Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., Apr. 18, 1996

Fourth Session


Human Res.: Employee Assistance Program - Importance,
Hon. J. Abbass 735
Res. 236, DFO - Processing Plants: Fees Increase - Concern Express,
Mr. J. Leefe 737
Vote - Affirmative 738
Res. 237, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Consultation - P.E.I. Follow,
Mr. R. Chisholm 738
Res. 238, Tech. & Sc. Sec't. - Telecom. Applications Res. Alliance:
Partnership - Support, Hon. G. O'Malley 738
Vote - Affirmative 739
Res. 239, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Effects - Studies Release,
Mr. R. Russell 739
Res. 240, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Fleur-de-lis Hwy.: Project -
Support, Mr. Manning MacDonald 740
Res. 241, Human Res. Dev. (Can.): UI Changes - Oppose,
Mr. G. Archibald 740
Res. 242, Fin.: Casinos - Dissociate, Mr. G. Moody 741
Res. 243, Industry (Can.) - Credit Cards: Charges - Control,
Mr. J. Holm 741
Res. 244, Antigonish - Theatre/Festival: Fund-Raising -
Success Extend, Mr. D. McInnes 742
Vote - Affirmative 742
Res. 245, Commun. Serv.: Volunteer Award (Mr. F. Burke-Lower Sackville) -
Congrats., Mr. William MacDonald 742
Vote - Affirmative 743
Res. 246, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
MLAs (L[2]) Revisit Support Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 743
Res. 247, Transport. (Can.) - Coast Guard: Port Mouton -
Station Maintain, Mr. J. Leefe 743
Res. 248, Health - Krever Inquiry: Red Cross Testimony Costs - Avoid,
Mr. R. Chisholm 744
Res. 249, Educ. - Schools: Violence - Acknowledge, Mr. J. Holm 744
Vote - Affirmative 745
No. 125, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Meeting (Ottawa),
Dr. J. Hamm 745
No. 126, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Details, Mr. R. Chisholm 746
No. 127, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Details, Mr. R. Russell 748
No. 128, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Principles, Mr. T. Donahoe 748
No. 129, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Consequences, Mr. A. MacLeod 750
No. 130, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Results, Mr. G. Archibald 751
No. 131, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Highway No. 104 Western Alignment:
Newcourt Credit Group - Bond Rate, Mr. J. Holm 752
No. 132, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Authorization, Dr. J. Hamm 753
No. 133, Health: Ambulance Operators Assoc. - Contract, Mr. G. Moody 754
No. 134, Health: Ambulance Operators Assoc. - Contract, Mr. G. Moody 756
No. 135, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Senior Citizens - Drivers' Licenses,
Mr. B. Taylor 757
No. 136, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Business - Benefits,
Mr. R. Chisholm 758
No. 137, Environ. - Stellarton: Strip Mine - Compensation Package,
Dr. J. Hamm 760
No. 138, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwy. No. 104 By-pass
(Salt Springs-Westville) - Tenders, Mr. D. McInnes 761
No. 8, Court and Administrative Reform Act 765
Mr. R. Russell 765
Mr. R. Chisholm 767
Mr. D. McInnes 768
Hon. W. Gillis 769
Vote - Affirmative 772
No. 9, Meat Inspection Act 773
Hon. W. Gaudet 773
Mr. G. Archibald 774
Mr. D. McInnes 784
Mr. G. Moody 785
Mr. J. Holm 788
Mr. B. Taylor 790
Adjourned debate 793
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Rural Roads: Primary - Improve:
Mr. B. Taylor 794
Mr. R. Carruthers 796
Mr. J. Holm 799
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 19th at 11:00 a.m. 801
[Page 735]


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time to commence this afternoon's agenda. Are there any introductions of visitors?

The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you and through you to the other members in the Legislature, the presence in the west gallery of the Warden of the Municipality of the County of Pictou and also my Councillor in my own area, it is Hank Dunnewold from Pictou. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any other introductions? If not, we will move to the daily routine.





MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, yesterday there was a question in the House regarding the Employee Assistance Program. It is important, I think, that the importance of this program not be lost in the back and forth that is Question Period. This is an important program that was put together by managers of the Civil Service and at least two different union groups, so it is important that its importance not be overlooked or diminished in any way by any discussion we might have here within this Chamber.


[Page 736]

So I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, to say that I am informing the House of the creation of an Employee Assistance Program for civil servants. By establishing the Employee Assistance Program, the Government of Nova Scotia has recognized that a variety of personal problems can and do disrupt employees' personal and work lives. Employees with alcohol or drug addiction problems, emotional distress or family problems, need somewhere to turn. The Employee Assistance Program is designed to offer to provide confidential assistance to these employees.

The development of the Employee Assistance Program also makes good business sense. Absenteeism cost Canadian employers $15 billion in 1994. Absences from work for non-occupational reasons far outnumber absences related to on-the-job health and safety issues. The most common reasons for absenteeism are sickness, alcohol and drug related problems, relationship problems and casual absences. Employee assistance programs are effective in helping reduce sick leave costs and ensuring that we have a healthy and productive work force. Every single dollar spent on employee assistance programs can provide a cost benefit ratio of 1 to 6. That is an excellent return on investment, if one were to look at it that way, an investment in employees' health and well-being, an investment in helping our employees better serve the public.

I am proud to say that our government has introduced this Employee Assistance Program. It is long overdue, in fact. We are the last province in Canada to initiate an assistance program of this sort for employees. We also recognize that it is not only the employee that is affected by personal problems but so, too, is his or her family. Many problems, which can affect employee well-being and job performance, either originate in the home or impact upon home life. That is why the program has been designed for Nova Scotia Government employees and their immediate families.

It is essential that family members know that this program exists and how to access it, if and when they need it. To ensure that employees and their families are aware of the program, we have sent information directly to the employees homes. The cost of a stamp is a small investment to ensure that employees and their families know about this important program and know how they can access it.

Now, in the few days since we began informing employees about this program, which was last week, we have received many very positive responses. Already, employees and family members have called for information, advice and assistance.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the management and employee representative committee that helped develop the policy. The advisory committee to the Employee Assistance Program included representatives from management, from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and from the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The Employee Assistance Program is an important resource to have in place and I congratulate the employees, the managers and the union members who have worked to help establish this program for the good of all employees. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, first of all, this is a most unexpected ministerial statement, but I would suggest to the minister that the stress that he is trying to cure is emotional distress caused by the decline in morale and caused by the threat of a government layoff of 2,000 civil servants still to come.

[Page 737]

The minister didn't say in his statement, Mr. Speaker, as to what effect a refrigerator magnet will have on stress. I was hoping that he could have, at least, answered that question.

I would think that if the minister is worried about stress in the Civil Service that he would make a straightforward statement to employees regarding their future employment with this province. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome the statement by the minister and I also concur with the comments made by the previous speaker. We do, of course, live in very difficult times when there are all kinds of stresses and strains that are being placed on the family and the family unit. Some of those are as the result of societal pressures, there is no question, pressures that are above and beyond the control maybe of the government.

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, one of the most pressing stresses and strains upon public servants, who have served the people in this province extremely well throughout their working careers, has been their insecurity about what their future holds. Thousands of Nova Scotians who have dedicated their working lives to the people of this province are living under the constant threat that their employment could be ended at any time, with not only the direct effects upon them and their workplace but their ability to provide for the needs of their family.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that this program has been initiated but I would echo the comments made by the member for Hants West, that if, in fact, this government is truly committed to the employees of this province, the civil servants who this program is aimed at helping, it will ensure that those civil servants are going to be treated in a fair manner by this government instead of having the sledgehammer constantly waved over their head in terms of what their future employment prospects with this government are going to be. So, I welcome the program but I suggest that the government has got a long way to go yet if it truly wants to have an effective program to assist employees who are living in these very stressful times. Thank you.




MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.


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

Whereas the great strength of Nova Scotia's history has been the large number of independents in both processing and harvesting sectors; and

Whereas the federal government, effective May 1, 1996, is implementing a new fee structure for processing plants which will devastate independent Nova Scotia processors; and

[Page 738]

Whereas one small family-owned operation with six full-time and four additional part-time employees is facing an annual registration fee of $3,000;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature express to the federal government deepest concern with respect to the imposition of devastating DFO registration fees on Nova Scotia's processing sector.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[2:15 p.m.]


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

Whereas the Minister of Finance is in Ottawa today finalizing his back room deal with the federal government; and

Whereas despite clear promises to the contrary, made to Nova Scotians before the last election, the Minster of Finance is denying Nova Scotians an opportunity to provide public input into a proposed harmonization deal; and

Whereas the news media provided more specific details on the proposed deal than the Minister of Finance has in two weeks of questions in the Legislative Assembly;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the action of the Finance Minister, and his Cabinet colleagues, and urges them to follow the lead of the Government of Prince Edward Island who have agreed to seek and hear public input before committing to a deal that will affect every citizen of the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of the Technology and Science Secretariat.


HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 739]

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia believes in creating a firm foundation for economic growth and prosperity, leading into the 21st Century and has, therefore, joined in a public/private partnership for the creation of the Telecommunications Applications Research Alliance, called TARA; and

Whereas this research alliance will enable many Nova Scotian-based firms to develop new high-tech products and services for the benefit of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that this House fully supports this initiative and encourages the government to pursue other leading edge initiatives of this kind.

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 Hants West.


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

Whereas the Minister of Finance is presently en route to Ottawa to put his signature on a deal that he struck with his Liberal cousins that will significantly alter tax collection policies in this province; and

Whereas just two days ago, this same minister said in response to a question in this House, "It is improper for me to discuss this in any detail."; and

Whereas in typical Liberal fashion, this minister and this government refuse to provide Nova Scotians with any information whatsoever on how this new deal will affect them;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately release any and all studies, reports, analysis it has carried out on the effects this new tax will have on Nova Scotia taxpayers and businesses, on our provincial economy and on Nova Scotia's long-term fiscal position.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 740]


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

Whereas our Minister of Transportation and Public Works announced continued work on the Fleur-de-lis highway this year that will reach the Cape Breton County line; and

Whereas improvements to the road will eventually open up Louisbourg to traffic from the eastern route, thereby enhancing Cape Breton County's tourist potential; and

Whereas continued work on this project means jobs and improved infrastructure for the Cape Breton economy that will have a lasting economic impact;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature reaffirm our support for the Fleur-de-lis highway project.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas the Premier said in this Legislature on November 30th of last year, "We have succeeded in persuading people in Ottawa that the plight of people, particularly in rural and coastal communities, is at least being recognized."; and

Whereas over 100 seasonal workers in the Annapolis Valley gathered in front of the Kentville Law Courts, Monday evening, to protest the impact changes to Bill C-111 will have upon their families and themselves; and

Whereas the Chretien Government is rolling UI benefits back by $1.9 million this fiscal year, despite collecting at least $5 billion more than it will cost to run the program, at the same time forcing seasonal and rural workers to pay $220 more per year than is necessary to run the fund;

Therefore be it resolved that instead of pretending he has captured the ear of the Prime Minister and the federal Minister of Human Resources on changes to unemployment legislation, the Premier of this province admit what a dismal failure he and his government have been, and again begin the fight for the cause of the people who need it the most.

[Page 741]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.


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

Whereas Nova Scotia's Minister of Finance, better known as the casino gaming czar, was and obviously still is very much over his head with casino projections in December 1994; and

Whereas the minister's promise of thousands of construction jobs for Halifax is disappearing, just like so many of his government's promises made throughout the 1993 election campaign; and

Whereas the minister's promise of not allowing visitors to be enticed to casinos with free booze is also evaporating into a blanket of moist air;

Therefore be it resolved that if the Minister of Finance is now involved brokering new deals with ITT Sheraton, he broker a new deal that will get the Nova Scotia Government out of something that they should never have been involved in to begin with, the establishment of casinos.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


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

Whereas Canadian chartered banks are reporting even higher profits in the first quarter of 1996 than the over $5 billion they boasted about in 1995; and

Whereas these same banks, which contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly to the Liberal Party, continue to charge citizens interest rates on credit cards that are 12 percentage points higher than the bank rate; and

Whereas the federal Industry Minister denies a role in ending this predatory practice and says it is up to Canadians to push for lower credit card rates;

Therefore be it resolved that this House calls upon the Liberal Government to press their federal Liberal cousins to protect consumers against these obscene bank profits by initiating regulations to control and restrict the predatory interest rates charged by banks on credit cards.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 742]


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

Whereas the Bauer Theatre in Antigonish has announced details for major renovations; and

Whereas Festival Antigonish and Theatre Antigonish will work together to raise the $0.5 million in funding requirements; and

Whereas Festival Antigonish's 1995 season saw 16,000 people attend performances while bringing in approximately $2 million in spin-off revenue to the town;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate artistic director Addy Doucette and wish the festival every success in their four-year capital fund-raising campaigning.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, 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-Beaverbank.


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

Whereas next week is National Volunteer Week, a time when volunteers in Canada are recognized for their contributions of time and energy to community organizations; and

Whereas this morning a ceremony was held at the World Trade and Convention Centre honouring representative volunteers from each municipality; and

Whereas one of the volunteers honoured this morning was Foster Burke of Lower Sackville, who was chosen to represent his community in recognition of his many dedicated services to the young of his community as a baseball umpire and association organizer;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Mr. Burke and all other volunteers who serve our youth in this province in so many ways.

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

[Page 743]

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas the Minister of the Environment has awarded the tire recycling contract to a Manitoba-based company instead of a solid, state-of-the-art Nova Scotian company; and

Whereas the member for Colchester North says of the Nova Scotia company, "This is the company for the job and the one to do the job."; and

Whereas the member for Truro-Bible Hill has said of the Minister of the Environment's choice, "I think I would like my colleagues to revisit the awarding of the job.";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate these two members for standing up and supporting a Nova Scotia company and attempting to change the mind of the Minister of the Environment.

I ask for waiver of notice, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no unanimous consent.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.


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

Whereas it is essential that safety at sea is given the highest priority by emergency providers; and

Whereas this has been the case for over a decade with respect to the excellent service provided by the crew of the Port Mouton Coast Guard Station; and

Whereas the federal government is considering shutting down this station, in spite of the continuing need for its services and the fact that a new $100,000 station is all but completed in Port Mouton;

[Page 744]

Therefore be it resolved that the Legislature, through a letter from Mr. Speaker, urge the Government of Canada to maintain the Canadian Coast Guard Station at Port Mouton.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable to the House?

Do I hear a No?

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


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

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia contributes financially to the Canadian Red Cross under the National Blood Program; and

Whereas the Red Cross has paid $100,000 to its top employee to testify at the inquiry and $10.5 million in its defence before the Krever Inquiry; and

Whereas victims of the tainted blood scandal are being denied full participation in court proceedings around the Krever Inquiry;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia, as a partner and funder of the National Blood Program, exercise its right to accountability to ensure that government money is not being contributed to the Red Cross's bills for testimony and that the government ensure that the victims of the blood system are provided with funding to ensure their voices are heard.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


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

Whereas a study by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union shows that incidents of reported school violence against teachers has risen more than 28 per cent since a 1992 study; and

Whereas in an era of zero tolerance of violence, governments and school boards must foster and maintain a safe environment for students, staff and community; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is proposing to organize a provincial symposium to address violence in our schools;

[Page 745]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education acknowledge the problem of violence in the schools and its resultant damage to students, teachers and the learning process and commit to work with the NSTU and other community stakeholders to seek out solutions to this increasing problem.

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.

Are there further notices of motion? If there are none, I wish to advise the House that the Clerk conducted a draw this afternoon for the Adjournment debate at six o'clock. The winner today is the honourable member for Cape Breton West. He has submitted a resolution for debate:

Therefore be it resolved that the government act immediately to improve primary rural roads in Nova Scotia that are suffering from neglect.

So we will hear discussion of that matter at six o'clock this afternoon. That would appear to conclude the daily routine. We can now advance to the Orders of the Day. The time now being 2:29 p.m., the Oral Question Period can run until 3:29 p.m. today, one hour.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Deputy Premier. Now the Deputy Premier is aware, as all of us are, that there are reports now out of Ontario that three of the Atlantic Provinces have reached agreement with Ottawa on harmonization. The Minister of Finance is away today and has made a rush trip to Ottawa; so rushed, in fact, that no substitute was arranged for him in the Orders in Council of April 16th.

My question to the Deputy Premier. Will the Deputy Premier confirm that the Minister of Finance has gone to Ottawa to sign a deal, on behalf of the province, to merge the PST and the GST?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: I can confirm that he has gone to Ottawa but I can't confirm that he is there to sign a deal. I understand there are discussions on the harmonization but I can't say it is definite that he is going to sign any deal.

[Page 746]

[2:30 p.m.]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Premier is prepared to confirm that, in fact, the negotiations have reached the point that the Minister of Finance has gone to Ottawa. Does the Deputy Premier have any indication if the deal that is being discussed up there is one that will result in a 15 per cent tax which will return 8 per cent to the province and 7 per cent to the federal government? Is that the kind of deal that is being discussed in Ottawa today?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Finance has said in the House as recently as yesterday, there isn't a final deal and the details aren't worked out. As I am Acting Minister of Finance, I can't confirm what the Leader of the Opposition asked me to confirm. I don't know, the deal isn't finalized.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, again, to continue with the Deputy Premier. One of the concerns we have all had is the fact that no information has come forward from the Minister of Finance about this whole arrangement that is being negotiated with Ottawa. I presume discussions have gone on with members of Cabinet, including the Deputy Premier. Would the Deputy Premier, if he has been a participant in any of these discussions, be prepared to indicate how the loss of revenues to the province - to which the minister has previously made reference - are to be made up when the agreement is signed with Ottawa?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, although the Leader of the Opposition has not spent time in Cabinet, in the Executive Council and like some of his colleagues on the benches there, he knows I can't talk about what has gone on in Cabinet. The Minister of Finance has said that he will give a full reporting to the House about all these matters and he is back in Nova Scotia in the morning.

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question also through you to the Deputy Premier. We have attempted through debate in this House over the past three weeks to learn something, anything, about the back-room deal that is being cooked up between the federal government and the province over harmonizing the PST and the GST, a decision which will have an enormous impact on a lot of Nova Scotians and their families. We learned yesterday also that the Province of Prince Edward Island has agreed through a unanimous resolution in their Legislature to submit this issue to an all-Party select committee of the Legislature to hold hearings and seek input and advice from citizens of Prince Edward Island. I would like to ask the Deputy Premier if he could indicate to Nova Scotians why it is that they don't deserve the same kind of respect from this government that the Government of Prince Edward Island is showing the citizens of P.E.I. by asking for their input and prepare to give them some details on the impact of the PST/GST harmonization before a deal is done?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, it is difficult enough to govern one province without speaking for another. How P.E.I. deals with it and Newfoundland and New Brunswick and the other provinces of the country, I can't speak for what they have decided to do. The Minister of Finance said that whatever arrangements might be made that there will be a full accounting to the House and a full explanation. I am sure he is much more capable of doing that than I am.

[Page 747]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Premier is the Acting Premier, not the Deputy Premier, the Acting Premier. When the Premier is out of the province, he is acting as Acting Premier.

MR. CHISHOLM: He is also the Deputy Premier. Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary to the Acting Premier is that we have been trying to learn some details; Nova Scotians, through us have been trying to learn some details of what is being cooked up behind closed doors between the feds and the province. We have learned recently out of Saskatchewan that that province, that jurisdiction has concluded that even after deducting the federal bribe, the Province of Saskatchewan would lose $125 million a year . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I hesitate to interrupt, please. Bribery is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code. I would ask that that word be withdrawn, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me withdraw that and rephrase it and say that what some people have suggested amounts to a bribe from the federal government, the Province of Saskatchewan would lose $125 million a year over the next four years.

I would like to ask the Acting Premier if he does not think that such an impact is sufficiently significant to take this matter to Nova Scotians and get their input and seek their counsel on the way this government should proceed?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the member is comparing other provinces. The sales taxes range from no tax in Alberta to I think there is a 12 per cent tax - maybe it is Newfoundland - and you try to compare what might happen if there is harmonization. It is a mug's game. You just can't do it. I think the member would be better to have the Minister of Finance here tomorrow and in Question Period next week to have these questions answered.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Acting Premier is absolutely right, it is a mug's game and that is why Nova Scotians want some answers. Let's be clear that by Tuesday the deal will already have been done and this is the last chance that the people of Nova Scotia will have to ask this government for some answers.

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is the following. The Minister of Finance has talked about flexibility in here, that once this agreement in principle is signed, there will be some flexibility but again our understanding from other jurisdictions, the federal government has made it clear that there will be no flexibility on family essentials such as reading material and children's clothing.

My question to the Acting Premier, Mr. Speaker, can he pledge on behalf of the government that if an agreement in principle is signed that the province will not be forced, Nova Scotia will not be forced to impose an additional tax on children's clothing, reading material, feminine hygiene products, funerals and other life and death essentials? Can he and is he prepared to make that pledge on behalf of his government?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows full well it is not appropriate to answer hypothetical questions and I am not going to start now.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

[Page 748]


MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Acting Premier. The Acting Premier is also the Deputy Premier. He is also the Acting Minister of Finance and he was a former Finance Critic when the present government was in Opposition. So, therefore, I presume that the Acting Premier has some knowledge of what is on the table with regard to this deal that is being worked out with the federal government. I was wondering if the Acting Premier could advise the House as to what is on the table in this deal with the federal government for harmonization?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is right, I was, among those things, Finance Critic and I warned about the impending disaster financially under the Buchanan/Cameron Government - for all the good it did me. But, no, the details are not concluded and the Minister of Finance said he will give a full accounting to the House.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, last evening the member for Dartmouth-Colchester seemed to have a fairly good handle as to what was on the table.

MR. SPEAKER: Dartmouth-Colchester?

MR. RUSSELL: Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. Sorry about that. He described that what was on the table were principles. Now I am sure that the minister is as aware of what is on the table as the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, would he affirm that the discussion is based on principles?

MR. GILLIS: Of course whatever is decided will be on principles so it will be to the best benefit of the citizens and the taxpayers and the Government of Nova Scotia.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, I am glad that the Acting Premier understands that. I wonder, now, if he would enunciate what those principles are for the benefit of all members?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I said earlier, the Minister of Finance will give a full accounting of what is proposed and if it is agreed to, what will be agreed to and that will be done by the Minister of Finance. He said he would do it yesterday and previous days and I am sure he will.

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


MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Acting Premier as well. It is now clear that the Minister of Finance has been playing coy and cute with this House the last number of days, repeatedly saying such things as, if there is a deal and he said that as recently as 24 hours ago; and in the event there is a deal and he said that 24 hours ago. Hours after using lines like that in this place, to leave the impression with me, at least, who was putting the questions to him that, who knows whether there will be a deal, if there is going to be a deal. Well, he knew as he said those words that he was saying to me and he was saying to the Province of Nova Scotia that the deal was imminent. It is now clear that the deal is done, he is there now, I presume, signing the documents or working out further details of this (Interruptions) of this deal.

I ask the Acting Premier, Mr. Speaker, if he will confirm that one of the principles of the harmonization deal which his government is now executing with the Government of Canada will result in less provincial revenue being received by the Province of Nova Scotia from the Nova Scotian taxpayers? Will he confirm that is one of the principles?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, no, I can't confirm there is less revenue because as I said, to the best of my knowledge the deal is not concluded. The former minister, the member for Halifax Citadel [Page 749]

is saying he is signing the documents. To be honest, he is up there meeting and discussing but I am not aware of signing documents. Until any arrangement is made, who knows what the bottom line will be.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, that's the whole point. Who knows until the document is signed, aren't those interesting words, Mr. Speaker. Until the document is signed who will know. The last people to find out will be the people who will be most directly affected, the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia. That is the flaw in the process being undertaken here. It is just typical don't confuse me with the facts my mind is made up kind of approach that this government has taken to virtually everything else.

So, the Acting Premier does not know. He has acknowledged here today that he doesn't know whether or not one of the principles involved is that the province will realize less in revenue by way of tax payments by Nova Scotian taxpayers. By way of first supplementary, may I ask the Acting Premier if he knows this, will he confirm that one of the principles of this harmonization deal is that the Government of Canada will, because it is a fact that the Province of Nova Scotia will receive less tax revenue from its own taxpayers, that the Government of Canada is committing to make a compensatory payment to the Province of Nova Scotia to make up the shortfall, so that, for all intents and purposes, it will be a balance on the books of the Province of Nova Scotia, a balance on the books of the Minister of Finance? Is that one of the principles of this deal?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I can't talk about the deal because I don't know the details of the deal. I have said repeatedly, that the Minister of Finance will give that information and he is back here tomorrow. But I am also glad, before I take my place, the member for Halifax Citadel is expressing concern about the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, it is too bad that during 15 years that he was a member of the Treasury benches he didn't have more concern while they were running up the $9 billion debt. (Applause)

MR. DONAHOE: It is even sorrier and sadder that this government has run it up at the rate of $1 billion a year since it has been on the government benches. (Interruptions) $1 billion a year since you have been there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. Order, please. Order in the House.

Carry on.

MR. DONAHOE: By way of final supplementary to the Acting Premier, I wonder if the Acting Premier will explain to the House how this harmonization deal which I am sure he has discussed with some precision with the Minister of Finance, can the Acting Premier please explain to this House and to Nova Scotians how this can possibly be a good deal for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia if, as acknowledged, it is now clear that the revenue received by the Nova Scotia Department of Finance will be less from the Nova Scotia taxpayers and those same Nova Scotia taxpayers will be having other of their tax monies used, namely Paul Martin will be sending Nova Scotia taxpayers' money back down to Finance Minister Boudreau to

[Page 750]

make up the shortfall, how, in the face of those circumstances, can the Acting Premier explain to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that there is any possible advantage to them in this shell game called harmonization?

MR. GILLIS: If the deal is concluded, the Minister of Finance said that he will explain the advantages to Nova Scotia. He has said it will be a win situation for Nova Scotia taxpayers and the citizens and the Government of Nova Scotia.

[2:45 p.m.]

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


MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is also to the Acting Premier. One of the reasons we are talking so much about harmonization is it is supposed to be a streamlining of services. I wonder if the minister will confirm that the new tax will reduce the number of people who are employed in the Finance Department of this province?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Again we are into a hypothetical question, if the deal is signed, will there be a reduction? I am sure when the Minister of Finance returns and if there is any arrangement, he will explain all these matters. I think it is appropriate for the member to wait until that time.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the federal government wants to be the collector of the new tax. My question to the minister is, will the new tax be collected by the GST department that is located in Summerside, P.E.I., and create a loss of jobs for more Nova Scotians, which is a record that this government has a real high range on because they have lost more jobs in the last two months than most people have in the last 10 years?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to try to answer a question as to whether there will be a loss of jobs and whether the people collecting the GST will collect it. We have to get the information, whether or not it is a deal, and then the Minister of Finance will tell what the arrangements are, collections, if that happens and at that time.

MR. MACLEOD: Surely a study must have been done to find out just how many people would be affected by this new tax and how many jobs would be lost. My question to the minister would be, have they identified the number of positions that would be lost the day that this agreement is signed?

MR. GILLIS: You have to look at it the other way; if it isn't signed there will obviously be no loss of jobs. So I think the honourable member should be patient and wait. The Minister of Finance will be back tomorrow and he told us he would give a full accounting to the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 751]


MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Acting Premier, the Acting Minister of Finance. It is a pity that the Minister of Finance isn't here, it is a greater pity that the Premier isn't here to answer these questions. In the absence of those two people, I would like to ask the Acting Premier, standing in for the Minister of Finance this afternoon, with the thought in mind that this is Volunteer Week, so if we think of the greatest volunteers in the province as being the volunteer firefighters, if the minister could tell us whether the exemption that the volunteer firefighters enjoy from the provincial sales tax will be changed under harmonization so that they will have to begin paying this harmonized 15 per cent tax? Or is this government going to continue to look after the volunteer fire services throughout the province and make sure they are not gouged by taxes by this government?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat that there is no decision so there is no point talking about exemptions or the impact on anyone. We have to wait until we find out if there is an arrangement and those questions, if a deal is arrived at, would have to be answered at that time.

MR. ARCHIBALD: You know, it is very shocking to members of the Legislature and, I am sure, to the general public, that we have a man standing in the guise of the Premier and the Minister of Finance and he says he doesn't know the details. Well, I am going to give it another try. At the present time farmers are exempt from paying the provincial sales tax for implements, tractors, repair parts and bailer twine, as my colleague says. Will this exemption continue if there is a harmonized tax?

MR. GILLIS: To put it another way for the honourable member, if there is no agreement then I am sure the exemptions will continue.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I think that this being the last Question Period before Tuesday when this agreement is supposed to be signed, apparently, I would like the minister to view it with as much seriousness as I do. At the present time a farmer purchasing a tractor with more than 60 horsepower does not pay the hospital tax but if he purchases a 60 horsepower tractor or less he does, in fact, pay the GST. Tractors above 60 horsepower are exempt. I would like to know from this minister, where is the exemption going to be when this harmonization takes over? Has the minister even thought of any of these details that are going to be so concerning to Nova Scotians? When does the tax take place for a farm tractor?

MR. SPEAKER: All right, the questions have been asked, two questions.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Does he know anything at all . . .

MR. SPEAKER: That last question will be stricken from the record.

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, there isn't an arrangement but no reasonable person would expect a person who is standing in for the Minister of Finance to know this anyway. So, the Minister of Finance is doing his job, he is in Ottawa representing Nova Scotia but I guess that is not good enough for the honourable member. (Interruptions)

[Page 752]

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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a question through you to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The government has entered into an agreement with Newcourt Credit Group to finance $61 million of the Highway No. 104, western alignment route. We know that the last provincial short-term bond was floated at the rate of 7 per cent and the last long-term provincial bond was floated at 8.7 per cent. Could the minister tell us how much Nova Scotians are going to be paid in the rate of interest for the monies that Newcourt Credit Group are going to be putting forward for that project?

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that the financial agreement with Newcourt has not been finalized at this point, so no, I can't tell him that at this point.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the minister, of course, will know that Newcourt is bragging and saying that the profits will go up by 41 per cent next year. I don't know how that is going to affect the remuneration of the poor president who only made $4.1 million last year, I don't know how much the profits will increase the salaries there next year but I would ask the minister quite simply this, given the fact that they are saying that the rates are going to be at least 10 per cent and probably 12 per cent for that, why it is that the government has decided to fund this privately knowing that that is going to cost anywhere between $1 million to $2 million more a year to Nova Scotians or if we put it in the long-term, between $30 million to $60 million in additional costs?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, this is the member opposite, I believe, that had a press conference about one month ago and said, ignore the debt, ignore the deficit and we will worry about that on a later date. He wants to take all projects, he doesn't want anything to do with public/private partnerships, he doesn't want anything to do with private sector involvement in provision of services and the provision of infrastructure in this province. He would rather add it all to the provincial debt and drive it up further. Does he think for one moment that you can continue to pile on to the provincial debt and that it is not going to have an impact. That is what is providing the difficulties in this province and has forced us to seek public/private partnerships and to seek innovative initiatives to deal with this type of issue.

Newcourt is one of the top financial institutions in the U.S. and they have said - and these members opposite have criticized the fact that Newcourt has said - that Nova Scotia is on the leading edge in North America of public/private partnering and pay as you go. That is something that is going to provide an impetus to bring other companies to this province, companies that want to come and do business in this province, to bring their money to this province and to provide infrastructure, provide services, that the people of Nova Scotia are asking for.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder that Newcourt would say that Nova Scotia is on the leading edge when they are anticipating that they are going to have profits for their private company go up by 41 per cent because they know that this government is easy pickings. The minister says that we are not concerned about the debt when all this government is trying to do is hide the true cost, the true debts onto the books of their private companies.

[Page 753]

My question to the minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, is quite simply this. How much more is this government prepared to force Nova Scotians to pay in the long term in terms of increased costs, or I should say in favour of this government's short-term political advantage it hopes to gain by pretending it has a balanced budget by hiding the true cost onto the books of the private partners?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, any capital funding that is provided, whether it is for roads, schools, jails, the hospitals in this province, becomes a part of the provincial debt. The cost of servicing that debt goes on and on. That debt has grown to $9 billion. If the member opposite has found a new way to borrow an additional $55 million or $60 million and not have it be a cost to the people of (Interruption) not going to be a cost to the people of Nova Scotia for many years, amortized over many years, then I would like to come and have him help me with my own personal finances. If he can find a way to borrow money that the people of Nova Scotia are not going to have to pay back over a period of years, please tell us how we would do that.

Mr. Speaker, the public, the Province of Nova Scotia, is putting $55 million into this project. The rest will be provided by the private sector. That $55 million is going to see a road built much sooner, a safer highway, a highway that will be maintained, snow and ice control will be provided, it will be resurfaced twice over the life for that $55 million public input; it is the best deal this province has gotten in a long time on road construction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Acting Premier. With the Premier out of the province for the last few days, the Acting Premier is, in essence, the head of the Government of Nova Scotia. Has the Acting Premier - now that he has acknowledged in the House he has no idea of any of the details of the harmonization plan that is being discussed in Ottawa - authorized the Minister of Finance to sign an agreement in Ottawa without coming back to the Cabinet and discussing the whole matter with Cabinet, and with the total government and the people on the backbenches of the Liberal Party? Does the Minister of Finance have authorization to sign that agreement without reporting back to the Acting Premier?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I did not say I did not know some information on harmonization; that is what the Leader of the Opposition is saying. The Minister of Finance is dealing within his authority as Minister of Finance. To my knowledge, he has not signed the deal, but that is not to say he does not have the authority to do that and it is not for me to contradict him as Acting Premier.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, what the Acting Premier seems to have just said is that he does not think that the Minister of Finance does not have the authority. Then, may I ask the Acting Premier, does the Minister of Finance have the authority in Ottawa to sign an agreement on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia, when the Acting Premier has admitted he does not know any of the details of the arrangement that is being discussed in Ottawa?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Opposition said that I did not know some of the details. I do know some of the discussions that have been held in Cabinet because I am there. I did not say I did not know that, and the Minister of Finance has certain authorities given to him under the Provincial Finance Act and I assume it would include coming to an arrangement. That has not been done and, as I understand it, whatever happens, the Minister of Finance will fully inform the House and the citizens of Nova Scotia.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of supplementary with the Acting Premier. The Acting Premier has said in essence now that he does have some details and he seems to be saying that the Minister of Finance does have authority to sign an arrangement that will commit the province to harmonization. Well, if the Acting Premier has details, then I ask the Acting Premier, does the Minister of Finance have authority, on behalf of this province, to sign, in Ottawa, an agreement that allows the taxing of children's clothes?

[Page 754]

MR. SPEAKER: Well, now this question sounds to me like a request for a legal opinion and we know that Beauchesne states that that type of question is out of order. The honourable Acting Premier may respond if he wishes, but it is the duty of the Chair to uphold the rules and the rules do state that a question asking a legal opinion of a minister is out of order.

MR. GILLIS: I assume that if you were to take a hypothetical example, the answer would be he would have that authority, but you are trying to get in the substance of it and as I have said, the Minister of Finance will report to the House and the citizens of Nova Scotia at the earliest possible date.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.


MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you, is for the Minister of Health. The minister will remember, when he introduced the Emergency Health Services Act in 1994, I believe, he made commitments and promises in this House to the ambulance operators and owners around the province that they would have a significant role to play in the new emergency health system in this province. I think that was his commitment.

It is my understanding from talking to ambulance operators that they have not been kept in the loop with what is happening and they feel very much that the system is trying to shove them out. Will the minister confirm that Mr. Jack Stout of Baltimore has been brought in to put together, or will be brought in, a tender that will go out and force ambulance operators as individuals to close shop and bid as one company, and could he indicate how much that will cost?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the honourable member opposite to set the record straight. He is labouring under, certainly, some misinformation. I committed to this place and to the Ambulance Operators Association of Nova Scotia that we would, in fact, as the Ministry of Health and as the Government of Nova Scotia, work closely with them over the last period of two years to put into place a new and very advanced emergency health services system. We have kept that promise. We have, in fact, consulted at every step of the way with the Ambulance Operators Association.

Now if there are particular ambulance operators who feel they are out of the loop, they must speak to the president, the executive and the Ambulance Operators Association. The president of the organization has been consistently present at negotiations and at discussions

[Page 755]

as to the best way to go. We have shared all of the details with them. We have, in fact, been diligent in every respect and transparent in our objectives.

So to set that record straight, in respect to hiring or tendering out, we have not done that yet. That is an ongoing discussion with both the Ambulance Operators Association and with the Ministry of Health.

MR. MOODY: Well, I will quote later on some of the ambulance operators who feel that they haven't been in the loop. My first supplementary to the Minister of Health is, it is my understanding in listening to what Jack Stout has said and Mike Murphy that if a tender is put together - and I understand that there is talk of putting this out to tender - that if this is put together, the ambulance operators in this province, without somebody like a Mr. Jack Stout or some other American guru in emergency services, could not be successful in bidding on this contract. Will the minister confirm that there is no one in Nova Scotia capable of putting together such a system to meet his vision of emergency health service in Nova Scotia?

DR. STEWART: Well, Mr. Speaker, in fact we have consistently maintained that it will not go out to tender if the Ambulance Operators Association put together a system which reflects the basics of the Murphy Report and we are negotiating, discussing with them, working closely with them, to aid them in developing a proposal. We have kept our commitment to this regard. Whether they asked the advice of a given consultant on this particular, high performance system that was designed in the Murphy Report, whether they do that, that is certainly their choice.

We brought in a consultant, the one whom we felt was most qualified to aid them in their presentations, to allow them help in proposing to us the system that they would design and we will continue to work with them. There does not have to be any specific person involved. There is no one in Nova Scotia who has experience in high performance systems design - we know that - but we have gone to England. (Interruption) No, I am not in any regard an expert in system design nor is Dr. Murphy, but we have brought in people from England, we have brought in people from New Zealand and Australia and we have brought in people from across Canada as well as the U.S. We have done so to allow them to prepare a proposal. That is what we have committed to and that is what we will continue to commit to.

MR. MOODY: I have copies of a letter that Mike Murphy sent out to the operators to invite them to a seminar, that turned out to be something different than a seminar, where they were told that if they needed someone like Mr. Jack Stout to put this together - at that time Mr. Jack Stout wanted 15 per cent of the company - the minister has said that he can't do both, put the proposal together and be part of the company.

I would ask, is it the minister's intention now to ask someone like Jack Stout to put together such a tender proposal for the ambulance operators to bid on? Is it his intention to put something together or is it his intention that the ambulance operators come back to him within six months with their proposal? Which is it?

DR. STEWART: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is our intent to continue to work with the ambulance operators, for them to put together a proposal that we think would fulfil the requirements of a high performance system. We will continue to work with them. There is no restraint on them whatsoever. They can decline this offer, they have not. They have been very cooperative and helpful and we have been working well together. We will continue to take that approach.

[Page 756]

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


MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, for the Minister of Health, I quote one of the ambulance operators about the seminar that he was asked to attend. He thought it was a seminar but it certainly didn't turn out to be a seminar. The ambulance operator said that it would be demoralizing for sure to think they would just automatically walk in and say that this is the way it is going to be and you are either going to play my game or we are all through playing. In other words, the ambulance operators were told by Dr. Mike Murphy at that seminar that they either play his game or they are out of business.

My question to the Minister of Health, it is my understanding that the operators have been given six months to put together this proposal. At the end of six months if they can't meet the criteria and the vision that the minister has to run this high performance, emergency health system in the province, then it will go out for public tender where an American company can, in actual fact, come in and bid on such a tender.

HON. RONALD STEWART: First of all, Mr. Speaker, we held several seminars. I am not specifically informed on the one to which the honourable member refers, but we went in and laid down the rules and regulations that were obtained and agreed to in the Murphy Report. That is what we said: we will have x or y standards, we will have accountability, we will have training, we will have equipment, we will have new ambulances.

If that is considered by some people to be dictating, then so be it, but we will focus on the standards and on the quality of service provided in this province. We will not shrink from that, we will not apologize for that and we will not shrink from bending some noses out of shape, if that is the interpretation. I am most distressed that someone would say that we were dictating. I would hardly say it is dictation; after any seminars we had, we went and sat around the table to propose the possibilities that could allow them to participate and we continue to do that.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, the Ambulance Operators Association has been very cooperative and helpful in going forward with the vision that has been agreed to, that we have put on the table. We continue with this and we will continue with that.

MR. MOODY: Thank you very much. They are so cooperative that many of them are afraid to give their names because of reprisals from this government.

I would ask the minister, since Mr. Jack Stout from Baltimore has indicated that he has been approached now by this government, by the Department of Health, to put together a tender proposal for the present ambulance operators and, he has indicated, at a cost of $350,000 U.S., which is equivalent to $500,000 Canadian, would the minister confirm that there are discussions going on with Mr. Jack Stout to put together such a proposal for his department in dealing with the ambulance operators of this province?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, we are discussing the tender proposal. If the operators agree that they can fulfil the requirements of the proposals and the standards we set, we don't specifically dictate to them as to whom they might have helping them do any proposal and we will not do that. We will, however, look for the best people we can get to put together proposals. We have not signed anything. We have not even discussed contracts in terms of the specifics, and any kind of speculation in that regard I will not give credit to.

[Page 757]

MR. MOODY: I will ask the minister, in a final supplementary, why in actual fact at that seminar did Mike Murphy also indicate to the ambulance operators that unless they had somebody like Jack Stout set up their business - and he wanted 15 per cent - that they would not be able to put a proposal together and, in actual fact, they would end up out of business unless they took somebody like Jack Stout into the company. I call this tailgating. I would ask the minister, will he ensure Nova Scotians that in no way will Jack Stout end up with the business, or any American company will end up in the business, and that the ambulance operators in this province will be given a fair opportunity to make sure that they, not Americans come here to operate our ambulance system in this province?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I have no difficulty whatsoever in agreeing that the Ambulance Operators Association of Nova Scotia will be given prime consideration. In fact, for the last year they have been given that. (Interruption) We have been working toward that in this regard. If we did it any other way, if in any other aspect we would be working with a group of private business to go forward with a common solution, we would be accused by that member opposite of sole-sourcing. Now, you cannot have it both ways. We are working hard with this group of hard-working individuals called the Ambulance Operators Association, they have given us assurances that they will go forward with us, with the vision that has been put on the table. We commit to that and we hope certainly that they will come up with the proposal that we would anticipate.

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


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The minister said last year, and once again this year at the Nova Scotia Safety Council meeting in Truro, that changes will be undertaken relative to seniors' driving privileges. As the minister will remember, his comments last year angered a number of seniors in this province. Once again this year, the minister refused to be specific. I would like the minister to tell this House and all Nova Scotians and, more specifically, seniors, what type of recommendations the Nova Scotia Senior Citizens Secretariat and the Registry of Motor Vehicles are considering for the seniors in this province relative to their drivers' licenses?

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that this morning we met with the Safe Driving Committee from the seniors group that has worked on this, (Applause) who have worked with us on this. They thanked us for the involvement we have had with them. They pointed out, unlike the member opposite, that last year they went out and got a transcript of my remarks and have actually got it on tape and have played it for the seniors. So the honourable member opposite can suggest things that I said or didn't say, but what happened as a results of remarks I did make and some follow-up to it is that we did put together a committee.

We put together a committee led by the Nova Scotia Senior Citizens Secretariat, involving other organizations. The seniors said that they have learned a great deal through this, just as the department has learned a great deal through this. As a result they did make recommendations to us back last November, I believe, Mr. Speaker. With the registrar and with the Honourable James Smith, the Minister for the Nova Scotia Senior Citizens Secretariat, we took a look at the recommendations made. I am happy to say that many of those with respect to processes, with respect to education, with respect to awareness have been

[Page 758]

implemented. There are others in various stages of follow-up and the work continues with the seniors. We are very pleased with the results that have taken place over the past year.

The member says he was there when I made those remarks last year. He will know then that the comments made clearly stated that we did not have a plan to impose arbitrarily, measures on any senior citizen. That, in fact, anything we did we would do in conjunction with the seniors and, Mr. Speaker, we have lived up to that commitment.

I would also suggest that subsequent questions on this may be referred to the person who is responsible for the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services. (Interruptions)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Leader of the Third Party, I was listening very intently to the minister's response, but the minister certainly did indicate last spring that mandatory re-testing and other restrictions on elderly drivers would be imposed by his department. I will table the document here.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Very well, the document is tabled.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, will the minister confirm that his department is not considering mandatory re-testing and other restrictions for elderly drivers in this province?

MR. MANN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that we are not considering mandatory re-testing of seniors; never have.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his response because there are a number of seniors in this province who are very concerned. Now, the minister is on record as saying that changes will increase safety awareness and provide educational opportunities for older drivers. This is fine to say but can the minister provide some examples and will he table some details before the day is out, relative to the increase in safety awareness and measures that he will be taking to help educate the seniors in this province?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite, if he would listen, I think we just told him there were never any plans for mandatory re-testing. The department has never had the financial resources to even entertain such a proposal. The recommendations from the seniors were for increased awareness, for increased education and for advertising. What the department has done, and what the department under the new minister - and he can speak for himself - continues to do is to seek our partners, the Nova Scotia Safety Council, insurance companies, who also have a vested interest in such matters, and to work with them, to do exactly what seniors have asked us to do - to provide opportunities for increased awareness, increased education, increased advertising. Anything that will make the highways safer, we will continue to work with them to do that.

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Acting Premier. I preface my comments by recognizing the fact that the deal with respect to the harmonization of the PST and the GST will be inked by Tuesday. We will have no other opportunities to ask questions on the impact and any possible details of this deal before then.

I want to ask the Acting Premier, the proposal being put to the provinces by the federal government, Mr. Speaker, eliminates provincial taxation on business inputs and operating costs, creating in some jurisdictions - and I use Saskatchewan as an example - savings of $400 million in direct taxes to business. [Page 759]

I want to ask the Acting Premier if he could confirm and produce for this House any evidence that the Cabinet of Nova Scotia has received to indicate what kind of comparable savings the business community can expect from this sales harmonization proposal?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is getting into the details of the matter and as I indicated earlier, there has been no deal finished as far as I know. I can't talk about any Cabinet discussions that there may have been and moreover, he says he assumes, as if it is gospel, that if there is a deal, that it will be signed by Tuesday but I don't think the member can assume that.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can't assume very much with this government. We have heard this government indicate in this House (Interruptions) over the past three weeks that there is not going to be any deal, but then we hear from the federal government, in fact, that there is going to be a deal and it is coming down on Tuesday and that is why the Minister of Finance isn't here where he should be to answer questions that Nova Scotians have relative to this change. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, clearly the proposal from the federal government . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Excuse me. Order. Sit down.

There have been objections raised in the House to some of the terminology employed by the honourable member. Points of order are not permissible in Question Period. It is the duty of the Speaker (Interruptions)

You hear what I say. It is the duty of the Speaker to enforce order and those disrespectful references to the Minister of Finance should be withdrawn.

MR. CHISHOLM: I would appreciate, Mr. Speaker, if you would take the opportunity to review Hansard, and if at that point you decide that I have made disrespectful remarks with respect to the Minister of Finance (Interruptions) I would be happy to withdraw them, but I did not make those and I would ask you to check Hansard in order to confirm that.

MR. SPEAKER: We will take it up at the end of Question Period.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary is to the Acting Premier. The proposal on sales tax harmonization clearly is meant to provide businesses in this province with a significant tax break. I would like to ask the Acting Premier if he could indicate to this House what evidence he or his government has that this is the best way to provide tax breaks to business, through sales tax harmonization?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is asking me to comment on what may or may not be in the agreement if it is signed and what so-called breaks there might be for businesses. I can't get into that. We are all in favour of successful small businesses and business generally for workers and jobs and all of that. We have to see the whole picture and

[Page 760]

the Minister of Finance promised to brief the citizens of Nova Scotia and all members whenever it is arrived at in his negotiations.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just say that as a member of this Legislature, I find it absolutely irresponsible and atrocious that a plan is being proposed that is going to be inked on Tuesday and the minister responsible can't even answer any questions about that proposal.

My final question to the Acting Premier is the following, we are talking about a huge shift of tax burden from the business community onto individual taxpayers and families in the Province of Nova Scotia. I would like the Acting Premier to give some indication here in this House that he and his colleagues have received any evidence at all to indicate that this, in fact, is in the best interest of the economy in Nova Scotia and is it going to do anything to create jobs?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance and the Premier before the Minister of Finance has said that any arrangement that might be signed on harmonization will be in the interest of the citizens and the taxpayers and the people of Nova Scotia. To start speculating on bits and pieces is probably, to use the member's words, irresponsible. In that other regard, we will get a full accounting of this material.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of the Environment had an opportunity to review the conditions under which he allowed and recommended permitting of the Wimpey pit area in Stellarton. He will remember very clearly that the Environmental Review Board which had four days of hearings in Stellarton heard over 90 witnesses, had 14 submissions, recommended clearly that it would be an obligation and a requirement that the operator of the Wimpey pit project would pay to the Town of Stellarton, $2 per ton and the minister failed to act on that recommendation. My question to the minister, and I asked yesterday that the minister review his position on this, is this minister now prepared to recommend to the operator of the Wimpey pit project a compensation package to the Town of Stellarton comparable to that which was recommended by the Environmental Assessment Board?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, no. My position is unchanged from where it was when we last conversed with the honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, that is very distressing. It is the Minister of the Environment that must protect the people of the province in this regard and the minister has failed in his responsibility to listen to the advice from the Environmental Review Board, the board to which he refers so many times when it is in his interest to follow the recommendations of the board. By way of a supplementary, I provided yesterday to the minister the letters that I wrote to the minister on January 15th and January 25th, outlining clearly my recommendations as to how the people in the neighbourhood of the Wimpey pit project should be treated, that it involve fair compensation and a fair offer to purchase properties. Having had the opportunity to review those recommendations, is this minister prepared to recommend to the company that it follow the recommendations that I provided to the minister back in January to treat the people of Evansville and Foster Avenue fairly, those residents who will be severely impacted for the next 13 years by that operation in their neighbourhood?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, as I made the commitment to the honourable Leader back in January, we met early in February with the proponent on a breakfast occasion. We did relay the information, as I promised I would. I told the honourable Leader that I would not force the hand of the proponent nor the municipality but I shared with the proponent that information, as I committed that I would. What he has decided to do with it is entirely in his hands.

[Page 761]

We would not, Mr. Speaker, and I repeat, go beyond the legal advice that we received. That is not my responsibility, to force the hand of either the proponent or the municipality.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am not asking the minister to force anybody's hand, I am asking the minister to protect the residents of the Town of Stellarton and it is his duty to do that.

By way of final supplementary to the minister, the fox guarding the chickens approach to the monitoring of the dust created by this project, the monitoring will be carried out by the operator of the pit mine, it is entirely unsatisfactory. It didn't work in Westville, it won't work in Stellarton. The Town of Stellarton have publicly agreed that, with the minister's permission, they will handle the monitoring of the dust situation in Stellarton. Is this minister prepared to turn over dust monitoring at the Wimpey pit project to the Town of Stellarton, to assure that impartiality will prevail, in the terms of controlling dust in this particular project?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, we have acted on the recommendation of the board in that regard and we have put in place those efforts that will monitor and control dust and, if you will, mitigate the troubles that dust does cause. I outlined yesterday afternoon in debate that we had requirements that required the washing of trucks when they were hauling the extraction of the ground, if you will; we have requirement for portions of roadways to be paved where the trucks are operating. We went as far as to ban the operation during the months of July and August, when it is hot and dry.

Mr. Speaker, we have fulfilled our commitment to protect the environment and the lifestyle of those people, through the 60 conditions that were added to the environmental assessment release. We stand by that because we have worked in consultation with the community. The citizens' liaison committee has been formed in conjunction with the proponent and there is always consultation between our department and that operation. We are satisfied that to this date things are working as they are planned to work.

MR. SPEAKER: We have one minute remaining. The honourable member for Pictou West.



MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I will try to put my question and supplementals all together since there is only a minute left. The minister had called a tender for the by-pass, the Salt Springs underpass on Highway No. 104 recently, in March, and I appreciate that that tender

[Page 762]

was called. Could the minister outline for us what his plans are for tenders on that by-pass between Salt Springs and the Westville Road on Highway No. 104?

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr Speaker, the member is correct, we did call a tender for two sections of Pictou County, I believe in the member's riding, for interchange structures and grading projects. I believe that contract has been awarded to Dexter Construction, if I am not mistaken. There are two tenders which I believe I have signed off on; one for one section from I believe it is Sweet Brook to Salem Road, for some grading and a box culvert; another tender for two more sections, for grading and paving in the Callan Street realignment and the ramps in that area and the detour of Callan Street, so that work can go forward.

There are other projects proposed for this year's budget, which would include the Hamilton Road overpass structure and grading and approaches; the Lime Rock underpass structure and grading, from Graham Brook to Lime Rock Road; the realignment of Lovett Road; the Pleasant Valley Road overpass structure and grading; the realignment of Ross Road; the westerly ramps and grade adjustment at Pleasant Valley Road; and the West River structure and approaches, probably totalling about $14 million worth of work in the member's riding.

MR. MCINNES: When does the minister expect that that by-pass would be completed? (Interruption)

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, everyone will want to ask questions about that now. As I indicated, we will be doing approximately $14 million worth of work this year. It is anticipated next year that the remainder of the funds in the SHIP agreement that are allocated to that section of road, that the tenders will be called for them. As the member would know, under the SHIP agreement, it expires at the end of 1997. There is, however, an allowance for what they refer to as a mop-up for tenders that are called in 1996 and not completed, that they can be completed in that year.

One of the problems, again, that arises as you sign a SHIP agreement in 1993 and allocate funds to that for specific projects, that by the time you reach 1998 the cost of the project may in fact have changed. So, in fact, there may be a shortfall in the SHIP agreement for the by-pass from Salt Springs to Alma that we are presently discussing with the federal government and looking at in-house. We would like to see the project, for the most part, completed by the end of 1997 but more likely it will be completed and open for traffic in 1998.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired. Actually, it had expired two minutes ago but there appeared to be a consensus in the House that it would be all right not to keep an eye on the clock.

MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I just want to rise on a point of order. During Question Period, there was a fair amount of dialogue back and forth on the floor in which, at one point, an honourable member challenged this side of the House to stand on a point of order during Question Period. I just want to raise the question for the House, I think it is the accepted custom that given we have a time period during Question Period, we do not raise points of order during Question Period. We can raise them immediately after.

[Page 763]

That leads me to the actual point. There was reference made to the absence of a specific member. The rules in Beauchesne specifically forbid that. It is a custom in this House and it is, perhaps, a courtesy in this House not to call attention to members who are absent.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Technology and Science Secretariat.

HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I wanted to comment on that very point. When I did rise during the Question Period, it was not on a point of order, it was going to be on a point of privilege because it is the privilege of all members of this House to have the debate in this House conducted according to the agreed upon rules and procedures, parliamentary rules and procedures, as adopted by the House. The violation of the Rules and Forms of Procedure of this House is a violation of the privilege of the House and each of the members of the House. Rising on a point during Question Period is not necessarily rising on a point of order but possibly rising on a point of the violation of the privilege of a member of this House.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, had I realized that members opposite would respond so positively to my request that they stand on a point of order, then perhaps I would have made it more clear that it would have to be done according to the rules, after Question Period. But I do appreciate the obvious respect they are showing me, since I did ask them to rise on a point of order, they have felt inclined to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: I don't want this to degenerate into too broad a discussion.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Just very briefly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, very briefly.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, one of the references, I believe, of course, that members have taken exception to is the fact that reference was made to a member who was not present in the House. I don't know how one can indeed ask questions of a member if that member is not in the House and if you have acting persons or acting ministers responding for the member who is absent, obviously it is quite clear who is not present.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: I have no difficulty agreeing with the last speaker. Obviously, if you have an Acting Minister, it pretty well draws to the attention of everyone that the minister is not here.

I think, in fact, the reference that was made that drew the ire perhaps was a suggestion that the Minister of Finance was not doing his job because he was not here. In fact, anyone, I think, with a tad of common sense would suggest that the Minister of Finance's job would also include being in Ottawa and meeting with the federal Minister of Finance on matters that are going to have an impact on the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 764]

MR. SPEAKER: If I might attempt to bring this matter to a conclusion. I believe that the reference in Beauchesne to which several honourable members have referred is that found on Page 141 of the Sixth Edition under the heading of Content of Speeches which, I think, is in the Chapter entitled, Rules of Debate. It would certainly cover anything said in the House and it states that it has been sanctioned by usage. That means that it has been the custom and the tradition and the precedent within the House of Commons in Ottawa that a member, while speaking - which I would assume would mean asking or answering an question - must not ". . . refer to the presence or absence of specific Members.".

Now, exactly what that means, I am not able to state. I think it would require considerable research to give a definitive homily on just exactly what that means in terms of application. Obviously, if the Premier is out of the province on business, the Executive Council appoints an Acting Premier, which is the Deputy Premier, to serve as Premier here in Nova Scotia while the Premier is out of the province. It does not mean that the Premier ceases to be Premier, he still is Premier, but the Acting Premier acts as Premier here in the House while the Premier is away.

If an honourable member wishes to call attention to that situation, as I just now have, and someone wanted to state I thereby violated the provisions of Beauchesne, I would plead not guilty. I think it would mean that this ought not to be done in a disrespectful way or to suggest some dereliction of duty. I am sure that those inferences, if made, would be regrettable to all honourable members of the House upon reflection.

The honourable Government House Leader.

Is this a further submission or are we moving on now to Government Business?

HON. RICHARD MANN: No, he apologized, I accepted, and we are ready to move on. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: All right, before we move on, the honourable member for Cape Breton South wishes to make an introduction.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Thank you. On an introduction through you and to the members of the House, I take pleasure in introducing a citizen from Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, from your constituency, and a distinguished musician and a good friend of mine by the name of John Aucoin. I would ask Johnny to stand and receive the wishes of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I am certain we would all like to welcome Mr. Aucoin here this afternoon. Good to see you, John.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, before I call Government Business, I understand we have a distinguished guest in your gallery, the distinguished Warden of Inverness County, Eddie MacDonald, Red Eddie as we affectionately call him. I cannot see him, but I understand he is up there.

MR. SPEAKER: Oh, he is certainly there.

[Page 765]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Government Business.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 8.

Bill No. 8 - Court and Administrative Reform Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Now the debate was adjourned without anyone having the floor. Are there speakers to Bill No. 8?

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor and speak on Bill No. 8.

Bill No. 8 is a fairly simple bill, we are told, looking after matters of court reform and administrative reform in the justice system. I do not know how many people have taken a very close look at this piece of legislation, but this is an omnibus bill in the truest sense of the word; it is an enormous bill. It is, admittedly, thin in itself; however, this Bill No. 8 amends the following or repeals the following acts: the Sheriffs Act, the Solemnization of Marriage Act, the Small Claims Court Act, the Village Service Act, the Corporations Registration Act, the Court Reporters Act, the Judicature Act, the Family Court Act, the Juries Act, the Land Actions Venue Act, the Overholding Tenants Act, the Probate Act, the Prothonotaries and Clerks of the Crown Act, the Provincial Court Act, the Public Offices and Officers Act, the Rural Fire District Act and possibly others, those are ones that I noted here.

What am I trying to say? I am simply trying to say that when you get a bill like that which is a fairly simple piece of business but however, you have to go through, I don't know, it may be 20-odd Acts to find what the repercussions of passing this legislation is going to be, it becomes quite a problem, particularly for those of us that are not of the legal profession. Rather than do that, I took the easy way out and I read the Minister of Justice's summary of the bill and that is in three pages, in plain English and those of us that can read the English language can probably get a good understanding of what this bill is about.

In the minister's summary of this bill we are told that what this bill is all about is a restructuring to bring together all the justice centres that we have across this province and to bring them into centres, 13 in number, across this province. It is of particular interest to me because we have had a court in Windsor and a courthouse that goes back, I believe, something in the order of 130 years.

This minister with this bill and the attendant 20 other pieces of legislation that he is changing, is effectively wiping out from the shire town, the justice system within the Town of Windsor. And why are we doing this? We are doing this because the minister says, I presume the Minister of Finance says to the Minister of Justice, I want you to save $1 million and $1 million is a nice round number in anybody's pocket, it certainly is a significant sum but I think in the overall scheme of things it is perhaps not all that great. But [Page 766]

the trick is that to save this $1 million per annum the Minister of Justice is going to spend $60 million to erect new court facilities across this province.

Now admittedly, some of these court facilities that are presently around the province are perhaps in need of repair, need refurbishing. Certainly, the one in Windsor doesn't, it is in excellent shape and I would suggest that many of the others that are being closed also fall within that particular state of maintenance. So, the Minister of Justice is going to expend $60 million to cure a problem that isn't there to close down some courthouses to save $1 million so that 60 years from now we will be breaking even on this mess that he is creating.

We are being told that this is more efficient and I am wondering who it is more efficient for. The minister, I think, in his own statement says, it is our goal to significantly improve the way we use our human and financial resources while maintaining a high level of service to Nova Scotians.

In my response to the Throne Speech the other day, I spoke about service and I spoke about phoning numbers and getting a recording that says if you want so and so press one, if you want so and so press two, et cetera, ad infinitum up to the top of the scale. In point of fact, that is exactly what we are getting with the justice system. You phone and you get, not a person, you get some machine that tells you if you want information regarding pay and yea, push one, something else push two, et cetera, and the last message on the phone says, if you would like to speak to somebody push zero. Then, when you do that you get a voice that says, I am sorry there is nobody here that can answer your question at the present time, we will call you back and so you sit down and wait for somebody to call you back. I don't think that improves the system. I don't think that what this bill does, does anything for the justice system. I fail to hear from the minister exactly what this bill does, besides the fact that he says it is going to save $1 million per year, if he puts $60 million into the kitty.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, several municipal units in good faith built courthouses. When they constructed those courthouses, they constructed them in the main using their own funds and then they rented out the space in those courthouses to the Minister of Justice to hold his court cases and for other officers of the justice system. Now when you take those things away from a small town like Windsor, and other towns around the province, you are going to have a vacant building because nobody wants a courthouse. The only person who wants a courthouse is the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice isn't saying to those towns, well we will buy that courthouse from you and assume the responsibility for maintenance or for sale. He is saying, no, we don't want it anymore. We are moving out bag and baggage and we are going down the road 30 miles or 40 miles and we are going to build a new facility.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think that is fair. But then, again, there are many things that this government has done that aren't fair to small town Nova Scotia. In fact, this government has destroyed small town Nova Scotia. They are taking away the responsibility for managing their own schools; they are taking away the responsibility for managing their own hospitals, if they don't close the schools and if they don't close the hospitals; and now they are taking away the

[Page 767]

other item that makes up small town Nova Scotia and that is the courthouse. The federal government is aiding and abetting them by closing all the post offices, but that is beside the point and beyond their jurisdiction.

Madam Speaker, I have no objection to doing things, reforming things, if they are for the common good. If they are going to save money, that is even better, but when you are not improving the system - in fact, when you are deteriorating the system and costing the taxpayers of this province more money - then I think that the government has failed and I think that this bill should be turfed. Thank you.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I just wanted to make a few interventions on Bill No. 8, An Act Respecting Court Reform and Administrative Reform. Let me say, first of all, to echo a point made by the previous speaker, that it is a very difficult piece of legislation to follow. It deals with changes in 18 different pieces of legislation, something that is going to take some time for us to go through and consider the impact, but we will certainly have the opportunity. We have, as we usually do, submitted this legislation to the review of others, and hopefully there will be people making presentations at the Law Amendments Committee and we will have an opportunity to consider the impact of some of these changes.

I would suggest, perhaps, and I haven't heard anything to suggest otherwise, that the reform in the court reform and administrative reform is certainly not represented by this piece of legislation. The minister has indicated in his introduction and his press release that this bill comes from the Nova Scotia Court Structure Task Force, but from a review of the recommendations of that report, it appears that only two are represented in this change of recommendations: 29 and 43, so I think it is certainly a pretty far stretch to say that the particulars of this bill can be found in that report.

There are a couple of areas of concern, Madam Speaker. One of them has to do with Clause 2 and Clause 3 of the bill, that deal with conditions under which real property or an interest in real property, may be disposed of or acquired by the Governor in Council or a member of the Executive Council. It causes some concern when we understand the fact that, for instance, the government has floated its interest in perhaps disposing of Crown lands as a way to pay off the debt. We know that, as the earlier speaker, the honourable member for Hants West has suggested, the government has closed down numbers, increasingly great numbers of facilities, offices, office buildings, courthouses and other things in communities throughout this whole province.

This provision would simply provide much more ease with which ministers could dispose of those properties. Also, I think we have to examine this in comparison with the Expropriation Act, we have to look at the question of expropriation of land, how it is that the government goes about taking over private land and what avenues people have, in order to question or to review decisions made by this government. So there are a number of issues we are going to have to examine, I think, in more detail.

The part of the bill under Clause 7, if I understand it correctly, and again it is - let me just check, if I may, quickly here my notes. It is regarding the powers given to tribunals -here it is, Clause 5, it says with respect to the decisions of boards, tribunals or commissions, ". . . the Governor in Council may, by regulation, provide that an order of that board, tribunal or commission may be filed and enforced as if it were an order of the Supreme Court.".

[Page 768]

Now, Madam Speaker, we have had some considerable concern in the past in that orders by the Human Rights Commission, for example, have been ignored by some. So my understanding would be that Clause 5 would deal with that, would, in fact, provide the force of law behind a decision of that particular commission. So, too, would it affect the Labour Standards Tribunal and the Labour Relations Board on matters relative to infractions by, be it employers, unions or whomever. I refer specifically to the recent case of Future Inns, where a decision was levied by the Labour Relations Board with respect to actions by that employer which was ordered to reinstate and/or recompense the employees affected and they simply ignored that decision.

The result, and I am not completely up-to-date within the last couple of days, but the last contact I had with the Department of Justice, with the Office of the Public Prosecutor, is that the matter had been referred to the Dartmouth Police Department. Had there been, I think, as I understand it, this type of power or authority at the disposal of the Governor in Council, then perhaps the employer in this particular case would not have been able to walk away and the victims, in this case the workers, would not have had to incur the kinds of delays and further victimization that they have as a result of this decision.

So, Madam Speaker, I wanted to say that on the one hand I have some concerns. They were perhaps laid out best by my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, but I wanted to underline them perhaps, concern over a couple of issues with respect to property and so on. There is also the issue about the appointments that can be made here by ministers. There is some concern about the effect of that but certainly there is that one provision with respect to the authority of boards, tribunals and commissions that I see as very favourable.

I understand that in a number of other areas there has been an attempt by the minister's staff, by the Department of Justice, to clean up legislation and to make the operation of these Acts gender-friendly, to make the operation of the court system more efficient and certainly, we would be in favour of that. I will be voting in support of this bill moving forward to the Law Amendments Committee so we will hopefully have an opportunity to go into more detail as we received presentations about the impacts, both real and perceived, be they both positive and negative. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Madam Speaker, I am not going to detain the committee at any length whatsoever. My colleagues, the members for Halifax Citadel, Queens and Hants West all spoke at great length on the bill but I just want to raise the point that I have raised before with the minister and was raised by the Mayor of Pictou and the Warden of Pictou in regard to court reform and the fact that Provincial Court in Pictou would be closing and moving to New Glasgow.

I just say to the minister, as I have said before, the building was built in 1986 in Pictou, it is a beautiful court facility on the downtown waterfront and it is used by the Supreme Court, the Registry of Deeds, the Prothonotary, the Sheriff's Office, et cetera, and it is only 10 minutes to New Glasgow. I think it is a shame that that facility would not be used to its fullest extent. It is paid for, it was built in 1986, I just want to make that point. I would like the minister to again review and look at that closing of the Provincial Court in Pictou and going to New Glasgow. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

[Page 769]

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Madam Speaker, I have a few comments that I would like to make on the bill in respect to the suggestions that were made. I will try not to detain the House but there are a couple of points I wanted to make. I have already moved second reading of the bill and I want to thank all members for their contribution to the debate. I will try to run through and cover some of the points on the bill.

Both the members for Halifax Citadel and Sackville-Cobequid and also the Leader of the Third Party had comments on Clauses 2 and 3 of the bill, they expressed concern. Especially, they spoke about the provisions found in those clauses providing the sale of land being delegated by Cabinet to a minister. I just want to make a few comments so it is clear what is proposed here. The three speakers urged the House to focus on the transparency of the process we are proposing to put in place. In doing so, they were suggesting that a number of the parameters proposed to restrict the types of transactions that could be dealt with, should be entrenched in the legislation; in other words, not allowing by regulation, by Cabinet delegation. These members suggested it should be in legislation so people would know what they are. I think this is a point that needs to be addressed.

The member for Halifax Citadel suggested that things such as the maximum acreage a particular minister could deal with without making a reference back to the Executive Council, be established in the legislation. He also recommended that the legislation should contain a maximum value of the land the minister or Cabinet could acquire without returning to the Legislature for approval. These speakers urged that a number of matters be entrenched in the legislation, so that the public would be advised of the rules governing transactions.

Before we pass on and move this bill through, I want to assure the members of the House that the procedures in the bill are intended to put in place a mechanism to deal with transactions that are routine and minor, in a transparent and efficient manner. Those that have served on the Executive Council and those that have read the Cabinet Orders know that for Natural Resources are not transactions that I would be doing in large measure, they are mainly Transportation and Public Works or Natural Resources. Sometimes a square metre or two of land requires a full Cabinet Order, a small piece of land in a rural area and of little monetary value, so what we are trying to do is clear this up and expedite it.

[4:00 p.m.]

The minimum standard set forth in the bill contains some absolute requirements that must be in the regulations, before a minister can sell or buy land. I mean, it is only with minor small parcels of land of low value. They also contain, the provisions, some flexible means that are designed to take into account the types of land and the pieces of legislation, where it is Transportation on the one hand, Natural Resources, Housing or whatever. Obviously, as the members would appreciate, there needs to be some flexibility. We are not talking about large blocks of land of high value in urban areas or in any case. We want to have very tight restrictions for small pieces of land.

The member for Halifax Citadel wants maximum acreage to be in the bill. The acreage of land dealt with routinely by a minister, for example, who deals with urban land, such as we would find in housing situations, would only be small. You could never do a large transaction by delegating it to the minister because in an urban area, even though it is a small area, it would be of considerable value. That is something that would not be proposed to be dealt with by this bill.

[Page 770]

MR. JOHN HOLM: A question, Madam Speaker. The minister is talking about being of small value. I am wondering if the minister could indicate what kind of dollar value he is talking about. I am thinking, for example, of one situation not too long ago where a piece of property in the Town of Chester was sold by the Department of Transportation to a Mr. Moore, I believe it was. Would that amount of land and the size of that purchase be one that could be done directly by the minister or would that be required through Order in Council? Certainly if it was just by the minister's approval, the public would have had a great deal of difficulty finding out about that important sale.

MR. GILLIS: Madam Speaker, I do not know the specifics of the particular matter that the member is raising, but to deal with the general principle, that type of purchase or sale - and I cannot remember which it was; it may have been a purchase - would have to be made public even though it is not by the routine Order in Council. There is no intention to withhold the information. In the Royal Gazette or whatever, the information is going to be available. It is not an intention to hide things. So whether it is the Minister of Natural Resources or the Minister of Transportation, it still will be available; it is just that it would not have to go through the Cabinet Order. That is the assurance that we have. It is important that that be there and that is intended by the bill.

I am not going to beat that to death. The point has been made. We are going to make sure that we have regulations for small pieces of land of relatively low value and the regulations will be so designed that if somebody wants to do something, buy or sell, and if it exceeds that, it goes to Cabinet and it is published in the Cabinet Order.

The member for Halifax Citadel talked about the concept of market value and he said that he found the provisions regarding market value to be contradictory. Just to clarify, the bill tries to clarify that any regulations delegating to a minister the authority to acquire or dispose of real property must contain, as a minimum, a requirement that the transaction be based on market value. Simply put, if it is proposed that the sale be less than market value or if a purchase is more than the market value, the transaction must be approved by Governor in Council. You cannot sell land for less than market value or buy something for more without taking it to Governor in Council. I think that is important and I want to make that clear. If some of these matters come up in the Law Amendments Committee, we will certainly give more information on them there.

Again, I want to thank the members for contributing to the debate. A couple of the members are the critics, others contributed too. The member for Halifax Citadel and the member for Sackville-Cobequid talked about, the regulations must contain acceptable methods of sale. This is designed to permit flexibility appropriate to the type of land that is being dealt with under the appropriate Statute. The choice of tendering procedures, public auction and so on may vary depending on the size, nature and value of the land. We simply want flexibility to do that with different departments. Again, there is no intent to hide. It should be upfront. I recognize the points made by the two other Parties.

Another point was made by the member for Halifax Citadel. He was concerned about the requirement in the bill that the delegation contained procedures prohibiting transactions with a party who was related by blood, presumably, genealogically related to the particular minister or senior official of the department. The member wondered whether this should be in this particular bill and not be covered by conflict of interest legislation. Madam Speaker, this provision is not intended to take anything away from the conflict of interest legislation, but is intended to be in addition to the present law, to reinforce that the minister of the day, be it Natural Resources, Transportation and any other, would not be permitted under this regulation to sell land to somebody who would be considered a relation.

We also talk about wildlife habitat. Protecting wildlife habitat is very worthwhile but this cannot be done. You cannot do away with protection of wildlife habitat by amending the regulations. It is a substantive minimum requirement that must be complied with by the minister.

[Page 771]

I mention the matter of public notice for acquisition or disposal, say, for example, sale of land. There might be a number of blocks advertised together but there would be due notice to everyone, Madam Speaker. The member for Sackville-Cobequid, I think, stretched his bow a little bit when he suggested it would give the Minister responsible for the Liquor Commission the authority to dispose of all the assets of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. It is certainly not the intent of this bill. They were talking about minor pieces of real estate, in particular, but I think we are aware that the assets of the Liquor Commission, if we were going to dispose of all the assets, contain a number of things that are not real property and we are talking about real property in this bill. What we are dealing with here is real property and interest in real property and certainly the privatization of the Liquor Commission could never be done under this Statute.

Both the member for Sackville-Cobequid and the Leader of the Third Party talked about - and I appreciate this - Clause 5 in the bill which provides that, "Where an enactment authorizes a board, tribunal or commission to make an order . . . and there is no provision in the enactment for the order to be filed and enforced . . . the Governor in Council may, by regulation, . . ." providing for filing and enforcement. Both members brought that up and I am pleased by this support that they have offered and I want to advise those members and all members that just further to that, because we have had consultation with the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Glube, that there is going to be a minor suggestion at the Law Amendments Committee - that I will mention to you now - a slight change in the wording has been suggested by the Supreme Court which should clarify that the judges, themselves, have not actually reviewed the order and made it themselves, but that it is still enforceable in the same manner.

So they are not being accused of making the order but it is still enforceable in the same manner. I think it is going to be quite acceptable and we really appreciate the cooperation of the Supreme Court on this. What I will be proposing is that the words "as if it were" where they appear on the third line and sixth line of Clause 5 be changed to "in the same manner as", which means the same thing. This allows the enforcement that is needed and makes clear that it is not an Order of the Supreme Court, but it has the same cause and effect that it will do the job. So I appreciate the cooperation from the Supreme Court on that.

We have discussion, Madam Speaker, by all members and the member for Queens raised this. I know he has brought this up in the House in writing and through municipal officials in this area about the justice centres. We are dealing with work that has been done on this bill. I have a copy here of the report that has been done in 1992 and the member will be familiar with it. Most of the proposals, and some of them might have even been more far-reaching, were for the establishment of justice centres. I think the main point is that in every county there still will be Small Claims Court and Provincial Court and hopefully Supreme Court, if by agreement or if the judge wants to do it. It doesn't mean you can't have Supreme Court in Queens or in Liverpool or some other counties. I think it is important to realize that the courts will still be used for Small Claims, Family and Provincial Court in each county and

[Page 772]

there are only minor exceptions where they are changes where there is no longer a Provincial Court.

The member for Pictou West mentioned it there. Provincial Court will be held in New Glasgow, but Supreme Court is held in Pictou. There is no decision on the final decision on the judicial centre yet. It is Pictou/New Glasgow and we are at a quandary. Most of the business is in New Glasgow, the courthouse is in Pictou, so there you are.

I can understand the point, but we hope that we can provide the service using modern methods. In response to the member for Queens and some of the municipal people, in Probate, for example, if they are major transactions, there is a flexibility offered that certain things can be done in the county and they won't necessarily have to travel down the road to Bridgewater to do it. I think it is important that these things be brought up and put on the record and there we are.

The member for Halifax Citadel talked about the hours of the operation of the courts. We are just trying to give some flexibility to the minister of the day and we are not really changing the intent of the provisions. Do not worry, the courts will not just be open one hour a week, so I do not think there is any problem there.

We had discussions about sheriff's fees and we are still going to have the sheriffs carrying out many duties, court security, prisoner transportation and many of these things. What is happening in part, especially in this metropolitan area and some other areas, there is a lot of documents being delivered in a private way before this every came along. We are saving close to $0.5 million a year by the changes.

I think there was 21 people, all told, and as far as I know it is something like two or three who have had any impact on them because all of the rest of them have either taken early retirement or taken other positions within the system, which I think is good. On court reorganization, I do not think anybody who wanted to continue has been prevented from continuing between early retirements and reassignments. I am really pleased with that.

For example, down my way, just as an example in court reorganization, the sheriff who was the Sheriff of Guysborough is now the Sheriff of Antigonish and Guysborough. That is how it works. Instead of having two sheriffs for that territory, we have one sheriff plus some deputies. I, again, just want to make that clear. Like I say, I am not going to go on and talk about this. We have tried to modernize the bill and in the Law Amendments Committee, if there are any groups that want to come forward, I am sure there will be a full discussion.

I thank again members for taking part and putting their views on the record and commend the bill to send it on to the Law Amendments Committee for discussion. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 8, An Act Respecting Court Reform and Administrative Reform.

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

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 773]

MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 9.

Bill No. 9 - Meat Inspection Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Madam Speaker, I would like to move second reading on An Act Respecting the Inspection and Sale of Meat and Meat Products in Nova Scotia. After years of consultations with the industry, it is a great pleasure to be introducing this bill for debate.

The meat industry in Nova Scotia is facing many challenges, including a constantly changing highly competitive market place. The purpose of this bill is to support and promote the agricultural industry through a meat inspection system. Having meat inspection in place will position Nova Scotia to produced quality meat and meat products in the market place all across the province.

Plants must be licensed under the provisions of this bill. The bill requires that all meat and meat products from a meat plant or a meat processing plant involved in retail sales be inspected meat. This bill covers all domestically produced meat, including poultry and rabbits. Consumers will build more and more confidence in Nova Scotia agricultural products, knowing that any meat or meat products they are buying in retail stores, in institutions, from peddlers or in restaurants is inspected meat.

[4:15 p.m.]

Consumers will be provided with safe and wholesome Nova Scotia meat and meat products through this inspection system but it is based on the following principles: first, on the right of the consumer to purchase inspected meat; secondly, the responsibility of producers and processors of meat products to provide a safe and wholesome product; thirdly, the right to produce and sell wholesome products direct to the consumer; fourth, the responsibility that slaughter be conducted humanely; fifth, that there is a shared responsibility at all levels, from producers to consumers; and finally, the administrative and regulatory role of government in meat inspection.

Madam Speaker, many producers have well-established businesses selling meat directly to their customers, at the farmgate. These special businesses have been built on the producers' reputation for the high quality product produced. This bill will provide for this business opportunity of direct sales to continue.

Madam Speaker, the consumer also wants this freedom of choice; in other words, the bill provides an exemption from inspection for those sales direct to consumers, provided the meat is not for resale or other commercial purposes. Producers in this direct sales business will also be able to get their meat cut up and wrapped up at inspected meat plants. Regulations will clearly define how this custom cutting and wrapping is to be handled and kept separate in the inspected plant. These regulations, as well as others, will be approved through Governor in Council approval.

A Meat Inspection Board will be appointed to provide advice on meat inspection and to hear any appeals on plant licences. This is in place under the current Act, Madam Speaker, and will continue through the new Act. The current Meat Inspection Board has asked for this new legislation and is very pleased to see that this has been introduced.

[Page 774]

The meat inspection program requires management and administrative skills, technical and other specific expertise or skills set to be part of the inspection team. This bill allows for the acquisition and access of human resources providing the appropriate skill sets. The program administrator, with management and administration skills, and trained inspectors are a key aspect to the meat inspection program. At the same time, the bill provides the flexibility to bring in or access any technical or specific expertise when and where required. For example, private veterinarians with meat hygiene expertise and the vets in the Department of Agriculture and Marketing will be a necessary and valuable component of the meat inspection team, providing the skills and expertise as needed.

In addition, agreements can be entered into with other jurisdictions, agencies and levels of government to carry out this bill efficiently. To emphasize the benefits of this provision I am pleased, Madam Speaker, to announce that this bill that we are beginning to debate today, is the first bill in Canada to legislate the principles of the Canadian food inspection system. These principles have been endorsed by the federal and provincial and territorial Ministers of Agriculture and Health.

Once the Act is proclaimed, Madam Speaker, facilities will be required to adhere to operational and hygiene standards immediately. At the same time, the bill allows for a three year phase-in period for facilities to achieve construction standards. The bill provides for inspection of meat plants to include before, during and after slaughter inspection.

Today, Madam Speaker, we begin to debate on a bill that will provide the base to market the high quality meat and meat products that our Nova Scotia producers and processors provide to the consumers. All of us recognize the importance of the meat industry to this province and I am please to show the government's continued support for this industry in Nova Scotia. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, you said it with a question. I don't know how you can have a agricultural bill before this Chamber and not have many people want to reply to it because I think the best thing about this bill coming before this Legislature is that it gives the members of the Legislature the opportunity to again refresh their memories on the importance of agriculture to the very fabric and lifestyle of Nova Scotia. It is all too often that we think of other things in life and in business and in the community and we neglect to think of agriculture - 17,000 people depend on agriculture. If this bill helps to provide security and safety for the jobs and the employment of that 17,000, well, that is great.

Over $300 million is generated at the farmgate, over $1 billion in economic activity throughout Nova Scotia. If this bill helps reinforce the importance of agriculture to the members of this Legislature, then this bill has been worth its time because agriculture is more important to the people of Nova Scotia than many people realize. The minister indicated that this Bill No. 9, An Act Respecting the Inspection and Sale of Meat and Meat Products would both support and promote the agricultural industry in Nova Scotia. Well, if it does that, that is an admirable purpose and it is an admirable goal for the minister to set out and want to accomplish.

Now truly I believe that the biggest impact this bill will have is on the beef industry because there is an inspected plant by the federal government for processing hogs in Nova Scotia - Larsen Packers is located in Berwick and it is truly the most remarkable plant in Eastern Canada and probably would compare favourably with any plant in all of Canada for the processing and the further processing of hogs for the consumer.

Now, that plant, it is no accident that it is there. The former government was in a crisis situation. The Larsen plant was getting old and getting run down and it was the only federally inspected plant. Now if you are going to export products outside of the boundaries of Nova Scotia, they must be done with federal inspection. Provincial inspection isn't good enough. This was the plant with federal inspection and it was [Page 775]

going through about 200,000 hogs a year. That was making a significant contribution to Nova Scotia's agriculture. So the former government used taxpayers' dollars to help and assist and the nice thing about it is, they are making their payments and not only making their payments but through the far-sighted good government and interest from the Department of Agriculture and the great member for Kings West, that plant is in a profitable position.

AN HON. MEMBER: King of Kings West.

MR. ARCHIBALD: King of Kings West, that is right. Through his initiative, that plant is operating better now than it ever did at any time in the past. The people who are working at Larsen's are to be commended because what they are doing is not just processing, they are doing the further processing of all the pork products that you might want to imagine from smoked bacon to smoked hams and all those other interesting products and they are making a profit and that is marvellous. A lot of the time people said you cannot do that because it will not show a profit but we had faith in agriculture and we had faith in the people in the Valley and that faith has borne fruit because it is better now than it every was.

Now the beef industry is interested in this bill particularly because there are not many animals processed at Larsen's in the run of a month. They are mostly a hog operation but there are other facilities around Nova Scotia that are inspected on a voluntary basis and they process cattle and hogs and sheep. There are smaller operations that are doing rabbits and also some of these free-range chickens, as well as the federally inspected poultry plants. But really we are speaking of processing meat products that are not presently going through a federally inspected system nor a voluntary provincial system.

Now the beef industry is really basically concerned with this bill. The beef industry, I think, my thoughts may be correct, is worth about $15 million a year in Nova Scotia and that is a lot of money. That is about 20 per cent of the beef that is consumed in Nova Scotia. Eighty per cent of the beef that we consume is not going to be affected by Bill No. 9, An Act Respecting the Inspection and Sale of Meat and Meat Products, because that is meat that is imported mostly from Western Canada as boxed beef. The large chain stores that we are familiar with - IGA, Sobeys, the Superstore - they are bringing in imported beef and the consumer is most satisfied with that and they continue to purchase it.

One of the members just said, I wish it was local. Well, we do not have enough beef to supply the local demand. So until we can increase our beef numbers, we are going to continue to be an importer of beef and beef products every week. Over $1 million a week, Madam Speaker, is spent on purchasing beef from outside of Nova Scotia. It is of high quality, federally inspected and each roast is exactly the same as the one you had the day before.

In Nova Scotia, really to assist and help the beef industry, we had a program, I believe it has been cancelled now, the Beef Promotion Program, to try to get a higher percentage of beef cattle grown and finished in Nova Scotia. We were less than successful with that

[Page 776]

adventure, but I think we did not have the time required to really and truly make the beef industry in Nova Scotia realize its potential.

The beef industry is very different in Nova Scotia. When you are feeding cattle in Nova Scotia as compared to western Canada, about 20 per cent of the feed in Nova Scotia would be grain and 80 per cent would be forage, whereas when you go to Alberta and the western provinces and the feed mills, 80 per cent of what the finishing cattle are eating is grain and 20 per cent may be forage. That is hay or some kind of silage. So we are just an opposite feeding program between here and the great feedlots in western Canada.

There is potential for the beef industry here. One of the potentials is breeding herds. We have bred some of the finest young cattle that are sold at the annual auction. They have a huge auction in Truro every year, the feeders sale. Buyers from across Canada come to Truro and purchase lots of cattle to take to another part of the country to finish them with grain and then they will send them back as a processed product.

So we have some pretty high quality breeding stock in Nova Scotia. Really, we could be doing more to develop that, but it is going to take some leadership and some determination from the Department of Agriculture and Marketing and from the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing to see that there is an emphasis placed on beef and beef production.

Now, one of the great volunteer processing facilities in Nova Scotia is located not far from my constituency, in the constituency of Kings West, and that is O.H. Armstrong Ltd. O.H. Armstrong have taken part in several developmental programs to try to help and assist the cattle and hog industries in Nova Scotia to produce more high quality animals. One of the things that we used to have was the Nova Scotia select beef. That was the program that was started. It put out beef carcasses that were graded and processed the same way as western Canada and O.H. Armstrong were very successful in promoting Nova Scotia cattle through that avenue. The purchasers of the product were very pleased as well.

[4:30 p.m.]

One of the problems that we have in Nova Scotia at the present time is the chain stores make bulk purchases and it is so convenient to pick up the phone and say look, I want 500 of this, 25 of that and 50 of those and that is what arrives at their store and then they distribute them around the province. It makes it difficult for a smaller operator in Nova Scotia to service the large chain stores because all of the chain stores want to be treated the same way as all of the others. Just because you have a chain store 10 miles away from the plant in the Valley doesn't mean that the chain would allow that individual store to purchase locally. So we would have some education to do with the chain stores and wholesalers to try to get them to emphasize the importance of Nova Scotia beef, hogs and Nova Scotia agricultural products. It is a little difficult but I think it is something that is well worth working toward doing.

In Halifax and in Sydney, you cannot sell meat products unless they have been inspected either by the federal government inspectors or by the voluntary provincial program. So, we are looking at a bill that is really going to affect a very small percentage of Nova Scotians, those that live outside these 330,000 people that live in this metro region and the people that live in the Sydney area. So we are looking at quite a small number of consumers that will be affected by this bill.

[Page 777]

However, it is meeting with, I would have to say, generally positive reaction from the agricultural community. We contacted the Federation of Agriculture for their thoughts and opinions on this bill. The federation didn't say it was bad, good or excited. They said well really and truly, they were indicating that for the most part the bill fulfilled the needs of the farmers of Nova Scotia because the farmer who does not want to take part in any kind of compulsory program is still allowed to sell his side of beef to his next door neighbour. There are many people in Nova Scotia that have traditional celebrations on an annual basis and they like to have a sheep, or a goat or sometimes a calf or a hog killed in a special way and get ready for the barbecue or some other method of cooking and that will still be able to be done by the individual at the individual farm. This bill will not prevent farmers from selling directly to the consumer in large quantities, providing that consumer is not a reseller. You can't sell it at all unless it has been inspected.

One of the things that is kind of challenging in this bill is later on toward the end of the bill where it does speak of federal and provincial inspection. One of the things I found interesting was that the minister can enter into agreements with the federal government regarding inspection. Well, one of the things that is interesting is what kind of an agreement will this minister or some future minister enter into.

We all know that the federal government and the provincial government are downloading as quickly as possible onto anybody. We have seen what the federal government has tried to do to Halifax and the effect on the economy of Nova Scotia if the federal government charges for shipping they way they have threatened to do will pretty well put us out of business. The federal government is also making great noises about charging the farmers for the meat inspection at the plants. So if the federal government decides look, we are getting out of the meat inspection business and they unload it onto Nova Scotia, will the Department of Agriculture in Nova Scotia continue to pay or will they simply say to each farmer, it is costing us $10 million to run the inspection program for Nova Scotia, let's divide it up and here is how much each farmer owes? That is one way of doing it and that is one of the things that this bill provides, that the Minister of Agriculture may, from time to time, enter into agreement with the federal government.

Now the system of inspection between federal and provincial is vastly different. The federal government's regulations are very much more stringent for the facilities than the provincial inspection is. That is in regard to the floor made of ceramic tile, the walls of some kind of impermeable material that can be easily washed and so on, and it goes on and on. It is very expensive to set up a federally inspected facility. Larsens, ACA Co-op, Canada Packers, Maple Leaf, in the Valley, they are all federally inspected facilities built at a cost of many millions of dollars. ACA has a further processing plant for poultry and that is all federally inspected as well. In order to export, that is what they have to do.

So, is the provincial minister going to come along and say look, the federal government has downloaded again, I am sorry, I did the best I could negotiating, but the federal government have said look, we are not in inspection any more, you are doing it. So now the provincial plants are going to have to come up to the standard of the federal plant, and very few people have the hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the upgrading. Many of the requirements of the federal government are not absolutely necessary, because that has been shown through the voluntary program that we have in Nova Scotia.

I would like to say that, truly, we have a very practical program operating now under regulation. It would be disappointing to me to see that the provincial program is not stringent enough, that we must now adopt the federal processing requirements because I can guarantee

[Page 778]

you, Madam Speaker, there is not a single processor in the province who could upgrade, of his own financial wherewithal, to the federal inspection. If they could, they probably would. Some of their facilities cannot be changed, some of their facilities just wouldn't lend themselves to be federal plants.

One of the interesting things, too, and one of the great things about meat inspection in Canada is the fact that meat inspection in Canada is a more secure and better system than they have in some other nations. The federal inspection in this country is done by the government, sort of a third party, a neutral bystander over here, looking out for the good of individuals. In some nations that you go to, the inspection is done in the plant but the inspector is an employee of the plant. So you see, he is not as impartial as he would be if his income is coming from somebody else.

One of the things about this program that is of concern to many people is the cost. Now at the present time the minister indicated that the voluntary program is costing about $500,000, but this new, compulsory program will add an additional $200,000 a year to the cost of the Department of Agriculture and Marketing. Well, if this is new money coming from the global budget of government, that is one thing. But if this compulsory program, this $200,000, is coming just out of the general operating budget from the Department of Agriculture and Marketing, it is going to have an adverse effect on the department because the department has been hamstrung vigorously during the last three years. Actually, before that there were some financial restraints put on the department, but the last three years have been even more vigorous than at any time in the past and we have seen the demise of many programs that were so helpful to farmers.

If this $200,000 is to come out of their budget, which program is going to be cut? Is it going to be the scholarships that youngsters receive for studying at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College? Are we going to take $10,000 from that program? Are we going to have more lay-offs within the department and get $30,000 or $40,000 from there? You see, when you get right down to the program, where is the money going to come from to run it?

Then you lead yourself to the next. Is there going to be a fee for service? In effect, are the farmers going to start paying these inspectors? I guess the only difficulty with the farmers picking up additional costs, they do not have anybody to pass them along to. The price of beef is not set in Nova Scotia. It does not make any difference how much or how little a farmer in Nova Scotia wants to sell his beef for. The price for cattle, the price for hogs is set in Chicago, it is set at the big centres and it is set on the futures market. It is set on whims, it is set on everything under the sun except the cost of production.

The final retail price of beef has absolutely nothing to do with even the wholesale price of beef. It has nothing to do with the price the farmer gets and the price the farmer receives has absolutely nothing to do with his cost of production. When a farmer takes his cattle and his hogs and his sheep to the processing plant, they arrive there and the farmer keeps his fingers crossed that, well, I hope the price is more than it cost me to grow them. When the cattle go to auction, the farmer has no idea what kind of a price he is going to receive.

So if the cost of an inspector is suddenly subtracted from the price that the farmer gets for his livestock, who pays? It is just another cost that the farmer pays, because he cannot pass it on. It is different if you are running a cement factory and the government says, look, we are putting an inspector on, it is pretty easy. The cement plant says, I need another 10 cents a yard for cement, and boom, it goes on. But if a livestock farmer suddenly is told, look,

[Page 779]

it is going to cost $2.00 to inspect that cow or bull or steer, whatever you happen to be putting through, he cannot suddenly say to the consumer, I want an extra $2.00 for that critter, because it is not there. He has absolutely no opportunity to alter the price. So I am a little bit concerned about any future negotiations or any agreements with the federal government regarding inspection of meat and meat products.

I think the federal government is doing an excellent job on meat inspection. Meat inspection in Canada is, bar none, as good as any in the world. I do not think there is a man, woman or child alive anywhere in the world that has not heard of the difficulties they are having in Great Britain. Fortunately, in this country we do not have that kind of difficulty, because Agriculture Canada, in the health of animals, have been very vigilant to make sure that any outbreak of any disease that is communicable means the entire elimination of that population.

It has happened before in Nova Scotia, when there was a threat of brucellosis 20 years ago. The entire herd that may or may not have been infected was gone. We are still brucellosis-free in Nova Scotia and that is because of inspection. That careful inspection also means that we can export breeding stock and products to any country in the world and that is worth hanging on to. It is only by being vigilant and by being determined that we can continue to keep those high standards. Really and truly, those high standards are well worth maintaining.

[4:45 p.m.]

Now I was reading the bill and I was coming along and it says the person who is in charge of the Act - what does it call him; it doesn't call him a veterinarian, that's for sure - an administrator, is appointed by the minister and the inspectors are appointed by the minister and, of course, as soon as you read that, you say, holy smokes. But then when you get along a little bit farther in one of the later clauses, Clause 9(1), it does say that the administrator will be appointed and the inspectors will be appointed, ". . . in accordance with the Civil Service Act.". So I do hope that the minister does hold competitions for those positions and hire competent, well-qualified people, so that they will be able to do that.

One of the municipal units in Nova Scotia today sent everybody, I guess; everybody who can read got one of these letters today. I didn't feel that flattered when I got it. They didn't single me out, particularly; they sent them to everybody. But they are very concerned and it is from - oh, my - the barristers and solicitors for Lunenburg County, located in Bridgewater. So I hope that they have had good and frank discussions with their Cabinet Ministers from Lunenburg County . . .


MR. ARCHIBALD: No, they have two, Fisheries - he is something else now - and Natural Resources and they have a very capable backbench/front bench person over on this side. But they are very concerned that we do have the opportunity within Nova Scotia for farmers to continue the sale of freezer beef. Now freezer beef, as you all know, is what we do in the fall. We all have a freezer and we put beef in it. We go to the farm, look them over and we say, look that is just about perfect. Well, it is tough to pick out the proper critter for your deep-freeze but in the fall, I have seen people arrive and they may or may not be farmers, and they look over there, and they say, that is the cutest set of ears, the nicest eyes and so on, so they look the animal on the hoof in the pasture all over and that's it. Well, that's about the size of it.

But Lunenburg is very anxious to make sure that this practice continues because for the small beef owner in Nova Scotia, it is important that this continue and that this small farmer continue to be able to service the wants and the needs of his friends and his neighbours. According to this bill, I believe that it does allow that to continue to happen.

Now we will have to talk about it when we do clause by clause a little bit later on because right now we are just sort of talking generally about this bill, but when we get right into the clauses, into the nitty-gritty of it, then we can ask the minister if he can explain if, for example, Clause 4(1) applies to Clause 21.

[Page 780]

I guess down in Lunenburg they must have some little plant facilities where they also perhaps make Lunenburg sausage or something, and they are concerned that this is not inspected meat that is going in. It is not inspected at the processing so they are kind of concerned about that. I can understand their concerns, but I think the minister is probably looking after that very well because of the agricultural background of the Minister of Business and Consumer Affairs.

The other thing we are covering with this bill, also, is processing and truly that is kind of exciting. One of the things that I am a little puzzled about and I know the minister will explain to us is, does the processing facility need a license to process inspected meat? I know of a person that makes fantastic sausages of sorts, and I am sure that the minister does as well. At the store, everything is inspected, but yet there is not a special processing license within the store, within this small meat market. I hope this bill does not prevent the store owner from making these special sausage products. The minister does not want to put this meat market out of business, because all the product is inspected, but it is further processed in this small storefront. You and I could stand and watch him as he is putting all these secret ingredients in to make some of these fancy spicy sausages and so on like that. We don't want this bill, in any way, to adversely affect Nova Scotians who are now presently earning their living and providing employment for other Nova Scotians in the processing of inspected meats.

It does indicate that if you have a processing facility and you want to sell some freezer beef, as long as you keep them separate, you can continue to do that. Custom meat, not for resale, would be stamped on it. It is going to be very interesting to see that carried out. That was one of the problems, I remember, when Expo '67 was going on in Montreal. That was one of the big scandals that happened in Montreal at that time because there was a lot of meat going through inspected facilities. When the inspector would stop for lunch, the line did not stop. When there was a holiday and in the evenings when the inspectors were not there, they kept processing animals. So really in Quebec they were making kind of a mockery of the inspection service. By leaving it so you can do it, you are neither fish nor fowl, I guess you would have to say, when you can do both inspected and non-inspected at the same plant, on the same day, just by simply changing the mark.

We have had a lot of press coverage, but usually the press coverage we see of the beef industry is such as it was in February. The beef industry is going through difficult times. Cattle prices have dropped 25 per cent to 30 per cent and producers are concerned. Well, producers should really be concerned right now because the price of grain, the price of corn in Chicago has hit an all-time high. Last week was the highest price for corn in the history of buying corn. Cattle eat grain and the price is higher now than ever. That does not help the farmers in Nova Scotia at all because it means the price of feed is going to be more. It is going to cost more to get an animal to market and, at the same time, the prices are lower now than they were 10 years ago. How in the name of time are these farmers ever going to make a

[Page 781]

living? I feel that the government and the minister and the department must look at ways to help farmers with the cost of production.

There are over 1,000 people in Nova Scotia keeping beef cattle. There are not 1,000 people in Nova Scotia earning their entire living from beef cattle. I don't know the number exactly, how many people earn their living solely by raising beef cattle. I would suggest that number is quite small but the ones that do, I can tell you, are probably the best beef farmers in North America because the price is so bad and to make your solid living with beef cattle you must be better than average, you have to be the best of the best. Some of our farmers are that way.

One of the interesting things about this bill that we have to wonder about is what part did the veterinarian who lost his job in this meat inspection business, play in the government really getting down to business and bringing in compulsory meat inspection. Compulsory meat inspection isn't something that the light bulb went on two weeks ago and the minister said, gee, why don't we do that. We have been talking about it forever.

One of the difficulties and one of the reasons it wasn't done sooner is the cost of it. There are programs in agriculture that some people would say would be more beneficial to the farming community than meat inspection. I think the people in the Department of Agriculture and Marketing, certainly anybody at the political end of it, would say, look, how do we get the most help for the most farmers for the money. It always came out that meat inspection was for the benefit of the consumer.

So, I hope that the Department of Consumer Affairs or the Economic Renewal Agency, the Department of Health, will pay for the inspection service. It is a funny thing that the Department of Agriculture and Marketing is paying for inspection when they can't afford to do some of the programs that would help in the production. It is for health, it is for protection that we are doing this program and I won't quibble with that. But the funding, I hope, does not adversely affect too many farmers, as this $200,000 out of the Department of Agriculture's budget will directly affect farmers in this province.

We had a veterinarian who was calling for compulsory inspection, listed all the reasons to the general public why. Why he didn't deal directly with his supervisor within the department, I will never know, but he chose to go to the media and so we all know, those of us who can read and subscribe to the newspapers. So, we were very interested to see some of his comments and concerns and I guess the minister was too because shortly after that, although there was no connection because the former veterinarian retired, he indicated that we should really have a veterinarian in charge of this meat inspection program.

I know the minister indicated that Dr. Robin Phillips would do the administering of this any time they needed veterinarian expertise and I know Dr. Phillips is an excellent veterinarian and he can give them good advice. The person that was indicating we needed this program was a veterinarian and he said, look, every province in Canada has a veterinarian running it except for two. All of the rest of them have a vet running the program.

In the bill that we are discussing, Bill No. 9, today, there is not a veterinarian required to be in charge of the program. That is of concern to some people and I can understand why it would be. Certainly, if the program said, there must be a veterinarian in charge of it, the minister wouldn't be criticized for putting that in the bill. The minister has been criticized for leaving it out and perhaps he is going to change it and require that a veterinarian become the person in charge.

[Page 782]

One other thing, I know the minister intends that somebody who wasn't needed any more in the Department of Health would shift over from the Department of Health, I think, and they would become the new administrator of the program now. I don't know if that went to competition or just because the person was so qualified and knew what they were doing. (Interruption) He is a good guy, says my colleague, the member for Kings West, so I guess perhaps that is what the minister decided, he is a good guy too and they agreed and over he went.

Meat checks are mandatory. I guess the thing is that we want to make sure that consumers have confidence in the meat and meat products that they purchase. With all of the scares that we have had from Great Britain, it is understandable. But you know once a rumour gets going, as it did in Great Britain, and once the fear gets there, it doesn't matter what is going on. So to nip it in the bud, the way the Government of Canada does, and if you remember a couple of years ago, somebody imported some cattle from somewhere in Great Britain and that is where they went back to. There was a great concern from some people that these cattle were in Nova Scotia. There was even more concern from those people when they went back. But the federal inspection said they were to go back to where they came from, we are not having that kind of cattle in this province. It was a good thing, as we see today, that we are free of any kind of problem like that. (Interruption)

[5:00 p.m.]

Well, when we have compulsory inspection and you compare it to the inspection of the federal plants, and you notice the big difference in facilities, in requirements, you have to ask yourself, who is going to pay? You see the fellow running a voluntary program now, he has his little plant going, but if he suddenly upgrades, can he charge more for his meat and his meat products? No, he can't, nobody is going to pay him any more.

Who will assist the person who has a small facility today and doesn't use it all the time? You know they probably use their facility only a few times a year, maybe in the spring, maybe in the fall - probably in the fall more likely than in the spring but they use it a couple of months a year. Now he has to upgrade, there is no question; stainless steel and easy cleaning, all those good things that we need and we want. But he has been getting along for years and nobody got sick or complained. But now who is going to help him? Who is going to pay?

Well really, nobody is going to pay him any more for his meat so what he is going to do is look at it and say goodbye, I am not in business any more. So it is going to mean some hardships for some people in Nova Scotia because they are just not going to be able to afford to upgrade to the requirements that this government and the general public are going to say they want. You have a choice; you have three years to either build a decent facility that meets all the requirements or get out.

Now is the Department of Agriculture going to bring in a program of financial assistance to the people who want to upgrade? At the same time there are people now who the government hasn't given any assistance to who do have an inspected plant, so they are going to be in competition with the guy who has all this easy money. So you see you are in a bit of a quandary; you help this guy and you hurt the guy who was there before and if you don't help this guy who is trying to get along, he is out of business. So the minister has some things to answer to and tell us what is the policy.

[Page 783]

The minister said that we expect to see market opportunities expand as consumers recognize the quality of meat and meat products we produce and market here. That is a good quote but what I want to know is how is the minister going to translate this bill into market opportunities expanding, as consumers recognize the quality. You see, the minister has indicated that this is going to be good and it is going to create more jobs and more opportunities. Let's hear what they are, real specifics. I mean give us an idea if we are going to have a 10 per cent increase in beef production, a 5 per cent increase, a 2 per cent increase. If the price of beef is down 25 per cent and 30 per cent from what it was a year ago, I suspect the minister may say that things are not going the way we hoped they would. That has happened in the beef industry before. The member for Colchester North knows more about the beef industry, I guess, than anybody living or breathing around Province House. I know he will get up and talk about this bill and about the beef industry and tell us how important it is because he has spent his life living the beef industry.

One of the things about this bill and before I take my place, I want to thank the minister for sending me a copy of the Agriculture Services Review, that was done in 1995 by questionnaires sent out to many farmers throughout the province. This is a good document and it is sort of a survey done between the farmers of Nova Scotia and the Department of Agriculture and the staff. Everything is pretty much covered in here and it is weighted as to importance, how important and how satisfied the farmers are with this program and that program and what is the most important thing the Government of Nova Scotia does for the farmers.

Where compulsory meat inspection fits in this book will be something that the minister will explain to us carefully - the farmers did this last year. This is, I think, one of the first actions of the department and the minister. You think that this is number one in red highlights and arrows maybe even in the executive summary if you read that it probably would say the first priority of this Department of Agriculture should be compulsory meat inspection. That is the first thing the government has done so far in 1996, as far as I know; that is the newest policy they brought forward, so it must be the one that was most highly recommended by all the farmers that responded to this survey. The response to the survey, I think, was over 30 per cent which is a tremendous return, but it shows the quality of farmer that we have in Nova Scotia. We have the best educated farmers in Canada. There are more farmers here with post-secondary education than anywhere else in the world, probably.

This bill is interesting and it gives us an opportunity to highlight for Nova Scotians the importance of, not just the beef, pork, and sheep industry and the chickens to Nova Scotians, but it gives us an opportunity to talk about the whole entire agriculture and highlight it, so that each member in this Chamber realizes that agriculture is a billion dollar industry. There are 17,000 working in it and each and every member of rural Nova Scotia has people and farm families living in his neighbourhood who are depending upon agriculture for their livelihood in whole or in part. We do not have enough opportunities in this Chamber to talk about agriculture and share the agriculture story with all our colleagues.

Well, there are many that would like to speak on this bill and in order to be completely fair, I would like to take my place and allow each and every member to stand up and talk about this bill and tell us just how important this bill will be to their neighbourhood and their farming community and give us a little background on agriculture. Thank you.

[Page 784]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Thank you, Madam Speaker and I would like to thank my colleague, the honourable Leader of the NDP, for allowing me to go before him, it would be his turn, but as I have to go to Pictou tonight, I wanted to have just a few remarks on this bill.

I think the bill is long overdue. I must say when I had the privilege of being in the department, that we had discussed it at great length and there were always concerns why we should not do it. As I say, the bill is certainly long overdue, "The purpose . . . is to support and promote the agriculture industry in the Province through an efficient, effective and appropriate meat inspection system providing consumers with safe and wholesome Nova Scotia meat . . .". I think that speaks for itself.

As I understand it, it used to be, before amalgamation took place that meat had to be inspected in Halifax County and also in the City of Sydney. I do not think those laws were ever really enforced, but before amalgamation, I think that was on their by-laws, that meat had to be inspected to be sold on the retail trade. If one bad animal got through the system and people got sick, we would really hurt our beef industry in this province.

My colleague, the member for Kings North certainly spoke at great length on this bill and I am not going to go through the details, the things that he did. The beef business in this province is a very difficult business, it is not a get rich moneymaker. My colleague, the member for Colchester North was in the beef business all his life and as the member for Kings North said, forgot more about the beef industry than most of us in this House know about it. The fact is that this bill has a number of exemptions which I think is quite correct. If a man is custom-killing for his neighbours, has a specific trade, in other words, the freezer trade, they are exempt and I think that is quite proper, that if I am not satisfied with the meat quarter or side of beef that I buy from this farmer, well then I will not be buying it again next year anyway. That fellow will put himself out of business. We have a couple of small producers in my own area who do not have a large beef operation, but do do custom killing and they do reasonably well. I think it is important that that is there.

My colleague also mentioned some of the concerns that were raised from some of the Lunenburg farmers, their concern that if they raised their beef, they would want to be able to sell it at their farmgate and so that would be cut-up meat and they are concerned that that will not be allowed. Quite frankly, I don't think that should be allowed. You cannot please everybody, we all know that, no matter what you do. I think it is 1996 and it is time that the meat is inspected in Nova Scotia.

Now, Clause 29 in the bill talks about giving three years for a plant to get in shape. I would like the minister, when he sums up, to give us some details on what that part actually means, whether the slaughterhouse is built now and whether he needs extra bathrooms or whether he needs extra freezer space. What are the requirements going to be to let that man continue until he has his slaughterhouse up to the prescribed regulations? I think it is important that that be very clear and to give the plant operator the proper conditions to have his plant put in place.

I know we have a slaughterhouse in my own area, not far from home.

MADAM SPEAKER: I am going to call for order, please, honourable member. It is getting more difficult to hear your remarks.

[Page 785]

MR. MCINNES: Madam Speaker, I know that they are all listening very intently. However, it is an important piece of legislation. As I mentioned, we have a slaughterhouse in my own area that does not require inspection. I think he can meet the requirements very easily. Actually, I gave him a copy of the bill and he has not responded to me, so I think, perhaps, that they are happy about the bill.

The cost of the inspection is going to be borne by the department and that is a concern, too, that probably you will have to take away from other programs. But I think, whether it should be, as my colleague, again, for Kings North, raised the question whether it should be a Business and Consumer Services Department cost or not, that is a very good question.

As I say, some of the producers are not very happy. I don't think it matters what you do, but it is 1996 and this bill should go forward and give those people that have slaughterhouses now an opportunity to bring them into shape so that all meat in Nova Scotia would be inspected.

I just want to say, briefly, that in 1983 I had a dairy farm operation and I looked very carefully at going into the beef business. I can honestly say to you that I could not see how I could make very much money in the beef industry in this province. It is a tough business, but it should be run properly and, again, I say to the minister, I think the bill is long overdue and I am certainly supporting the bill. I think it will be interesting to see if we have any people appear at the Law Amendments Committee to see if they are against a bill, but I certainly will be supporting the bill and I look forward to hearing the minister's comments as he wraps up.

[5:15 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, this bill with regard to the inspection of meat, I know, is one that has been talked about for some time. We have had provincial meat inspectors. I know, I think, at O.H. Armstrong's, they have used provincial inspectors and not federal inspectors. The concern that I have - and I will support this bill because I think it is a move in the right direction - is that we have had federal inspections at plants. I guess my colleague, the member for Kings North, explained that any meat moving outside of Nova Scotia, for resale, or products using Nova Scotia meat, have to be federally inspected if we are going to export it outside of the province.

We have had a company like Larsen's, who have had federal inspections, as well as ACA and Canard Poultry with regard to chickens, but, Madam Speaker, we are now moving to inspect larger amounts than we have done in the past. I know that we are still allowing farmers who have for years killed for custom meat, and we always think of beef, I guess, but there are chickens and sheep and other things that farmers do kill or do custom work. I think we have been very lucky in this province. We haven't had any incidents and I think people growing meat in this province have been very responsible. I don't think we have had a great deal of problems of people selling, in any way, bad meat. Farmers in this province, in my mind, have been very responsible. They have been in the business for a long time and know that this is their future.

[Page 786]

I guess one of the areas that was sort of mentioned was someone doing custom work; we have had groups and I know the Masons in my area, the Lodge I belong to, have raffled a side of beef and it has probably been donated or given by a farmer. It is not directly sold any more to a customer. I am trying to figure out whether this would have to be inspected now by the provincial inspector or not. I know that this bill, as near as I can understand, does cover me, as an individual, buying from a farmer. But as a non-profit group, and I am sure the minister knows that there are non-profit groups who have sold tickets on a side of beef or pork or whatever, but usually it is a side of beef, and I am trying to find out whether now that would have to be inspected. I guess for the farmer who normally does the custom work, it would be quite costly to have someone come in and inspect that. So I don't know how that will affect that down the road. The minister might be able to tell me when he wraps up, how that is affected.

There is no question that this is a bill that I think gives the consumer confidence that the meat that they purchased in any way, whether it be in any store or by other sales, that it is now going to be inspected by the department. I don't know whether there are many farmers doing custom work and doing direct sales to stores. I remember at one point in my life that I did have a few head of beef cattle, not like the member for Colchester North, but it was a hobby thing for me. What we did, obviously we had them slaughtered at a non-inspected place. There were a lot of those, there were farmers who would do it for you. In some cases we sold to individuals, in some cases the meat was actually sold in a store.

I know there are a number of small farmers in the province who are not big into beef but grow some beef. Even if you are into dairy, you end up having some beef cattle, you can't help but have some but you are not in it in a big way. I think the only place now to get beef slaughtered by any inspection is provincial inspectors at O.H. Armstrong Ltd. Larsen's don't slaughter beef, they are taken to Moncton now, I think, to be slaughtered. Hub Packers, I believe, buy in the province.

I am trying to find out, or maybe the minister can tell me, approximately how many places would the inspectors be covering when this bill becomes law? How many places has his department identified in the province that would require inspection now that presently don't have any inspection? The people who did killing for custom work are the only people left. There are not a lot of people now killing who sell to stores of any size in the province. So I am trying to find out how many that would actually cover.

I do have a little concern. We now have two levels of government and we have had in the past but we are expanding the provincial role of two levels of inspectors. We have the federal inspectors, as I indicated, and if you are federally inspected you obviously don't need the provincial inspection. Is there going to come a time when we are going to have just one instead of federal and provincial? Are we going to have one set of inspectors who can do the job and be recognized across the country?

I am sure the federal inspection is much more rigid. I know most of those inspectors are veterinarians who are hired, and I believe you may even have to be a veterinarian to be a federal inspector, to do the kind of inspection they require. I guess the point I am making is, which standard is it that we have to be sure of? I think in Canada we are very fortunate with the kind of levels of inspections we have had.

I guess I would ask the minister, are we expecting our people to step up, to be equal to, at some point, the federal inspection? I would think if we are inspecting any kind of meat on the federal level, and we say it has to be inspected at that level to make sure that the

[Page 787]

consumer is protected, why is it now that we are saying there is a different level of inspection that we may be looking at? There may be a simple answer to that but I certainly think we don't want duplication.

Before I sit down I want to say that I represent an area that has a lot of farmers. I guess two of the biggest killing facilities in the province are in my constituency, being Larsen's and O.H. Armstrong's. I have to say that in any meat industry it has really been tough, tough for farmers and tough for processing plants because we are competing on the national and international levels and that is very difficult.

I look at what has happened at Larsen's, the expansion and the new plant, and I not only want to give credit to management, I want to give credit to the workers at the plant. When they first started the new plant the workers were concerned because if the thing didn't make a profit, they wouldn't have a job. It was the bottom line. I know that many of those workers at the plant worked with management on the waste. They used to weigh the amount of waste at the end of the day, and they reduced that waste down to a mere nothing. In other words, in the processing section of the plant there got to be very little waste, and that is what turned the profit line around for Larsen's. I remember at the time a lot of people wondered whether building a new plant at Larsen's, whether or not there would be any future, especially in the hog industry. There were a lot of people who wondered at the time whether the government would ever get its money back. I know that the plant has made its payments to government and they are turning at least a profit, that they can meet their commitments.

If they hadn't had a plant, I think the minister is aware - and he has the hog industry in his area - that if you have to ship them all the way to Moncton then you have shrinkage all the way to Moncton. The farmer gets little enough return for his product, for the pigs that, really, if we were going to have any kind of a hog industry in this province, we obviously had to have a plant in the province. I know the minister has been supportive of that program and supportive of the farmers and I hope he will continue to support them.

We had an expansion also at O.H. Armstrong's and I think Armstrong's is on a smaller scale, but if you want your beef killed in the province today, Armstrong's have been taking a number of beef. Because of the box beef industry and because Sobey's and Atlantic Wholesalers and those kinds of chains have set up and I know Larsen's is big enough to do it, they ship all of their product up to Debert and then it is dispersed to the stores, well Armstrong's couldn't, obviously, supply enough beef to ship to Debert that would supply all the stores across the province, say at Sobey's or do it for Atlantic Wholesalers.

I know in the program that assisted, the IGA initiated this program, I think the department initiated the program but worked with O.H. Armstrong's and I know in Moody Brothers in Berwick, we used to get some of the special beef that Armstrong's put out and it was good beef. As my colleague for Kings North indicated, 80 per cent of the beef that we eat comes from outside of the province, so there is great room for us to expand. There are not a lot of people that have been successful in just having a beef operation. The member for Colchester North has been one of those people, Gordon Carter from my area has been one of those people, but there have not been a lot that have been able to totally make a living off of the beef industry. There have been a number, I think a chap down your way, Mike Oulton, has been in the beef industry, but a lot of farmers who have gotten into the beef industry have done it along with their dairy or hog industry or something like that.

[Page 788]

There is no question that people like I just talked about can raise quality beef. I think that somehow here is an industry that we have to try to promote. We have not been successful. I know there was an attempt made at it when we were in government, but there has got to be a continued effort. I really believe that this industry has potential.

I don't have a lot of other questions about the bill itself. As I understand it, it covers all meat, be it rabbit, be it whatever is domestically grown and if it is sold other than to a direct individual, that this is covered under this legislation. I commend the minister for bringing in the legislation and I know that without the part to exempt the custom work, there would have been a lot of opposition to this legislation. I think this was a compromise, and hopefully this will work in a way that will provide the consumer confidence in the meat industry in this province and will allow us to enhance the industry because I think there is great potential.

I thank the minister for bringing this bill forward. I think it is moving in the right direction. I haven't had farmers in my area call me and say that this is not the right way to go. I think the way the bill has been drafted that actually they support the direction the minister is going in, and I will be supporting this bill on second reading. Thank you.

[5:30 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I rise this afternoon to say a few words on this bill and have no hesitation saying upfront to the minister, through you, that we certainly will be supporting the bill moving forward and are very pleased that the minister did, in fact, bring this legislation before the House.

There are a number of issues, and I don't claim nor will I try to pretend that I am an expert on the beef industry here in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is, however, a very important industry, the growing of beef, the growing of other animals for sale, as well. It is one of the things that I am sort of optimistic or hopeful about. I know that there has been quite a bit said about the fact that in Nova Scotia, 80 per cent of the meat that we consume is actually imported into the province and only 20 per cent is locally produced.

We are not now able to meet the needs for Nova Scotia, but you don't have to go back all that many years until you would find that that percentage was reversed, that Nova Scotia once was able to produce and once did produce. We would be going back probably about 40 years, would be my guess, that Nova Scotia did produce probably about 80 per cent of the amount of the beef that we used. Madam Speaker, what I am hoping, I guess the point is, that this kind of legislation will again help to build some increased confidence in the products that we grow in this province and that we will actually be able to start to produce a larger percentage of the meat products here in this province because, then again, that means more jobs and more economic benefits for the people in this province.

I know, Madam Speaker, at least on the basis of the information that we have received in our office, that certainly the majority are in support of this bill. There are a few areas of concern and one of the things that I would suggest that most people in Nova Scotia have not realized, of course, is that all beef sold in stores wasn't inspected. Most people just took it for granted that it was inspected and that, of course, was not the case. Given the kind of concerns, and I am not trying to suggest for one moment that the kind of concerns that have been raised in Britain as a result of the Mad Cow Disease, I am not suggesting for one second

[Page 789]

that the livestock in this country or in this province have that or any other type of illness that can be passed on. However, if we want to ensure that consumer confidence is there in the product that we are growing, we have to ensure that residents know that the meat that they are buying is, in fact, being inspected.

Now, that having been said, Madam Speaker, I also recognize that many farmers and many citizens do, in fact, depend upon the practice of either raising the meat for themselves on their own property or to be able to purchase the meat from the farmgate directly from the farmer. I am pleased to see that that is going to be permitted to continue. Probably the best kind of inspection services that you can have would be in those kinds of situations, the quality of beef that those purchasers buy because certainly, if someone goes to the farmgate and gets some meat that they don't' consider to be satisfactory, and given the fact that it is normally within the community and the neighbours who do buy that, then I would guess that the sales at that farmgate would drop rather quickly.

There are, if I could, just a couple of points that I would like to raise with the minister. Maybe when he is wrapping up he could answer a couple of questions for me. One deals with the inspectors themselves and that is where the training will be done for the inspectors or how the training will be carried out. It is my understanding - and I stand to be corrected on this one, certainly I do not claim that I am knowledgable in this area - I remember recently speaking with an individual who wanted to become an inspector.

He basically was told that if he wanted to become an inspector the way you do it is to be hired on at one of the meat processing plants where they are having the meat inspected under the federal program. Unless you do that, you do not get into a training program to become a meat inspector. Maybe the minister could indicate to us the number of persons that the department considers they will need to be inspectors and where and/or how the training for those inspectors will be provided.

I would also like to know, as the previous speaker did, what differences will there be between the levels of requirements for inspection for federal inspection versus provincial inspection and what the plans may be relative to having that teamed up. Certainly, one would wonder why we might be having two separate sets or two separate levels. I would be interested to know, for example, if the meat that is going to be inspected through the Nova Scotia system will be of a level that it would have the accreditation, that that meat could then be, for example, exported out of the province to other markets if the producer has markets for their beef outside of the province.

There have also been some questions raised about a couple of items in the bill itself and whether or not they could be in conflict. One of the areas, and I think it has been raised already, has to do with the fact that there is no definition in the bill of a retail outlet and what classifies a retail outlet at the farmgate. If the farmer sets up at the entrance to his farm and is selling only the beef that he produces through that outlet, is that classified as a retail outlet if there are the freezers or whatever set up? Will that meat then need to be inspected or is it only if there are going to be other products and so on being sold?

Another one that I have a little problem with and it was also raised by another and that is under Clause 10(1) where it says, "No person shall operate a meat plant or meat processing plant without first having obtained a licence from an administrator designated by the Minister.". Then I went back and I take a look at Clause 3(i), "`meat processing plant' means a place or premises where meat or meat products are received from a meat plant and meat or meat products are produced, processed, prepared and stored for gain;".

[Page 790]

What I am wondering here, if, for example, and I know a number of people who have a piece of property and they simply, on their own land, have some animals. They purchase a calf each spring and feed it through the summer and fall so that it can be slaughtered for the winter. They normally also have a sheep or a goat or something as well that they get for the same reason. They do not do the slaughter themselves. That slaughter is taken to a local butcher who then slaughters that animal or animals for them so that they can then take it home and feed their families using that through the winter.

When I am taking a look at the definition of the meat processing plant, the meat processing plant, that butcher, the person who does that for a couple of people who I know, would certainly be paid for slaughtering the animal for these individuals. So they are making gain and you could say that part of the reason for having the premises then is that they are making financial gain by slaughtering and preparing for the freezer somebody's personal animals that they have raised for that particular purpose.

So, does this legislation then cover that butcher shop? Would they have to then be licensed as a meat plant and, more particularly, I guess, would that meat then have to be inspected before it can be butchered in that butcher shop so that the family can eat throughout the winter the meat that they have raised for themselves, not for sale, but for their own family use. Those really are the few questions that I certainly would appreciate answers to.

Again, as I take my seat, and I am sure that there are others who do wish to speak on this, I say to the minister that I certainly support the principle of what is being done here and I think that it is important that, although for a few, it may cause some inconvenience, but, for the overall industry, I think that it is important and is an important step to help to enhance and to build the confidence in the products that are grown here, the meat products that are produced in this province.

Again, I don't think that most people knew that, in fact, the meat that they have purchased had not been inspected and, knowing that it is not, that could hurt meat producers in this province. Once people know once again that it is, then I would hope that that would help to encourage the production of even more beef in this province and even more farmgate gains for the producers in this province. Thank you.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon and speak on Bill No. 9, An Act Respecting the Inspection and Sale of Meat and Meat Products. I would like to begin by commending the Honourable Wayne Gaudet, the Minister of Agriculture, for bringing forward this legislation. I do know that the minister gave this a lot of careful consideration and a lot of deliberation before he did introduce this legislation. For that, I also commend him.

Madam Speaker, sometimes legislation comes before the House that we feel is certainly not worthy of support and that is not the case this time. I like the principle of this bill. I do have some small areas of concern. I grew up on a small dairy farm in the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley. Although it was a dairy farm, we did raise our own beef. You know, it is quite a luxury when you go to the freezer and you have some beef that is all wrapped up and all you have to do is take it out and, of course, thaw the meat. If you have a good mother or a good spouse, I am not much of a cook myself, but it is quite an advantage to have your spouse or your partner do a little cooking for you.

[Page 791]

I know several members in the House, either directly or indirectly, had some ties to the agriculture industry and the agriculture community. Yes, Madam Speaker, we sometimes have turkey and chicken also in the freezer, but we know that is irrelevant. We will stick to the bill here, Bill No. 9. I know when we are speaking in second reading that you give us a lot of latitude, providing we don't digress too far. So I will not draw too long a bow here.

There are some areas of the bill that I think will generate some question and doubt and some people will be a little bit perplexed. The former Leader of the Third Party raised a concern that I had intended to bring to the attention of the House, and that is that there is really is no description of what a retail shop is. Now, I wonder if the minister can tell me, back when we were slaughtering animals for our own use, whether or not part of your barn where you slaughter the animal would be considered a retail shop.

[5:45 p.m.]

Now we did, from time to time, sell a quarter of beef to somebody in Middle Musquodoboit or Elderbank or Meaghers Grant or Wittenburg or wherever, should they have put a request in. We certainly tried to do it, bearing in mind always that the beef was of the utmost quality. We understand from this legislation that that practice can still be continued, provided that the person who purchases it from you does not intend to resell the beef, and I think that is supportable.

Now we have a number of big producers across this province, relative to the raising of beef, and of course there are some smaller producers. But the beef industry in Nova Scotia is going through some pretty difficult times. One only needs to go to the cattle sale out in Murray Siding to realize that the price of beef fluctuates and, more recently, the price of beef is a little lower than most of us would like to see it, Mr. Speaker.

Some areas that I have some concern about are essentially pertaining to the administrator. The administrator, "means a person appointed as an administrator by the Minister for the purpose of this Act;". Now that, in itself, may seem quite innocuous and perhaps we can support that. I would question, perhaps, the qualifications of an administrator. Perhaps when the minister does his summation relative to Bill No. 9, he will enlighten us as to just what he considers to be the qualifications of an administrator.

I know a previous employee, and the minister knows him quite well, has expressed publicly that he has concerns that the administrator may not have the necessary background to be in that position. Now I am not suggesting that but perhaps the minister could just generally tell us what the qualifications of the administrator will be.

I believe the purpose of the bill is fine; it has integrity, it has principle. It is to support and promote the agriculture industry in the province, through an efficient, effective and appropriate meat inspection system. It is going to provide consumers with a level of confidence, a level that I believe is there but this will tighten it up somewhat, it will ensure that the consumers do have, as the minister said, safe and wholesome meat and meat products. That is commendable, Mr. Speaker.

Now I understand that the bill will not apply to the slaughter of an animal owned by an individual where the meat or the meat product will not be sold or exchanged for gain. If we go a little further into Clause 4, and I know that at this point we are not going to go clause by clause, but we see Clause 4(1)(b) where "an animal by a producer for sale at the farmgate to a consumer where the consumer does not sell or intend to sell the meat or meat product or use the meat or meat product for other commercial purposes;", that will enable the farmer who does a small bit, if you will, of selling and slaughtering, that practice can continue, provided the purchaser of the meat or the meat product does not resell that meat or the meat product.

[Page 792]

Now the minister, of course with the approval of the Governor in Council, will set up a Meat Inspection Board. When one looks at the composition of the board we see that there will be one person who will represent the meat plant owners and there will be a person who will represent the livestock owners and another individual, a person will also be on the board who is independent, as I understand it, of the meat plant owners and the livestock owners.

I think it is important that you have the impartial, independent individual on the board. So I commend the minister and his staff for crafting the legislation in such a way that the minister will have a pretty good board in place that really will represent the best interests of the consumer.

Now, the minister, I understand, also has some safeguards and checks and balances in place relative to whether or not the administrator can issue or renew a license. That depends and predicates on the conduct of the individual or the past conduct of an applicant who has made application to be licensed. In some ways that is commendable and in other ways one could be a little bit perplexed and have some doubt because it leaves a lot of discretion to the administrator. So that is why I think it is very important that we know the parameters and the guidelines that the administrator will have to comply with. If the minister feels that, Clause 11(1)(a), "the past conduct of an applicant or, where the applicant is a corporation, of its officers or directors, affords reasonable grounds to believe that the operation of the meat plant or meat processing plant will not be carried out in accordance with this Act . . .", and of course, the Act's regulations, ". . . an administrator shall not issue or renew a licence.".

We know that from time to time people will violate Acts and, of course, they also may not adhere to regulations and comply with the regulations that are in place. I think it is important that guidelines are given to the administrator besides the Act. I think when you put regulations in place, sometimes government can become very intrusive and we may find that government is in the face, if you will, of the applicant. While we believe in monitoring and having a system in place, we just hope that it is not too restrictive.

If an administrator, for example, makes a decision not to renew a license, the administrator, within seven days of making that decision to suspend or revoke a license, has to notify the applicant, in writing, of the reasons for his refusal. Seven days seems very much like a reasonable period of time. There will be occasions and times when an applicant or licensee has reason to question why his application has been turned down. We understand that the minister and his staff have put in an appeal process, a mechanism whereby the applicant, provided he follows the necessary notification procedure and he states very concisely, I think the words that the Minister of Agriculture uses is that the applicant must state concisely why he is appealing the decision of the administrator not to license his retail shop.

As we understand, the appeal, of course, has to be conducted in a manner that is prescribed in the regulations and we support that. But I do have some difficulty with the fact that, Clause 14(2), "the Board may dismiss the appeal, allow the appeal or make any decision the administrator was authorized to make.". I think for greater certainty the minister could perhaps advise us, it doesn't have to be in writing, some of the reasons and background, so to speak, whereby an administrator and, more importantly, the board, under what reasons, if I appeal in good conscience and state my reasons concisely, can the board just simply dismiss

[Page 793]

the appeal? I hope that applicants are treated fairly, I believe that they will be but still there are areas there that there will be some questions raised around.

Plant operations I believe are okay. The minister and his staff have covered areas relative to slaughtering animals at meat plants.

Now, another area, and it is under the term general, is a concern to different people and that is that the administrator or an inspector will have the power to obtain material without a warrant. I believe that without due process being afforded and accorded to a meat processor, a retail shop and, of course, the applicant, that seems to be a little heavy-handed and undemocratic, but when we look below Clause 23(2), we see "the administrator or an inspector shall not enter any part of a dwelling without the consent of the occupant . . .".

I just wonder why the minister and his staff did not tie those two areas together, Mr. Speaker. Because I think he could have, perhaps, prefaced Clause 23(1) with what is included in Clause 23(2). But I appreciate the fact that an inspector will have to ask for permission, but we also find out in Clause 23(2) that an administrator or an inspector may, ". . . wherein there is reasonable and probable grounds to believe that any animal, meat or meat product is being produced, processed, prepared, handled or stored or records relating thereto are to be found and inspect the vehicle, premises or building and any animal, meat or meat product therein or records relating thereto.". So that may cause some confusion for people that are in the business of selling meat or meat products.

Now, I am not sure how other departments work relative to inspectors. We have inspectors, as you know, Mr. Speaker, with the Liquor Licensing Board . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Before we get into gaming and liquor licensing, we are approaching the time the debate is scheduled to end and perhaps the honourable member might consider, maybe in a minute, adjourning.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would certainly be pleased to adjourn the debate on Bill No. 9, An Act Respecting the Inspection and Sale of Meat and Meat Products.

MR. SPEAKER: It is agreed and the debate stands adjourned.

Before we call on the Government House Leader, I would like to introduce to the House a very distinguished guest in the press gallery. I refer to the gentleman next to the honourable Minister of Education, a very distinguished municipal councillor from Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Councillor Gerard Burke, an old friend of mine. (Applause) He tells me he is actually a Montreal fan.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will sit tomorrow from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and, following daily routine, we will go to Government Motions and the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

I move that we adjourn until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The House stands adjourned until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

[Page 794]

The winner of the Adjournment debate was the honourable member for Cape Breton West. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is going to take his place. The topic of the debate is:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government act immediately to improve primary rural roads in Nova Scotia that are suffering from neglect.".

[6:00 p.m.]



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


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight in the late debate and speak about roads. We certainly have thousands of kilometres of roads in the Province of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, perhaps the Minister of Transportation will tell us later on, if he is staying around to make a contribution to the debate, how many kilometres of roads we do have in Nova Scotia. But we do have several thousand kilometres of roads in this province, Mr. Speaker.

HON. RICHARD MANN: There are 27,000-plus.

MR. TAYLOR: The minister tells us that we have 27,000-plus.

Now, on April 9th, during Question Period, the Minister of Transportation explained to me that some municipal units had come forward with an extension to some of their subdivision contracts and subsequent to the actual contract agreements being signed with the Department of Transportation, the minister said that he agreed to do these extensions at a cost of $6,000 per kilometre. A problem exists due to, I believe, what are mixed-up priorities with the Savage Government and that is that the conditions of roads when they were turned over to the Halifax Regional Municipality were in extremely bad shape. Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor, Walter Fitzgerald, is now in the process of having Halifax Regional Municipality staff do an inventory of the roads in the municipality and he is trying to determine what it will cost to fix those roads up. Did you know that in the Halifax Regional Municipality - a municipality which I happen to live in - the total kilometres of paved roads is around 1,600. So 1,600 kilometres will cost the municipal taxpayer, the property taxpayer a great deal of money and financing to keep up in good shape.

I wonder if the Minister of Transportation is perhaps suggesting some form of assistance might be forthcoming from the province to the Halifax Regional Municipality (Interruptions) I guess during late debate we can say if they leave, everybody would understand. But, nonetheless, the Minister of Transportation has quite a way of exiting. I was wondering what the Minister of Transportation and the Savage Government were planning to do relative to alleviating the concerns that Mayor Walter Fitzgerald and, of course, the property taxpayers of the new Halifax Regional Municipality or the new super-city have. During a true out and out service exchange we were told that the province would assume the full cost and responsibility for social services. Did you know that the Halifax Regional Municipality in this fiscal year, 1996-97, will be sending off a cheque to the Province of Nova Scotia for $22.8 million respecting social services in the municipality.

[Page 795]

In a true service exchange social assistance was supposed to be covered by the province and the property taxpayers in the municipality of Halifax, are supposed to pick up the cost of RCMP and roads. The municipalities have been living up to their end of the bargain and you know why, because they do not have any choice. The province downloaded and the service exchange has been nothing but a dismal failure. It has been an out and out dismal failure and if the province continues to download on the municipalities and I say municipalities, but the cost to Halifax Regional Municipality in terms of the PST if we want to talk respecting the PST will be an additional $20 million. We are talking around $42 million or $43 million which the property taxpayer of Nova Scotia may and I must say, may or may not have to pay because the PST has not been etched in stone. We have not seen the budget and I understand that on April 25th, I believe, the Minister of Finance will bring in his budget and perhaps we may be a little premature in suggesting. Anyway, the municipality has been proactive, if you will, and did a study and the statistics that they came up with is that it will cost an additional $20 million.

Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, for example, which is one of the largest constituencies in Nova Scotia and I believe it is the largest geographical constituency on the mainland of this province, has hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of what we used to call roads. Some of those roads have deteriorated into such poor condition now that you may be more inclined to call them a snake path, Mr. Speaker. They are in extremely bad shape.

Now, the Minister of Transportation has told us in this House that his government will come up with a secondary road program and he had another terminology relative to that initiative. But essentially it meant that they, the Savage Government, would do some long-term planning and come up with a secondary road program. The engineers, the professionals, not the politicians - and I have stated in this House many times that I support an initiative where the professionals will go out and examine the roads in the respective four regions - and they will make the decisions, Mr. Speaker. Well, that is admirable and one could support that, but, unfortunately, in a number of cases, that is not happening. That is unacceptable in rural Nova Scotia.

You know, as well as I know, Mr. Speaker, that roads in the rural constituency are from time to time used and subject to a lot of debate relative to provincial politics. So if you are getting no road work at all after three construction seasons, one could only ascertain that you must be on the wrong side of government. I don't think that is unique to this government; I think that has been going on for several years now. But I did a little research and I found out that in Cape Breton The Lakes, when the honourable Minister of Finance was then in Opposition, that his riding received $34.9 million the last year that that member sat in Opposition. So it just doesn't make sense to single out a constituency and shut them out completely.

The riding of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, with the most kilometres of dirt and paved roads of any in this province, has not had any repaving or new paving on a secondary road, other than a few little patches, but nothing that would add up to any more than one-half kilometre. Yes, and I shake my head too, because it is just not fair. We have the largest volume of commercial traffic when compared to any other constituency in this constituency.

[Page 796]

There are eight large sawmills in this province. There is a limestone mine in the constituency, there are a number of mills in the constituency, and, of course, you have your other commercial traffic. On secondary roads, there is not another constituency with the volume of traffic that Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has, and the roads, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, are going to the dickens. They are all falling apart.

So I think this will be a big issue, Mr. Speaker, when election time comes around. I think it is going to be a big issue in a lot of constituencies. I have talked to some of my colleagues on both sides of the political equation and I have found that I am not alone in my concern. There are a lot of constituencies in rural Nova Scotia that are just not receiving their fair share. That is all we are asking for. We are not asking for any more, we are not asking for any less, but after three construction seasons that this government has been in power, there has been absolutely nothing of any substantive form in terms of capital highway projects take place.

Now bear in mind there has been some work in constituencies such as Hants East and I will never and have never begrudged the honourable member and his citizens the work that has taken place in Hants East because anywhere the black top went down that I travelled over, it certainly needed it. But the fact is, you don't put all your eggs in one basket. You have to share them and they should be shared in all the constituencies and that government promised to do this and they are not doing it. So I have great difficulty, Mr. Speaker, with the conditions of roads and the way the money is being doled out relative to them. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do welcome the opportunity to speak to the resolution that is before us and I would like to bring the attention of the House back to exactly what that resolution is: "Therefore be it resolved that the government act immediately to improve primary rural roads in Nova Scotia that are suffering from neglect.". Now that is what the resolution is. It was submitted by the member for Cape Breton West who asked the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to take over and perhaps it is just unfortunate that he hadn't had a chance to read the resolution.

He spoke quite a bit about PST and he spoke quite a bit about service exchanges and J-Class roads which have absolutely nothing to do with this resolution at all. I don't doubt that is a reason why he avoided the resolution but I must tell you I shall not avoid the resolution because I must tell you that I am really pleased that this resolution came forward because I agree with it, I agree with it 100 per cent that the government immediately improve primary rural roads. I will even take a step over to my friend's line of argument and say, I believe also that should apply to secondary rural roads, I agree 100 per cent with the motion that is before us. But I must tell you I have a great deal of problem with the analysis that I just heard. The analysis from the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is almost laughable, it is almost comical, if it wasn't so serious when you live in the riding next door to Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

I watched what happened for 16 years while I lived in my riding of Hants East. I was a member of the municipal council in Hants East and my friend that has just spoken, he was a member of the council in Halifax County for a certain period of that time in any case. I must tell you I can't believe the member would come forward in April 1996 and tell us how his roads are in terrible condition and how they have degenerated. Now what happened here? They degenerated since June 1993, is that what happened? They all fell apart . . .

[Page 797]

AN HON. MEMBER: May 1993.

MR. CARRUTHERS: Well, I was sworn in in June, I don't know when that member was but I was sworn in in June 1993 and I don't recall how you can possibly say, there weren't even three building seasons, there were not, unless he considers that June 11th is the beginning of the building season and I must have a talk with him about that because it surely is not. Most of the tenders that go out, go out in the spring.

I can tell you I remember the spring of 1993. Do you recall the spring of 1993 just before they went to the polls? Oh, do I remember them, they were coming out left, right and centre, they spent the whole darn budget before we even got in on May 25th, it was gone and the poor doggy had none. That is why we had to come in with that budget ourselves to save it. They spent the whole, look, I mean in Municipal Affairs they spent 160 per cent of it. I don't know how you can do that. The budget starts on April 1st, they spent 160 per cent of it by May. Then he wonders, gee, I don't see a lot of building taking place in the last year or two. Well, if his roads are falling apart, I must tell you that constituency was represented by a minister of the previous government for years and they had no lack of paving, my Heavens, sir. Lack of paving, you would have to jump, don't fall asleep near the pavement in that area, they will pave you right into the ground, wall to wall paving. Everybody knew it was a joke, it was a laugh.

In my house in Milford, I can see across the river. My property goes down to the river. On the other side of the river, that is my friend's constituency. I watched them pave roads up to a hill that there was no way out of the hill. They were paving it all, everywhere, anything that couldn't move.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did they pave half of the river?

MR. CARRUTHERS: Well, they would have but they would only pave their half, I am sure. Look, this is silly. I understand what the member is saying, he is saying that in the last two building seasons that we have been in power . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: He said three.

MR. CARRUTHERS: Yes, he said three but we haven't been in power for three. It must be the new math. You come in in June . . .


MR. CARRUTHERS: Is it June yet? I have to check, is it June? What day is it anyway. My Heavens have a long talk, check the calendar my friend. Your schools are as good as mine, they must have taught you how to add. We haven't been in for three building seasons yet but even if we were (Interruption) Well, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996. Well, 1996, 1997, that makes five doesn't it? My Heavens man, have a talk.

I am not going to be delayed on this because it is very clear to everybody else. Now he says, gee, my roads have now all fallen apart. Look, it is now four. I hear him back there now it is four. Now it is four seasons that we have been in; we have been in past our mandate, Mr. Speaker. We have to be removed. We are only allowed five years, aren't we? Look, two years, he says. The poor doggy had none for two years. All around us we have had to make up for this. We have had to make tough decisions on this.

[Page 798]

[6:15 p.m.]

Here is what he interpreted. Did you hear him? What he means is when you spend the money - and to be fair about it, he thinks that means you spend the same amount of money in each riding, and it does not matter that my riding's roads have rotted for 15 years and that his riding's roads had got the best in the world - he means if I get a dollar in my riding, he has to get a dollar in his riding. Now, I understand this. This means the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That is what that means; of course, this is the Progressive Conservative view. That is how they would like to do it.

I tell you, Mr. Speaker, if he can show a professional engineer - and I dare him to come forward and do it - that the condition of the roads in that man's riding is equal to or of a lesser condition than the condition of the roads in Hants East, come forward, sir; you and 10 that look like you come forward, sir. It is not possible. Every engineer knows it. All the engineers in our central region know it.

Well, no wonder. He said it a minute ago. Now, I don't begrudge the guy in Hants East his work. I know what the roads are like over there, except then, Mr. Speaker, he finishes up by saying, however, give it to me, I want it. I had it for all those years and I still want it. I want it today. I want it tomorrow. Then he says, my heavens, the people will remember this in the election. Well, I am going to tell you, I would hope so. I would seriously hope they would remember it in this election, because I am going to remember it.

Mr. Speaker, I am not interested in hearing about people who say, I have the biggest house, now give me more money for housing. I want people to be treated fairly. This minister has sat down and the professional engineers have said, over and over again, that we are going to allocate the roads on a needs-basis. I agree with this member on one thing and I agree with the member for Cape Breton West when he put this forward. I am of the opinion that rural roads need immediate concentration. I believe that. I support the member and his Party when he says that. I think the member for the New Democratic Party will say the same thing. I say the same, and I must tell you, I have not been silent on this since the day I came into this House. I will not be silent on it until the day I go out, which could be quite some time, one would hope.

I agree with it. Now, if only the member would concentrate on the issue instead of trying to promote his own partisan views and talking about elections. He has a nice big riding over there. It is pretty big, I know, but I know the amount of people he has in his riding is no different than the amount of people I have in mine. I have a huge geographic riding, too.

I will tell you this. You figure this out, Mr. Speaker. It does not take much to figure it out. If there are no towns in my riding and there are no villages in my riding and I have the same amount of people and more than in his riding, then how could I be smaller if he does have those types of communities in his riding? How could it be smaller? How could it possibly be? Unless they are living up on top of each other. Unless we have a community of 15,000 people or something and they did not bother making it a town, that is not possible.

I will tell you one other thing. He may have a lot of paved roads. He says he has the most paved roads in Nova Scotia. Well, I believe that. I believe he has the most paved roads in Nova Scotia. But I will tell you this much, he hasn't any more roads than I have, he just has more paved roads than I have, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

[Page 799]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hesitate to get up after that very theatrical performance and I am wondering if the member for Hants East pays dues to ACTRA, because it was certainly a very dynamic and forceful and entertaining presentation. I say if people are looking for the same, they are not going to find the same quality of theatrics in my remarks.

However, I do have to say, Mr. Speaker, much of what the member said is true with regard to the riding of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Now I say that, Mr. Speaker, because I also happen to share a border with what was the former riding; the former riding, which is now Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, the boundaries have changed and I can't speak to the Colchester portion of it, but it used to be Bedford-Musquodoboit. I can remember as we were trying to get issues addressed in the community of Sackville, a community that would have been the third largest city in this province had it been incorporated, that if you notice next door (Interruption) Well, the member says, oh, they should have voted Tory. In other words, are you saying that it depends on what your politics are and not where the need is? Is that the thing that determines it? (Interruption)

What I say, Mr. Speaker, and where I will support the member for Hants East in his remarks is that I believe we have to have a proper needs assessment done of our roads and it has to be transparent. The monies that are allocated have got to be spent on the basis of a priority list that is clear, transparent, that is published. If there is any variance from that, it has to be explained publicly. We agree totally. We have been saying that and I, as Transportation Critic for this Party, have been saying that for years.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen far too much pork-barrel politics in this province. People don't want, they don't expect that that is the way things should operate. People in Nova Scotia are fair-minded, people in Nova Scotia don't begrudge their neighbour something that is needed, but they want to know that they are being treated fairly. That is what they want to know. If their project cannot be approved this year because it can be shown that other priorities, because of safety concerns, need to precede them, they will accept that so long as they know where they are on the list and they know that partisan politics, old pork-barrel style politics that people have been opposed to for a long time, are not involved.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that having been said, people are not convinced that that actually has fully happened. The member for Hants East was critical of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley about the merger and accusing the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley for chastising this government for the bill that it is imposing on the metro area ratepayers as a result of their amalgamation. That is a part of the kind of off-loading that this government has been involved in.

Let me just go back. The member for Hants East said that has nothing to do with anything. Well, I want to try to explain it, Mr. Speaker, I want to try to put it in a context here. I will use my riding where we had to fight tooth and nail to get fair levels of work. It doesn't suffice for a minister to stand up and say, oh, we spent so many millions of dollars in your riding. If they are talking about a 100-Series Highway which happens to be going through the constituency boundaries, that doesn't classify as spending, work on the roads in the constituency. That is a public highway, a road for the whole province.

[Page 800]

AN HON. MEMBER: The same thing happened in my riding.

MR. HOLM: Yes, it did happen in your riding. I say to the member for Hants East that I know that happened up there, too. This Minister of Transportation still mixes those items together when he is giving dollar figures.

The roads in the areas of Halifax County, in many of the areas that the province has been turning over to the municipalities, it is not only in Halifax County but in many other areas, to all the towns and the cities that they are turning over, have been neglected for years. As a result of that neglect, there is far more expensive work that has to be done because if you don't maintain the surface of the infrastructure, the bed deteriorates and the cost greatly increases. The sub-grade needs to be rebuilt. This government has been planning that shotgun marriage in the metropolitan area for many years and the roads have been allowed to deteriorate, knowing that they were going to be turning that over to the new super-municipality instead of proper patching and maintaining (Interruption)

That does apply to all of them. Mr. Speaker, in the shotgun marriage, however, that they imposed, where they are also going to be not taking over the social services costs which they promised, the $22.8 million, with a municipality which is also going to be facing $20 million worth of - thank you very much - Savage Government bills for transition and now they are being told that they are going to have to upgrade all of those roads that the province has intentionally been neglecting. The bills are being passed on to somebody else. You might say they are passing the buck, literally.

Mr. Speaker, why? Well, they know that they were trying to get the debt down, and no doubt about it, that is important. But it is very important for this government, because an election is getting very close, we have to look like good fiscal managers. We have to look like good fiscal managers, so being a good fiscal manager means that we don't have debts, we aren't running a deficit. So what we do is we have to take whatever is there and you have to put make-up on it. You have to hide the sucker. You can't let people see it. So there are all these debts, all these obligations that are going to be necessary to upgrade and maintain the infrastructure that they have let deteriorate, oh, let's get rid of it, let's hide it, it is not ours. It now belongs to the taxpayers in the new Regional Municipality of Halifax. So it is not ours, we are good fiscal managers. See, we slid it across.

Highway No. 104, when I was going after the Minister of Transportation this afternoon, it is going to cost upwards at least $60 million more to finance that road offshore through this private Newcourt Credit Group than if the province had borrowed that money at the provincial bond rate. Now the Minister of Transportation tried to say, oh, it is good fiscal management. We can't borrow. What do you want, to put the debts on our books? So, what do you do, you take and you pay a lot more but you hide it. It is not on our books, it is not our debt, it is that company. (Interruption) The same people are paying it.

That is the kind of shell game, that is the kind of make-up that this government is trying to paint over itself.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is deceitful, they would never do that.

MR. HOLM: Well, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has been converted because he said, that would be deceitful and this government would never do that. Well, he may believe that. He may have been converted but I have not because example after example is still showing up. What the government has learned to do or is trying to do with

[Page 801]

paving and highway work is still politics but they are trying to play a different political game and this different political game is to hide the costs of the work that is going to be done or to shuffle it off, put it under that shell and play that little game where they slide them around, the game with the tricks of the hands.

MR. SPEAKER: There are 20 seconds remaining so you will have to be concise.

MR. HOLM: That is what they are trying to do. Mr. Speaker, that is something that I don't think Nova Scotians are going to be fooled by because, quite honestly, this government's mind and wit is not as quick as a hand. People can see the sleight of their hand a lot better and so I would suggest that maybe it is time that this government started to act in a fair manner, like the member for Hants East said they should.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the Adjournment debate has expired.

The House stands adjourned until 11:00 o'clock tomorrow morning.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]