Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Tue., Apr. 23, 1996

Fourth Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Tyndal Road: Conditions - Unsafe,
Mr. B. Taylor 893
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Committee on Assembly Matters Report, Mr. Speaker 893
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
H.O. 1, Return Tabled, Hon. J. MacEachern 894
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Fin.: GST & PST Harmonization - Memorandum of Understanding,
Hon. B. Boudreau 894
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 282, Rules of the House (Amendments), Hon. R. Mann 897
Vote - Affirmative 898
Res. 283, Health: Organ Donor Awareness Week (21/4-28/4/96) -
Recognize, Hon. R. Stewart 899
Vote - Affirmative 899
Res. 284, ERA - Tourism: Hilton Hotel (Hfx.) -
Operators-Best Wishes Extend, Hon. J. Abbass 899
Vote - Affirmative 900
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 285, Health - Organ Donation: Program - Encourage, Dr. J. Hamm 900
Vote - Affirmative 901
Res. 286, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Finalization - Postpone,
Mr. R. Chisholm 901
Res. 287, Fin. - Shaping the Future: Responses Dismissal -
Consequences, Dr. J. Hamm 902
Res. 288, Culture - Zion Lutheran Church (Lunenburg):
Heritage Designation (N.S.) - Commend, Mrs. L. O'Connor 902
Vote - Affirmative 902
Res. 289, Educ. - Special: Success Torpedoed - Admit, Mr. T. Donahoe 903
Res. 290, Educ. - Special Serv.: Assault - Stop, Mr. J. Holm 903
Res. 291, Bedford Lions Club (50th Anniv.) - Congrats.,
Mrs. F. Cosman 904
Vote - Affirmative 904
Res. 292, P.C. Party - Fleur-de-lis Trail: Dev. Commitment -
Absence, Mr. Manning MacDonald 905
Res. 293, ERA - Clayton Park Canadian Tire Store: Opening -
Congrats., Mr. G. Fogarty 905
Vote - Affirmative 905
Res. 294, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Analysis - Table,
Mr. J. Holm 906
Res. 295, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Cumb. North: Road Repairs -
Prioritized List Table, Mr. B. Taylor 906
Res. 296, District 10 East, Oyster Pond-Jeddore Vol. Fire Dept.
(31st Anniv.) - Congrats., Mr. K. Colwell 907
Vote - Affirmative 907
Res. 297, Halifax Fairview - Byelection: Record (Lib. [1993-96]) -
Message Send, Mr. G. Archibald 907
Res. 298, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Highway No. 104 Western Alignment:
Great Village Interchange - Review, Mr. D. McInnes 908
Res. 299, Gov't. (N.S.) - Windsor-West Hants: Econ. Prosperity -
Provide, Mr. R. Russell 908
Res. 300, Human Res. Dev. (Can.) - CEC: Office Closings - Oppose,
Mr. T. Donahoe 909
Res. 301, Health - Reg. Boards: Hants East - Alignment, Mr. B. Taylor 909
Res. 302, Culture - West Pictou High School: Musical Review -
Commend, Mr. D. McInnes 910
Vote - Affirmative 910
Res. 303, ERA - Rubber Stamps (Scenes): Mr. Sherman Hines
& Mrs. Joanne Tingle - Marketing Congrats., Mr. R. Russell 910
Vote - Affirmative 911
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 139, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Mun. - PST Recovery,
Dr. J. Hamm 911
No. 140, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Results, Mr. R. Chisholm 913
No. 141, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Results, Dr. J. Hamm 915
No. 142, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Benefits - Study Table,
Mr. R. Russell 917
No. 143, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Compensation, Mr. R. Russell 918
No. 144, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Changes - Table,
Mr. T. Donahoe 920
No. 145, Educ.: PST & GST Harmonization - Results, Mr. J. Holm 921
No. 146, Nat. Res. - NSRL: Tax Pools - Availability, Mr. G. Archibald 923
No. 147, Commun. Serv. - Seniors' Housing (Level I): Moratorium -
Lift, Mr. A. MacLeod 924
No. 148, Health - Reg. Boards: East Hants - Alignment, Mr. B. Taylor 926
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Nova Scotia Hospital, Hon. R. Stewart 926
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 10, Regional Community Development Act 926
Hon. R. Harrison 927
Dr. J. Hamm 927
Mr. R. Chisholm 931
Mr. B. Taylor 936
Mr. J. Leefe 937
Mr. G. Archibald 941
Mr. J. Holm 948
Adjourned debate 952
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Organ Donation: Program - Encourage:
Dr. J. Hamm 953
Mr. D. Richards 954
Mr. J. Holm 956
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 24th at 2:00 p.m. 958
[Page 893]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Paul MacEwan

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time and commence the daily business. Are there any introductions of guests before we begin? If there are no introductions, we will move to the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of 2,440 residents of Cumberland County as well as 29 letters from business owners, ambulance operators and fire departments. The people are very concerned about the deplorable and unsafe condition of the Tyndal Road. In fact, the Tidnish Bridge Fire Department believe that the road's condition is a safety hazard and may be a contributing factor in loss of life or property in emergency situations. I might close by adding that the Municipality of the County of Cumberland supports their request and their letter is so attached.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: I beg leave to table a report of the Committee on Assembly Matters dated April 23rd, today's date, recommending a number of changes in Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly as set out in an attached schedule. These changes the committee unanimously recommends for the favourable consideration of the House.

The report is tabled.

893

[Page 894]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a response to House Order No. 1.

MR. SPEAKER: The return is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance. (Applause)

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to share with members of the House of Assembly good news that will offer a major boost to the Nova Scotia economy. (Applause)

As all members know, for some months, the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada have been discussing tax harmonization. I am pleased to announce today that Nova Scotia and the federal government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding. We will now work to reach a detailed agreement on this fundamental sales tax reform.

Mr. Speaker, this agreement will blend the two existing sales taxes - the federal Goods and Services Tax and the provincial health services tax - into one lower tax. Nova Scotia joins New Brunswick and Newfoundland in reaching this agreement in principle with Ottawa. We also join Quebec, where the advantages of a single, blended tax rate were recognized early, and harmonization is being phased in over several years.

What we are announcing here today is the biggest tax reduction in Nova Scotian history. The Province of Nova Scotia will be reducing its total sales tax by $120 million in 1997-98. That money will stay right here in the Nova Scotia economy. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, using cautious estimates as do our neighbours in New Brunswick and Newfoundland, it is anticipated that this measure will increase economic output by at least 0.5 per cent in each of the provinces. That translates into 3,000 or more new lasting jobs. (Applause)

On April 1, 1997, when we expect to put this tax reduction into effect, the sales tax rate on many items Nova Scotians buy will drop to 15 per cent, the new blended rate. Currently, Nova Scotians pay GST and PST on a range of goods. When the two taxes are stacked, the effective sales tax rate is 18.8 per cent. So, in many cases, there will be a direct, immediate and a determinable benefit to consumers.

On a few other goods and on most services, the tax rate will increase. The base for the single, blended sales tax will be consistent with the current GST base. So, the tax rate will increase from 7 per cent to 15 per cent on those services and goods which currently attract the GST only. But, Mr. Speaker, and this is very important, that does not mean that the cost of those services or goods will necessarily increase or that the increase will be 8 per cent.

[Page 895]

This measure significantly reduces the tax burden on Nova Scotian business. Consumers will share in those benefits, because a tax on business is a cost to the consumer. When we reduce business taxes, we reduce the prices consumers pay.

Today, many businesses pay provincial tax on certain business inputs, the materials and services they use in their business process and operations. These taxes become embedded and increase costs at every single level from the manufacturer, to the distributor, to the wholesaler, to the retailer; even if there is no tax in the final transaction with the consumer, these taxes are there and they are passed on to the customer.

These embedded, hidden taxes will disappear with the blended, single sales tax. (Applause) Taxes on business inputs will be fully refunded, reducing costs, improving the competitive position of Nova Scotia businesses and enabling business to pass along those savings to customers.

This measure will give Nova Scotia businesses a real competitive edge in the international market place. Selling more goods and services abroad means more jobs here at home. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I know Nova Scotians want to know what this means, in dollars and cents, in their everyday lives. On balance, we believe consumers will come out ahead. You may pay a bit more for some items but you will pay less for many of the things you buy.

Assuming businesses pass along just 50 per cent of their savings to customers, an average Nova Scotian family with an income between $30,000 and $50,000 would save $109 a year. Let there be no doubt, Mr. Speaker, groceries, rent, prescription drugs, medical supplies, tuition and some other items will remain tax free for the consumer. (Applause)

Another advantage for consumers, the price they see on the tag is the price they will pay. However, taxes will appear on the sales receipt so consumers will know how much tax they paid. It won't be hidden, but the price they see advertised is the price they will pay.

Tax administration will be streamlined and simplified, reducing red tape and paper burden for business. One administration, one tax, one base, one rate - companies can spend more time running their businesses and less time filling out forms. The cost of collecting the tax will be assumed by the federal government, with resulting savings, Mr. Speaker, of up to $6 million to the Nova Scotia taxpayer on an annual basis.

Obviously, a consideration in developing this plan was the effect on provincial revenues. The fact is, the province will collect less tax - $120 million less in 1997-98. The federal government is providing adjustment assistance to partially offset this revenue loss. Over the four year transition period, Nova Scotia will receive $249 million in adjustment assistance.

More significant is the economic activity this will generate. Our government's plans always included tax reductions, because that's what it takes to grow our economy and create jobs. Our progress over the past three years has positioned us to seize this opportunity.

Over the next several months, as we work out these details, we will be talking with Nova Scotians to maximize the benefits and solve as many of the concerns as possible.

[Page 896]

As most of you know, Mr. Speaker, I like to talk about the bottom line. The bottom line in this announcement is a stronger economy, with lower taxes, more jobs and competitive advantages for our businesses. That's good news for all Nova Scotians. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, this was probably the best kept secret, I guess, of 1996. We are moving into a new regime, we are harmonizing taxes, we have not consulted with a single sector or a single person outside of the Cabinet, I would suggest, in the Province of Nova Scotia as to what the effects of this blending of the federal and provincial sales tax will accomplish.

We are told by the minister that we are going to save $120 million per year in taxes. We are told we are going to create 3,000 new jobs in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause) We are told that the Gross Domestic Product of the province will increase by 0.5 per cent. But, Mr. Speaker, the minister hasn't produced one scintilla of evidence to back up what he is saying.

[2:15 p.m.]

I would suggest to the minister that before he goes any further with this scheme of harmonizing the two taxes, that he produce for Nova Scotians a document which will detail what is going to happen to the poor people - I notice that in his release he talks about people who are earning between $30,000 and $50,000 per annum, Mr. Speaker. How about the people who are not earning $30,000, those who are on some kind of social assistance, those who are on fixed incomes? What happens to them when now the essential services, which were heretofore free of provincial taxes, have now become covered under this harmonized tax? I am speaking of, for instance, oil for heating the home, telephone bills, our water bills, hydro bills - I could go on and on - all those things now are going to be taxed. They are going to be taxed for the rich and the poor but they are going to impact more heavily on those who are in the low income brackets.

Mr. Speaker, there are so many questions about this harmonization that have not as yet been answered by the minister, that it is very difficult to respond to what he has come out with today in his announcement. He announced for instance today in his speech that, "It may cost you a dollar more to fill up your tank, but on a $500 repair bill, you will save more than $20 in tax.". Well, I would suggest to the minister that maybe you fill up your gas tank once a week but you don't go out and bash your car in to the extent of $500 of damage every couple of weeks. He talks about paying ". . . another couple of bucks for green fees but . . ." saving $5 to buy a driver. Well, I presume by his logic, you would go out every month and buy a new driver so that you would break even on your green fees.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be asking the minister some questions in Question Period and I am going to leave his ministerial statement at that, for the present time.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me say first of all that what we have heard announced here today is the biggest tax sham that we have heard since the federal Tories introduced the GST. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, you will remember the GST. The GST still remains under this plan. It was introduced with great fanfare as being a huge boon to business. It shifted billions of dollars from business on to consumers and it was going to generate the kind of economic activity we had never seen before in this country. What we have had in the past number of years since that tax came on is the most prolonged period of economic recession we have seen in 50 years, along with chronic unemployment as taxes have continued to be shifted from business to individuals. Corporate profits have continued to rise and employment continues to fall. It is just more of the same kind of hokery-pokery that Nova Scotians have become used to from this government.

[Page 897]

Businesses in this province are going to realize savings above $500 million annually, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians want to know who is going to pay? The people who pay the bulk of the consumption taxes in this country and in this province are the middle class. They are the ones who are going to be covering the burden. They are the ones, middle and low income Nova Scotians, who are going to be asked to pick up the burden once again.

Let's not forget, of course, that we are going to lose $120 million annually in revenue. You will remember that incentive payment from the federal government, which will mean that in over four years that we are only going to lose about $235 million to $240 million. But that is on top of the $300 million we are losing as a result of CHST changes and the tens of millions of dollars we are losing as a result of changes in UI.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are not to be taken lightly and that is what this government is doing. They have made promises about employment gains, economic growth, the kind of promises that have not shown any substance whatsoever over the past three years. Nova Scotians know that. This is a significant policy change. This is going to have a significant impact on the economy of Nova Scotia and all Nova Scotians. I ask this minister, if he is so convinced that this is the way we should go in this province, put the question before the people of Nova Scotia, call an election and let's fight it on this basis.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

RESOLUTION NO. 282

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly be amended as provided in the attached schedule.

[SCHEDULE

Province of Nova Scotia

Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly

AMENDMENTS RECOMMENDED BY COMMITTEE ON ASSEMBLY MATTERS

April 23, 1996

1. The Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly are amended by striking out "Mr. Speaker", "Mr. Speaker's" and "MR. SPEAKER" wherever they appear and

[Page 898]

substituting in each case "the Speaker", "The Speaker", "the Speaker's", "The Speaker's" and "THE SPEAKER", as the case may be.

2. Paragraph 60(2) is amended by

(a) striking out clause (b) and substituting the following clauses:

(b) the Public Accounts Committee is established for the purpose of reviewing the public accounts, the annual report or other report of the Auditor General and any other financial matters respecting the public funds of the Province;

(ba) The Economic Development Committee is established for the purpose of considering matters normally assigned to or within the purview of the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency and the Minister responsible for the Agency and the Department and Minister of Transportation and Public Works and matters relating to the Technology and Science Secretariat;

(b) striking out subclause (c)(i) and substituting the following subclause:

(i) considering matters normally assigned to or within the purview of the Departments and Ministers of Education and Culture and of Labour,

and

(c) striking out clauses (d) and (e) and substituting the following clauses:

(d) the Community Services Committee is established for the purpose of considering matters normally assigned to or within the purview of the Departments and Minister of Business and Consumer Services and of Municipal Affairs and matters relating to the Human [Page 899]

Rights Commission and the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission;

(e) the Resources Committee is established for the purpose of considering matters normally assigned to or within the purview of the Departments and Ministers of Agriculture and Marketing, of the Environment, of Fisheries and of Natural Resources.]

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 900]

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 283

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

Whereas every organ donor can help improve the lives of as many 13 people, sometimes making the critical difference between life and death; and

Whereas Nova Scotians now have the unique opportunity to be part of a donor registry through their Nova Scotia Health Card; and

Whereas a new Nova Scotia Health Card is available to everyone who wishes to have this card designated as their organ donor card;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize April 21, 1996 to April 28, 1996 as Organ Donor Awareness Week and urge all citizens to register as an organ donor and designate their Nova Scotia Health Card as their donor card, as well as make their family aware of their wishes.

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

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 Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 284

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

Whereas the Halifax Hilton Hotel, formerly known as the Hotel Nova Scotian, located near the Halifax waterfront, has been sitting empty for the past two years; and

Whereas over the years, this hotel was the site of many historic conventions and annual meetings; and

Whereas the hotel has now been purchased by the Newcastle Hotel Corporation who intend to operate it as a Westin Hotel;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to the Newcastle Hotel Corporation, best wishes for a successful tenure as operators of Halifax's grand old trademark hotel and acknowledge the contribution of past employees and the commitment of future employees and management to the success of this new venture.

[Page 901]

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable Minister of Health on an introduction.

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence and with the help and cooperation of the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, this is, as I mentioned, Organ Donor Awareness Week and we have guests both here in the House and of course, we have much interest in people around the province in respect to organ donation. It is with that in mind that the honourable Leader of the Opposition, I understand, has introduced a resolution which I look forward to discussing and debating at 6:00 o'clock this evening.

We have in our gallery, some guests that both myself and the honourable Leader of the Opposition would like to introduce to the House to receive the usual warm greeting, particularly in light of this week being Organ Donor Awareness Week. The Kidney Foundation of Canada has in your gallery some guests: Harriet Whynacht, Ms. Kim West, Jim Irvine, Shauna Tracey, and Mary Catharine McDonnell. I think the honourable Leader of the Opposition has several other guests in association with these.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to renew my driver's license last week at McLellans Brook and that gave me the opportunity as well to sign my intention to be an organ donor; I would certainly encourage all members of the House to do the same.

In following the lead of the Minister of Health, I would like to introduce to members of the House: Mr. Richard Brookfield, Vice President of the Nova Scotia Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada; Mr. Doug Sabean, Vice President of the Nova Scotia Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada; Ms. Nellie Allen, representative from the Multi-Organ Transplant Program of the VG Hospital site of the Queen Elizabeth II, and Mr. Charles Bastable, volunteer with the Nova Scotia Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

I would ask our guests to rise and receive the applause of the House. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 285

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

[Page 902]

Whereas the week of April 21st to the 28th is Organ Donor Awareness Week; and

Whereas many volunteer agencies and organizations across the province, notably the Kidney Foundation of Canada, are dedicated to improving the health and quality of life for people living with kidney disease, along with promoting awareness of the need for organ donors; and

Whereas hundreds of Nova Scotians - doctors, nurses, transplant teams, hospital boards, families of organ recipients and staff - work selflessly to maintain a year-round donor program;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate those volunteers and donors who make the Organ Donor Program successful and encourage all Nova Scotians to seriously consider signing their Nova Scotia health card so that they may be able to offer the gift of life.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 286

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

Whereas in its typical arrogant fashion this government has rammed through a back-room deal to harmonize the give Sheila time tax with the provincial sales tax; and

Whereas this harmonized tax will mean further tax breaks to business and higher taxes on lower income and middle class Nova Scotians; and

Whereas this harmonized tax will eventually damage provincial revenues and the public services that depend on these revenues;

Therefore be it resolved that the finalization of the secret back-room harmonization deal be postponed until the people of Nova Scotia have had a chance to pass judgment on it in a general election campaign.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

I believe that that notice really does transgress in several respects about the need for temperate and moderate language in the House. The GST is not the give Sheila time tax, it is the goods and services tax, that is the proper name of it. I object to that type of language being used in these resolutions.

[Page 903]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 287

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

Whereas the Liberal Government is highly adept at ignoring any voices of dissent; and

Whereas the Minister of Finance didn't like the responses he got from 1,700 Nova Scotians who don't agree with the minister's ideas on the economic future of the province; and

Whereas these 1,700 dissenting Nova Scotians have been lumped into one single solitary voice in the Liberal wilderness;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government may be able to dismiss 1,700 responses as a single response today but, come election day, all 1,700 votes will be counted against the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 288

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

Whereas the Zion Lutheran Church in Lunenburg will be proclaimed a Provincial Heritage Property on Sunday, April 28th; and

Whereas the architect of the Zion Lutheran Church was noted 19th Century architect Henry David Busch, creator of the Normal School in Truro and the famous gazebo in the Halifax Public Gardens; and

Whereas this church has been a prominent architectural landmark in the old Town of Lunenburg since 1890;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly commend this church's provincial heritage designation and extend congratulations to the congregation of the Zion Lutheran Church for their many outstanding contributions to the spiritual life of our community.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 904]

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, just before I read my resolution, I wonder if you and colleagues might indulge me the opportunity to make an introduction. I have the opportunity and I am most pleased - saddened, in a way, and I will explain that but pleased on the one hand - to welcome to the House a group of students from the Nova Scotia Community College Library Technician Program who are our guests and at the present time seated in the west gallery. They are joined today by their leader, Peter Kidd. I would invite all members to extend to them the usual warm welcome.

[2:30 p.m.]

I might say, as we do extend a welcome, it is sad that it happens to be the day that our Library Technician Program students are joining us, it happens to be the day when the Minister of Finance is imposing a tax on books which will be devastating as far as the book industry of the province is concerned but notwithstanding, we welcome our guests and would invite them to rise and receive the warm welcome of all members of the Legislature. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 289

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

Whereas the Department of Education and Culture, in its recently released special education policy, states, "Approximately 17 per cent of the students in public schools are considered to have special needs, meaning they require support, in addition to what is normally required in the classroom."; and

Whereas the Dartmouth School Board last night decided they could only afford hiring three special education teachers despite the 545 students who are on a waiting list for help; and

Whereas school board members refused to hire more special education teachers because they were afraid of losing capital construction financing under the amalgamated school board;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education admit that the school board amalgamania by forcing school boards to spend limited dollars on capital construction instead of special needs has torpedoed any chance of success for his special education policy.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 290

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

[Page 905]

Whereas the Minister of Education, in response to a question from the member for Sackville-Cobequid, told the House, "If you were to go back five years ago, there are more resources, more special services now than there were then."; and

Whereas Appendix N of the Report of the Select Committee on Education, on which the minister serves, showed there were 1,514 professionals and para-professionals providing special services to students in need of such services five years ago; and

Whereas due to funding cutbacks imposed by the Liberal Government, there are approximately 80 fewer staff providing such services across the province in 1994-95 with further reductions implemented during the 1995-96 school year;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government stop its assault on special services which were acknowledged even five years ago to be inadequate and instead provide the additional resources required by boards to implement his special education policy.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.

RESOLUTION NO. 291

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

Whereas on Saturday past more than 200 people gathered to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Bedford Lions Club; and

Whereas during the past 50 years the Lions Club and the Bedford Lionettes, through many fundraising activities, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various community projects, including the community recreation centre, the playground and the pool, student bursaries, support for the physically and mentally challenged, the wish tree and projects for seniors; and

Whereas the activities of the Bedford Lions Club throughout the past 50 years typify the exemplary volunteer spirit and commitment of individuals and organizations in the community of Bedford;

Therefore be it resolved that the Members of the Legislative Assembly extend their sincere congratulations to the 43 members of the Bedford Lions Club and their President, Mr. Bob Spence, on the occasion of their 50th Anniversary of dedicated service to the people of Bedford and with them continued success and growth in the years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver. I wish you would clap for this one.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

[Page 906]

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 292

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

Whereas during the federal election campaign of 1965, the federal Liberal Government proposed the development of the Fleur-de-lis Trail from Port Hawkesbury to Louisbourg but could not get the support of the provincial Tory Government; and

Whereas last week, members of the Nova Scotia Tory caucus once again refused to endorse the development of the Fleur-de-lis Trail when asked for that support in the House of Assembly; and

Whereas the Tories pretended, during the Cape Breton West by-election, to be supporters of the trail, only to prove recently that such a claim was only political game playing;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Tory commitments for what they are and be aware that when trails are blazed they will not be found.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 293

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

Whereas the new Canadian Tire Store located in the Clayton Park West Shopping Centre held its grand opening this past Wednesday, April 17, 1996; and

Whereas this store is the largest Canadian Tire Store in Eastern Canada; and

Whereas the Clayton Park Canadian Tire Store will employ 80 full-time and part-time staff and stock 42,000 different products;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Carlo Weickert, owner of the Clayton Park West Canadian Tire Store.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 907]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 294

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

Whereas under the harmonization the Liberals are proposing municipalities pay over $6 million more in taxes to be passed on to municipal ratepayers; and

Whereas school boards, which are already being forced to cut essential services and increase class sizes due to Liberal cutbacks, will also see their sales tax increase by over $6 million, courtesy of the Liberal's harmonization scheme; and

Whereas the Finance Minister who says, you pay a little more here and save a little there, has not explained how he will protect small Nova Scotians who cannot afford to pay a little more;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government, if they are so confident in their harmonization plan, table the full analysis of costs and take their show on the road to find out what Nova Scotians think about the proposal before implementing it.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 295

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 Cumberland North Liberal Association has passed a resolution to send a strong letter to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works protesting the condition of secondary roads in the riding and calling for immediate repairs; and

Whereas the Cumberland Municipal Council has written the minister a letter complaining about the condition of the Gulf Shore Road and has forwarded a petition regarding the poor condition of the Tyndal Road; and

Whereas the Auditor General notes that the department has developed a repaving prioritization process which assigns numerical weightings to give an objective methodology for evaluation and prioritizing repaving projects;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works table in this House the prioritized list for road repairs so that the residents of Cumberland North will know when they can expect these needed road repairs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

[Page 908]

RESOLUTION NO. 296

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

Whereas the District 10 East, Oyster Pond-Jeddore Volunteer Fire Department is celebrating its 31st Anniversary on Saturday, April 27, 1996; and

Whereas the fire department has 25 active members and 3 trainees serving the Eastern Shore communities from Head Jeddore to East Newcomb's Brook, including Little Harbour, Owls Head, Southwest River, Ship Harbour, Upper Lakeville, Clam Harbour, East and West Jeddore and DeBaies Cove; and

Whereas 23 of the volunteers have been fully trained as first responders and 20 members are qualified to operate a defibrillator;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the members of the District 10 East, Oyster Pond-Jeddore Volunteer Fire Department and their Chief, Edgar Kerr, on the occasion of their 31st Anniversary and offer our gratitude for their leadership and community volunteer spirit.

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 Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 297

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

Whereas in announcing the by-election for Halifax Fairview, the Premier said he wanted to run on his government's record; and

Whereas that record includes a 3 per cent tax on household electricity, 1 per cent additional tax on the PST, $22 million tax on gasoline, Sunday shopping, then no Sunday shopping, no casino, now a casino, the only thing for sure is confusion and more taxes; and

Whereas if that wasn't enough, the Premier has saddled seniors with a heavy cost for Pharmacare, new taxes on beverage containers, gutted Nova Scotia's health and education systems without providing any alternatives to the thousands of civil servants who have been laid off;

[Page 909]

Therefore be it resolved that the residents of Halifax Fairview, as was quoted in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald by Ronald Johnston, send the Premier a message he will not soon forget and tell him in the process what a dismal failure his government has been.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 298

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

Whereas considerable concern is being expressed over the need for an interchange on the Highway No. 104 western alignment at Great Village; and

Whereas concern has been increased because of the proximity of a limited access road to the Great Village Elementary School; and

Whereas even the Member of Parliament for Cumberland-Colchester has questioned the provincial transportation officials in their decision-making process;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation immediately take this matter under review and consult with officials in his department and the residents of Great Village to see if an alternative solution can be worked out to the community's satisfaction.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 299

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

Whereas Windsor-West Hants has been hammered time and time again by both this Liberal Government and their federal counterparts in Ottawa; and

Whereas the provincial hammering has resulted in the loss of over 80 jobs to the local area and resulted in either the downsizing or closure by the provincial government of the Hants Assessment Office, the Hants County Courthouse, the Department of Health, the Hants Community Hospital, Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission Offices, the Hants Community College and the Hants West District School Board; and

Whereas federal hammering has resulted in the planned closure of the Newport Naval Base and a massive reduction of services at the Canada Employment Centre in Windsor;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government stop the bleeding taking place in Windsor-West Hants and provide the economic prosperity they so boldly campaigned for in the election of spring of 1993.

[Page 910]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 300

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

Whereas the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia and the Liberal Party of Canada each campaigned on a platform of job, jobs, jobs; and

Whereas the federal government has closed or plans to close employment counselling offices in, among other areas, Gottingen Street here in the City of Halifax, New Waterford, Digby and along the South Shore; and

Whereas the protests and concerns of those Nova Scotians adversely affected by the projected closures of up to 19 of these needed offices have thus far fallen on deaf ears;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia take a strong stand on this issue and make strong representations to their federal counterparts, opposing the closure of these offices which provide a valuable service to job starved Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 301

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

Whereas without any consultation whatsoever the residents of Hants East were told that they had no choice and would be aligned with the Northern Regional Health Board; and

Whereas Health Minister Ron Stewart refused to consider a 2,000 name petition from the residents of East Hants to have their area included in the central region and flatly denied a request from East Hants Municipal Council to meet with them to hear their concerns; and

Whereas East Hants Council strongly disagrees with the member for Hants East who believed the idea of cross representation would appease the concerns of area residents, describing his idea of dual representation as "a lack of communication that shows how much they bloody well care";

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health, the MLA for Hants East and the chairs of both regional health boards immediately meet with the representatives of the East Hants Council to listen to their concerns and to explain why residents are being forced, against their will, to join the Northern Regional Health Board.

[Page 911]

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I doubt that some of the language in that resolution is temperate, especially the quote that is ascribed to someone else.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 302

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 musical revue, White Bucks and Saddle Shoes, recently played to three sell-out audiences at the deCoste Entertainment Centre in Pictou; and

Whereas this musical revue, under the direction of Karen Corbin, was an adaptation of the 1950's play where characters were practising for an upcoming variety show at Ma Vark's Soda Emporium; and

Whereas proceeds from this musical will be used to assist in creating a technology rich environment for the proposed multimedia library at the West Pictou District High School;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature commend Director Karen Corbin and her production crew for their dedication and hard work in putting on White Bucks and Saddle Shoes and raising money for West Pictou District High School in the process.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 303

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

Whereas Mr. Sherman Hines, a native of Liverpool and a resident of Hants West, is well-known for his skills as a photographer of Nova Scotia nature scenes; and

Whereas Mr. Hines has entered into a collaboration with Ms. Joanne Tingle, owner of Stamp of Approval, a local company, to market rubber stamps of Nova Scotia scenes worldwide; and

Whereas sales of these items around the world will enhance Nova Scotia's reputation as a tourist destination;

[Page 912]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Sherman Hines and Ms. Joanne Tingle for their innovative marketing approach to bring Nova Scotia to the attention of the world and wish them the best of success in their new venture.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

Are there any further notices of motion? If not, that appears to conclude the daily routine.

I wish to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 p.m., and the winner today is the honourable member for Cape Breton West. He submitted a resolution as follows:

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House, in recognition of Organ Donor Awareness Week, congratulate those volunteers and donors who made the Organ Donor Program successful, and encourage all Nova Scotians to seriously consider signing their Nova Scotia Health Card so that they may be able to offer the gift of life.

So, we will hear discussion of those themes at 6:00 p.m.

That appears to conclude the daily routine; we will now advance to Orders of the Day. The Oral Question Period today is one hour long; it will run from 2:48 p.m. until 3:48 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: MUN. - PST RECOVERY

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance has been consumed in recent days by his negotiations with the federal government to set up a harmonized tax. He has presented that tax publicly, that harmonization process, in its very best light. However, there are a lot of details that remain to be brought forward before we can get any understanding as to what this is going to do for us.

My question to the minister, bearing in mind the minister knows that the municipal governments in this province have traditionally been excused from paying PST, will the minister confirm that under the new arrangement he has signed with Ottawa, that the municipal units will now only be able to recover 42 per cent of the PST they are paying? In

[Page 913]

other words, that they will, in fact, not be able to recover the PST - there will be a tax on the tax - and that municipal units will only be able to recover part of the PST they pay, bearing in mind that they were able to recover it all previously?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, first of all, in commenting on the preamble to the question, what this agreement brings to us here in Nova Scotia, is a $120 million tax reduction, the biggest in history, stimulation of the economy to create at least 3,000 jobs and making Nova Scotia more competitive and bringing, I might add, about $1 billion of new money into the Atlantic Canadian economy. (Applause) So that is in response to the preamble.

I might ask the honourable member, which part of that doesn't he approve of? But, specifically, with relation to the municipalities, the present exemption on the GST is 57.12 per cent. For the municipalities, that exemption will be continued from the GST side, continued for the blended tax, the new national sales tax, and, indeed, it will result in a 42 per cent cost in effect of the 8 per cent. The honourable Leader - I don't know if it was the Leader or the Deputy Leader of the NDP - I think, cited the figure earlier at something like $6 million, I believe. We have already opened discussions with the municipalities and we will be attempting to determine that in more detail for you.

DR. HAMM: Well, I did some quick mathematics and I came up with a figure of about $13 million that will now be firmly on the shoulders of the municipal taxpayers as a result of this new harmonized tax and I will await for the minister to confirm that figure. But that is what my arithmetic gives me.

My question to the minister is, when he gives us these figures that we are going to create 3,000 new jobs and we are going to increase our provincial economy by one-half of 1 per cent as a result of harmonization, would he indicate if, when he was evaluating the effect of the tax, did he evaluate the effect of increased commercial tax rates to provide the additional $12 million or $13 million that the municipalities will have to come up with? Was that included in his factoring of the effect of harmonization?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Opposition estimates that at $12 million or $13 million; the honourable Deputy Leader of the NDP estimates it at $6 million; and, in fact, what we have done is we have contacted the municipalities, asked them if they will meet with us and determine, in a joint effort, as to exactly what the impact would be. I caution the Leader of the Opposition that in fact there will be in the goods and services that a municipality buys, a price reduction due to the input tax credits which will be available under this new system to a supplier. So you can't automatically conclude that that increase will take place or to that extent.

But here is what we will do and let me make this perfectly clear. We made a commitment to the municipalities a month and one-half ago that, first of all, there would be no implementation until at least the next fiscal year. We have met that commitment. We made a commitment to them that we would meet with them and try to attempt in a more exact way than perhaps we will here to determine precisely the amount that is involved and then we will meet with them to find methods to meet the challenge. I think we can meet the challenge so that it won't fall on the commercial taxpayers of this province. (Applause)

[Page 914]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary, I make comment to the minister that I am very surprised that he wouldn't have that figure right at his fingertips because he has all the good numbers about harmonization right at his fingertips but when the negatives come out, it is, we will get back to you with the answer some time in the future.

Would the minister comment as to whether or not the effect on the underground economy will be monitored by the federal government, as they will have the responsibility of collecting this new harmonized tax? Will they then be responsible in monitoring the effect on the underground economy or will that remain a provincial responsibility?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Opposition asks a multiple question there. First of all, to go back to the municipalities, the municipalities will have a figure, we will have a figure but we will sit down and investigate in detail so that it may be $6 million or $13 million or $4 million or $8.9 million. We will come to an agreement after we have done the work with the municipalities. When we do that, we will move on with those municipalities to meet the challenge.

Mr. Speaker, I think I have forgotten the second part of it.

AN HON. MEMBER: The underground economy.

MR. BOUDREAU: The underground economy. That is a bit of a detailed and lengthy answer but the short answer is that under this agreement in principle, the provincial government will negotiate a very detailed and specific administration agreement so that we will remain participants. We will remain players, we will remain decision-makers, we will remain in a position where the administration is accountable to the province. We will target at a very specific date, the date mentioned in the agreement is January 1, 1998, to create a new joint tax collection agency with involvement by both the federal and provincial governments. So we are not getting out of the business and we will be monitoring the underground economy.

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

FIN.: PST & GST HARMONIZATION - RESULTS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to direct a question to the Minister of Finance. We have heard the trumpets today announce that this is the biggest tax reduction in Nova Scotian history. (Applause) While I know that that phrase gives some considerable comfort to members of this Liberal Government, it doesn't go over very well with Nova Scotians.

I want to ask the Minister of Finance to explain, Mr. Speaker, because what Nova Scotians see is that for a whole host of family essentials they are now going to have to pay an extra 8 per cent sales tax. They are going to have to pay an extra 8 per cent on heating bills, on furnace oil, on children's clothing, on personal hygiene items, on a whole host of items.

I would just like to ask, Mr. Speaker, and then I can pass this on to Nova Scotians who ask me this question, how can the minister and all his colleagues, as they pump themselves up and blow the trumpets, how can they, when Nova Scotia taxpayers are looking at paying an extra 8 per cent on all these family essentials, how can he stand in his place and say that this is going to be the greatest tax break in Nova Scotia's history?

[Page 915]

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Government of Nova Scotia in 1997-98, starting April 1st, will collect that year $120 million less in sales tax here in this province. That is a reduction of $120 million. Is the honourable member against that? Is he coming out four-square against a reduction of $120 million? That is a net reduction; after you figure it, yes, there are some higher and some lower but the net result is a reduction of $120 million. Is that what the honourable member is against?

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister didn't even come close to answering that question but that is okay, Nova Scotians are getting used to that.

Let me try another one. In light of the fact that we know that studies have concluded that one-third to one-half of all revenues from the PST come from business inputs and in Nova Scotia that represents probably up to $500 million a year, I would like to ask the minister if he would explain who is going to pay that $500 million windfall that businesses are going to receive annually forever?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the average Nova Scotian, when this harmonized tax is in place, who walks into a grocery store and picks up a grocery order, most of which is not taxable now but some of which is, when they do that after April 1st they will come out with that same grocery order and it will cost them less. (Applause) You know, the Opposition, particularly the New Democratic Party, have not answered the question. Are they against the $120 million tax reduction? (Interruptions) Yes, perhaps this will take a policy convention to decide, Mr. Speaker.

Let me say this to the New Democratic Party. For some reason they believe that a dollar tax on a business somehow does not get passed on to the consumer. Who do you think pays that? Who do you think pays the dollar of tax on the business? Do you think they just swallow it? Do you think they just, out of their beneficence, say, oh, no, no, we are going to accept that. No, no, every dollar gets passed on to the consumer and that is who pays. We are going to take all of those hidden taxes out of the system all along the way.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me assure the Minister of Finance that he is going to have all sorts of opportunities to ask me questions after the next election when he is sitting on this side and I am sitting on that side. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary to the Minister of Finance . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You couldn't even do it with a straight face. (Laughter)

MR. CHISHOLM: The minister has the opportunity to make that decision sooner or later, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, according to studies, and I have one here by KPMG looking at alternatives to the GST, they found that compared to personal income taxes, consumption-based taxes like the GST and the PST fall most heavily on the middle income group. Those in the top 25 per cent of income are definitely better off with the GST and PST than they would be if the same amount were collected in income tax. That is recognizing that hopefully the minister will follow up the Premier's commitment and ensure that the lowest 25 per cent receive a credit as they do now with the GST. I would like to ask the minister, given that shift, given the fact that the burden will again fall on middle income earners, to the benefit of the rich, how can the minister justify, at a time like this, more tax breaks like this for the rich?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate if the honourable member would table that study that he has quoted from. I am sure I would find it helpful.

[Page 916]

Mr. Speaker, what we have in this circumstance is a situation where we are going to reduce the tax taken out of the economy, and indeed the taxpayers' pockets, by $120 million. That benefit will find its way to every single Nova Scotian. (Interruptions) Let me take very seriously the comments of the honourable Leader of the NDP. Let me take them very seriously because I want to attribute the appropriate motives to him. He is concerned that the benefits by this massive tax reduction reach various income groups in an equitable way. I accept that challenge from the honourable member and I ask him to be a little patient because more is yet to come.

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN.: PST & GST HARMONIZATION - RESULTS

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Minister of Finance, the minister continues to describe in glowing terms the arrangement that he signed with Ottawa. He talks about the $120 million tax saving. The minister is, indeed, a very good salesman. I remember so clearly when he sold Nova Scotians about casinos and he described the $50 million of revenues that we would get each and every year from the operation of casinos in this province. Those glowing descriptions of what was going to happen certainly have not come to fruition.

My question is simply this. If, in fact, the minister is off base, if in fact this is not an arrangement that other provinces buy into, the other seven provinces that are not part of the arrangement right now, what are the clauses in the arrangement that the minister has signed that will allow Nova Scotia to back out of this tax arrangement with the federal Government of Canada?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I cannot resist a comment on the casino preamble. What we said in this House and what we in fact included in our Estimates Book when we did a four year estimate was the figure of $25 million and we set out there that this was what we were guaranteed. The projections of the proponent were $50 million but the figure we used in all of our estimates - and all they have to do is check the Estimates Book -was $25 million and, believe me, that is what we have. (Applause)

The preambles are knocking me off track here with respect to the general answer, but the main point that the honourable member wants to question us about is, what happens if some other provinces don't join? What we have here is a national program designed with a national base, a national rate, a national criteria for compensation. A national program designed for a change, I might add, not by Ontario, British Columbia, or Alberta, but designed by the federal government and the Atlantic Provinces.

Now let's speculate. Suppose Ontario is considering whether or not they should join and they decide perhaps they don't want to, at least not right now, there is clear precedent in the past history of this country for provinces to join a national program as they see fit. Let me tell you one thing, that if Ontario chooses not to join, then our businesses here in Nova

[Page 917]

Scotia competitively will just gain an 8 per cent advantage, because they will have full input tax credits and the Ontario businesses will have none. (Applause)

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance is not prepared, I am quite sure, to stand up in this House and say that he did not, in selling the proposal of casinos, indicate we were going to get $50 million of revenue, and those figures were not backed up by a single report, document, or study. The Minister is saying with this program that we are going to create 3,000 jobs and we are going to grow our economy by one-half of 1 per cent. I challenge the minister, today, to table any report, document or study that backs up that the arrangement that he signed with Ottawa will create 3,000 jobs - not 2,500, not 3,500 - 3,000 jobs that will grow our economy by one-half of 1 per cent. Table the report or the document or anything that will back up what the minister says?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I can't resist the casino comments again. There was a document. The proponents, in their submission to the Casino Project Committee, used the figure of $50 million. It was on the basis of that that it was accepted. Consistently, the figure we have used is the figure we have included in the budget. Now, let's get on and talk about the study.

Our Department of Finance has been involved, probably over the last six months certainly, seriously, in doing economic studies, in doing modelling in the various aspects of the arrangement that we made in signing this agreement in principle. I might add, so have the other provinces, not only the ones who have signed, but some others.

I have given indication at a public press conference this morning - that I think the honourable Leader of the Opposition attended, if I am not mistaken - that I have instructed my department to prepare a report embodying all of these studies that were done internally over the past six to eight months. That report will be prepared and will be tabled in a timely way in this House of Assembly. (Applause)

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister and I believe then that there is a commitment to table that, and I hope that it will come in the fullness of time and I would hope that it would come while all of us in this House are still capable of reading it. I would hope that it would come along in a timely fashion.

The minister has indicated that, in fact, there will be jobs created and there will be a growth in the revenue. I wonder if the minister, in his final supplementary answer, would indicate that bearing in mind that with this new change we will be the only area in Canada that will tax textbooks and books, does he expect that there will be any growth in the book industry of Nova Scotia, and will any of that growth in the economy be the result of the taxing of books, bearing in mind we will be the only province in Canada to have a tax on our textbooks and books?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, first of all to go back to the undertaking I gave; I wasn't trying to be cute about the response. Let me undertake more specifically. I will undertake to table that in the House before the end of the session. Now, on to your other question about books. Books and booksellers are one of the problematic areas. We have to address that; we have already made initial contact and we are going to sit down in our discussions, as we will have with many groups across this province dealing, again, with the impact. I don't want to minimize the impact, although it is one that we will be discussing with them.

[Page 918]

There are some advantages even to that sector in this new harmonized process. They will, of course, enjoy input tax credits, so that will be of some advantage to them. I am not saying it may be enough to offset the corresponding disadvantage at the other end but these are the types of things we have to sit down and talk to them about.

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

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: BENEFITS - STUDY TABLE

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is for the Minister of Finance and also deals with the same matter as the previous questioners have. I don't think, quite honestly, that the Minister of Finance is trying to deliberately deceive but I do have great difficulty believing some of the predictions he makes. In lieu of the fact that this is the crew over there that in 1993 came in and they were going to make 62,000 jobs and there were going to be no new taxes and they were in power for exactly, I believe it was, two and a half months or three months and, bingo, 30-60-90 disappears and, on top of that, doesn't create any jobs, and the Minister of Finance brings in a budget with tax increases.

The minister says he has done some modelling, he has done some studying, et cetera, on the economic impact of harmonization. Now if he has performed these various exercises, Mr. Speaker, I fail to understand why, in response to the question from the Leader of the Opposition to table those studies, why he can't just say, why certainly, I will do it tomorrow.

At the present time does the minister have a specific study he can put his hands on that will identify $120 million in tax savings and 3,000 jobs? Does he have a document in the Department of Finance?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has difficulty believing that this sort of economic activity will take place. I recall he also had difficulty about three years ago when we told him we were going to balance the budget. There was a lot of scepticism then, too. They believe it now but they were a little sceptical back in 1993. (Interruptions) We gave that commitment that we would balance the budget. The Opposition Critics scoffed, maybe even some media scoffed, I don't know, I don't remember clearly. (Interruptions) No, surely not. In any event, we carried out that commitment.

Mr. Speaker, I have just indicated in the previous answer to the Leader of the Opposition, we have conducted studies, we have conducted modelling, we have conducted analyses over the past six to eight months. What I have instructed my department to do is to put that together into report form and table it in a timely manner. I might remind the honourable member that we have a budget coming up on Thursday and the estimates to follow and we have some other demands on our time as well.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, that's a big deal. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance, in response to what I thought was a perfectly straightforward question regarding tabling a study, rambles off and starts talking about balancing the budget back in 1993. It is no big deal to balance a budget (Interruption) when you pick up to $450 million in equalization payments in excess of what your budget is, when you destroy the health care system, when you destroy the education system, it is no big deal to balance the budget. It doesn't require magic to do that. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

[Page 919]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, they don't like it when they get the truth. (Interruption)

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Let's have the question, please. Question.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister states that he is going to lose $120 million in revenue in fiscal 1997-98. I wonder if that is a net figure or a gross figure? In other words, he is going to receive from the federal government a portion of the $249 million which I believe is allocated over four years. Now, in fiscal 1997-98, does he indeed receive $62 million and does that bring us down to a net loss for the Minister of Finance to make up of $60 million?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, again to address, briefly, the preamble. Many the night I have been over in the office of the Department of Finance marvelling how unlucky that former government was for 15 years in a row when it came to balancing their budgets. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, when you talk about net, I am not quite sure I understand what the honourable member means by net. There will be in the economy, generally, some winners, some losers but when you net that off, the amount is $120 million. That is the amount we address with compensation and with other programs.

MR. RUSSELL: I used to think that the Minister of Finance gave a fairly reasonable answer to most questions. But I don't understand that answer. What I am asking him is, he is getting $120 million taken out of what he was formerly receiving under the health services tax system. Now, he is also receiving from Ottawa, I don't know what we are going to call it, a bribe, an incentive, a push or something, to accept this deal and that money will be going into the provincial coffers. Is he actually losing $120 million in cash in his bank account over there or is he losing $120 million minus the $60-odd million that he would be receiving from the federal government?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the $120 million is less tax money that we will collect. We will use the federal money to make up a portion of that $120 million, there is no question about that.

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

FIN.: PST & GST HARMONIZATION - COMPENSATION

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we understand that in this agreement between the federal government and the Province of New Brunswick, the Province of Nova Scotia, and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, that there is a $1 billion kitty out there to get split up. I wonder if the minister can explain why Nova Scotia, with the largest economy, with the largest population and almost the highest tax within the area, is only receiving $249 million of that $1 billion? In other words, it isn't an even split, because if it was an even split, we would get $333 million. If it was done according to a Gross Domestic Product basis, we would get something in the order of about $400 million. Would the minister explain how come we are getting short-changed in this deal?

[Page 920]

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Well, Mr. Speaker, if it was done on population or the size of the economy, think of the compensation package that would be due to Ontario if they ever joined. That is not the way it is done. The honourable member was present when I explained that earlier today. Quite frankly it is this, there is a formula designed which will be applicable to any province which joins. That formula is based on revenue loss of that province as a result of coming into this new harmonized tax situation. The revenue loss in Nova Scotia happens to be $120 million; the revenue loss in New Brunswick, for example, the Minister of Finance indicated it was $170 million; the revenue loss in Newfoundland, where they have a 12 per cent rate would be higher than ours.

So the short answer is, the revenue loss in New Brunswick and Newfoundland is higher than it was in Nova Scotia simply because they tax their people more. If Ontario joined tomorrow, then the same formula would be applied, they would have virtually no revenue loss because the rates are roughly similar and they would get little or nothing in the way of compensation. That doesn't upset me terribly.

MR. RUSSELL: It doesn't upset the Minister of Finance. I have another question for the Minister of Finance related to the same tax. Would the Minister of Finance explain on this week, which is Volunteer Week, what the impact on volunteer fire departments is going to be? Because as I understand it right now, volunteer fire departments do not pay provincial sales tax. Now, they are under this new regime, Mr. Speaker, because they are still paying the GST they now fall under the umbrella of 15 per cent. Can the minister guarantee that the volunteer fire departments will be no worse off under this new regime than they are at present?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the volunteer fire departments, as we have come to understand it, for the most part, at least the ones that have contacted us and with whom we have spoken over the last period of time, tend to bill through the municipality, to use the municipality's exemption - the municipality has 100 per cent exemption - otherwise they wouldn't get that exemption. So they bill through the municipality and use the municipality's exemption. When we sit down with the municipality to discuss that, to discuss the difficulties, the impacts and the challenges that we are going to be facing, we will include that element in our discussions.

MR. RUSSELL: I have one more item, perhaps, that is just detail and that is with regard to automobiles. The minister this morning in his news conference made a great brouhaha about the gentleman or lady who comes along and buys a new car. Heretofore they have been paying the 7 per cent plus 11 per cent, compounded to 18.8 per cent, whatever it is, on that new automobile. But, in fact, what he didn't say, Mr. Speaker, is that most people when they go to an automobile dealer to buy a car, they have something that they drive up in, and they leave it there and take away the new vehicle and they get a trade-in. As you know, at the present time - and he should know because he certainly applies the tax - you only pay the health services tax on the difference between what you get on the trade-in and the cost of the new vehicle. You pay GST all the way through. So the person that goes in and finds that heretofore where they had to pay the combined tax of 18 per cent on a $5,000 difference, now has to pay 15 per cent on the total cost of the vehicle. They are worse off; they are not better off. Would the minister agree? (Interruptions)

MR. BOUDREAU: No, Mr. Speaker, I would not agree and I will tell you precisely why. There will be a drop in the rate, as you say, from 18.8 per cent ultimately to 15 per cent. The question that the honourable member raised is correct when he talks about how the GST has treated these transactions in the past. One of the advantages of this discussion on harmonization is that the federal government has agreed and indeed has introduced legislation

[Page 921]

to make over 100 changes to the GST. (Applause) In order to simplify the application and the administration of the new harmonized tax, they have committed to over 100 changes. One of those changes is to eliminate the very thing that the honourable member refers to. (Interruptions)

So for somebody buying a new car, there is an added benefit. Not only do you get the drop in the rate from 18.8 per cent to 15 per cent, you also get the advantage of this new treatment that you wouldn't have had in the past with respect to the GST. So now you will pay only on the difference, not as you have in the past. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: CHANGES - TABLE

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I really find it astounding that it took as many questions as it has to have the Minister of Finance indicate to the people of Nova Scotia what he has just now said because unless I have missed it, his statement of just a moment ago was the first time that he has indicated to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that 100 changes are to be made by the Government of Canada in the GST. Perhaps I have just missed it and in total fairness to my friend, the Minister of Finance, if he said it on an earlier occasion and I missed it, I apologize. I don't think, however, he ever has publicly said that before. That being the case, I wonder if the Minister of Finance would agree that it is possible, since it is 3:25 in the afternoon and he knows that this legislation has been tabled in the Parliament of Canada, will he agree to table that document which makes that information available to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia before we finish here this afternoon?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is quite right when he says that we have not, in previous days, stated publicly concerning these changes, but simply because we felt it was appropriate that the Finance Minister of Canada have an opportunity to announce them to his House of Commons before we announced them publicly here in Nova Scotia.

With respect to the request that the honourable makes, I am more than happy to comply but not by 3:25 p.m., not today. (Interruption)

MR. DONAHOE: Well, all right, maybe there is a time differential and so on but I would assume that the minister would be able to accommodate me not later than tomorrow. Well, he hedges on that.

I wonder if the Minister of Finance then might help me understand this. In his press conference, one of the handouts was what taxes go up and what taxes go down, for a consumer fact sheet. He knows the sheet to which I refer. In the area under the heading, taxes increasing, we see the reference to new homes. The current tax is 7 per cent and that tax will go to 15 per cent.

I wonder if the minister can explain to me what is the definition of new homes. A new home is a very complex piece of construction, covering everything from the excavation, the foundation and the electrical work, the carpentry work, the roofing, the fixtures, the finishing and so on. Can the Minister of Finance indicate to me, as I assume is the case, that the tax, when I see new homes going from 7 per cent to 15 per cent, is the tax on all of those things which go to make up the new home?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the undertaking I gave, as soon as I am in possession of that legislation, within 24 hours I will table it here in the House and make copies available to everyone.

With respect to the question on new home construction, we are going to be going through a detailed process with the federal government and, I might add, the other Atlantic Provinces, in developing a detailed agreement. We have signed a memorandum of association. There are a lot of administrative issues that still [Page 922]

remain to be canvassed, so that there will be questions outstanding, probably anywhere over the next six months.

I would like to make one reflection on the comments that the honourable member has made. With new home construction, assuming it is a newly constructed home, then, indeed, to the ultimate seller there will be an increase, there will be the application of this harmonized tax. However, to the person constructing that home, there will be input tax credits available so that there will be full tax relief on all materials in the home.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, I thank the minister for that very kind explanation and he offers it in very temperate terms, but he says in the course of the discourse, and he says it with a straight face and without any embarrassment at all, that when you come to the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, the poor guy or gal who is on the consuming end is going to get it in the neck to the tune of what used to carry a tax burden of 7 per cent is now going to be carrying a tax burden of 15 per cent. (Interruption) Well, that is absolutely right. You have got education in enough mess, you just stay with that, all right? (Interruptions)

The Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, unless I have misunderstood, has simply now just said to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that in regard to new home construction, the ultimate user, purchaser, consumer, is going to bear a 15 per cent tax burden when he or she buys that newly constructed home, as against today's situation where he or she faces a 7 per cent tax burden.

I want to put a proposition, by way of final supplementary, to the Minister of Finance. If that is right and I believe it to be correct, it surely has to run counter to this as yet unsubstantiated contention that 3,000 new jobs will be created as a result of this new tax regime because there will be a tremendous disincentive in the area of new home construction?

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, as of today the cost of a new home, all materials going into that home attract a tax of about 12 per cent. Whether it be the bathroom fixtures or the wood or the shingles on the roof or whatever it is, they all attract a tax of about 12 per cent. Under the new system they will attract a tax of zero per cent. There should be a saving in there somewhere.

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

EDUC.: PST & GST HARMONIZATION - RESULTS

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to change ministers and go to the Minister of Education. Of course, we have seen that the education system in Nova Scotia has been under assault. We have seen class sizes increase, we have seen maintenance budgets decrease, we have seen the provision of special services across the province slashed, all because of cutbacks in funding by this government. School boards across the province are

[Page 923]

going to be faced with an increased cost as they are now going to have to pay the provincial sales tax at the same rate, basically, as they did before in the GST and that is going to be about an additional $6 million more to the school boards across the province. My question to the Minister of Education is, what guarantee is he prepared to give to the school boards and more importantly, to the families with children in the schools, that once more the children in the classroom are not going to suffer as a result of this government's harmonization scheme?

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the honourable member as he stood up with his gloom and doom and described the hope of the Province of Nova Scotia and the education system reminded me of that character in Li'l Abner that went around with the cloud over his head looking at the bad side of everything. I would refer the honourable member to what the Minister of Finance said relative to the $120 million less, there will be $120 million less taxes taken in by the Province of Nova Scotia. That means that that will be left in the hands of people out there. That is the first thing to recognize.

The second thing. We will talk about school boards, we were in contact today with the school boards across the Province of Nova Scotia, the seven of them plus the School Boards Association. We described to them the detail of it and they are going to come in and talk to us about the detail. They did not express, as the honourable member did, about this overburden that is being placed on top of the school boards; in fact, they said they wanted to work with the Department of Education and the government to work their way through it.

If I could, just so the detail would be given to the honourable member, I am going to refer the question to the Minister of Finance who negotiated the detail and I will give it to him to give you the actual numbers.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I guess I remind the minister of somebody from Li'l Abner. I may appear doom and gloomish to the minister but I am not running around with my pompoms waving them in support of something that obviously this minister knows nothing about.

We have had all kinds of commitments before by this minister and this government that the children in the classrooms are not going to suffer as a result of their cutbacks. We have had those commitments and we have seen exactly what they have gotten us. The education system in this province is under heavy attack. The minister talks about reductions in taxes of $120 million and that means there is less money to put into education and school boards don't have taxing authority. Yet, this government is going to impose the provincial sales tax on those school boards. I ask the minister again, what guarantees are you and your government prepared to give to ensure that the children in this province do not suffer again as a result of this government's policies, as they have done for the last number of years?

MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I would refer it to the member but this is too much fun. If I could, let's work on the economy. You see it is the simple-mindedness of this. You look at at one side of the mix; 3,000 more jobs in Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) They talk, by the way, how they would create 3,000 more jobs, they would have the government hire them all. Now, take the economy of that; 3,000 more jobs, less taxes, business will grow. That is the optimism as we look forward. If I might mention, they will pay less for one grocery order, all of them, and the school boards will work with us, and the numbers are not what that honourable member projects.

[Page 924]

MR. HOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I find the minister's answers amusing, but rather tragic for a Minister of Education. The minister is standing up and trying to defend the Minister of Finance. I thought maybe in the Cabinet shuffles and changes in responsibilities the Minister of Education is no longer responsible for education in the province. The minister is saying supposedly 3,000 jobs . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Is this a question? Question, please.

MR. HOLM: Yes, Mr. Speaker, there is a question.

He said there are going to be 3,000 new jobs, but if our children don't receive the quality of education that they need and deserve, Nova Scotians won't be able to fill those jobs, if in fact they ever materialize.

Again, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Education, are you prepared to provide some kind of guarantee that the children in this province are not going to suffer, or are you going to duck the question again for the third time?

MR. SPEAKER: Well, we have a rule against asking the same question over and over.

MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I am going to refer the question of the honourable optimist to the Minister of Finance.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, again, I am heartened by the concern of the honourable member, but his approach is very simplistic. What we have to be worried about in Nova Scotia, whether we are referring to our children or to the people now living here, is an opportunity to make our businesses and make our communities more effective, more productive, more competitive, because we cannot succeed in this province if we do not compete with the world. There are some people who would like to pull the blanket over their heads. Their view, the honourable Leader of the NDP shouted it across the floor the other day, what is the job creation strategy? Put more people on the public payroll. That is the job creation strategy. That is where it begins and that is where it ends, and that is the most unproductive, destructive strategy that we are likely to see in this country. If you don't believe me, take a look at what happened to Ontario. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

NAT. RES. - NSRL: TAX POOLS - AVAILABILITY

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources regarding NSRL. In NSRL, one of the assets that was listed was the tax pools that were worth roughly $400 million. There is an indication that the federal government did away with the tax pools in this spring's budget and I am wondering if the minister could tell us whether that $400 million worth of tax pools is available at NSRL for a purchase, or whether it is not available any longer?

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, not to my knowledge and if the member opposite would allow me to continue with my briefings in the department, I would get the response to him as soon as possible.

[Page 925]

MR. ARCHIBALD: One of the other assets that was listed with NSRL was the Western Canadian gas and oil fields. They were appraised by the Toronto consulting firm that was hired by the government, at $10 million, Ian Doig, that well-known author of the oilmen's journal, indicated they were worth three to four times as much as they were producing, which would put their value at about $9 million.

Would the minister indicate to me why on February 1st the Province of Nova Scotia sold the Western Canadian gas fields in British Columbia and Alberta for $4.7 million, which was one-half their appraised value by the appraiser the government hired?

MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the appraised value the member opposite is speaking of is the value that was done one year ago. Since that time, oil has been pumping and the value has changed and the value at this time is the current price of the oil that is there now. The appraised value would be the present day value of the oil.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I don't know who gave you that information but you are easy to convince if you bought that line. The appraisal company, Mr. Speaker, was the company that wound up purchasing the Nova Scotia oil fields at the bargain basement price. Would the minister indicate then why they were so anxious to sell to the consultant at such a ridiculously low price when everybody in the oil business would indicate that they were worth twice what the province got for them?

MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, the price that the assets were sold at is a result, as I have said already in my earlier answer, of the price of the value of the oil after some of the reserves have been taken out of the field and the value of the oil is at the present day prices. (Interruption)

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

COMMUN. SERV. - SENIORS' HOUSING (LEVEL I): MORATORIUM - LIFT

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. As the minister is aware, over the last two years, there has been a moratorium on Level I seniors' housing in this province. That moratorium is not only hurting the operators but it is also hurting the senior citizens who need this housing so much. I would like to ask the minister if he would tell this House just when he plans to lift that moratorium?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that involves the Department of Community Services and the Department of Health working together. There is a real mix of patient care levels; the member has referred to Level I. We have people in institutions, we have them in small options homes, we have them in community-based options and various sizes of accommodations, supervised apartments and others. So our department, along with Health, is looking at the placement after the assessments are properly done to see how the mix can best be served.

We have many areas of vacancies in particular areas of residential care facilities so there is a real effort to sort of work out what is proper and the proper supervision. This is a bit of a long answer. As far as the moratorium goes, we are keeping our commitments that we have made. There is not a total moratorium; there have been some initiatives and where there is demonstrated need, then we will accommodate that, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 926]

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I am going to table a letter here from a Midge Allen who runs Allen's Century Lodge in Yarmouth. The question I would have to talk to the minister about is, Ms. Allen has opened her facility in Yarmouth; it is a 16-bed facility; they pumped in $200,000 to open up this facility, and at present, there are only five beds being occupied. Yet there is a nursing home in the local area that has over 15 people in it who are Level I care, paying approximately $100 a day for that care in that nursing home, where they could receive the same care in this facility for about $40 a day. I would like to ask the minister if it would not make sense for him and for his Finance Minister to be using facilities such as Ms. Allen's home for keeping seniors in and saving approximately $60 a day?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think what the member has brought before the House today demonstrates some of the problems that we have had over the last several decades in this province in that the initiative is really for a business development rather than the real care of the people involved. (Applause) This particular initiative started off as a private only pay. That has not come to fruition so now they want the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to support persons, through a per diem rate, the public pay. I don't want to get into any further discussion on this particular matter other than there are other facilities in that area that have vacancies, as well.

It is not a simple matter of having one level of care at one particular time. Many of the seniors coming into care are very elderly at this juncture and although they don't qualify for a particular level, maybe Level 1 or Level 2, they quickly move to that. We are trying to design a system that provides less disruption for these people, at the best level of care and in all fairness to the taxpayers, to the people of Nova Scotia as well.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the minister that I had the privilege of visiting this facility. It is up to the standards that were put forward by his department and there is a waiting list in Argyle of over 100 people for Level 1 care. There are lots of people in southwest Nova Scotia who are looking for this type of care. There are many people on Cape Breton Island who are looking for this type of care. These are for the seniors of our province, the people who made it possible for us to grow and to flourish. My question for the minister is, when will he finally lift this moratorium off these small businesses so that they can provide the type of services that our seniors so desperately want and need?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, today we heard from the Minister of Finance about the creation of jobs. As Minister of Community Services, in all good conscience, I cannot develop businesses. The member has just said, when are we going to develop businesses? We are looking at the care of these people and that is the initiative that we will follow. They must be in an appropriate level in assessment. With the waiting list, I think you are getting a bit of a cross-over and I would question some of those figures that have been stated today. If the member has some information on that, we will do that. We are working with the Department of Health, we are working together. We are doing proper assessments and proper levels of care. You cannot put people in high levels of care in areas without proper supervision as some of these smaller facilities have been designed for. Otherwise, we are moving into a Home Care Program that keeps people in their homes and this is the design.

[Page 927]

That has been the problem. Those people over there, when they were in government, they built facility after facility and cut ribbon after ribbon. We are not going to do that, we are not going to develop businesses on the backs of the physically and mentally disabled people of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: One minute remains. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, a single question with no supplementaries.

HEALTH - REG. BOARDS: EAST HANTS - ALIGNMENT

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier will know that the Minister of Health has turned down a 2,000 name petition from the residents of East Hants. The residents of East Hants have requested that they be aligned with the Central Regional Health Board, as opposed to the northern region. I want to table a letter that the Premier sent to my colleague from Halifax Citadel relative to this concern. The Premier said in the letter, "It is important to note that the creation of regional health boundaries is in no way intended to restrict access to services across regions.".

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired. We will now move on to other business.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the 1995 Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Hospital, with recognition and admiration of the hard work and dedication of those who serve that facility.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, will you please call Bill No. 10.

Bill No. 10 - Regional Community Development Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to briefly address Bill No. 10, the Regional Community Development Act. The proper name of the bill is, An Act to Encourage and Facilitate Community-based Planning for Economic, Social and Institutional Change.

[Page 928]

The long title incorporates the principles of the bill and it is useful in opening debate on this bill to review the goals and objectives of this legislation. Our government, in partnership with the federal government, has established community economic development as one of its chief objectives for the province's economic renewal strategy. We observed the consistent failure of centrally directed economic panaceas and heard consistently from Nova Scotians about the importance of developing a regional framework, a framework in which communities themselves could take stock of their particular strengths and advantages and could derive from these strategic plans for the economic development of their communities.

We observed the inter-municipal competition which characterized some industrial commissions and listened carefully to Nova Scotians who told us local competition was damaging to economic renewal efforts as it was helpful to consumers, and the extensive public consultations on economic development we held clarified many of these issues. Consistently, business people, municipal leaders and economic consultants agreed that the empowerment of communities to set their own economic goals ought to be facilitated. They agreed that strategic economic strategies depend, as much as anything, on the ability of communities to set their own goals. They need to develop their own strategies for achieving those goals and they need to manage the process themselves.

The model or structure that emerged from these consultations as the vehicle for so empowering communities is the Regional Development Authority or the RDA. Bill No. 10 provides, then, the legislative framework within which RDAs may be established. To date, the cooperation agreement on economic diversification has been used to fund the establishment of the 14 RDAs. This legislation defines the composition, role and responsibilities of the RDAs; further, it defines the roles of communities, of municipalities in the provincial government with respect to community economic development. It embodies the necessary flexibility to enable communities self-direction in law. It identifies the process and structures through which RDAs may be evaluated and monitored to ensure their faithful representation of the stakeholders in community economic development.

In short, Mr. Speaker, this bill provides the statutory foundation for community-based planning and the execution of development strategies. It assigns responsibilities; it lays out the coordinating process among community-based and governmental partners; and it provides a framework through which the communities of Nova Scotia may become leaders of their own economic destiny. In so doing, the bill places Nova Scotia at the forefront of community economic development in Canada. Most importantly, this bill reflects the input of thousands of Nova Scotians and honours the efforts they are making to create sustainable prosperity in their home communities.

Accordingly, Madam Speaker, I do move second reading of Bill No. 10.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to get up and say a few words about Bill No. 10. The reason that I am pleased to get up is that I think there is no one in this place who is not concerned about what is happening to jobs in our province. All of us are concerned about what is happening to our communities in rural Nova Scotia as we see jobs

[Page 929]

disappearing, as we see particularly government services jobs being moved out of communities and taking with them the salaries and the families that made up the backbone of our communities. The difficulty I have with the particular bill, however, is trying to get the proper emphasis as to the importance of the bill. I am a strong proponent of regional development authorities, but really find nothing new in this bill. Regional development authorities have been alive and well in parts of this province before this legislation came forward and certainly the bill does not provide anything that has not been available in the past.

I would like to take the opportunity, when talking about the principle of the bill, to give you some idea of what I feel is a proper approach to regional development in our province, because that is what this bill is all about. When you get by the very flowery description, or the very flowery title of the bill, An Act to Encourage and Facilitate Community-based Planning for Economic, Social and Institutional Change, in reality it is a bill that just formalizes a procedure whereby one can set up a regional development agency within a community of the province.

I would like to say a few words about the Pictou Regional Development Commission. The minister is most familiar with that organization and has attended meetings of that organization as part of his duties as Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.

The minister will know, as will some other members, that the Pictou Regional Development Commission was formed in 1991 and since that time has been and continues to be the focus for regional development in our Pictou County area. The commission has developed and maintained a strategy for community-based economic development and has a mission statement. The mission statement of that organization includes, ". . . action directed at retention, growth, and development of the existing business base as well of its efforts to attract business investment from outside the county.". That, I think, in essence is a description of what this particular piece of legislation is attempting to do in all areas of the province.

Again I relate back to the PRDC, the organization represents the shared efforts of six municipal units and could well serve as a model for other similar endeavours around the province. The membership is made up of representatives from all six municipal units who early on recognized the value in cooperating.

Now, during its first four years of operation, the PRDC staff assisted on 121 successful business projects and these projects directly translated into 370 jobs. The organization recognizes the very considerable support they have received from stakeholders, particularly the local municipal councils, from ACOA and from the Economic Renewal Agency both of this government and the previous government.

Now, the PRDC currently offers such functions as business counselling, market research, partnering with local community groups, hosts seminars, the creation of local data bases, provides area sales tools, looks after community strategy planning and external promotion, which attracts investment locally. The most recent initiative of PRDC consists of working to ensure that every business owner in the county, as well as those considering going into business, know that PRDC is there and that it can be counted on. The commission has received endorsation of other organizations such as FBDB and from many local business owners.

[Page 930]

Our PRDC works in partnership rather than in competition with other community-based development bodies and shares their accommodation in the Pictou County Business Service Centre. The PRDC serves and functions as the landlord for that centre. It is the very first business service centre in Nova Scotia and it certainly has the most complete menu of services perhaps only rivalled by the one in metro, the Canada-Nova Scotia Business Service Centre here in Halifax.

The 10 agencies that share in that facility are: the PRDC; the Economic Renewal Agency, of which the minister has full awareness that they are a tenant; the Pictou County Tourist Association; ACOA; the Pictou County Business Opportunities Limited, a federal organization; the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce; the Entrepreneurial Club; the Self-Employment Assistance Program; Adult Education; and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture.

The funding, of course, is one-third from the municipalities, one-third from the province and one-third from ACOA. The funding for this development corporation is arranged under the Cooperative Agreement for Economic Development, which I understand at the current time is under review by the federal minister.

Outside of metro, this is the most advanced business service centre in Nova Scotia. The centre is a partnership with the private sector. In May, the PRDC will open a computer resource library, which will allow the business public to access Internet electronic data bases with text and video information. The Board of the Pictou Regional Development Corporation is made up of six municipal leaders in the county and seven private sector representatives. In this case, the private sector representatives are appointed by a nominating committee of the board. In essence, the board fills its own vacancies.

[4:00 p.m.]

Now last year the PRDC and community partners embarked on the creation of a strategic plan for community economic development. The planning involved literally hundreds of Pictonians from various sectors of the community. The strategic plan, with many initiatives already in progress, will help tie Pictou County into the next millennium. The PRDC model structure could well serve as the model to be used in other communities which are far less along the road to cooperative attempts to improve their economy and business bases.

Our strategic plan involves five particular key elements: (1) the fostering of entrepreneurship; (2) improving infrastructure; (3) promoting learning and training; (4) marketing; and (5) expanding cooperation among businesses.

Madam Speaker, I just wanted to bring this to the attention of the House because in reality, the bill, in fact, brings nothing new to the floor of this Legislature. What it does do, perhaps, is it does emphasize and give some public relations to the fact that community economic development and regional development authorities are and can be a key to the economic success of our province, particularly in rural Nova Scotia, in the future.

I can't fail, perhaps, to make a comment, Madam Speaker, that by itself it really brings nothing new because there is the ability without this piece of legislation to develop the kind of situation that I just described, the PRDC, which well could serve as a model and has been up and running since 1991. I would look perhaps at the introduction of this legislation as to be perhaps the second most important initiative that has been brought forward by the

[Page 931]

Ministry for the Economic Renewal Agency. The first most important initiative seems to have been the introduction of their name change.

Well, to get on to the bill itself, it is very important that the bill recognize that the regional development agencies must have as much decision-making power as possible. Now when I go to a community and find that there are problems, that in fact the economy is dwindling, that in fact local businesses are becoming despondent because they are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in the community environment in which they have been a part, in many cases for many years. The success of any community depends on the strength of its community leaders. For that reason, we must allow the local RDAs to have as much decision-making power as possible.

When commenting on the bill as well, and the principle of the bill, in terms of setting up membership, I have described the kind of set-up that occurs in the PRDC, and that is a system that has proven to work. It doesn't exactly follow the set-up that is described in Bill No. 10. There should be some flexibility, in terms of setting up membership. I only point out one thing to the minister, that there should perhaps be within the clauses describing how the membership on the board of these RDAs will be made up that it includes, perhaps, some specific offices.

In other words, it would only seem appropriate that the local president of the Chamber of Commerce perhaps be included on the board of the local RDA. That just seems to make eminent sense. So I think that we should be looking at perhaps some changes or a little bit more flexibility in how these boards should be set up.

Now the other issue, of course, is the flexibility in terms of funding. Now, one of the questions that the bill does not address is what happens, for example, if a co-op ceases to be a funder of RDAs. What does that do for the whole set up? In other words if it falls wholly on the lap of the province to assist the municipalities in funding their local RDA, we have to be prepared for that eventuality, particularly when we know now that the federal government is, in fact, looking at the cooperative arrangements under which these RDAs are currently being financed.

The comment being made already by those RDAs which are up and running is, in fact, the province seems to want to have all the say even though they only provide one-third of the funding. That is an issue that will have to be addressed as the bill works its way through the Legislature. That leads up, of course, to the bill which allows the minister to decide on the disposition of assets when an RDA would cease to be functioning. Bearing in mind that the province does not contribute to the assets of the RDA and many of these RDAs have been provided with their assets by the municipal units who will look askance at any suggestion that the minister would have a say as to how these assets would be disposed of.

There is another principle within the bill that I think should be addressed and it well may be that the minister in his wrap up on second reading could explain. Clause 8(1)(a) describes the way the RDAs have some funding and it briefly says, "acquire by way of grant, gift, devise or otherwise funds to carry out the objects of the agency;". I hope that would include, as a principle, that the RDAs can sell services because an up and running successful RDA has services that it can sell to the business community and that in the future may well be a very significant part of their income. I think that particular principle should be addressed and I am quite sure that the minister would endorse that kind of clarification within the bill.

The other thing, too, in the bill it does make a statement that the agency must open its accounts and records to the public. While I concur that this is very necessary, there must be some provision in there that client confidentiality is preserved because many commercial enterprises are not anxious to have particulars about their particular enterprise aired publicly. That particular subclause in the bill needs some clarification.

One of the deficiencies about the bill and what it is trying to achieve is the fact that while it does require that the agency opens its accounts and records there is no mention that a development agency provide a yearly reporting or summary of its activities. No requirement for yearly accountability, no requirement for [Page 932]

outcome measurement. I think it is very important that the legislation make some statement that agencies which are publicly funded by the federal, the provincial and the municipal government are accountable and do provide a yearly account of all of their activities and, in fact, there is a way in which we can measure the outcome. In other words, that the dollars spent were spent wisely and the agency is performing in the best interests of the community and serving as best it can the interest of the taxpayers.

I provide these comments about Bill No. 10 and I will be voting in favour of the bill to move on to the Law Amendments Committee. I think it requires some change. I would like the minister to listen to the observations that I made about his legislation and consider making some appropriate changes to reflect, first of all, some of my own interpretations as to what the bill achieves and what it should achieve. As well, to reflect some interpretations that I have received from those who are very interested in this particular piece of legislation.

So, I will be taking my place and will assure the minister that I will be voting to move the bill along to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you very much.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I want to speak for a few moments on Bill No. 10, An Act to Encourage and Facilitate Community-based Planning for Economic, Social and Institutional Change. The intent of the bill is stated in Clauses 2 and 2(a), and that is ". . . to encourage and facilitate community-based planning for economic, social and institutional change by . . ." setting up ". . . regional community development agencies to plan and carry out . . . strategies and action plans that will further . . ." community development.

Madam Speaker, this is a strategy that the government brought in under a former minister, when the honourable Ross Bragg was Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, and took what then existed in terms of a number of different agencies, a number of different models of industrial commissions, community economic development programs, and brought them together, consolidated them into 12 regions and called them regional development authorities. It appears, from what I can tell in reviewing this legislation, that all this legislation does is enforce that, or make it law, make those RDAs, in fact, entities within legislation in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I think there are some interesting statements in this legislation which indicate how the regional development authorities have, in fact, been acting. The bill goes on, in Clause 2(b), to say that the agencies will facilitate ". . . the co-ordination of provincial and municipal . . . development programs . . ." that affect other actors in the community. But it doesn't really say - or certainly it is not clear from the rest of the bill - how that particular thing is to be done. It talks a lot about the minister having discretionary power to set up a regional development agency, either following a request by one or more municipalities and also, in Clause 6(3)(7),

[Page 933]

"The Minister may disestablish an agency and determine the manner of disposing of the assets of the agency.".

There are other matters in here in terms of the powers of the agency, which are clearly quite broad: to advise, promote, implement strategies, encourage participation, encourage the formation of partnerships, not unlike what one would expect, I think, a fairly effective and involved and well-coordinated economic development strategy officer would do. The minister, again in Clause 7(1)(m), also has powers to assign other functions to the agency. Under Clause 8, powers are given to the agency to acquire funds, invest money and employ people. Clause 12(1) gives the Cabinet power to ". . . make such regulations as the Governor in Council deems necessary to carry out effectively the intent and purpose of this Act.".

Madam Speaker, I guess I am somewhat disappointed in this legislation, in that we have a great history in this province of effective and efficient community economic development, whether that is in Antigonish - the old Antigonish movement through the Coady Institute - or whether that is in the work that has been done in Cheticamp or Isle Madame or, for that matter, some efforts that have been done in Inverness and down in Yarmouth and Shelburne. But there has been and is a rich history, whether that be through the cooperative movement or whether that be community development corporations that operate in industrial Cape Breton, there have been a number of initiatives at work in the Province of Nova Scotia over a number of years, modelled around community economic development.

In fact, we have practitioners in this province who travel the world, lending advice to regions and jurisdictions on how, in fact, a government can properly and a community can most effectively establish themselves and put together their processes in order to effect community economic development. Madam Speaker, clearly community economic development on this model is a combination of community development and economic development; in other words, it is economic development based on and determined by the needs of the community, as determined by the community itself.

[4:15 p.m.]

We had back in 1993, we had been operating under almost two full terms, I guess, probably eight years of a form of community economic development sponsorship called Community Futures. It was a program developed under the former federal government, the Tories, which set up funds in different communities that regions had access to or communities had access to do to do strategic planning, to fund the coordinator, to pull together members of the community, interested officials and people in various sectors that represented the churches, labour groups, social action groups, small business, co-ops and others, to come together and do the planning and the animation work and the facilitation that is necessary to identify priorities and goals in order to begin the work of, first of all, identifying the strengths and the weaknesses of a particular community and what the needs are and what the desires are of people in that community before they move forward and invest resources into particular projects.

Clearly, Madam Speaker, the Community Futures Program was not 100 per cent successful across the province. There were regions where it had difficulty getting off the ground, but there were some regions where it was meeting with considerable success. It was doing so, I think, in large part because the people who were involved were representatives of the community, they were people who were not only interested but also had some skills and were willing to invest the time.

[Page 934]

I think of some of the work that was done out of Inverness-Richmond and I think of Shelburne, the Shelburne Community Futures, also in Isle Madame. There were some very successful projects put together, initiated out of that kind of model where the local community, and this is a community of interest determined by the community, had the opportunity to access resources and to conduct some planning and to effect some change.

There was support there, in part, by the provincial government as well as the federal government but certainly by the communities. I think we would all have agreed at that particular time that there was a need for more assistance from the government, in terms of expertise, in terms of resource support, not necessarily simply money but there was some progress being made.

When the government of the day, the Liberal Government, made a decision to try to centralize some of these initiatives, to bring them together in these regional development authorities because the concern was that there was almost a hodgepodge of economic development initiatives happening and it was difficult to control or coordinate, they came in to many of these initiatives and, together with the federal government, ended the funding for Community Futures and the Community Futures projects and re-established this new form of community economic development under the regional development authorities, Madam Speaker.

The effect was, for example, in the Inverness-Richmond area, the regional development authority was centred in Port Hawkesbury and the resources were taken away from areas like Isle Madame and other areas in that particular community were centralized and the effect was that it took a lot of the decisions and a lot of the resource support out of those individual communities.

I know, for example, in Guysborough - and I am sure the member for that area could speak to this with more details than I - in talking to the officials who have been involved in the community economic development processes, there was a shift in this transition from a more centralized process tied to the municipalities and there was a real gap in the work that had already been done by members of the community. The imposition of this new structure created some real problems in terms of lack of continuity. The same thing happened in Shelburne and similar problems were experienced in Yarmouth.

What I understand is taking place now, and has taken place, is that the community economic development process across this province has unfortunately become what it should not have become - and I think what the intent originally was - it has become very much that top-down process, again where decisions are being made by the government department, being filtered down through the municipalities and the municipality then has control over the staff and these RDAs. It is generally the municipal representatives who control the boards instead of community volunteers and the result is, Madam Speaker, that there is a gap developing and there has been a gap developed between the community and those bureaucracies.

That has created a real level of dysfunction in some of these economic development initiatives. Really all this bill does is ensure that that level of structure, that level of top-down process, in fact, will continue and I am disappointed to see that come through. The agencies are dependent upon municipalities for their existence and likely for much of their funding, Madam Speaker. Unfortunately, the people involved in community economic development are rarely the same people as the ones involved in municipal politics; that is just the way things have developed.

[Page 935]

The biggest concern, number one, is that the bill doesn't seem to do anything other than to establish in law the fact that these regional development authorities exist. I know in speaking to people in the Valley, for example, they are extremely concerned about this structure and the lack of flexibility and the fact that many of the decisions are made by the bureaucracy rather than the community. The effect has been that a lot of friction has developed and a lot of problems are happening.

Madam Speaker, when you talk about community economic development, it must be integrated. It clearly must be integrated into all policies of government including business development, housing, agriculture and health. It has to be part of the overall strategies of this government, and the problem is that when you set up this bureaucracy, this authority - and even the name authority is seen as somewhat offensive to people in the community - but when you set up that structure, you are setting up an identity which is on its own, which is identified with economic development on its own and there is the lack of organic interaction there that should be taking place, and it is a problem.

Let's face it, the necessary government infrastructure for community economic development is being taken away as Canada Employment Centres are being shut down across this province. Surely we need to recognize the fact that those decisions are being made and they are contradictory. They work at cross-purposes, Madam Speaker. We must recognize that community economic development was one of the top planks of this government when they first came into office and their first Speech from the Throne and, over the years, unfortunately, it has fallen down the list of priorities.

We have seen the spending dip, from 1993-94, from a little over $9 million down to $6 million. In 1994-95 it is up a bit. This year, in 1995-96, it was up a bit. But most of that money has been spent in establishing the new Access Nova Scotia Program. Of course, now we know that the new Access Nova Scotia Program is becoming a multi-source facility and community economic development is just going to be one component of that.

So, Madam Speaker, I must say that I am concerned that the government has not been doing those things that are necessary in order to facilitate the type of grass-roots initiative that is in many of our communities. In fact, because of the structures that they have imposed on some communities, the fact that they have regionalized many of them, it has had the opposite effect and has really been a disruption to many of the community economic development practitioners in this province.

We have not seen anything yet. Hopefully, we will see more initiatives around the whole area of loan and equity financing programs. I understand that the department has been discussing these issues with some in the community, although every time I hear that from the department or from the minister or from documents that come out of the minister's department, I get on the phone and I call some of the key practitioners in the province and I say, have you been talking with the government on blah, blah, blah? Come to find out that they have not. So one wonders where the coordination is and the consultation is to develop these. We have to get them into play, in terms of not only establishing community economic development projects and enterprises, but also to facilitate the secondary processing in that is so important in some of our rural areas. We need to have capital sources, Madam Speaker. We need to be able to have money. Money needs to be invested in those communities in order for those enterprises to develop.

[Page 936]

Again, let's not forget that this government, at the same time it talks about community economic development being its chief priority under economic development strategy, turns around and hands out millions to companies like Newbridge Networks to set up shop here in metro and create 50 jobs sometime in the future, Madam Speaker. It is also a company, let's not forget, that has $300 million in the bank and surely does not need it.

We have an opportunity on the Northside, Madam Speaker, to involve ourselves, the government, not to just throw money at the issue, but to get in there with the expertise they have and the expertise that is available out there in the community to facilitate - in this case, IMP is talking about pulling out, to facilitate - that plant and equipment staying in that community and those jobs remaining in the community. It is extremely important that that happen and I think that it is that kind of initiative that we need to see out of this government, to support the kind of community economic development that, on the one hand, we talk about.

We need to ensure that there is a critical mass of economic activity on which to base other forms of community economic development. That can take the form of those high-skilled, high-tech jobs that are reasonably well paid. That can take the form of decentralized government jobs, Madam Speaker, in some of our rural areas, and other jobs that need to exist in order to have a critical mass of economic activity in those communities.

I look for a moment at an initiative that was set up to facilitate community economic development and that is the Community Business Loan Program, Madam Speaker. It is interesting to note that nearly one-quarter of the loans made under this program since its inception have gone to businesses in metro Halifax. The second highest area is Cape Breton. Areas like Guysborough, Digby, Queens, Shelburne have made very little use of this program. I think that underlines the earlier point that I made that economic activity begets economic activity. Small business formation is greatest in areas like Halifax where there is a critical mass of other economic activity. Small business is not the sole answer for rural areas like Guysborough, Shelburne or Digby and I think it is important that this government focuses some attention on dealing with that issue.

[4:30 p.m.]

It is not a question of, and that is one of the failings of this bill, or the lack of attention it made with respect to regional development authorities. For example, here in the metropolitan Halifax region, the way that some parts of Halifax, in fact, are restricted and I think particularly of the former District 5, part of the constituency I represent, where they are not able to access assistance and loans under these programs because of the way the regional development authority format is set up.

I must reiterate that I am disappointed in this piece of legislation. It came in here, heralded with a great deal of fanfare, An Act to Encourage and Facilitate Community-based Planning for Economic, Social and Institutional Change and it clearly does none of those things. The structures that are talked about in this legislation are in place now. In the communities they have been found in many cases to be dysfunctional and there is nothing here that deals with the issues of capital formation of equity development, loan financing programs that are clearly a crucial issue in terms of this government moving forward and actually promoting economic development activities in many of our communities.

[Page 937]

While I will be supporting this bill moving on to the Law Amendments Committee, suffice it to say that there is really nothing in there worth voting for, let alone vote against. I look forward, perhaps if any of the practitioners out there in the community are not completely discouraged by the way this government has handled community economic development initiatives, I hope they are able, nonetheless to come in and share some of their insights with members of the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I rise this afternoon to support Bill No. 10 in principle. I see an Act to Encourage and Facilitate Community-based Planning for Economic, Social and Institutional Change as a very small step in the right direction.

Communities in rural Nova Scotia are seeing jobs disappear at an alarming rate. There has been a great deal of talk by this government relative to regional development agencies and local community development associations. Local economic development, in itself, must be, it is fundamental that it is driven by communities where the development is taking place. I do not believe too many in this House would argue with that. For many years, perhaps too many years, communities have been hearing from governments that we are going to support true, out and out, local economic development.

Now in Colchester County, the Colchester Regional Development Agency or CORDA has been involved in community economic development for a good number of years. They attempt to facilitate, they attempt to promote and, in fact, they do promote and assist local businesses, but they express to me, people that are very closely associated with CORDA, that it is extremely difficult to do any long range planning. Long range planning is essential when you are attempting to put together projects that will have a future and community initiatives that require more than just a day to day, or week to week, or even an annual statement. I note in here somewhere in the minister's legislation that regional development agencies, in cooperation with the local economic development agencies, can put plans together on terms of three years, for example. However, there is nothing in the bill to encourage or facilitate community-based planning for economic, social and institutional change. There is nothing in the bill that enables the regional development agency to say with any degree of confidence and certainty as to where the financing will come from. So while the bill, in itself, is well principled and surprisingly does have a certain amount of integrity, I find that it didn't go far enough but it is, as I said at the outset, a small step in the right direction.

I think in rural Nova Scotia or perhaps all of Nova Scotia, we want to see an improvement in economic and social conditions. It doesn't matter if you are in a rural or urban area of the province, we all are striving for that objective. We would like to see some of the local economic development initiatives come into fruition.

The minister, in the bill, describes several terms and there is terminology like regional community and regional development strategy and we understand that the minister has general supervision and management of the bill and that is understandable. In most pieces of legislation the minister responsible does have that type of authority.

Municipalities that will be representative on an agency probably would like to have some further clarification relative to certain areas of the legislation. That may deal with the terms, perhaps, of office of members of the board of directors and things of that nature.

Generally, I would have to say the bill, in itself, seems to certainly be worth supporting going off to the Law Amendments Committee. Again, I hope that the minister and this government follows through on their 30-60-90 commitment. The government which, I believe, early on in its mandate, held numerous meetings around the province and listened to what the different community people had to say about regional development initiatives and community-based initiatives. This legislation appears to be taking a small step in facilitating some of the comments, perhaps, that were provided to the government. There was quite a big [Page 938]

hub-bub over 30-60-90 and I don't see that particular initiative represented in the legislation, there are only some 14 clauses there.

Anyway, I will be supporting Bill No. 10. I see it as a small step in the right direction. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to rise to make a few remarks on Bill No. 10. I always think that it is instructive to have a look at promises that were made by a government in advance of the most recent election. As a result, I have taken a few moments to take a look at the Liberal platform from 1993 and also to have a look at a document which seems to be gathering a lot of dust on the government shelves, a section of 30-60-90, dare I ask anyone here to remember it, the four corners of discussion with respect to community economic development.

The Liberal platform is an interesting document. I have had several opportunities to read it, both before May 25, 1993 and subsequent to that date. The Liberal platform at that time made some statements respecting community economic development. I want to reiterate those so that we may stack up the bill against the promises that this government made when it was still in Opposition. One of the statements it made was, "We believe that the community has a better knowledge of what its needs are.". Another statement, ". . . coordination of the work of government departments is also essential to . . .", community economic development. And finally, "A Liberal Government will be committed to the real decentralization of decision-making, including the disbursement of enterprise funds . . .".

How well does this bill stack up against those promises made by the Liberal Party in Opposition, now that it is the Liberal Government in power? What we find, in effect, in perusing the bill, which is a pretty thin piece of stuff, indeed, for a bill that the minister purports to be the foundation for extensive community economic development across Nova Scotia, we find that the real power, as was the case with the Education Bill, as was the case with so much of health reform, as was the case with so many other initiatives undertaken by this government, resides not with the people, not with the communities but, in fact, with the minister. One need only take a look at the bill in order to understand that.

I refer members, if they have not taken the time to browse through the bill, and of course I am sure that all have, to take a look at Clause 6. The minister has the full authority to determine or to define what constitutes a regional community. He has the full authority to determine which municipal units will be represented on the board. He has the full authority to determine how many members will be on the board. He has the authority to determine the term of office of the members of the board of directors.

Bear in mind that this need not be consistent across the province but may vary on the part of each and every community economic development board. He can determine the officers and the organization of the agency and how and when the meetings of the agency are

[Page 939]

to be held and the business of the agency to be transacted. Of course in that little catch clause that we so often see, he also has the power to determine, Clause 6(3)(k), "such other matters as the Minister deems necessary to carry out effectively the intent and purpose of this Act.". My goodness, the minister's authority is so intrusive that he even gets to name the agency. Not even that decision is left up to the agency itself.

So we see the fiction in this legislation of bottom-up, community-up development when, in fact, the reality is that it still is very much top-down, in this case directly out of the minister's office, community controlled economic development.

There was a promise also in the 1993 Liberal platform to coordinate government departments. Well, there has been a lot of talk about this. We have yet to see the words be turned into concrete action. After three years it is still a promise which remains to be put into effect. Well so much for the spring of 1993, three long years ago, three years ago when this government, in Opposition, said that with respect to community economic development, and I quote them, "There is no more time to lose.". My, my, how their clock slowed down after they went to the other side of the House and took over the reins of power.

But wait a minute, Madam Speaker, hold on. Another little matter respecting community economic development that this government has not delivered on. It is not a promise which can be set aside and discussed apart from the legislation we have before us today. It is, in fact - or at least it was in May 1993 - an integral part, or deems to be an integral part of community economic development.

[4:45 p.m.]

The Liberals, in Opposition, promised to create something called Initiative Nova Scotia. In fact, I will read it for you, Madam Speaker, just in the event that your memory might fail, even though it is normally pretty good. "A Liberal Government will establish a community economic development panel to be known as Initiative Nova Scotia . . . The members of Initiative Nova Scotia will be leaders from all sectors of the economy, . . .".

Have I missed something? Did the government slip something by me in here and create Initiative Nova Scotia? Have Nova Scotians been sleeping at the switch and missed this wonderful innovation, this Initiative Nova Scotia? Or, in fact, is this another promise which this government made in Opposition and on which it has yet to deliver?

Now, if Initiative Nova Scotia were something we could talk about apart from community economic development, I could be chided for irrelevancy. But, in fact, it would appear, if the Liberal platform is truthful, that Initiative Nova Scotia is an integral and absolutely necessary first step towards community economic development. For its function, we were told in May 1993, was as a first priority to ". . . work with local communities to establish the data and information bases essential to assisting communities in defining and developing their economies.".

Here, Madam Speaker, is the nub. Here is the nub, and bear this in mind. Bear in mind the legislation which we have before us today in respect of reforms carried out by this government in Health; reforms which the Auditor General has clearly stated are poorly planned, if planned at all; reforms in the area of Environment, where we have the resource recovery fund stumbling all over the place, being implemented without proper planning; reforms in Education, which are going to create difficulties throughout Nova Scotia because there was not proper planning. What did the Liberals promise in Opposition that Initiative Nova Scotia would do? It promised that it would undertake to provide the database and the definitions required for community economic development because, the promise goes on to observe, "Without analyzing our strengths and weaknesses, we cannot plan our directions and priorities.".

So what we have once again, with this Liberal Government, is legislation being introduced, Madam Speaker, without first providing that those strengths and weaknesses be defined so the proper plans and directions and priorities can be laid down. Another example of this government talking about reform, but not [Page 940]

understanding that one does not simply go out and effect change by government fiat, but that concrete, thoughtful, strategic planning is required in advance of implementing reform.

This minister must explain to us why his government has deliberately chosen not to include the creation of Initiative Nova Scotia, either by separate legislation or in this legislation as the first step - which this Party said was absolutely essential to move on to the second step, which is the bill we have before us today - or, if the government has changed its mind, what information did it have available to it after it came to power that convinced it that Initiative Nova Scotia was a bad idea?

Madam Speaker, I notice that the panel that was to be created with respect to Initiative Nova Scotia, was to include people from all sectors of the economy, including labour. At last glance, it seemed to me that this was a government which did not seem to have many friends in labour and I suspect they may well be sharply reminded of that when they have their vacation visit this weekend in Cape Breton, a part of this province which very clearly has lost any faith that it ever may have had with respect to this government and what it had promised it would do to alleviate among other things, the unemployment that faces so many Nova Scotian families and especially in the Cape Breton area.

If Initiative Nova Scotia was a first priority in 1993, why is it not a first priority today in advance of the introduction of this legislation? So Initiative Nova Scotia has been discarded. Why? Because this government clearly does not believe in creating strategic plans to move it step by step from where we are to where they would like us to be.

I notice in the legislation, Madam Speaker, that the essential control over appointments resides with the municipal councils. I believe my colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic, alluded to this very shortcoming just a few moments ago. There is a history in Nova Scotia -not in every community, of course - and the facts will bear this out, that development commissions and these are the successors of development commissions, had their membership controlled by councils more with respect to who the councillors wanted to reward, who they wanted to have with respect to whom they could influence than who could get the job done. Now that is not a universal criticism so I want to make that very clear but it has happened sufficiently frequently that I think this bill should be amended before it gets out of the Law Amendments Committee to ensure that at the very least, there will be no more than one councillor from each of the municipal units that is a partner to the community economic development agency.

I notice, too, that there is reference in the Liberal platform of 1993 to training for community economic development. It states in part that, ". . . first-rate training is already available at recognized institutions.", and it promises to ensure that bursaries will be made available, ". . . to qualified persons to take professional CED training at recognized institutions.". Well, (Interruption) I listened to the minister this afternoon and I didn't hear him make any reference to that. We will have to look carefully at the Minister of Finance's

[Page 941]

budget on Thursday because I am sure that the minister would not have had an oversight and that there must be dollars in the Minister of Finance's budget to ensure that the coordination of the bill that we are discussing this afternoon and the Liberal promise of 1993 are kept in lock step. (Interruption) That was in the red book, that is absolutely correct.

Yet, when we turn to 30-60-90, we find that there are also references to community economic development training. It says, government should "train community leaders in CED;". Did I miss something? Is there a clause missing from my bill? I don't think so but I don't see this promise included in this bill. It says, the recommendation also to the government through 30-60-90 was that, government should "set up an educational program for their staff so that they can respond to the needs of CED.". I do not recall hearing the minister in his opening remarks make reference to that recommendation which was made by the business community across this province when 30-60-90 was in full sway.

So which is right? The Liberal platform, which said that there are all kinds of people out who are already trained in community economic development, or the people in Nova Scotia's communities who, through 30-60-90, said that we needed more people to be trained in CED. If, in fact, the minister believes that more people need to be trained in CED, where are the dollars? Where is the commitment for the funding? Where would it come from? Simple straightforward questions; questions yet to be answered.

Other members have mentioned the dollars that this government has supplied to community economic development. One cannot be impressed with the monies made available to drive forward the economies of our communities. We will find out in two days whether this bill that this minister has before us now, and which will not escape this place in advance of the coming down of the budget, if this minister has included really substantial dollars to cause community economic development to happen in Nova Scotia.

Or will we be left, not with the impression, but with the understanding that Bill No. 10 is a quick fix drafted not to create long-term community economic development initiatives in Nova Scotia based on sound business and community knowledge, owned and operated and organized and priorized and managed in local communities, but rather so much window dressing to put on the table, once again, to try to gull Nova Scotians into thinking that this is a government which has its hand firmly on the economic job creating tiller.

I say to you, Madam Speaker, and to all members of this House and to any others who may be interested, look at the Liberal platform of 1993, look at the advice that was given in 30-60-90 to this Liberal Government in 1993, look at the admonition in the government's own policy platform that there is no time to lose and look at this very shallow thin piece of business that the government puts before this House and before Nova Scotians today with respect to community economic development in Nova Scotia.

I am sad to say, and I think I speak on behalf of many Nova Scotians, that I find this bill entirely lacking in substance, out of lock step with the promises that the government made in 1993, if heading us anywhere, heading us towards another clumsy, spastic, uncontrolled lurch somewhere along the road to reform. Some may deem this bill to be worthy of support; I am not one who does and I will not be voting for it in principle on second reading.

[Page 942]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, that was very interesting that my honourable colleague, I thought he was just getting warmed up and there he was, gone.

Bill No. 10, An Act to Encourage and Facilitate Community-based Planning for Economic, Social and Institutional Change; it really and truly is quite a mouthful. How different it is from what the Nova Scotia taxpayer was expecting from this government. This bill we have bears absolutely no relationship to some of the good ideas, some of the fresh, new thinking that this government had only three years ago. We all remember knocking on doors and seeing the propaganda that the Liberal Party was putting forward for job creation. We watched the debates on television and remember the Premier saying there are 63,000 - well, one week he said 63,000, then it was 52,000 and then 57,000, but anyway there was a lot of people, somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 who were unemployed. Our Premier was going to look after each and every one of them; every single person who didn't have a job was going to have one, because he said so.

[5:00 p.m.]

One of the most unique things he was going to do was knitting. In a rural province, you know how he likes to talk about people as being the small people, well he was dealing with his so-called small people and he said, I think you people could earn your living knitting and some of you could do crafts. Well, as foolish as that is and as foolish as it sounded, at least it showed he was interested and concerned.

But, Madam Speaker, the disheartening part about this blessed bill is that this is a bill without hope, without teeth, without a vision and without that concern that the Premier showed when he was in rural Nova Scotia seeing how desperately people were looking for jobs and he said well you go and knit. Truly, where is his interest and where is his concern? I do not see it any longer. Nova Scotians have been watching and they are looking and they find the Premier and his government devoid of new, innovative ideas. This bill will do very little to change people's opinions of this government with regard to job creation.

In Nova Scotia we are fortunate that we do have so many rural communities. Not all our population lives in this mega-city of Halifax or the mega-city of Cape Breton. A lot of us live in rural Nova Scotia. We have a lot of active towns, villages and communities. The government is right to say that in the communities, therein lies the strength for the future of Nova Scotia. But what in the name of all that is good and holy, Mr. Speaker, does this bill do differently tomorrow than what was done yesterday? Nothing.

If this is truly the measure of this government, as the government said in 1993, we will be measured by the jobs, those 63,000 will all have one, if this is the measure by which this government wants to be graded, I have to tell you that truly, this government has failed. It had an opportunity to start fresh and new, they fired a whole lot of civil servants, they fired deputy ministers, to bring in new people. Oh, they say well, we are balancing the books. Well look guys, let's be true; Mr. Speaker, let's be true, balancing the books. We have seen today a tax grab that has been unequalled before in this province. The minister indicates, oh, we are going to lose. Hey, who in the name of all that is good and holy believes this government when they say we are going to take less taxes. Remember, this is the same government that said no new taxes.

AN HON. MEMBER: And then did a $70 million tax grab.

[Page 943]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Seventy million dollars, that was just in sales tax; $22 million in gasoline, 3 per cent on your home electricity bills, and that is just getting started. Mr. Speaker, bring him to order.

MR. SPEAKER: Excuse me, I just want to bring the member to order and advise him that while it is wide-ranging on second reading, I think you are deviating from the bill. I would ask you to direct your comments to the bill and I would ask other members to allow the member to have a free hand while he is on the floor.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for bringing these colleagues of yours to order, because they were making suggestions to me that was getting me off the track.

All of us are interested in community economic development, I don't think anybody any more so than I. Earlier in the fall, I made a trip around the province and I visited with community economic development associations in Guysborough, in Pictou, in Truro, in Halifax County and we wanted to go and visit with those people to find out what community economic development was. What does it mean to you and your community?

AN HON. MEMBER: Where did you go in Halifax County?

MR. ARCHIBALD: They have an office in Sackville. If you like, I will take you out there. Oh him, do you want to go? The member for Sackville says, where is it? I will take you out there and introduce you around and maybe familiarize yourself with your constituency.

I went visiting all of the people, the boards and the directors. Do you know, each community group had a different thrust, a different focus, but each and every group I met with was unsure of the direction of the provincial government's Economic Renewal Agency. The messages that were coming out of the office in Halifax were confusing then, as they are today.

If you will remember back to 1993, the reason many people voted the way they did was because they saw a government coming into power that had a clear vision; a government that said it was going to work in partnership with labour. But what did they do? We filled the Chamber with disgruntled labour people, cancelled the Legislature for the day on Budget Day, brought in legislation that the union people didn't like very much; this is not what I would consider work in partnership with labour.

That was some kind of partnership, to force all the union members to come into the Chamber. But you fixed it, the Premier fixed it. It won't happen again, because now if you want to come into the Chamber you have to give your name, your address, your telephone number and your next of kin so you can get a little badge. They can't come in the Granville Street door, you have to come in the Hollis Street door. This is working in partnership. If that is partnership, little wonder we are getting such confusing signals from the Minister of Finance on this tax grab.

"A Liberal Government will provide for full accountability and regular assessment of development policies and investments to ensure they meet stated objectives.". Well, that is great, when does it start? We have been waiting three years and it hasn't happened. We don't know what the objectives of this government are. They seem to change as our weather: yesterday was a beautiful day; today it is raining. So you see, this is what the problem is. You had a chance so many times to level with Nova Scotians and do what you said you would do and then you didn't do it. You had an opportunity that this government will never have again. You started with a clean slate and all you did was muddy the waters.

The Benchmarks Program. I don't know if the government started a Benchmarks Program, nobody is nodding, yes we did. No, they would like to start a Benchmarks Program, but they haven't got around to it. You see, they were so busy with that 30-60-90, that charade, that public relations escapade, that avenue for paying big consulting fees to friends of the government that is as far as it got. This government doesn't [Page 944]

have job creation beyond its close friends. There are more people in Nova Scotia than just your close friends to be worrying about.

There used to be a program and I know the government will tell you everything that any former government did was wrong and bad and so on. But, you know, Mr. Speaker, there were a couple of programs that were extremely attractive in rural Nova Scotia. One of them was a rural loan program of $7,500 for somebody that wanted to start a small business. Now, for $7,500 you have to appreciate that that is a pretty small business. There was another program for women, a $7,500 loan program for women to start a small business. Again, this is a small business.

But you know, last evening, the honourable member for Cumberland South made a very enthusiastic speech defending the government on the Speech from the Throne. But one of the things he talked about was Kerr Manufacturing up in Parrsboro that started an operation with a $10,000 government loan and now they employ over 100 people. You see, even oak trees grow from little acorns, I guess that is what they say. He gave us an example of an acorn of a business that has blossomed into a tree.

A moment ago, I heard somebody hollering, where are the Sarsfield pies? Well, the same idea. A little acorn of an idea developed into a multinational company, Sarsfield. So, you see, it does not have to be the grandiose schemes. It does not have to be the trip to China, the trip to Louisiana, the trip to Sweden. I don't know what disaster is going to befall Switzerland. (Interruption) No, Switzerland was just for dinner. That was not a trade mission. That was just so the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency could have dinner because the Premier could not make it.

You know, that brings home, even clearer to Nova Scotians, that the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency is home and the Premier is running the trade missions. I mean, what is happening here? The guy is trying to create jobs is here and the Premier is travelling. Now, I guess it holds true what the Liberals were telling me the other day, that the whole object of that lesson is to keep him out of the province. (Interruption) Well, I am having helpful hints from the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and I think they are very helpful and good things for us to remember.

You see, the government really and truly did not have to reinvent the wheel and did not have to sweep everything clear. They could have started on the base that was here. But, you know, they have not started with any base. It is, we do not want to do that. No, we cannot do that. We have to call it something. You know, nobody knows what this government stands for. If you read this bill and try to figure out what the government stands for with economic development, I think you will have to agree with me that it is fluff. I mean, nobody is going to vote against this bill, I don't think, because there is nothing to vote against. It is motherhood, plain and simple. It is nice, easy listening because it talks about the great things about our community and the people that live there and it talks about the volunteers,

[Page 945]

economic, social. These are nice things, but where is the beef, as that old lady used to say in that ad? Well, I can tell you, the beef is not here, Mr. Speaker.

Now, incubator malls, industrial parks and improved transportation systems, improved communications, these are the things that will help create jobs, but this government does not realize it. They have no idea about creating infrastructure to create jobs. They have hopped into this community economic development and closed their eyes and prayed that it is going to work. Leave it up to somebody else. We will get good people in the communities and let them do it. Let them carry the can. Well, they are doing it but they would also like some assistance and direction from this government and that isn't coming.

[5:15 p.m.]

In my constituency of Kings North, a week ago Monday, maybe it was last Monday, the Hope Society started and opened their first little office in Kentville at the Nova Scotia Government new access centre that this government put in Kentville, in the same section of the mall they have given room for Hope. Hope is part of the Clam Meadow organization that is sponsored cooperatively with the Royal Bank of Canada. The Royal Bank of Canada is putting several hundred thousand dollars into community economic development. Local people form the board for the Hope Society; they are making decisions to decide who will get the loan. These loans are very modest, $500, but to somebody who has a modest business in their home, this is a good start and a big help.

Last week, I saw for myself some of the businesses that have been assisted with these small loans from the Royal Bank and the Hope Society. Now, there was a gentleman in the roofing, siding and window business. He had the brochures there and he is selling them. There is another woman who makes costumes from a period anywhere from 500 years ago to 100 years ago. The project she is working on presently is for the Centennial celebrations in Prince Edward Island. She is designing costumes of 1867 for people to wear at the Confederation Centre over in Prince Edward Island. She is busy; her business is expanding. She has worked with Neptune Theatre and other theatre groups as well because she can do authentic, old type costumes, made in the way they were made several hundred years ago.

Beyond that, there was another very specialized wine for cooking, cooking wines, that another one of these community development people have established. There were a couple more small businesses that have started. You know, all of us were very proud to be at that opening celebration. There was a letter read from the minister offering his congratulations and they very much appreciated his interest and assistance. But you know, even without the Government of Nova Scotia involved, Hope, and Clam Meadow would succeed. They would succeed because of the thing that they start with, that is people first.

You see, the Liberal Government talked about starting programs dealing with people and then it got derailed. You know, it is frustrating for Nova Scotians to realize what this government has thrown away, the commitments that were supposed to have been made, and not kept. Initiative Nova Scotia, look, a five year mandate; you know, people are saying now, look, if we can get a 10 minute mandate from this government we would be surprised because the mixed messages are arriving fast and furiously. But Initiative Nova Scotia was sort of like the Benchmarks Program. It was a five year mandate to work with communities and provide the catalyst for CED to be established, et cetera. They were to report directly to the Premier, not to the minister, right to the boss.

[Page 946]

But, you know, when I read this stuff three years ago I almost voted Liberal, but then I thought better of it. That is why so many people wanted to, because they read these things and they read so well. But it is so disappointing when people realize how hollow the promises are.

What bothers me is that it makes it hard for politicians to stand up with a straight face and say, listen community, this is what I stand for. Now people in Nova Scotia have got this from three years ago and they say, well, the Liberals said this is what they meant three years ago. Now they have a different message. People are confused and some of that confusion and some of the distress and dislike that you people are causing is brushing off on me and I do not like it. We truly must, as politicians, deliver on our promises. If we say no new taxes, that is what we deliver.

"Initiative Nova Scotia will bring the best staff talent from the private sector . . .". Well, you know, you read that about this government and best staff and you have to look at the deputies they brought in at hundreds of thousands of dollars; brought them in from right across Canada. I think one of them set a record, hardly had her suitcases unpacked when she was gone. Another fellow was here for pretty near a year and then he was gone. Another guy hung on for a year and one-half and he was gone. Your record of employment is not great. Your record of hiring is not great. So, to have on your brochure that you are going to bring the best talent, what is your yardstick? Is your yardstick the deputy you hired and you did not have to fire? He must be good because you have fired all the other ones. What are you using for a yardstick? Are you going to hire more consultants to tell you how to reorganize the department and then do what you wanted to anyway.

". . . work with local communities to establish the data and information bases essential to assisting communities in defining and developing their economies.". That is good, we are going to get the definition and the development. There is a lot of definition around now when you go through rural Nova Scotia. You can define it - no jobs, out of work, out of home. This government promised and has not been able to deliver, this bill will not help.

People in Nova Scotia are resourceful and clever and if you look at the success of Nova Scotians in each and every region of Canada and literally around the world, it tells you and me that we have some of the brightest most capable people right here in Nova Scotia. What we are not giving them is opportunity. We must create the climate so that these entrepreneurs who leave Nova Scotia stay here and create those jobs.

We have to deal with the federal government so that the policies they set up that are clearly designed to have an advantage to central Canada and an adverse reaction in Eastern Canada, the federal government has to stop. The most recent attack on Nova Scotia is the Port of Halifax. Far better for us to be discussing the Port of Halifax and for the minister and the Premier to be in Ottawa talking some sense into the bureaucrats and the politicians who are trying to close Halifax Harbour for the benefit of New York - can you imagine? Can you imagine the Government of Canada bringing in a policy that was designed in New York City because the only ports that are going to benefit from these shipping fees that we are going to start charging are New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia and the Canadian Pacific Railway because all the goods can be hauled on their track.

What is wrong with this picture? Where is the concern for Nova Scotia? It is not right here. "A Liberal Government will establish a program to provide bursaries to qualified persons to take professional CED training . . .". I don't know, my soul, we are going to give them bursaries. No money for universities or schools, but now we have bursaries.

[Page 947]

"A Liberal Government will seek to coordinate CED efforts with the federal government through cost-shared agreements, so that all efforts and funds are directed to the same purpose.". Now this is good stuff and I think that is what is happening with the community economic development. ACOA is in there, the province is in there and the municipalities are in there and we are all in this thing together.

"Community economic development must be lean, clean, responsive, and coordinated.". Look, I would like to be able to hire the people who wrote these things because they are catchy. "Marketing. . . . Selling Nova Scotian goods and services nationally and internationally.". This is great stuff. Our biggest trading partner is New England and I don't think that we have had much fanfare about trading in New England. I don't think the Premier has led a trade delegation to New England: 55 million people. It is more fun to go to Japan, China, Korea and Cuba. When it is chilly and cold here, you go down there for two or three weeks. Great stuff. But, truly, the opportunity that this government had presented to it on a platter with 41 members. It is lacking. The direction, the confusion, the lack of purpose is obvious.

It says here, "The present splintered approach to marketing the province is counter-productive.". Well, the government said it is counter-productive, so what have they done? They have set up a new department. Rather than release the Minister from Supply and Services, they have set up a Commission of Science and Technology and Marketing. His department is setting up another marketing branch. Do you see what I mean? What you said here and what you do are not the same. If you have money to set up a new marketing branch, Science and Technology, you have no money for anything else. "The present splintered approach to marketing" - that is what you guys said; that is what this government said in 1993 - "The present splintered approach.". Gracious sakes alive. This is as bad as no taxes because this government has done absolutely nothing to streamline marketing.

"We would buy the expertise of experienced Canadian private sector companies, and use the facilities of federal embassies and trade offices already established in markets across the world.". Well, that is great. Those are marvellous things to do and they are catchy, glamorous and glitchy, but those are the optional extras. The meat and potatoes tells me that our trading partner is New England and that is the last place that this government looks.

A small central marketing agency staffed by qualified experienced entrepreneurial people brought in from western Canada - oh, no, it doesn't say that, that is just what they do - if you are from Nova Scotia, don't apply for a top job here. This government thinks if you are not from out of town, you are not qualified.

". . . shift our action plan into fast-forward government policy and programs to get the economy moving and start putting people back to work.". Well, you read all those nice things that the government wanted to do and then you take a peek at this Bill No. 10 and you wonder, are we talking about the same situation? There are still, after three years, 63,000 people unemployed officially, unofficially that number is much higher because those that have given up hope increase the number greatly. There are thousands of Nova Scotians who have just given up.

I see people every weekend when I am home and they are looking for work and they say, this is the worst I have ever seen it. The economy is in a tailspin and they are frightened. Business people from all walks of life are telling me they have never had it so bad, whether they are in the car business or whether it is the clothing business, the home business, construction.

[5:30 p.m.]

Last weekend in Kentville we had a huge farm and garden home show at the Kentville Centennial Arena. There were literally thousands of people and when I stopped I was asking some of the businesses there, how is business? They were saying, it is pretty slow. But you know I didn't tell them that we are discussing a bill to encourage and facilitate community-based planning as the main theme for job creation [Page 948]

in Nova Scotia. I should have told them that and then they would have all ordered extra stock in because this will be such a success they will be working. I didn't want to tell them that because I don't believe it.

If this is the best that the Economic Renewal Agency can do after three years of careful study and research, we are in worse trouble than we have ever been. People are telling me that the business climate is as bad as it ever could be. Today, this announcement of taxes on taxes, this joint taxes, with all the new areas of taxation, your home electricity, your home fuel, your diesel, your kid's clothes, your clothing under $100, your shoes, boots and half the things in the grocery store. I know that it said groceries are exempt but I am going to go to the grocery store and I am going to bring my little bag of goodies in here and I will show the minister all of the things that are not exempt at the grocery store. I am telling you, this is not going to save Nova Scotians any money.

The RDAs want decision-making power. The province currently is trying to maintain the power even though the province is only putting in one-third of the funding. It is not quite fair. (Interruption) Well, we are not quite sure but they are certainly not going to put in more than one-third, even though Halifax County put a lot of money into their community economic development program. Even so, the province still wants one-third control.

What about the future for the funding? In Kentville, the manager of the community economic development moved to Nova Scotia from Alberta. He is not sure how long he is going to have a job because there is no guarantee from the government that this is a long-term commitment. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, he doesn't know and neither do I and probably some of the other members here aren't sure.

So, community economic development will take place with or without this government's commitment because I think it is a very weak commitment. There is no indication that there is any financial assistance available on a long-term basis. There is no indication that there is anything really there for the communities. If the communities are going to be told, you are on your own, do the best you can, now that is fair ball, that is okay, they will do it. Truly the province is letting on that community economic development is the cornerstone of this government. So, the communities are expecting more from this government than they are receiving at the present time.

With those few helpful words and suggestions for this minister and for his government, I would like to take my place and remind the members of the Assembly, particularly from rural Nova Scotia, we have very, very strong community-based organizations but each day that your government chops and hacks away at rural infrastructure, it makes it more and more difficult for these community economic development associations to succeed. By that I mean in Hants County, for instance, they closed down the courthouse -this government, not they, the government - the Liberal Government of John Savage in Hants County closed the courthouse in Windsor. They closed the vocational school in Windsor. They are doing a lot more bad stuff. They have downsized the hospital and they are going to close it, I think. That is what I hear, they are going to close the hospital in Windsor and turn it into

[Page 949]

one of those daytime clinics, I don't know why. But anyway, the minister is going to put a clinic in there instead of a hospital is what I hear.

You see everything in rural Nova Scotia keeps getting downsized and downsized and regionalized. You have lost your school board, that has moved to Kentville. I mean I should be happy because the head office for the school board is in Kentville. But maybe it won't be next year, maybe the school board will move to Middleton. You see as we continually downsize, it makes it more and more difficult for the communities to find the leadership and to grow and to develop. So on one hand this government says we want strong community economic development and in the next breath they are cutting the legs out from underneath the community lickety-split. When you look at the funding that is disappearing for schools and education, you look at the changes and alterations they have made in health care; Wolfville used to have an active hospital, now they have a small clinic; Berwick used to have an active hospital. (Interruption)

Oh, the Minister of Health is saying how great it is. Why don't you stand and defend what you are doing once in a while? Why don't you stand and defend it? You have absolutely wrecked health care in Nova Scotia and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The member will come to order, please. We are not discussing health care right now, we are discussing community economic development under Bill No. 10. Of course the member should know better than to be sidetracked. I would ask him to direct his comments to Bill No. 10.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you. I will direct them to the Chair because it is not worth my breath to speak to that fellow.

Mr. Speaker, how can economic development continue to succeed in this province when we have the constant change, the constant reduction of services, the reduction of infrastructure to rural Nova Scotia? An example, in Kings County we have 13,000 cars a day arriving from the Mount Uniacke area, the highest traffic count anywhere in the province. Are we doing any road construction? The minister said no, not in the foreseeable future. You see we need the infrastructure so that manufacturers can get their finished goods out and their raw materials in. When you hear infrastructure from the Minister of Transportation, the people in Cumberland County are just so thrilled, they are going to have the first toll road in the country. The blueberry processor and carrot processor in Oxford said it is going to cost them an extra $100,000 a year. It goes on and on. How are we going to have development when the Government of Nova Scotia is constantly penalizing rural Nova Scotia and rural communities?

So, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place but I tell you, it is with great and utter disappointment that I saw this bill because this bill is the cornerstone, is the benchmark of this government. It shows it is very much lacking in imagination, in initiative and commitment to the people of Nova Scotia. So this bill is pretty disappointing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise to say a few brief words on the bill before us. I see the member for Cape Breton South, he is the member responsible for etiquette on the Liberal side. I see that that member is awake and providing his usual helpful interventions in the House, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to the day when that member makes as many comments on the record, by standing in his place to speak, as he does by the way of his helpful, or not so helpful, interventions across the floor.

However, Mr. Speaker, that having been said, I will turn my attention away from the member for Cape Breton South and back to something that is important and talk about the bill. (Interruption) Woof, woof, I hear the barking from across the way.

AN HON. MEMBER: Got your attention, though.

[Page 950]

MR. HOLM: Well, the member says he got my attention. I am quite sure, too, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotians are going to get his attention pretty soon when he goes out and he starts to talk to them and tries to explain and to justify what it is he and his colleagues have been doing to the people of this province over the last number of years.

Mr. Speaker, the bill that is before us, An Act to Encourage and Facilitate Community-based Planning for Economic, Social and Institutional Change, is an important concept. It is a lovely catchphrase. I am sure that the government members or the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, who sponsors this bill, had their spin doctors looking for the terms, looking for the phrases, looking for something that they can sell to Nova Scotians and say, look, we actually do care about the 50,000 to 60,000 Nova Scotians who are out of work in this province and who are desperately trying to find employment. So they looked around to try to find a piece of fluff, a piece of legislation that they can bring forward that will pretend that, look, we are moving forward; we are concerned; we are committed; we are putting the wheels in motion.

Madam Speaker, community economic development should have been and should be crucial. It should be a central part to what is actually being done in Nova Scotia. Instead, what we see happening across this province, whether we go from Cape Breton down to the southern tip of the province, what we actually see happening is that communities are being devastated. Programs, services and employment are being ripped out of those communities.

There was some discussion made a little bit earlier by previous speakers talking about some of the government departments themselves. You know, whenever the government is announcing or whenever there is an announcement being made that there are to be so many jobs created in a particular area, it is amazing that the government always finds a multiplier effect. So that if a business or an industry is to locate in a community, whether that community be a rural community or in a larger urban area, they always come out and they say, well, you know, we are anticipating that 50 jobs will be created. Then when you put the multiplier effect in, that really is going to mean that the number of jobs will probably double. So if 50 jobs are going to be created, the spin-off effect will be that another 50 jobs are created. So, in reality, the net gain will end up being about 100.

But you know, it is absolutely amazing that the math only seems to work one way. When jobs are removed or cancelled in a particular community because of a government decision to shut down an office or to relocate or, at the same time that the province is talking about community economic development, as they turn around and centralize their services out of those rural communities into more centralized urban communities, they never talk about the multiplier effect that is being lost.

I think, Madam Speaker, that community economic development, truly at the community level, at the community base, is crucial if we are to have a strong and a vibrant economy here in Nova Scotia. I tend to be one of those who believes that Nova Scotia has a

[Page 951]

great deal to offer and that we do have much that can attract a whole host, a whole variety of businesses to our province and with proper encouragement, not only can some businesses be attracted, but many others can be encouraged to expand with proper assistance and guidance. I am not just talking here in the way of financial assistance.

[5:45 p.m.]

When I take a look at the bill that is before us, I do not really see that there is much new or much different in this legislation above and beyond what already exists or what is already possible. Granted there is one significant difference if the Leader of the red team were to decide that he was going to take a trip down the road to see the Lieutenant Governor and wanted to pull the plug and go to a general election, they can say, see we are committed to community economic development and social development because we introduced and passed a bill in the House. This bill has no flesh, no meat, no commitment on behalf of the province in this legislation whatsoever.

The purposes of the bill are quite noble and quite supportable. Certainly, one of the things, however, it does do is that is concentrates the vast majority of the power and the discretion-making powers in the hands of the minister and not of the communities.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. I am going to call for order. It is getting more difficult to hear the speaker. Honourable members, if you could just perhaps take some of your conversations outside, I would appreciate it.

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Madam Speaker and I see that they listen to you maybe a little better than they listen to me, but I appreciate the efforts. It is wonderful how silence can sometimes bring silence.

Going back to the purpose of the bill. It says that under Clause 2(a), ". . . upon the request of a municipality or of participating municipalities, the establishment of regional community development agencies to plan and carry out regional development strategies and action plans that will further the development of the community;". That is good and proper that they can be done. Later on in the bill, without the approval of those particular participating municipalities that ask for the establishment of such an agency, there is actually in here the power for the minister to, Clause 6(7), ". . . disestablish an agency and determine the manner of disposing of the assets of the agency.".

Here you have the municipalities having the ability to go and ask the minister, because the municipalities are concerned and the residents in those areas are very concerned about having a community economic development strategy that meets their needs, if later on after that has been established and even if those participating municipalities and community groups are very much interested and involved in what is happening within the communities, this bill gives the minister on his or her own, depending who is occupying that position at the time, the power to disestablish that agency.

In the bill, it talks about how this agency is to facilitate, Clause 2(b), . . . the co-ordination of provincial and municipal public sector development programs affecting the role of private and voluntary sector groups, labour . . .", et cetera. It talks about that as what its goal is, but the bill provides no direction on how that goal is to be achieved. What we have before us is quite truthfully a bill that is really extremely top-down. Here the government says all the time that they want to have community-based bottom-up involvement, yet at the same time that they are running around pretending to be concerned about rural life here in Nova Scotia, how long did it take them to get involved when the MV Bluenose ferry was being cancelled from Yarmouth? An important service to the communities in southwest Nova Scotia for them to be able to continue economic activities and export the if products to market. Yes, the member for Queens says to me, they have never yet managed to solve that problem, yet they knew about it many months in advance, yet they waited until the end. That is an important community economic development tool, to have that service in place.

[Page 952]

There are other examples that one can talk about. One can talk about what kinds of pressures this government is prepared to impose on IMP. The member for North Sydney would be very aware of that and I am not going to harp on that situation. But this is a company that has received millions of dollars of government assistance over the years and those jobs are extremely important in that community. What kinds of pressures is that government bringing to bear to maintain those jobs and that employment in that area? One can go on and on with numerous other examples.

If one takes a look at another section, under Clause 6 of the bill, again, it talks about how the municipalities and so on are to, ". . . prepare and adopt a regional development strategy for the municipality . . ." and also that they ". . . may request that the Minister establish a regional community development agency for the area.". It talks about, "Upon receiving a request from a municipality . . . the Minister may, by order, establish a body corporate to be the regional community development agency for the area . . .". In that order, the minister is given all kinds of powers that he or she can exercise.

The minister can determine the terms of office for members, the number of members on the boards or agencies, the number of members on the board of directors to be appointed by the councils of the participating municipalities. These are community-based organizations, supposedly, community-based structures. Yet, the minister of the province, who has not, and maybe there will be on Thursday, Thursday is supposed to be the good news day, Santa Claus is going to arrive and we are going to have all kinds of sugar-coated candy provided to us. We are going to hear all the wonderful news about what a great job the government has done in hiding a lot of its costs, like the cost for building private schools.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is this quite relevant to the bill that you are trying to debate the principle of?

MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I will do my darndest to make it relevant.

All of the other $90 million worth of extra appropriations, how they are hiding all of that. When they bring forward that budget in which they are hiding those costs, maybe they will be upfront and will actually show that there are going to be some monies provided for true community economic development across this province, and resources, true commitment. To date, we haven't seen it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Let us in on your plan.

MR. HOLM: It is tempting to suggest what one of my plans might be but I think I might be ruled out of order if I was to say that, as being a little bit unparliamentary if I was to say part of what my plan is to the member for Cape Breton South.

However, Madam Speaker, even under this, the date when the contribution of each participating municipality is to be paid to the agency, everything decided by the minister and, presumably - well though, it doesn't say so - it doesn't even say that the minister has to

[Page 953]

consult with his colleagues down in the bunker before they come forward with their order and decree. This is extremely top-down; no suggestion here that the communities that know best, that know their communities best and know what their needs are, that their input even has to be accepted by this government or followed.

Of course, what the heck, Madam Speaker, the minister has total and absolute power at any time anyway because at any time the minister, not according to any laid out terms and conditions or no requirements or conditions laid out here, the minister may disestablish an agency. The power is in the hands of the minister, not in the hands of the communities that are going to be footing the bill for this, Madam Speaker.

Now, Madam Speaker, under the bill as well, it lays out a lot of the powers of this agency, the things that the agency may do. One of the questions that I ask or wonder as I look through this, is which of those powers that are being assigned to that agency should not actually have been done by a very competent economic development officer working within the department. For example, Clause 7(1)(b), "promote interest in activities of the agency and encourage and assist the participation of public, private and voluntary sector groups;". That is something that, quite honestly, I would think that a very competent community economic development officer would be doing. Clause 7(1)(c), "prepare, update at regular intervals and implement a strategy and action plan for the development of the regional community;". These are all things that a trained community economic development officer, working with the community, would be doing.

I also note, Madam Speaker, that of course the minister and the government has slipped in here a couple of other things as well, that this agency, this structure that the municipalities asked for, supposedly, and which are going to be paid for largely, if not in total, by those municipalities - Madam Speaker, I see you signalling that my time, I should call the debate to a close - but I will just point out one other added feature, that of course the minister slipped in here and the government slipped in here, is that the minister can assign to that agency any other duties or functions that the minister should so decide.

So, Madam Speaker, as I adjourn the debate on the bill, my final comment for today on it is quite obviously the bill we have before us is more of a public relations exercise than it is a substantive commitment to community economic development across the Province of Nova Scotia. With those few brief comments for this afternoon, I would move adjournment.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate.

It is agreed.

The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I might just inform the House of Opposition business tomorrow. We will be calling Resolution No. 12 and Resolution No. 125.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: The House will sit tomorrow from 2:00 p.m to 6:00 p.m. and I move adjournment until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. We stand adjourned.

We have now reached the moment of interruption. The debate this evening is being led off by the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, who will speak on the resolution:

[Therefore be it resolved that members of this House, in recognition of Organ Donor Awareness Week, congratulate those volunteers and donors who made the Organ Donor Program successful, and [Page 954]

encourage all Nova Scotians to seriously consider signing their Nova Scotia Health Card so that they may be able to offer the gift of life.]

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - ORGAN DONATION: PROGRAM - ENCOURAGE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise in the House tonight and speak to the resolution supporting Organ Donor Awareness Week. As a physician for over 30 years, I truly recognize the importance of having individuals planning to donate organs or tissues in the unlikely event of their death. By indicating their wish to become an organ donor, an individual helps fellow citizens in need. For many patients, transplants offer the only hope of a healthy, productive life. For some patients, it is no cliche to say and to suggest that a transplant for them is the difference between a life or death.

The Victoria General Hospital, or the now Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, is Atlantic Canada's only location for doing transplants. Each year, transplant staff conduct approximately 100 kidney transplants, 18 heart transplants, 20 liver transplants, 50 bone transplants, 100 corneal transplants, 45 heart valves, and skin grafts when needed for burn patients.

Some consider it macabre to discuss what to do with anyone's body in the event of a death. Kidneys, hearts, livers, skin, bone, corneas, heart valves, the thought of giving these up after death may cause some people to want to change the topic. When almost 100 Nova Scotians are waiting for transplants, over 260 Atlantic Canadians waiting for transplants, organ donation is a matter that simply cannot be swept under the rug.

All it took in the past, Madam Speaker, was to sign the organ donor section of your driver's license. Now each new Nova Scotia health card also includes the option of organ donation. This is not a means of signing one's life away. Donors and their families determine the donation's particulars. A person can choose to donate for transplants or medical research and education. Age, gender, race and socio-economic factors do not apply to either organ donors or to receivers. Medical history, with the exception of those with cancer, hepatitis, or HIV infection, is not a deciding factor on organ donation, it is merely the health of that particular organ.

Too often, people rely on second-hand stories, half truths and other excuses to make decisions regarding organ donations. Because these ill-informed choices can prolong the wait for medical treatment, I want to dispel some of the myths surrounding organ donation. The myth of disruption of the deceased's funeral arrangements; not true. The surgical procedure of organ donation does not change the appearance of the donor's body which is promptly

[Page 955]

returned to the donor's family for funeral arrangements. Families have no say in the donor's decision; again, not true. The Province of Nova Scotia has a policy that requires medical doctors to approach the family of every possible donor. The family or next of kin also have the final say. Obviously, possible organ donors should discuss their choice with their families. Transplants cost a lot of money; again, not true. If every kidney patient in Nova Scotia received the needed kidney donor, the Department of Health would save $3 million a year.

The money we save on successful transplants is greater than the cost of doing the procedure. A recent study showed that kidney transplants saved the health care system more than $250,000 over the life of each kidney patient.

The valid reasons for not opting to be an organ donor are few and far between. Organ donation is a personal issue and one should always consult with family or next of kin. Remember that if 50 per cent of potential donors gave organs, there would be enough for everyone who needs a transplant. These organ recipients could then get on with their lives. With organ donation, the passing of one person brings new life to another.

Within the last week, I interviewed in my office a gentleman who has received a heart transplant. I could not help, as I watched him sitting there, enjoying the interview and thinking to myself, what a great thing that person did who donated the heart that allows this man's life to go on. Later, in the same week, I ran into a former patient, a young man, a diabetic, who received a kidney transplant not many months ago. This young man is still in his 30's and he is feeling better than he has felt at any time over the last 10 years and has benefited immensely from his new kidney. That is the reason, Madam Speaker, when I renewed my driver's license last week, I signed the choice to be an organ donor.

In closing, I commend the hard work of those in The Kidney Foundation of Canada, the Victoria General Hospital and other similar organizations. They ensure that people are aware of the importance of organ donation. I understand they also have a number of suggested changes to the Human Tissue Gift Act. My caucus is committed to sitting down with these stakeholders to address the issues of concern that perhaps can be accommodated through changes in the Human Tissue Gift Act. With the hard work of these organ donor organizations, and the commitment of all members of this House, the day will hopefully come when we have an organ recipient list of zero. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. DENNIS RICHARDS: Madam Speaker, I am certainly very pleased to participate in this resolution under debate this evening. I think it is one of the few times that a resolution of this type can receive the full support of all members of the House. It is a resolution that I want to talk about in a positive way. I want to talk about it because it affects each and every one of us in one way or another.

Organ donors are a very special group of people. In this past week, we have talked a great deal, Madam Speaker, about volunteerism and we have talked about people who contribute many hours of their time in a variety of ways. But I think the group of people who volunteer to give the gift of life in a special way, at the time that it is very stressful perhaps, receive and should receive special consideration from all members here.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition indicated and talked about some of the statistical data about organ transplants. I want to emphasize some of those numbers again, because I think they are so important for us to hear and understand. Organ transplants of many types have been on the increase but we need to do more. It is true that, since 1993, there have been about 300 kidney transplants that have taken place here in Atlantic Canada, but there are people still waiting for kidney transplants; more than 50 liver transplants have taken place, but there is a waiting list for more people; we have had 37 heart transplants take place, but there are people, as we speak here today, waiting for heart transplants; and cornea transplants, I believe in excess of 230 have taken place and yet, again, there is a need for more.

[Page 956]

The list goes on, Madam Speaker. We can talk about every vital organ of the body, it requires consideration by those of us who have that opportunity. The new system that is coming into place which is being supported by our government in a way that is going to hopefully escalate the concern and the awareness, is a very positive step. We can talk about it, we can spread the word as strongly as we can and the brochure that is now being circulated in every driver's license renewal is a very important document for us to take a moment to review.

I believe copies have been distributed here this afternoon in a sign that we will know, we here who are called to be legislators are going to be made aware of this program so that each Nova Scotian who received a license renewal can take advantage of this opportunity, not only for their driver's license renewal but also for their health card renewal. The system has been in place for some time but it has never been as formal as it is today.

I heard the Leader of the Opposition say that he signed his donor card. I think it was over 25 years ago that I signed a donor card and have carried it in my wallet since that time to this day. I believed in it then and I continue to believe in it today. I have told my family that in the event of my untimely death at my young age, yes, if there is a part of my body that can help somebody else, by all means; any part that is important that can be transplanted, they can have. I believe we need to talk about that because it is a very important issue that can affect family members in so many important ways.

This issue is an issue for all Parties to cooperate with. We have indicated the number of transplants that have taken place and the waiting list that still exists. You know, there are 89 people currently waiting for kidney transplants, just as we talk here this evening. I have talked about those who are waiting for heart transplants and we can talk about those in real terms because my information tells me there are two right now, if the opportunity were there, who could receive a heart transplant. Liver transplants are the same way; tissue transplants; and the list, again, goes on.

It doesn't take a great deal for us now while we have that opportunity, to sign that donor card whether it be on our driver's license, whether it be on a health card, get it registered, talk to our families, make them aware of our wishes and as the previous speaker indicated, although it is not compulsory and binding on the family members who survive us but if we talk about it now, I am sure that decision will be made much easier should that day come. We need to take the negative stigma away from it and talk about how important it would be for the recipient.

Every time I hear of a young family member who has passed on, sometimes tragically, sometimes as we have witnessed this past year, right in my own community, young people tragically taken from us and yet the family has indicated that they wanted to do something good. They wanted their lives to be marked not only for the time they spent here on earth but in some long-lasting way for somebody else. They willingly contributed to the donor program and offered all of the organs possible so that somebody else might have either new sight, a

[Page 957]

new heart, a new liver or some other vital organ. What a tremendous feeling that must give at a most difficult time. I believe we need to support that, we need to talk about it, we need to encourage it.

We are moving forward to a province-wide information system that will go from one end of Nova Scotia to the other. The new health card donor system can demonstrate a real awareness for all of us and how important it would be to have every possible person sign their donor card with their health card program. It would take away that waiting list that exists there today. Those 89 people who are waiting for a kidney would not have to wait any longer. Perhaps that waiting list could be reduced and we would have more people living healthier lives.

[6:15 p.m.]

There is no doubt as well, Madam Speaker, about the cost implications. The cost implications for a donor program are on the positive side of the ledger. They will help improve our health care system not only for the individual but for us globally as well. It is much better for a person to have a transplant organ and survive and be a healthy contributor to society than to perhaps require hospitalization on an ongoing basis, dialysis, et cetera; that is a tremendous strain on our precious health dollars. So health care and donor transplant go hand in hand in improving the lives of so many people.

Madam Speaker, I want to go on record with our government's endorsement of the donor system, of the resolution that is before us today and to make every Nova Scotian aware, as far as possible, of how important this program is, how important it is that we all take advantage of it and help those who are in such desperate need of help.

With that, Madam Speaker, I want to thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this resolution.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I don't know that I am going to use the full time available to me tonight because so much of what has been said I want to associate myself with; quite honestly, with everything, so I don't know really that there is all that much more to be said.

Certainly we have had in the province for quite a number of years the opportunity to carry around a card and also to designate on our driver's license that we, as individuals, are prepared and anxious to have our organs donated should we meet an untimely and unexpected death. I know that I, like the previous speaker, have been carrying that around in my wallet for quite some considerable time.

Madam Speaker, I am not going to go over and try to repeat the statistics, nor am I going to repeat what the Leader of the Opposition talked about in his remarks, in terms of a lot of the myths and so on regarding donor transplant and donations. I think it is significant enough to point out that we have a tremendous need for organs to be donated. We know that of those where there have been organ donations made that the vast majority are successful and that the success rate in transplants is increasing all the time.

[Page 958]

We can talk about the fact that organ donation saves money for the province because it is cheaper, for example, to do a kidney transplant than it is to keep that person receiving dialysis. Far more important to me than the few dollars that are going to be saved is knowing that the quality of life for that individual and for that individual's family and loved ones is going to be improved so much as a result of that.

I am not speaking here on behalf of the Party because it is not something that, quite honestly, I have talked through with the members of the Party and I don't know if others would support me in my own personal view, that in items such as this, and I recognize the importance of discussing with family members and making family members aware of your wish to make donations, but it almost falls into the category of a living will, where people are deciding for themselves what they would like to be done with their organs. I would certainly like to think that in my particular case my family might be comforted in knowing, and I am sure this is a feeling that many other families do have as well, that if a tragedy does befall a loved one, that their tragic loss, at least you are going to know, is going to assist somebody else. Maybe somebody gained their eyesight back, maybe somebody will be able to live a productive and healthy life because of a heart transplant or lung transplant or kidney transplant, or liver transplant, you name it and the list goes on.

I see this as a very encouraging thing and I think that society's views toward this are also becoming far more positive. My only comment, I guess, that I would like to make other than that which has been said by both previous speakers and I endorse totally the sentiments of what they have said and our caucus is certainly in support of this resolution, the only other thing that I would like to say is that we have to find a way to make sure that this is not but a one week event. Having Organ Donor Week is important because it highlights and increases awareness during this point in time.

We have to find a way to ensure that those who would be favourably inclined to donating their organs in the event that they met an untimely death, that the issue is not going to be only raised and brought to their conscious awareness during this week, but that we have proper posters or advertising of some sort just to keep this before people's minds. So, when the time comes for their driver's license to be renewed or whatever that they will also be aware of it again at that time and maybe then will be able to act on it.

I guess as a way of closing in terms of a question because I honestly do not know the answer to this. There has been some discussion about the health cards and I believe that there is talk about putting the sticker on the health card to designate. What I am wondering is if the government has looked at - and maybe they have and I have missed it and that is quite possible - having a way to include within the medical information that there is access to with that health card, information on whether or not the person bearing that card, if they are of the age of consent, have requested that their organs be donated on the card, but I am also interested in whether or not it is contained within the information that is kept in the data bank. The member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, opposite who spoke, says that it is and I am pleased to hear that because that was a question, quite honestly, that I did not know the answer to.

With those few remarks, again, I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition for bringing this topic forward. In fact, I think, pretty well everybody in the Opposition benches submitted the same topic as it is a very important topic that we seem to talk about once or twice a year. It is something that we have to keep in our minds for the good of all throughout the year. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

[Page 959]

MADAM SPEAKER: That adjourns this evening's debate. We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

[The House rose at 6:24 p.m.]