taxes. Again, I think that is a worthwhile objective, I think it is one that is worthwhile pursuing. I would like to know whether the Opposition feels that that is an objective that is worthwhile pursuing. Is that a principle that we should be talking about? Is that a consideration that we should take into effect when we are deciding whether or not there should be harmonization of these two taxes?

Other principles. If we could come to an agreement that is going to spur economic development, if we could come to an agreement that is going to create jobs in this province, is that not something we should consider? Is that not something we should pursue? Is that not a principle that if we can achieve that through harmonization that we should be talking about it?

Several other principles. We want to ensure that the province itself, the government remains fiscally sound. We have to make sure that any agreement does not take away from our ability to govern the province. I think that is a principle that we should be talking about. That is a principle that if we do have harmonization of these two taxes, it is one that we should pursue.

Another principle and I think these are perhaps some of the more important ones. I think a principle should be that Nova Scotians should pay less tax, it should be a benefit to the people of Nova Scotia. The people of Nova Scotia already are too highly taxed. If we can reduce taxes, then I think this is a very worthy objective, it is something that we should pursue.

I would like to know if the Opposition would consider harmonization if we could meet that principle, if that is one of the objectives of harmonizing the taxes, that Nova Scotians pay less tax as a result, (Interruption) all Nova Scotians. I think that that should be the final principle that all Nova Scotians should benefit from this, it should not just be business, it should not be high income Nova Scotians, it should be all Nova Scotians and that is a principle that I think we should consider when we discuss the principle of whether we should have harmonization.

These are the issues that we should be debating here today. These are the considerations that we are talking about when we are having our discussions with the federal government. These are the things that the Opposition should be bringing forward and debating today, it would be very helpful for us if we knew where the Opposition stood, if they could put forward some points which might be useful to us when we go forward to the federal government and we discuss these issues. But all we hear are negative things, excuses why we should not think about this. Well, this is not the way this government works. We believe that

[Page 723]

if there is a problem, you should talk about it; we believe there is always a better way of doing things, and we are prepared to explore these better ways. We are trying to set out, and I have heard the honourable Premier do it and I have heard the honourable Minister of Finance set out some of the principles that I have tried to explain here, that we go forward to attempt to harmonize these two taxes and do it within these principles, and I think this is where the debate should be at this time.

Now I listened to what the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition had to say. A lot of what he had to say were purely negative things. He talked about clothing, he talked about power bills and a number of these different things. Very important matters, I agree, Mr. Speaker, but I suggest that this is not the time to do it. What we are talking about now is agreement in principle. This agreement will be put before the people of Nova Scotia and the Opposition will have a chance to look at what we are suggesting. It will be brought before this House. The specifics of what items are taxed, exactly how this tax is going to apply, what modifications may have to be made to work can be debated. We can consult on them and the final agreement can be arrived at later. This is going to take some time.

What we are dealing with right now are the principles that we should be applying to the negotiations with the federal government, to decide whether there is a good reason to go forward with harmonization or not.

The second thing is that to consult at this stage, Mr. Speaker, is really very difficult. In an earlier resolution they suggested we should have a select committee of the province that goes around and has hearings to decide whether we should do this or we should not do this. That is very premature; you can't negotiate by select committee. I mean if there is something on the table from the federal government and you say hold the negotiations, we are going to take two or three months and we are going to send a select committee out and we are going to consult with the people of Nova Scotia about what you are suggesting, we come back two or three months later and we say that we have some problems with this and this and this, and the federal government says, okay, why don't we do this? We say, hold everything, get out the standing committee, we didn't think of that, we have to consult again. So back we go. That is not the way that you conduct negotiations, that is not the way that you can arrive at an agreement.

Mr. Speaker, we were elected to govern this province and we were elected to do this sort of thing. We have an obligation. I agree that if we can arrive at an agreement in principle to bring it back to make sure that it is fully debated and to make sure that the people of Nova Scotia know exactly what we are going to do and what the ramifications are.

They talk about the specifics, and they talk about having to pay more tax on power bills. Now I cannot tell you whether we will or whether we will not, but it is probably a reasonable assumption that in some areas Nova Scotians are going to pay less tax. It is a reasonable assumption in some areas that the cost of goods is going to go down; it is also a reasonable assumption that in some areas Nova Scotians may pay more tax. But the question, if Nova Scotians in total pay less tax and less for the goods, then it seems to me that they are going to have more money left over at the end of the day, and I think that will be the test.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, our government takes very seriously our obligations. We know that the people of Nova Scotia are the ones who elected us. We are committed to making sure that whatever we do is in the best interests of Nova Scotia, that it means we have a stronger economy, that the people of Nova Scotia are better off, that they pay less tax, have better chances of jobs and it is a better province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak for a few moments on this whole business of harmonizing the GST and the PST. I quite enjoyed the intervention of the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour earlier when he was trying to use the same line as the Finance Minister and the Premier by presenting this whole business as a win-win situation.

[Page 724]

[5:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Right, you've got it.

MR. CHISHOLM: He said initially, just like the Finance Minister has said and the Premier has said, that what we are talking about here in terms of a situation is all Nova Scotians paying less money, paying less taxes. He is talking about Nova Scotians having more money in their pockets in order to invest, in order to generate the economy and blah-blah-blah.

But you know, when the rubber hits the road and when you cut through all the - to use the word of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley the other day (Interruption) I can't use that word, I am sorry - that it is simply not true that everybody in Nova Scotia is going to end up paying less taxes as a result of the harmonization of the GST and PST. It is simply wrong. That is not true, it can't possibly happen. (Interruptions)

This government, Mr. Speaker, has a debt that it has been unable to resolve, that it has been unable to deal with at all, of $6 billion . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Nine.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . $9 billion. You see, it is growing that fast. (Interruptions) All they have done is cut and slash, basically reduce the capacity of the provincial economy to be able to generate the kind of revenues, the kind of economic activity that is going to be required in order to pay that debt down. How in that kind of climate are these clowns, Mr. Speaker, and let's be serious about this, because Nova Scotians don't believe that harmonizing the PST and the GST is going to mean that they are going to pay less money. Now it might for some. (Interruptions)

It may very well for some, Mr. Speaker, and we know already what this government has done for some in this province. There have been some who have realized and continue to realize a savings, but for most Nova Scotians, many of the small Nova Scotians that the Premier talked about the other day, they have ended up paying more money for the necessities of life, thanks to this government. The vast majority of them are living with such insecurity as a result of the economy in this province that they have given up spending money in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is why economic projections for this year are the lowest in Atlantic Canada and one of the lowest in the country, at 1 per cent and for the next year, one of the lowest in this country. This government should be ashamed of itself.

On top of all that, the destruction that they have caused in the economy of Nova Scotia, they are going to now talk about harmonizing the PST and the GST. They are going to talk about extending now more taxes, that the average Nova Scotian is going to have to pay. The member who spoke earlier said, well, I don't know that we should be getting into

[Page 725]

specifics like people having to pay more taxes for children's clothing. Well, I tell you what, there are a lot of Nova Scotians out there who want to talk about that.

There are a lot of Nova Scotians out there on fixed incomes who want to talk about paying an extra 2 per cent and 3 per cent on heating oil and on electricity, (Interruption) or 8 per cent and 3 per cent on electricity, Mr. Speaker. There are people who are asking those serious questions right now of this government. What are they getting? They are getting nothing. They are getting a pat on the head from the Premier who says, don't you worry, we will look after you, we know what is in the best interests of Nova Scotia.

Well, at the hands of this Premier and the government of the day, Mr. Speaker, we have seen the economy progressively go in the toilet. We have seen the unemployment rate continue to rise. The number of unemployed in this province continues to deteriorate. What is this government doing? We saw this government, the first thing that they did was raise taxes when they came into power. They moved the provincial sales tax by 1 per cent. That was the first thing that this government did. Then, Mr. Speaker, in the next budget they brought in, they increased taxes on business services in this province, on recreation services and a whole host of other items by another 11 per cent.

Did they do that as a consequence of consulting? No, they did not. What they did have to do, Mr. Speaker, they got shamed into retreating from that action because those businesses and Nova Scotians said that this is absolute foolishness for any government to be bringing on this kind of tax increase from such an important sector in the Province of Nova Scotia. It threatened nearly 2,500 jobs in the Province of Nova Scotia and this government did it.

So, naturally, some of us here on the Opposition benches and many Nova Scotians asked this question. After this government has fumbled and fooled its way along for the last three years at the expense of Nova Scotians, why would they engage in negotiations with the federal government on a significant proposal like harmonizing the GST and the PST, potential impact on businesses and individuals in this province of significant proportion, without talking to us? Why would they do that without talking to Nova Scotians first?

Let's go back to 1992 when the then Finance Critic for the Liberal Party, one Mr. Bernard Boudreau, introduced a resolution on Thursday, April 16, 1992, that said, and I will just read the operative clause for you, Mr. Speaker, "Therefore be it resolved that this government establish a fair taxation commission to allow for public input and comment on our taxation system before they even consider harmonizing the GST and PST.".

Then, in 1993, the Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker, running for election, pulled another one over the head of Nova Scotians when he made a promise that I would suggest he never intended to fulfil, that said that we are committed to a fair tax commission and to establishing a fair tax commission so that they can consult with Nova Scotians and consider the impact of various tax proposals in the Province of Nova Scotia.

We stood in this House for three weeks and asked that Premier and the Minister of Finance, what about consultation now? What has changed in the past four years to lead you to believe that now it is okay. Now it is okay to just throw the GST and the PST together. Well, I think Nova Scotians know, Mr. Speaker, only too well what is going on here. But the Minister of Finance and the Premier are, once again, and I say once again because there have been a couple of other instances, they are out in the back rooms out here by the airport, or back rooms somewhere, anywhere beyond public view, and they are dealing with somebody's agenda, and it is not Nova Scotians' agenda, it is the federal government's agenda.

The federal government made a promise in the 1993 election and they have at least tried to give the semblance or leave the perception that they are dealing with their promises to get rid of the GST. They have been incapable of doing it, so what they want to try and do, what they want to do with the full participation [Page 726]

of Liberal Premiers, is that they want to try and cook a deal somehow that will make it look like we got rid of the GST.

This government is prepared to step into that back room, completely away from Nova Scotians, will not even talk here in this House about what they are doing to come up with a plan to meet the needs of the federal government. I think it is time that this government came clean with Nova Scotians. It is time that they showed some respect for Nova Scotians, not the way they dealt with the Canada Health and Social Transfer, a proposal that means Nova Scotia is going to lose $330 million over the next two or three years.

After the deal they made on UI, which means that we are going to lose millions of dollars as a result of the federal government backing off and putting the boots to the unemployed in this region, this government should step out of that room, step into the sunshine and say to Nova Scotians that we are not going to negotiate any further, we are not going to get tied into any kind of a deal here; we are going to talk to you, we are going to set up a fair tax commission or we are going to set up some kind of body that has some kind of credibility and we are going to participate in discussions with you, including presentations from experts, including presentations from all Nova Scotians, including small Nova Scotians and we are going to hear how people feel about this potential. We are also going to provide an opportunity - this is the government talking to Nova Scotians - we are going to present you with some of our thoughts and some of the opinions that we have had on what advantages this might bring. But, no, not once.

After those deals with the federal government have gone down, without us participating, we are supposed to now believe what the Minister of Finance says, that we are not going to get into a deal that cannot be changed and we are going to be able to have some flexibility. You know, Nova Scotians simply do not buy it. The worst thing is that they are utterly and totally frustrated with this government. Not only can they not fulfil their promises to create jobs in this province, not only are they completely incapable of coming up with any creative solutions to generate any economic activity, they are now trying to figure out how they can best get in your and my pockets to try to fill some of the gaps.

Somebody is going to have to pay. In the final analysis, somebody is going to have to pay and my concern is that we are going to get the kind of Harris treatment where it is going to be average Nova Scotians, it is going to be the workaday Nova Scotians, it is going to be small businesses, it is going to be other people who are asked to pay. It is going to be the people that have the most income, it is going to be the companies that have money to invest on the international financial markets, that send their capital out of this province where it cannot do any good here for us, it is those people that are going to benefit. You might have heard it referred to before as trickle-down economics. It does not work. The world has recognized now that it does not work. It simply has not worked, it has devastated already many countries in this world, including the United States, and here this province wants to jump right on board with it and we think that is absolutely irresponsible.

We are going to add our voice along with those of many hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians to tell this government, don't you dare get involved with any kind of deal on the GST and the PST until you talk to us. Don't just give us the rhetoric about consultation, actually talk with Nova Scotians, large and small Nova Scotians, about what the impacts are going to be, about what the potential benefits are, if there are any, and I do not believe that

[Page 727]

there are any. It is a regressive form of taxation. We have to begin to reform the tax system so the people will pay based on their ability to pay, not on the basis of a consumption tax which is regressive and which affects the lower income people worse. What we have to do is talk about those kinds of things. That is what the Premier talked about when he was running for election. I think it is time that we talked to Nova Scotians and that we had this debate once and for all, wide open, and put it to Nova Scotians what they want. Thank you very much.

[5:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak about the blending of the GST and the health services tax or the provincial sales tax, whichever you wish to call it. One of the things that I think surprises everybody in this province is the fact that whereas this deal which the Premier and the Minister of Finance are cooking up between them with the federal government may be the best thing that ever came down the pipe, it could be. It could also be, I would suggest, the worst thing that could ever come down the pipe. But, unfortunately, we don't know.

We are told by the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour that this is no time to talk about what is on the table, we do that after the deal is finished. In fact, the Minister of Finance said the other day that everything was on the table. Okay, the First Minister, the Premier of this Province, however, on April 15th, said about harmonization, "It could be the most significant job creator, the most significant tax break in the history of Nova Scotia,". What he didn't say was that it could also be the most significant disaster, from the point of the consumers in this province.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all members and to all Nova Scotians, that indeed, there are things on the table, or else how would the provincial finance officials predict an unprecedented boost to the economy by as much as 1 per cent of the gross provincial product and creating 3,500 jobs? To get those numbers, to get those figures and to get the Premier so hepped up, I would suggest there has been some modelling done. We all know that when you do a model you have to have inputs. The inputs that would have to go in in this particular case are what is the present state of taxation, insofar as the GST and the PST is concerned at the present time and what are we looking at in the future, if, indeed, harmonization takes place.

So I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Finance and the Premier and perhaps all of Cabinet, I would assume, know what the province is offering us. We are told by the Minister of Finance that we are looking at a blended tax of approximately 15 per cent. We are not told over what range of items and services that tax is going to be exacted. Is it over the same range of goods and services that presently fall under the GST or is it over a lesser number? Is it a floating rate that drops down for some particular items and increases for others? We don't know that. We do know from the Minister of Finance, and this is very important, he has said that there is going to be a significant tax loss to the Province of Nova Scotia and that part of the deal will be that we are going to get from the federal government, and the numbers vary but we are given the number, I think, of $200 million and that is a generally accepted number, we are going to get $200 million cash on the table when we sign with the federal government.

[Page 728]

Now at first blush, Mr. Speaker, you might say well that is not bad; if I pay $1,000 before harmonization on PST and now I am only going to pay $800, I am $200 better off. Mr. Boudreau, the Minister of Finance, isn't better off unless he gets that money that comes down from Ottawa. But you say, I am still better off because it has cost me only $800. That is simply disguising the fact that that additional $200 million is coming from the same taxpayers who pay the GST and the PST. The federal government just doesn't go out and print $200 million, it has to raise $200 million either by borrowing it or diverting funds from some other part of the federal government. It is still tax money which is coming back to the province.

I would suggest that if indeed we need $200 million now to balance the books, in other words, to receive the same revenue as we presently get from PST under the new regime, if we need $200 million right now, what happens three years from now or four years from now when we have spent that, when we have blown that $200 million that we get? We are then in a deficit position insofar as tax receipts are concerned on the PST.

I think you have to look at, first of all, why was the GST imposed. The GST was imposed simply to get rid of a tax which was known as the manufacturers' tax and it was a hidden tax. Everybody that manufactured something paid a manufacturers' tax. The manufacturers in Canada said, look, that places us at a considerable disadvantage because when we go to export something, there is a manufacturers' tax on that item and it doesn't reflect the true cost of building that particular item for sale abroad.

So the government said, okay, we will look at other systems and they looked at the GST, they looked at the VAT, they looked at a financial transaction tax which was also examined. They looked at a number of options and they came up with and imposed the GST. There is no doubt that it was a very unpopular tax, nobody wanted it. I ask you, tell me the name of a popular tax. All taxes are things which we would all like to get rid of.

So, the government changes and the Liberal Government in Ottawa comes into power and part of the basis of their attaining power was that they were going to abolish the GST. In fact, the Deputy Prime Minister said, if it wasn't gone by the time the next election rolled around, she was out, she was gone, she was history. Now, what do you do when you abolish something? I suggest to you that you get rid of it completely. But they are not doing that, they are trying to achieve a deal whereby they can have a new tax and call it something different -a sales tax or a general tax, anything at all but don't call it the GST - and it will bring together the provincial tax and the federal tax into one combined tax. That might be good, we don't know.

The first thing we have to remember, as my colleague for Halifax Atlantic said just a moment ago, is that a goods and services tax or a VAT or a sales tax is a regressive tax. It is a tax that taxes those who have the least amount of money to spend because of the fact that they have to buy the necessary purchases to live the same as a person who is wealthy. In other words, the poor person pays as much, in essence, as the rich person except that the rich person perhaps might spend more money on luxury goods, but insofar as the staples are concerned, it is equal.

The first thing that this government has to protect are those parts of our present provincial sales tax that protects those people in Nova Scotia who are less fortunate than others, who do not earn as much as others. One of the things that we have done both at the provincial level and at the federal level is to take measures that will achieve that. The GST, people below a certain income level get a rebate. People purchasing items such as children's clothing and footwear, purchasing heat for their homes whether it be electricity or oil or even

[Page 729]

coal, they get a break. Those things are things that must be protected under some new tax regime.

All that we are asking the Minister of Finance to do is to talk to the people of Nova Scotia and say, look, there are some things that we are going to protect and those things that we are going to protect are those things that are essential for the maintenance of the fairness of this tax. That, Mr. Speaker, is the reason why we suggested in this House that either the matter be referred to a select committee of the House, to go and talk to Nova Scotians and find out what they thought about the harmonization, whether or not there should be some exemptions, whether or not there should be a sliding scale of the amount that would be charged on certain items. We would like to get the opinion of Nova Scotians to the Minister of Finance before he signs on the dotted line.

Now the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour said, well, they are only discussing principles and he went through a number of principles of which I scribbled some of them down, and what he is talking about is absolute nonsense, Mr. Speaker. You can't strike an agreement unless you get down to the nitty-gritty and you know what you are talking about. For instance, if you say to the federal government, we would like to have a sliding scale on those items that we consider are necessary to protect those of low income in this province, well, I am sure, they are not just going to agree without coming up with a list of items and the amount of tax that will be applied.

Mr. Speaker, the matter of harmonization of the GST and the PST are going to affect some businesses favourably and I have no argument with that at all. It is going to affect some people who are purchasing certain items favourably; however, the impact on this province is going to be negative unless all provinces join in and sign up for harmonization. The Minister of Finance, as we all know, in fact I spoke about it during Question Period today, withdrew the tax on professional services and one of the reasons he gave of why he withdrew that tax on professional services was simply because we have a border with New Brunswick; they were not taxing their professional services and people could very easily put that type of business across the border and be exempt from the tax. So, if you like, that was a wise move. I don't think it should have been charged up against the growth revenue fund, but, however, that is beside the point.

The point is though, even if the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland all agree to harmonization, there is still another province just across the border. There is still Ontario sitting down there and Ontario says - to the best of my knowledge from what I have heard, anyway - that they want no part. They want no part of harmonization. Well, what is to stop those people who utilize professional services simply transferring that business then to the Province of Ontario?

I believe the only way the harmonization is going to work, Mr. Speaker, is if all provinces in Canada agree to harmonization and that is a difficult road to go down. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: Medicare didn't work that way.

MR. RUSSELL: Medicare didn't work that way. Well, I am telling the honourable member about harmonization. I am telling him about provincial sales tax and I am telling him about this day and age where businesses can move very rapidly without any loss of time across borders. It is a different world that we are living in right now.

[Page 730]

Mr. Speaker, I don't know exactly what the effect of harmonization is on the Department of Finance but I would assume that the federal government would be responsible for collection and for disbursement of the taxes. That is an advantage because of the fact that the Minister of Finance is going to have a smaller staff component within the Department of Finance. But I would suggest to the Minister of Finance that he is giving away something that he has right now, that he will not have in the future.

In other words, if he agrees to a rate, and we will say for argument sake it is 15 per cent, and some time along the way, the minister says well I would like to have a lower rate, he then has to go back to the federal government and negotiate a brand new agreement. Or, for instance, he might even say, no I need more money, I want to put up the rate. Once again, he has to go back to the federal government, whereas, right now, he has the ability, as he does next week when the budget comes down, to do whatever he wants with regard to the provincial sales tax. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call House Order No. 1, and for the member for Pictou West, I so move.

H.O. No. 1, re Educ.: Hector Centre (Pictou) - Funding (1993-97) - notice given April 3/96 - (Mr. D. McInnes)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Education, he has agreed to comply with House Order No. 1.

Would all those in favour of carrying House Order No. 1 say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The House Order is carried.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that completes the business for the day, as far as the Opposition is concerned. I move that this be the hour of adjournment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: For the information of the members of the House, tomorrow, following the daily routine and Question Period, we will move on to Public Bills for Second Reading in the order that they appear on the order paper.

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

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

The motion is carried.

[Page 731]

We will move on now to the late debate. The late debate this evening is moved by the member for Argyle, who wishes to debate:

"Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly applaud the outstanding results of the Fire Marshal's Annual Report indicating fire related deaths and injuries in 1994-95 were the lowest they have been in Nova Scotia for the past 10 years.".

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

The honourable member for Argyle.

FIRE MARSHAL - ANNUAL REPORT: RESULTS - APPLAUD

MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to say a few words in recognition of the outstanding results of this year's Fire Marshal's Annual Report, which was recently tabled in this House.

The Fire Marshal's Report indicates that fire-related deaths and injuries in 1994-95 were the lowest they have been in Nova Scotia for the past 10 years.

I would like to remind the members of this Assembly and the public of the fire marshal's responsibility for the provision of fire safety in buildings, and the safe storage of flammable and combustible materials. The office is also responsible for the sale, safe installation and usage of propane and electricity. Mr. Speaker, the fire marshal's office advises various levels of government on fire-related matters, including fire protection.

Mr. Speaker, in recognizing the outstanding commitment of the fire marshal's office, I also acknowledge that the lower numbers in fire-related deaths and injuries can be contributed to the advances in fire-fighting and the increased efforts in prevention and public education.

Mr. Speaker, people throughout Nova Scotia know that their local fire departments have the trained professionals that they can turn to for assistance in fire emergencies. However, we also know that firefighters do much more than fight fires. Many firefighters willingly offer year-round fire prevention and awareness education, generously raise funds for charities and the fire department, participate in training programs and offer time in the administration of fire services.

Often, as first responders, Mr. Speaker, our firefighters deal with many other emergencies, including motor vehicle accidents, medical emergencies and the handling of hazardous materials.

We all know, Mr. Speaker, that although the ultimate goal of the firefighters is to prevent the loss of life and property due to fire, they do so often at the risk of their own life. In recognizing the courageous firefighters across this province, I am reminded that many of these firefighters in our rural communities are volunteers, and volunteers are the very foundation of Nova Scotia's fire-fighting and fire-prevention system.

[Page 732]

In Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, 95 per cent of the 313 fire departments are maintained by volunteers. Fortunately, participation as a volunteer firefighter is made much easier with the understanding and support of family or friends. It is also made much easier with the support of the many ladies auxiliaries across the province. They are often the ones, the firefighters, who willingly give up their time spent together and they generously support the fund-raising activities of the local fire department. Volunteer firefighters with the support of their family and friends make up a community spirit that sustains the many volunteer fire departments throughout our province.

It is because of this spirit of volunteerism and community support that I extend my sincere appreciation to firefighters for their assistance in fire prevention, protection and education throughout the many communities in Nova Scotia. Eduction, in addition to the outstanding firefighting service is another reason why the number of fire related deaths and injuries are at their lowest level in 10 years. The fire marshal's office continues to try to overcome the disastrous results of human carelessness, neglect and ignorance, by remaining committed to education. It is sad, but reality that children make up a large percentage of the fire death and injury statistics in Canada.

In response to this fact, local fire departments throughout our province and Canadian Tire Stores are providing elementary schools with the Learn Not to Burn Curriculum and four resource books. This program is designed to reduce fire deaths and injuries among children. Learn Not to Burn is a complete curriculum package for elementary school students emphasizing 22 fire and burn prevention behaviours. This program is credited with saving 259 people from fire injury and death since its introduction in 1979.

I am pleased to recognize the outstanding fund-raising efforts of the Nova Scotia Burn Treatment Society, insurance companies, and other charitable societies in partnership with school teachers, day care personnel, and the Department of Education here in Nova Scotia. It is all part of the commitment to deliver the Learn Not to Burn education program to communities across Canada.

The fire marshal's office recognizes that ongoing education remains essential to both the public and the firefighting members. Last year, through the office of the fire marshal, the Canadian Fire Investigation School provided three levels of training to 237 firefighters. The Liquid Propane Gas Board of Examiners has the responsibility to certify and advise employees in the propane industry. The board held 14 meetings last year and invigilated 569 examinations. The fire marshal's office provided 30 training programs to industry, 7 to institutions and 100 to the provincial government. The Nova Scotia Fire Inspectors Association was formed to provide an equitable fire safety inspection program throughout the province.

The office of the fire marshal held two training sessions in cooperation with the Nova Scotia Firefighters School. It is my understanding, in a conversation with the Minister of Labour that we can expect the funding of this school to be maintained this upcoming year. Throughout this year, the staff of the fire marshal's office attended 48 fire service functions, held 162 meetings with fire chiefs, and took part in 15 public fire safety displays.

Mr. Speaker, although my time is running to a close I would like to once again speak on public safety and prevention. Every home should be protected with a smoke detector or alarm, every business should have its own fire protection equipment. Every citizen should be educated to prevent fire or to escape its path.

[Page 733]

In conclusion, I would like to commend the results of this years Fire Marshal's Report and my sincere appreciation goes out to our provincial fire service, the industrial fire brigades, the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, all privilege police forces, and all other fire prevention and fire protection services, including the ladies auxiliaries for their cooperation throughout the year. I would like to commend those men and women who make up our fire-fighting service and I would like to thank the people of Nova Scotia who contribute in many ways to support their local fire departments. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Hearing no further intervenors, I would order the House adjourned until 2:00 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

[The House rose at 5:56 p.m.]

[Page 734]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 235

By: Mr. Edward Lorraine (Colchester North)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas "New Ways To Teach, New Ways To Learn" is this year's theme for Education Week throughout Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Mr. Norris Whiston, a teacher from Tatamagouche Elementary School has been awarded a citation for exemplifying the theme of this year's Education Week through his innovative attitudes and a willingness to try new programs in his classroom; and

Whereas Mr. Whiston is one of 26 specially selected teachers from across Nova Scotia who were chosen for making the theme "New Ways To Teach, New Ways To Learn" a reality for Nova Scotia students;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Norris Whiston for excellence in teaching and honour all those throughout this province who are working diligently to provide a quality education environment for our students.