Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Mon., Apr. 29, 1996

Fourth Session

MONDAY, APRIL 29, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Musquodoboit Rural High School:
Bus Route No. 193 - Roads Upgrade, Mr. B. Taylor 1141
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 373, Young Entrepreneurs (Atlantic Canada): Award Winners (N.S.) -
Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 1142
Vote - Affirmative 1142
Res. 374, Justice - Freedom of Information: Recommendations -
Implement, Mr. J. Holm 1142
Res. 375, Justice - Information: Access Encourage -
Policies Implement, Mr. J. Leefe 1143
Res. 376, Gov't. (N.S.) - Public Services Deterioration:
CUPE Concern - Listen Urge, Mr. R. Chisholm 1143
Res. 377, Liberal Party (N.S.) - President: Mr. Lloyd Campbell -
Congrats., Mrs. L. O'Connor 1144
Vote - Affirmative 1144
Res. 378, Young Entrepreneurs (Atlantic Canada) - Eric Lafontaine
(Lr. Sackville): Award - Congrats., Mr. William MacDonald 1144
Vote - Affirmative 1145
Res. 379, Environ. - Sydney River: Lead Contamination -
Tests Conduct, Mr. J. Holm 1145
Res. 380, Gov't. (N.S.): Privatization - Scrap, Mr. R. Chisholm 1146
Res. 381, Human Res. Dev. (Canada) - UI Changes: Seasonal Workers -
(Gov't. [N.S.]) Represent, Dr. J. Hamm 1146
Res. 382, Mun. Affs. - Tax Increases: Downloading - Explain,
Dr. J. Hamm 1147
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. R. Chisholm 1148
Mr. B. Taylor 1151
Mr. R. Carruthers 1154
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 4:58 P.M. 1157
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 8:58 p.m. 1157
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 11, Children and Family Services Act 1157
Mr. A. MacLeod 1157
Mr. R. Chisholm 1159
Mr. R. Russell 1163
Dr. J. Hamm 1166
Hon. J. Smith 1168
Vote - Affirmative 1169
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Apr. 30th at 12:00 p.m. 1169
[Page 1141]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, APRIL 29, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

4:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Paul MacEwan

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MADAM SPEAKER: I will call the House to order and we will commence with the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the students of Musquodoboit Rural High School who travel on Mrs. Sharon Thomas' bus, No. 193. The students would like to express their concern about the condition of the back roads and paved roads on their particular route.

MADAM SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

1141

[Page 1142]

RESOLUTION NO. 373

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

Whereas some of Atlantic Canada's best young entrepreneurs were honoured at the Young Entrepreneurs Going Places conference dinner this past Friday; and

Whereas awards were given for innovation, customer service, arts and culture, best overall business, youth entrepreneurial skills and entrepreneurial teaching; and

Whereas award sponsors included MT&T, ACOA, Canadian Airlines International, Air Atlantic, the Royal Bank, the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency and the Department of Education;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the following Nova Scotians - Dennis Khattar of Sydney, Tara Young of Shelburne County, Eric Lafontaine of Lower Sackville and Gordon Lewis of Annapolis West Education Centre - for demonstrating the true entrepreneurial spirit of Nova Scotians.

I would ask for waiver, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed on waiver?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 374

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

Whereas April 28th to May 4th is recognized as Information Rights Week; and

Whereas the Canadian Library Association and other organizations sponsoring Information Rights Week have declared that access to information must be regarded as fundamental, and without this right other fundamental rights lose their meaning; and

Whereas the sponsors also maintain that government records and information are an invaluable resource which allow citizens to understand the present, plan intelligently for the future, and provide us with the means to measure the effectiveness and economy of programs while ensuring the accountability of public officials;

Therefore be it resolved that on the occasion of Information Rights Week the Government of Nova Scotia should make a commitment to implement the recommendations contained in the Report of the Advisory Committee on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

[Page 1143]

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 375

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

Whereas the Minister of Education and Culture recently proclaimed the week of April 28th to May 4th as Information Rights Week, a week celebrated across Canada as a way to focus on public access to information; and

Whereas the Minister of Education and Culture is quoted as saying: "As a government, we are doing our utmost to ensure that up-to-date information is available to Nova Scotians; however it is up to individuals to use the information to potentially increase their social and economic opportunities."; and

Whereas the Liberal Government has demonstrated this commitment by taxing the Internet, imposing exorbitant user fees on freedom of information Act requests and now imposing the harmonized tax on books;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberals stop paying lip-service to information rights and implement policies that encourage Nova Scotians to take part in this exciting information age instead of placing financial obstacles in front of exercising such opportunities.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, before I read my resolution, I would like to make an introduction, if I may. In the west gallery, Speaker's Gallery and a few in the east gallery are representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. They are being led today by the national President of CUPE, Judy Darcy, and by the national Secretary-Treasurer, Geraldine McGuire. These members of CUPE and staff from CUPE are here today to bring to the attention of all members of the Legislature their concerns over deteriorating public services in the province, in particular under the issues of health care, education, UI, and provincial highways.

I would like to ask, Madam Speaker, if all members of this House would extend these people, as they stand, the usual warm greetings. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 376

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

Whereas the Canadian Union of Public Employees has chosen on this day of concern to meet with members of the government and this House to alert them to the deteriorating state of public services in Nova Scotian; and

[Page 1144]

Whereas CUPE representatives have clearly outlined the impact on Nova Scotians of cuts in areas such as health care, education, social services and unemployment insurance; and

Whereas this Liberal Government is responsible for many of these cuts and has stood idly by while others were imposed by their federal cousins in Ottawa;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge members of the government to listen carefully to what CUPE representatives are saying and amend their ill-advised policies accordingly.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 377

MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Madam 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 held its 1996 annual meeting in Sydney this past weekend; and

Whereas Party members from all over Nova Scotia came to Sydney to attend this most successful gathering; and

Whereas Mr. Lloyd Campbell of Bridgewater was elected to a two year term as President of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to Mr. Campbell congratulations and best wishes for a successful term as President of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.

Madam Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MADAM SPEAKER: Waiver is requested.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank.

RESOLUTION NO. 378

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

Whereas the Young Entrepreneurs Going Places awards dinner was held on Friday, April 26, 1996 in Halifax; and

[Page 1145]

Whereas the winner in the Arts and Culture category, sponsored by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, was Eric Lafontaine of Lower Sackville who is a student at l'École du Carrefour; and

Whereas Eric won the award for his production of bilingual cards that are sold and distributed through his company, Cartes Eric Lafontaine Cards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend best wishes and congratulations to Eric Lafontaine for his outstanding artistic and entrepreneurial skills.

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

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 379

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

Whereas it is a well-established fact that lead contamination poses serious health risks to adults and to the development of children; and

Whereas the Department of the Environment has known of the possibility of lead contamination in and around homes in Sydney River, resulting from the sandblasting of lead-based steel protection coating of PetroCanada tanks in proximity of the homes, since the fall of 1992; and

Whereas residents in the area have raised serious questions about the competency of the Sydney office of the Department of the Environment, which knew about the lead contamination of the home of one resident and yet failed to inform the remaining residents of the full extent of lead contamination in the area, leaving them to read about it in the local newspaper;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the minister to get off his duff and order the department to conduct tests for those residents who have expressed fear of lead contamination in their living environment and act in accordance with the request of the residents.

Madam Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MADAM SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

[Page 1146]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I would like to do a further introduction, if I may.

Accompanying the members of CUPE, here in the west gallery is the President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, Rick Clarke. He is no stranger to members of this House, but regardless, he is here to show his support and concern with CUPE members. I would like to ask members of the Legislature to show him their usual welcome. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 380

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

Whereas reports from the Liberals' annual meeting indicate that the Liberal Government has set aside the privatization of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission; and

Whereas the weekend announcement to abandon privatization of liquor stores is but a small step in the right direction; and

Whereas the Liberals still have plans to privatize other facilities like highways, schools and jails;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to stay on a roll and also scrap its expensive and ill-considered plans to privatize roads, schools and correctional institutions in this province.

[4:15 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 381

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

Whereas many families in rural Nova Scotia are dependent upon seasonal industries such as fishing, forestry and tourism for their livelihood; and

Whereas the federal government's proposed change from Unemployment Insurance to Employment Insurance will adversely affect the ability of many of these Nova Scotians to provide for their families; and

[Page 1147]

Whereas the federal Minister of Human Resources Development, himself a Maritimer, seems unwilling to enter into full and fair discussion of the proposed changes with those most affected;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia not just say that this is a federal matter, but truly represent Nova Scotians and make sure that the Human Resource Development Minister gives Nova Scotian seasonal workers a full and fair hearing of their concerns before any changes are implemented.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 382

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

Whereas the proposed harmonized sales tax will have a severe detrimental impact on the financial health of municipal units across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the harmonized tax is only an addition to the avalanche of increased costs imposed by this Liberal Government upon municipal units in this province since their election to office in 1993; and

Whereas other examples of this severe downloading include the service exchange program introduced by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the capping of social service payments last summer by the Department of Community Services, the increase in RCMP costs, as well as the elimination of cost-shared agreements for snow and ice removal and road maintenance between the Department of Transportation and Public Works and towns across Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Municipal Affairs explain why her government is forcing tax increases upon municipalities, which could drive people from their homes and force other municipal units to the verge of bankruptcy.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 1148]

HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I wanted to take the opportunity this afternoon to talk a little bit about what is happening with health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. You may be aware of the fact that on behalf of the caucus and under my name, I introduced a Private Member's Bill two weeks ago that was intended to put into legislation, here in the Province of Nova Scotia, the key goals of the Canada Health Act: the principles of universal, accessible, comprehensive, portable and publicly administered health care. I did so and the NDP caucus felt it was important because of what we see happening in this country and in this province on issues of health care.

In the last number of years, we have seen what we believe has been a continued erosion of our publicly administered health care system. We have seen a creeping in, in some provinces, of privately funded and privately administered health care facilities upon which the governments of those provinces are depending much too seriously and putting much too much attention and giving money, in fact, to allow for the expansion of those services.

In this province, in the past few years, we have seen a continued growth in health services being delivered by private operators. That to me and to us here in the NDP caucus goes to the heart of the problem with what is happening in health care in this country. In our haste to try to balance budgets, to try to respond to the mismanagement of Liberal and Tory Governments over the past 20 years, that has resulted in hugely out of whack budgets, huge deficits and debts, we have seen provincial governments continue to rely on a cutting back and slashing of services, in particular of health services, in this province and in this country, which has meant a significant deterioration of the provision of those services.

Of recent time, federally, in fact, it was first introduced in the 1995 federal budget, we hear about the Canada Health and Social Transfer. Madam Speaker, the Canada Health and Social Transfer changes the way that money is going to flow from the federal government to the provinces to fund our health care system, to fund post-secondary education and to fund social assistance. Not only are we going to see a $7 billion reduction in the amount of money that is going to flow from the federal government to the provinces to fund those programs, but no longer will there be the stick, if you will, of money that the federal government can use to ensure that the provinces maintain a universally accessible health care system from one end of this country to the other.

So, what we suggested with respect to health care alone, is that if the federal government is not going to be able to maintain those standards that we have talked about, then it is time that the province, in this particular case the Province of Nova Scotia, step forward and entrench those important principles, Madam Speaker.

It wasn't that long ago in this House, by a resolution introduced by my colleague the member for Sackville-Cobequid, that this House unanimously endorsed not only the principles of the Canada Health Act but also the 10 goals for improving health care. Those 10 goals, Madam Speaker, were developed by the members of the Canadian Health Coalition and this is a resolution that was sponsored by the Canadian Labour Congress. If I may just briefly go through those 10 goals.

The first one is to create good health. It says, Madam Speaker, that we must create conditions for good health. That means we need public policies that make for healthy people, full employment at decent wages, housing, a strong social safety net, education, food, peace, a clean environment and a safe workplace. Public policies that allow the gap between rich and poor to widen will lead to higher health costs.

Madam Speaker, that is something that we have talked about at some length in this House, the fact that if this government turns its back, as it appears to have, on issues of creating jobs and taking [Page 1149]

responsibility for job creation in the Province of Nova Scotia, then they, in fact, are encouraging or in many ways ensuring that poverty continues in this province. Simply turning to the private sector, simply saying that the private sector will look after it is not good enough. We have seen governments across this country talk with that ideological focus for 20 years now and we have found nothing but chronic unemployment develop in this country and we have seen a prolonged recession, unlike any that we have seen since 1930's.

The 10 goals, Number 2; preserve and strengthen the Canada Health Act, the foundation of Medicare. Madam Speaker, the five principles of Medicare must be maintained. Those being: universal coverage, accessibility, portability between provinces and territories, comprehensive coverage and public non-profit administration.

Madam Speaker, when I say public non-profit administration, I want to underline that point. It was notable in this House just last week that when it was mentioned by one Cabinet Minister - and I will have to go back to the records to confirm which one - when they indicated their support for these goals, they went through those principles and indicated the first four but under the fifth, where it says public non-profit administration, there was an interesting change. The change in language was from public administration to publicly funded.

Madam Speaker, I would suggest to you that there is a significant difference. If you just say that we have to maintain a publicly funded system then that allows all kinds of room for privatized or for-profit health services being delivered within our health care system. That is what we have to stop. That is what we have to prevent against. That is why we introduced that bill in this House, to urge the government and all members of this House that we are in fact committed to ensuring that these principles were maintained, to understand that problems like we witnessed over the past few weeks with the VON here in Halifax and its nurses were as a direct result of the pressures brought to bear by for-profit health care companies in North America coming in here and presenting to government, presenting to hospitals basically a situation where they are saying, you have less money, we can provide that same level of service for less money.

Now what they will do, unfortunately, Madam Speaker, is they will do it basically on the backs of the people who work for them and not only will the employees suffer but also the quality of service. The only way we can do something about that is to have a serious commitment to ensure that health services in this province are publicly administered. That means there will not be profits made on the backs of ill and infirm people in the Province of Nova Scotia.

We need to make a serious commitment and this government needs to make a commitment. If it doesn't, we will continue to see problems that arose between the VON and its nurses; we will continue to see problems in the delivery of home care services, home

[Page 1150]

support services by for-profit firms, Madam Speaker, continue to grow. That is not in the best interests of health care services in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, to continue with Number 2, the federal government should maintain sufficient cash transfers to the provinces, to guarantee equal access to health services, as a result for all Canadians, the federal government should withhold cash transfers to the provinces that violate the Canada Health Act. We know only too well that as of April 1, 1996, those cash transfers have been seriously reduced by the province and there are absolutely no ties anymore with standards, in terms of how the provinces administer their health care system.

Number 3, make the health care system democratic, accountable and representative. Let all Canadians participate in health decision-making, not just private corporations and unelected boards. We have moved some distance in this province along this line, at least in theory, Madam Speaker. We had in this House some discussion about the establishment of regional health boards which were to decentralize decision-making around the administration and the delivery of health care services in our community.

An important component of that decentralization was to be the establishment of community health boards. In other words, Madam Speaker, boards that operated at the community level, made up of representatives of the communities, who would make decisions on the kinds of health services that were required in those communities and the best way to deliver those services in the communities.

There has been a significant problem, as a result, I would suggest, of the lack of vigilance on behalf of the minister and his department in that community health boards still have not been given the resources in order to be able to determine for themselves what services are required and what services need to be delivered in those particular communities, Madam Speaker. In some communities in some areas community health boards have begun to establish, in the Valley, for example, but they have done it despite the Department of Health. They have done it because not only have they fought hard but they also had within the purview of their board and within the community they had people with sufficient skills of health care issues and of community development issues to be able to push the agenda and be able to make sufficient demands to ensure, that that board would, in fact, be established.

In many areas of the community those community health boards have not been as successful. I have heard frustration from many of those regions where community health board participants have said they, unfortunately, have not been given the resources, have not been given the authority by the regional health boards or by the Minister of Health and his department, in order to carry out their activities, Madam Speaker.

Number 4, provide a continuum of care from large institutions to the home. You have heard and we have all heard, Nova Scotians have heard that that, in fact, is what the whole reform process is about in Nova Scotia, to move our system from one based on institutions to one based in the community, one based on services in the home. With great fanfare, after we had cut approximately 25 per cent of the hospital beds in this province, the minister announced on June 1, 1995, the establishment of Home Care Nova Scotia. To this date Home Care Nova Scotia is sorely and desperately underfunded. They do not have the resources to maintain their 1-800 number, to maintain the services in order to be able to go out into the homes and make assessments on who, in fact, requires services and what level of services they require, Madam Speaker. We have already heard, in this budget, the government claim that Home Care Nova Scotia is going to be expanded in terms of the services that it will be providing in the community but yet they have only apportioned approximately $3 million to $4 million in order to do that, all the while they have cut $33 million out of the hospital budget.

[4:30 p.m.]

Finally, Number 5, protect our investment, skills and abilities of our health care workers. Madam Speaker, one of the key components of reforming the health care system, something identified by the [Page 1151]

Blueprint Committee for Health System Reform, was that there had to be an orderly process put in place to transfer the skills, the commitment and the experience of those health care workers now delivering health care in hospitals to enable them to be able to then deliver those same complementary services in the community and to ensure, in fact, that people were not thrown out, that they were transferred. That was not done and as a result, there has been significant upheaval.

Madam Speaker, as I conclude - you indicate my time is up - let me say that health care reform is something that all Nova Scotians are dedicated to ensure works right, but we must do everything in our power to ensure that the minister understands and his government colleagues understand that what we are getting right now is not working and that we need to get reform back on-track.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to be able to rise this afternoon and speak on the debate going into Supply. I would like to say at the outset that no issue is more important to the people of Nova Scotia than job creation and the establishment of an economic climate that stimulates growth. I am thinking specifically of growth in the private sector. God, jobs and lasting employment are things that provide fundamental security to individuals, families, communities and, of course, prosperity to our province. (Interruption) Yes, that is exactly what I said, Mr. Minister.

Nova Scotia's resource-based industries, Madam Speaker, can have a bright future. With government support and proper management, there is great potential. We have seen where Stora Forest Industries, down in Port Hawkesbury, has stated that they will expand. They will build a new plant and they are going to pump $650 million into that initiative and the spin-offs that are going to be felt in that part of the province, and, of course, perhaps to a lesser degree in the rest of Nova Scotia, is very substantial. I commend Stora for working hard and seeing and believing in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Kimberly-Clark Inc. is going to spend $22 million to upgrade the Abercrombie mill, formerly known as Scott Maritimes Limited. There is an energy consortium of Mobil Oil, Shell and, I believe, Imperial, a consortium that has publicly announced that they will spend $86 million and explore sites west of Sable Island. That is good news, Madam Speaker. These companies are doing this with minimal government assistance and I commend all those companies for taking the initiative.

What concerns me, Madam Speaker, is that our traditional resource-based industries like forestry and agriculture are being overlooked. There is a black cloud over the forest industry in this province. The forest industry requires immediately, a long-term forest strategy that will ensure that the resource sustains. People with a lot more experience than I have and a lot more experience than the minister has, relative to the forestry, suggest that within five years or less we could see a decline in our forestry that may closely resemble what

[Page 1152]

happened in the fishery. Right now this government has an opportunity to do something positive, to do something creative, bring all the stakeholders together and listen; do not dismiss the knowledge and the experience that people involved in that industry have.

The agriculture industry faces many challenges, obstacles, and there are many barriers put up in front of the agriculture community. The agriculture community is very resourceful and they can reach down and they can work as hard as possible to meet these challenges, but they need support from the government. I am asking this government to give more time and more consideration to the resource-based industries in this province.

We understand that this government is working towards developing a new mineral policy and I am not just sure what the new mineral policy will contain. I hope there is, perhaps, better clarification relative to Crown and non-Crown minerals and, in fact, that will address the concern of royalties.

The government can do more to stimulate the economy and the government must do more. Some people have suggested that the government is tired, that the government is fresh out of ideas, that this government has an idea deficit, that this government does not know how to address the concerns that the resource-based industries face in this province. This government may lack and they may not have the ability to develop policies to ensure that a resource-based industry is sustained, and a government that has an idea deficit is in serious trouble.

A safe and prosperous Nova Scotia can be built, but some of the Cabinet Ministers, with all respect, seem to have been more interested back in May 1993 with obtaining the keys to limousines than developing good sound policy (Interruptions). I just wanted to see if they were listening, Madam Speaker and, obviously, they are.

MADAM SPEAKER: I think you have found out the answer to that one, honourable member.

MR. TAYLOR: The government should be more interested in providing good sound government. (Interruptions) Obviously, we have their attention by mentioning the keys to limousines. Hopefully, they have their priorities straight over there.

This government had an opportunity, not very long ago, to support a Nova Scotia businessman and this government turned their back on the Nova Scotia businessman. An individual who had all his ducks in a row. (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. TAYLOR: This government is about to implement a new tax. We have had all kinds of taxes. This government raised the personal income tax, this government put a 3 per cent tax on electricity and now is putting another 5 per cent tax on electricity. Now they have the gall and the nerve to come in, in the very short future, with a tire tax. In New Brunswick they already have announced, and it is in The Globe and Mail, that the Province of New Brunswick will be paying a $3.00 per tire tax and the same company, a Manitoba-based company, has been given the contract. They are negotiating now with the Resource Recovery Fund and the Minister of the Environment gave them the authority to negotiate with the Manitoba-based company and they turned their backs, literally, on a Nova Scotia company that cooperated and worked in concert with the Economic Renewal Agency for three years.

[Page 1153]

The Nova Scotia businessman worked very hard with his partners to put in place different elements of tire recycling. Marketing was looked at, marketing was secure, marketing for the tire crumbs, if you will, because the process involves shredding the tire and the individual would develop mats for livestock to stand on. The individual was prepared to make mud flaps, the individual was prepared to make patio walkway material, the individual had all his ducks in a row. He had the infrastructure, the collection system.

The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency knows full well because his department, business consultants from the Savage Government, sat down with the Nova Scotian and encouraged him to take these positive steps. You look after collection, look after marketing; we will help you with research, we will help you with development. In the final analysis, Madam Speaker, subsequent to reviewing 54 expressions of interest, it left a Nova Scotian and a Manitoba-based company on the short list. What did this government do? It turned its back. There is no other language to describe it, they literally shut the door on the Nova Scotian and gave the negotiation rights, if you will, to the Manitoba-based company.

You know what, Madam Speaker? That Manitoba-based company can't be found in the phone book; that Manitoba-based company cannot be found in the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. It isn't even registered with the Registry of Joint Stock Companies in this province.

Now, Madam Speaker, when we checked last week they were not even registered in New Brunswick, where they have a contract to build a tire recycling facility in that province. So many questions begged to be asked.

I can quote the Premier, Madam Speaker. I have a directive from the Premier. The Premier of this province states that it is an important principle that every business must have equal opportunity to do business with this province, this provincial government. The Savage Government turned their backs on a Nova Scotian for no good reason.

Now, Madam Speaker, there are several questions that must be asked relative to this concern. We want to know what will happen to the tires that the Manitoba company will not use? The Nova Scotian, through research, through statistical evidence, produced documentation that tells us that 1 million tires on an annual basis are scrapped in the Province of Nova Scotia. The Manitoba proposal calls for the scrapping of 650,000 tires. There is a discrepancy there of 350,000. Where will those tires go? That is a very good question.

The Nova Scotian's technology was far superior to that of the Manitoba-based company. The jobs he would provide will be of the secure type; they will be higher paying, they will be highly skilled. It is a crime that this government did not give the Nova Scotian an opportunity, at least negotiate and sit down with the Nova Scotian. But for the past two months this government shut the door on the Nova Scotian, turned their backs after encouraging the individual to invest nearly $0.25 million.

Madam Speaker, the Resource Recovery Fund engaged a private consultant, and I will say it right here and I will charge that that private consultant has absolutely no expertise in tire recycling, none whatsoever. In fact, this government sent that private consultant through the Resource Recovery Fund - which we all know is an administrative arm of the Department of the Environment - this government sent that private consultant off to Kentucky to learn a little bit from the Americans about tire recycling.

[Page 1154]

Madam Speaker, there is something wrong with this picture. Well, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works tells me I am beating this to death. It deserves to be beaten to death because a Nova Scotian, a businessman, I might add and not that it amounts to a hill of beans, not that it makes any difference in this case, he is a Nova Scotian who invested $250,000. The Nova Scotian's business is set up in Lower Truro, that is where the man is from. I would encourage some of the MLAs in this House to go up and look at his operation. The member for Colchester North took the time out of his busy schedule to go and look at the different parts, the different elements of the infrastructure that the Nova Scotian has in place and, if you have an opportunity, privately talk to the member for Colchester North and get his views on the situation. Then, if you have time in your busy schedules, talk to the minister responsible, I believe now she is the Minister of Natural Resources, the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

Both individuals, I can safely say, were impressed with the Nova Scotian and what he has done and the work and the effort and the money, the investment. He had confidence in this government, Madam Speaker. He was proactive but he did it with the blessing and the encouragement of the Department of Economic Renewal and the Department of the Environment. What thanks does he get from this Nova Scotia Government? He gets no thanks at all.

What we are going to get and what scares me is a tire tax of $3.00 per tire and the jobs are going to go to New Brunswick because New Brunswick, as we are speaking, is building a tire recycling facility plant. Unfortunately, the jobs will go to New Brunswick and it is a small wonder that New Brunswick continues to foster the perception to the rest of Canada as being the leading Atlantic Province. We had a great opportunity here, an opportunity to do something positive for our environment, an opportunity to support a Nova Scotia entrepreneur and an opportunity to support the most advanced technology in North America.

[4:45 p.m.]

The Nova Scotian had a three year stage managed process that he wanted to implement. He talked to the government, he talked to a nine member government panel, the Department of the Environment was represented, the Department of Transportation and Public Works was represented, the Economic Renewal Agency, the Department of Education, all people, all members of the committee were impressed. They made a recommendation to the Minister of the Environment, take this to the Governor in Council, take this to Cabinet and endorse the Nova Scotian. On the way to the Cabinet Room, the Minister of the Environment gave the mandate, if you can believe this, to the Resource Recovery Fund. They are a non-elected body, they are making the decisions and they in turn gave it to a Manitoba-based company.

I hope what I am saying here today doesn't come into existence, that we are left paying the tax and the jobs go to New Brunswick. That is wrong, wrong, wrong and this government should seriously go back and revisit that decision because a wrong has been committed, it is not too late. I encourage the government to get off their proverbial seats and go out and help this Nova Scotian. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Madam Speaker, today I rise to speak on an issue that may not be all that attractive or exciting to members in the House today and recently. It is a matter that was of some significance to us all not too long ago and I must tell you that it was the second time that it reared its head in our recent political past. It was a matter that was quite serious to us all, that we took very personally over the last few years. But it is a matter that seems to have gone away for a while. It may be a matter that we hoped would go away for a while.

I want to speak to my colleagues, the Liberal Government today but also to my friends in Opposition. I think we have learned that troublesome matters just don't go away, they shall come back and we must deal with them. The matter to which I refer is the danger that this country was placed in not too many months ago when a referendum came forth in the Province of Quebec.

[Page 1155]

I can tell you that when that matter was before us, we were all seriously concerned. When the numbers came in that night and I think you can all remember, it was sort of like when President Kennedy was assassinated, it was like when we won the hockey tournament when Henderson scored the goal, there are certain times in your life that you will remember where you were and what you were thinking. I can tell you that when those numbers were coming in from Quebec and if you remember they didn't start out so well, they tipped over and they came in on the right side in the end but it was a real close one. I know there are members of this House that probably never have nor ever will face their own elections with numbers that close one way or the other.

To me, it was terrifying, simply heart rending, to think that a country as great as ours could put ourselves in such serious jeopardy that we could rend ourselves apart without a real concentrated, long-term effort by all Canadians. For we in the east and I say this because I believe it, that we in the east have the single greatest thing to lose in any division of this nation. Not only because of our few numbers but if we trace history, we will see the development pattern on this continent and on the continent to the south, was developed and moved east-west. Now there are many trade patterns that go north-south but it was an east-west development and I was terrified. I remember when our leaders came forward and when I say our leaders, the Leaders of all Parties, of all provinces came forward and said, if there is something you can do to help, do it.

I took it upon myself to call some friends of mine in the Province of Quebec, friends that I had worked with, friends that I had grown up with, in some cases, gone to college and high school with, francophones and some anglophones that have moved to Quebec.

Madam Speaker, there is one family that I took serious note of. The father of the family was a great friend of mine for many years. He is a francophone. He was with the Armed Forces and was stationed here for some years. We got to be friends. His spouse was from Newfoundland. They returned to Quebec, began a farming operation and had a large family, at least five children, Lord knows, there could be another one by now, a good family and the type of family that we all want in every province. I called him up and wanted to talk to him about what his views were on the referendum that came up. He said, look Bob, I am going to vote yes on this referendum. I am going to be supporting the separation of the province. Taken aback, of course, I asked for his reasons and he stated them. We had some discussion. We talked about some old times. I talked to other members of his family. I put forth what I considered my position to be and those of my colleagues from Nova Scotia.

I received a letter from him immediately thereafter and it was an important letter to me. I am just going to quote a couple of lines from it. He said, I had completely forgotten about our friends back east with which we have been nationally minded all along in this country. He said the real question now is, what went wrong? Why would we want to be apart

[Page 1156]

from our friends? Regardless of the outcome, we in Quebec had already shown our willingness to leave our friends.

He wanted to be clear that his vote would now be no and that he would be my friend for the no side. But he went on to say that one of the things that influenced his position in the first place to support the yes side was that it was based on what local politicians had said to him and on emotion. It was on emotion, not on fact.

Don't get me wrong, this person is a real true Quebecer and a francophone Quebecer. What was happening was an emotional build-up. The facts were not coming out. I have to say, we politicians all have one common disease, and that is when it gets close to election time, sometimes we get too emotional and don't always bear out the facts as they are. Now this is the kind of situation. In his letter he said, now look. Maybe it is economic, but do we want to go broke separately or nationally? It means something. Were economics having an effect? Well, certainly they were. It is the old chicken in every pot.

Madam Speaker, we cannot let this happen again. We must not let this issue sit on the back burner until it rears up again and puts this nation in jeopardy. There are many things that bind us in this country, not just which province you live in, not just your ethnic background. There are economic ties, professional ties, geographic ties, social ties. Members of trade unions see no boundaries, and yes, there are political ties.

We must stop, as politicians, particularly, but also social leaders, from taking steps to deliberately divide this nation and divide people against people, to continually speak on the downside, the gloom-side, the horrendous side and, on the other hand, say if you come my way, the chicken will be in the pot, province against province, ethnic group against ethnic group, working people versus retired people versus professional people versus the unemployed. Every time we set up this division and every time we support it for our own gain, it is another nail in this coffin.

Madam Speaker, I think all members of the House would agree that this danger must not happen again and we must not wait until the eve, nor should Parties or different groups allow themselves to be suckered into attacking their friends, their neighbours, those who think somewhat differently, simply because they think that in the short term it may be good for them. Also, emotion is important when it is put to good work.

We have seen through history many countries that have misguided attacks on people's emotions so that it can be used in a destructive manner. We need not go back centuries, we need not go back more than a few decades to find out how emotions can sweep, when used improperly; they perhaps are the worst of all of the weapons of evil because you actually think you are doing right; you actually think that you are doing these things because it is proper, in defence of yourself, in defence of your family, in defence of your street, in defence of your county, in defence of your province. Misguided, it could be the most dangerous and evil of all the weapons that those people who wish to divide us can use.

Madam Speaker, I found an opportunity to raise this matter. It certainly is a change from my friend's two approaches. I know that economics are important but once in a while we have to get back to some of the other problems; 15 minutes I know it is not going to be debated in the estimates. I saw an opportunity and I have taken it. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[Page 1157]

[4:58 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]

[8:58 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made some progress in considering Supply and asks leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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, would you please call Bill No. 11.

Bill No. 11 - Children and Family Services Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West had adjourned the debate and has an hour to speak if he wishes.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, again, it gives me privilege to continue our debate on the Children and Family Services Act, Bill No. 11. As I stated when I started my earlier comments that certainly any issue dealing with children is a very emotional issue and is one that is near and dear to all our hearts.

As we closed the discussions the other day, we were talking about the different aspects of this bill. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that having had some time to reflect over some of the statements that I made the other day, I understand and I realize just how important, again, this bill is to our children.

We talked a great deal, the minister in his announcement and I acknowledged the other night that he announced 18 new workers for this bill. But part of my concern then and still my concern is that it is one thing to name people, put them in positions but if we don't back them up with the financial resources and the training that is required for these positions, then indeed the children will suffer.

[Page 1158]

[9:00 p.m.]

We have to find out, we have to know if a priority of the training program has been set and if it is going to reflect the true needs of the children. We also have to know if all people that are involved in the system, not just the new 18 people that have been put into the system but indeed all of the people that are dealing with our children in this situation, are they going to be trained and are they going to be given the opportunity to make the best that they can of this situation? Those are some things that I look forward to hearing from the minister when he responds.

There have been some good changes to the bill regarding the Mi'Kmaq in ensuring their culture and their identity is retained. I think that is important. I know that in the past we have been doing this by tradition but now it will be enshrined in the Act and I think that is a very positive step and it will be meaningful to the natives of our province and to their children. Again, it would be an amendment that I would strongly support.

I would wonder just how closely this bill follows toward what the advisory council has suggested and I am sure the minister will inform us how much input the advisory council and the committee had and what their recommendations were and how many of them actually landed in our final document. It seems that a lot of the things that have come out of this are a result of what took place with the Debra Stevens case and that is good, it is important that we react to cases that have created problems and heartaches for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

It is very valuable and it is not a bad thing to admit that we can learn from the mistakes that were made in the past and it is important that we do actually learn from those mistakes. It has been about a year since the Department of Community Services publicly apologized to Debra Stevens and her family. As of last week, negotiations were going on but Ms. Stevens felt that the negotiations had come apart and weren't proceeding the way they should. I would encourage the minister to make sure that the proper steps are being taken within his Community Services Department to put this back on track and try to help Ms. Stevens and her family get back to a proper way of life and get back to the quality of life that we all enjoy here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Amendments to Section 70 are pretty good amendments and especially for the bonding of a child if they are left voluntarily. This has been recognized over the years that it is important for the families when they take in children, that they have the ability to adopt them and look after them. It also says in this section that a parent must have some counselling. Sometimes when there are problems, we are going to try to fix the problems in the home before they actually come to the point where they have to remove the child from the home. Part of that process is going to be counselling in the home and some day care, a few other good initiatives. We haven't heard yet who is going to provide the counselling for the parents and for the people and children involved. I guess the other important question on a lot of people's minds is who is going to pay for the counselling? Again, I would hope that the minister can respond to those kinds of things and let us know just who is going to do the work and who is going to pay for the work.

Amendments to Section 76(1)(a) is also a good amendment. It provides for the situation where if one of the applicants of adoption is a parent, the step-parent would be able to make application for adoption in a quick period, within a month I think it is.

One would have to wonder why a person would be able to get a marriage license right away and then have to wait six months to adopt the child of a spouse they are marrying. I guess one thing this piece of legislation does is it reflects the reality of the world we live in, Mr. Speaker. It identifies the changing tides that we are undergoing and the differences our society is meeting.

With those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take my place. I will be anxious to hear what the other members of the House have to say and certainly what the minister has to say. Thank you.

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

[Page 1159]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to add a few comments that I have on Bill No. 11, An Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1990, the Children and Family Services Act, to say that clearly I support the intent of the changes to the Act, the statement by the minister that early intervention of children at risk. That is the promise and the intent of changes to the provincial law introduced by the Community Services Minister, Jim Smith.

Mr. Speaker, the Children and Family Services Act, as is indicated here, underwent some changes back in 1990, and there has been some considerable discussion since those wholesale changes were made. The discussion centres around the fact that when the bill was introduced in this Legislature, the people who worked on it, the study group that worked on it, many individuals within the child protection field, those people working with child welfare, talked about the fact that beefing up the rules relative to child protection and child welfare and the role of those agencies and the government was extremely important, but that they were increasing demand and responsibilities on a system that was already under extraordinarily high levels of stress, and in order to do the changes justice, what was required was an infusion of $10 million.

The minister of the day actually recognized that himself. The Minister of Community Services at that time, Guy LeBlanc, recognized that if they were going to deal with the problems facing children at risk in the Province of Nova Scotia that they would need to put money into the system to increase the levels of staff, to increase the programs available, and to assist the staff in carrying out their responsibilities under this new Act.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the money was not put into the changes. There was $3.8 million put into the changes. The majority of that money - as it was determined at a later date - apparently was used to create outreach worker positions in the province's transition houses, not an unimportant area by any stretch of the imagination, and an area of support that many of us agree was necessary but, at the same time, $10 million was needed to be dedicated strictly to child welfare services in that system and it was not.

The reality is, and this is information that is presented in a report put together by the Nova Scotia Coalition for Children and Youth, September 1994, entitled Children and Youth at Risk, Nova Scotia's Underfunded Child Welfare System, one of the key points and an underpinning of the reason why the system needs support is the fact, Mr. Speaker, that in Nova Scotia, one child in five is poor and the fact that that is higher than the national average. The study goes on to talk about the fact that a number of single parent families live in inadequate housing, the need for a system to prevent or to lessen the burden on children living in poverty carry, and that, in fact, there is the need for us to provide resources to not only relieve the poverty of single parents and relieve the poverty of people that are unemployed and people that are unemployable, but also the need to provide supports for

[Page 1160]

children that are living in those circumstances to prevent the kind of violent situations that far too often occur.

This unfortunately has not been done. The government has determined the fact that it does not have the money. I refer to Page 11 of the report where the report talks about how in February 1994, the Coalition for Children and Youth sent a letter to Dr. Smith reminding him of his government's commitment to children at risk and asking him to inform the coalition of his intentions in his role as Minister of Community Services. The report goes on to say that in return the coalition received a letter from Premier John Savage. The essential point of the Premier's response, says the report, was that the additional services needed to implement the Act fully would cost an extra $5 million. In Dr. Savage's view, says the report, these services are simply unavailable at this time.

This bill and the changes of this bill recognize the fact that there are weaknesses in the system. Some of us have suggested that these changes are brought about as a result of some situations that have developed in this province. One in particular that has been mentioned earlier was the case involving Debra Stevens' children and the Lunenburg Family and Children's Services Agency.

The fact remains as we deal with the ability of the system to deal with the demands that are on it now; there are many agencies within the Province of Nova Scotia, primarily at this point the Dartmouth Children and Family Services Department that just simply are not able to meet the demand that is on them now. In order to have additional powers as this bill provides there is a real crying need for additional staff and for additional resources to be put in. There is a new standard that is coming into effect, I believe it is for June 1st of this year, that says that caseloads should not exceed 20. It is the new standard for child protection and that is good but that does not necessarily address the fact that in many cases it is a question of the mix of low, medium and high risk that you might have.

I understand that in one particular case in Dartmouth there is a caseworker who has between 35 and 40 cases, 14 of which are in court; in other words, 14 of which are a question of dealing with a direct intervention and requiring a significant amount of effort to ensure that there is preparation work in order to prepare for the case and that there is a lot of work done to supervise the child that has been removed from a particularly violent situation, Mr. Speaker.

[9:15 p.m.]

Then again, of course, you have other agencies in different parts of the province where you might have a caseload average that is a lot less than the 20. So, it is important that the system have that kind of flexibility. In other words, it is important that if we going to put in additional resources that we put them into those areas where there is high stress, high demand and ensure that, in fact, there is a better mix of the type and the intensity of cases, Mr. Speaker. It is like what I was talking about yesterday at the ceremony for workers injured and killed on the job. We can talk about it in the greatest of terms and bring in the legislation to provide protection and so on, but if we don't put money behind that, if we don't put the resources behind our words, then they are merely words, number one; number two, the words themselves create additional problems, additional demands on the system that even exists now, will create additional problems.

[Page 1161]

There are other issues that need to be dealt with in the whole child welfare system in terms of secure treatment facilities. This is something that has been recommended by not only the report that I referred to, Children and Youth at Risk, but other recommendations of the study group advising the minister back in 1993 and others who have suggested that there are far more services that need to be put in place. I remember, for example, dealing with some problems in my constituency in this area where child protection workers require on a regular basis access to subsidized day care spaces so that they can prevent the kind of violence that all too often happens. The problem unfortunately in too many cases is that the services are not there unless an emergency presents itself; unless there is the physical evidence of abuse, the system is unable to respond.

I remember - I think it was two years ago - when a Family Court judge, Mr. Speaker, responded to a case that was before him with some considerable frustration, lashing out at the system that was there. There needs to be a real infusion of resources to ensure that the preventive measures are able to be put in place, that these child protection workers are able to intervene before the abuse starts, before the violence happens, to relieve the pressure, whether that be training programs for single parents, parents, whether that be to remove children into a subsidized day care situation, or whether that means providing some other financial support to a family living in poverty. There is a need for assessment services, and other, needs throughout the system, to provide the support.

Clearly for adolescents, for example, the secure treatment facilities are simply not available. I know that the residential centre in Truro has at times filled some of that need in taking adolescents in, who were at risk, not only to themselves but to others, for longer periods of time. But their capacity to deal with that situation has been greatly reduced and, for that matter, they are not even truly a secured facility, Mr. Speaker. Where is the commitment to dealing with all of these problems?

Again, I say that the language of this bill is important, what it addresses in terms of bringing the powers up to a level where the intervention can be made. It is important. It is critical. Again, it is good legislation, good legislative changes, but if the system does not have the capacity to respond to the provisions, respond to the demand that is required of it by legislation, then what good is it, other than to continue to put more pressure on the system, pressure, Mr. Speaker, which will create an explosion at some point and, in the meantime, create gaps that will appear and will see problems resulting as we go along.

There is another issue here around the neglect provisions, I have heard them called, Mr. Speaker, sort of from the other side, which talks about whether or not the rights of the children will, in fact, be infringed upon by these additional powers, whether or not that those provisions will be used as a new ground to pick up children. I am certainly not well enough versed to deal with that, but I would appreciate and would expect that there will be people appearing at the Law Amendments Committee who will be able to bring this reference forward, bring those concerns forward in a way that we will, hopefully, be able to address at the Law Amendments Committee.

There is another issue in here and that is the whole question of adoptions and how adoptions will be handled, Mr. Speaker, that I think needs to be commented upon. My understanding in a cursory review of the legislation and in discussing the impacts of it will be that it appears that provisions of this bill will abolish private adoptions. I think it is important that we understand that there are some implications associated with these changes. The first one, perhaps, not necessarily in terms of importance, is that the majority of

[Page 1162]

adoptions now, as I understand them, are private adoptions and that just a small percentage of the numbers of adoptions that happen in this province, in fact, are handled by agencies.

So one has to ask the question then, that if they will all be handled by agencies, then what resources are going to be put in place to ensure that that happens? This was not a recommendation, I understand, by the study group. But one recommendation that was made with respect to adoptions was that a home study, in fact, be done in all cases. I think that is an important addition, clearly. The other concern, of course, is that with adoptions handled publicly, that there are different eligibility criteria, if you will, on who is eligible for adoptions under the public system. People that are excluded, for example, are same-sex couples and people of a certain age. I don't know what it is here at this point in Nova Scotia, but once you hit the age of 40 and up, then all of a sudden you are seen as less eligible or whatever, and there are other ways of restricting eligibility for adoptions under that situation, Mr. Speaker, that situation that I think is cause for some concern and I wait with interest to hear the minister's response to some of those issues.

Certainly, it goes without saying that I think that the issues around how adoptions are handled is something that needs to be more closely monitored, more closely regulated by the department, by the government, no matter how it is conducted. We can't allow circumstances that led to the situation and I guess I will refer to it because it is probably the most public case that we have dealt with in this Legislature in the past few years, the Stevens case. I say that to the minister without going into more details but anything that can prevent the problems that resulted in the lack of supervision, the lack of monitoring, the lack of proper review in that case, I think, are warranted. But again, there are other consequences to what has been proposed in this bill that I understand result and I will be interested in hearing the minister address those issues. I will be interested to hear what interveners at the Law Amendments Committee have to say.

Again, I guess the main focus of my comments on this bill is the fact that while I support the intent, I support the changes with respect to strengthening child protection, child welfare laws, I say that the changes that came in in 1991, the new Children and Family Services Act, created in itself a whole new series of demands on the system. Important changes were made to that bill but unless and until the resources are put into the system to enable it to respond, then I question what the impact will be if we, in fact, increase that demand. That is not to say that these changes aren't important, it is just to say that we need to infuse more resources into the system.

Clearly, questions of violence, questions of family violence, poverty of children and the rights of children to be able to live their lives free of violence is something that we should clearly be committed to and one that I would suggest, if we are going to talk about economics and saving money, that if we can stop the violence at the beginning, if we can deal up front with the problems that are facing many families, not only those living in poverty but others and if we can get in and prevent those situations from developing, removing children from violent situations or treating children and families in a way that prevents this, we will save money down the road, big-time, in terms of Justice costs, in terms of health costs, as well as social costs. That surely has to be our goal, the goal of all legislators and clearly the goal of this government.

I will take my seat and indicate that I will be voting in support of this bill moving forward to the Law Amendments Committee. I have raised some concerns relative to the capacity of the system without the resources to be able to respond, flagging clearly the extreme pressure the system is under now and asking the minister to address that, the whole question that has been raised with me about the overriding powers of the system in contrast to the rights of these children. That, undoubtedly, will be raised at the Law Amendments Committee and I hope that it is. I think we will all benefit from hearing that perspective and also the concerns that I have raised relative to the impact of the changes to the adoption system. Hopefully, we will have an opportunity to address these issues in more detail at a later time in the proceedings. Thank you.

[9:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

[Page 1163]

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on Bill No. 11. It is a good bill, it really is. However - and there is a however and I am not denigrating the minister or the department or the bill - community services evolves, and it is changing constantly as the morals and the mores and the population changes, so our attitudes, when I say our I mean the collective attitude towards community services, change and the ways in which we deal with people who require some kind of protection, some kind of help, et cetera, change. That is why this is a good bill for now. However, that is not to say that next year that legislation will not require some amendment.

In fact, and the minister might correct me, I think that probably the Children and Family Services Act is one of those pieces of legislation that has been changed just about every year since I have been in this place anyway. Sometimes even twice a year, if I remember correctly, there have been amendments to the Act.

This is a good bill. However, as I say, there is no doubt that it will be able to stand improvements somewhere down the road. Also I think that perhaps there will be groups that will appear before the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker, that are going to suggest changes to this bill because there are some things in this bill that I think perhaps the minister might consider before the bill comes back into this House for clause by clause study in Committee of the Whole House.

The purpose of this bill, as I read the bill anyway, is to protect the unprotected, the children of this province who cannot fight for themselves, cannot argue for themselves and certainly do require that somebody looks after their interests. The idea of this particular piece of legislation is to provide, in a very solid way, protection for those children who are being abused in some way.

Now the bill permits social workers to move in on a case when there is a substantial risk of abuse. I don't know exactly what that term means but, however, perhaps the minister when he designed the bill had legal help and they dealt with that phrase and explained exactly what that phrase means in law. There is no doubt in my mind, Mr. Speaker, that if social workers move into a home to protect a child, there are going to be those among us, who I think are called civil libertarians, who are going to rise up and scream and who are going to bring class actions against the minister and do all kinds of things because of the fact that he has overstepped the boundaries of what is normally considered to be parental responsibility, et cetera.

So this, indeed, may in some way create within the workers within the system some fear that if they do act in what they consider to be the best interests of the child in what they sincerely believe to be a case where the child is being abused, that they could themselves be open at some future date to being proceeded against within the court system. I think it is

[Page 1164]

necessary for the minister and I do not know if this should be in the legislation, but somewhere I think there has to be some degree of support for the worker, the person who, in their own mind, thinks that they are doing the right thing, they are responsible people who are well versed in matters that are of concern to those who are engaged in that profession and who are going to receive the support of the department after the fact. I appreciate the fact that the minister is nodding his head. I think this is important because all too often we forget that when a civil servant carries out an order of the minister and does something and then a whole bunch of people riot and knock on the minister's door then he immediately starts convening a committee of inquiry or something that casts doubt as to whether or not that person acted responsibly within the Act. I do not think we can have it both ways. We either want the people within the Community Services Department to have the power to do these things or else do not do it. The bureaucracy from the minister down is not going to support you and you can end up with all kinds of trouble.

This piece of legislation, Bill No. 11 is in response to the Hillier-Koster Report and in response to those recommendations that were made, I think it was back in January of this year. In large measure, I think that this legislation does a good job in implementation of many of those recommendations. The number one recommendation of that report, however, dealt with the unmanageable caseload of workers in the system. I think that has been confirmed on a number of occasions by the Auditor General when he has made his report with regard to the department that, indeed some caseworkers have a tremendous overload in the number of cases that they are holding. I do not know exactly what the figure should be per caseworker. I think in that report they did come up with a number and I think it was 20.

We were told that when the minister first introduced this bill, I believe there were going to another 18 workers added to the system. I am not too sure if this additional 18 is going to reduce that number - what I am trying to say is, I presume that based over the history of the Department of Community Services they know at any one given year if it is an average year how many cases there are going to be; I am wondering if those additional workers that the minister is going to hire and I would hope that he has the money in his budget to do so, that that is going to bring that exorbitant number, whatever it is today, down to something approaching 20 cases per worker. Only if we do that are we going to afford to the workers the time to spend on individual cases to determine the validity of acting and secondly to handle the case in a well-thought-out manner.

Most of the social workers within our system - I would not want to be a social worker working for the minister. I think that must be probably the worst job, the most stressful occupation in Nova Scotia today. I know many of those people on a very friendly and first name basis and I telephoned them up and I have seen them go downhill, not just for the three years of the tenure of this government, but over the last five years or so, since about 1990 it has gone like that. Those people are overworked and they spend all day listening to nothing but problems and problems of the worst possible kind. I have kids at home and I do not have any milk in the refrigerator and I need some money right now to go and feed the kids. The social worker says, well, just hold it now I have to fill out a report on you and I have to do this and that and if you come back and see me maybe in two or three days, I will have a cheque for you. The person starts to scream at the officer because they know the kids at home have nothing to eat and to them, it is the social worker that is to blame.

This is the problem with the system. Those people are so stressed out, I would not be at all surprised if 50 per cent of them would be eligible for workers' compensation under stress (Interruption) and stress is not covered anymore. You are right on, it isn't. The Minister of Human Resources gave all civil servants a magnet to put on the refrigerator to look at when

[Page 1165]

you are stressed. When I tell my constituents about that, they laugh. They think there is some joke.

MR. SPEAKER: With due deference, this bill does not relate to any magnet.

MR. RUSSELL: No, but it relates to stress and what I was going to say, Mr. Speaker, was that when I tell people that story, people think you are kidding. How nutty can a government get to give people refrigerator magnets.

MR. SPEAKER: That is the second time. This bill does not relate to refrigerator magnets.

MR. RUSSELL: Okay. I will go away from refrigerator magnets (Interruptions) Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I know that you are the member - when you are not sitting in the Chair - for Cape Breton Nova, an area that has a large number of welfare cases, the same as, I think, every rural area does, so you must know the stress that these people are under.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister is going to take on these new workers. I don't know what the requirements are, whether or not you have to have a degree in social work, and the minister is nodding his head so I presume that you do, however, that is only half the problem. The academic side of being a social worker is only that much of the experience that you need to be a successful social worker. So it is going to take some time for those people to be up and running and to get into the system.

This piece of legislation, as I understand it - I forget when it comes into effect - this particular bill comes into force on such day as the Governor in Council orders and declares by proclamation. So, in effect, as soon as we are finished third reading, if the minister so desires, he can run it off down to the Lieutenant Governor and it could be law. I don't think he is going to do that, but certainly I would suggest that when the House closes and this piece of legislation has finished third reading, that it won't take too long before it is into the Cabinet Room and the Act is proclaimed. I applaud that because I think we have to get on with it but the problem is that even when that Act is proclaimed, even when the minister starts to dip into the additional funding that he has gotten, and I put all my Estimates Books away so I am not too sure exactly how much it is, to hire additional workers, it still is going to be, I would suggest, probably a year before we notice any appreciable change in the way in which his department handles children who are risk. That is a long period of time.

That is not the minister's fault. As I say, this is an evolving problem and it is getting worse. It is getting worse, Mr. Speaker, not only because we don't have the workers in the social system, but because the public of the Province of Nova Scotia, and when I speak of that, I mean the public that is in the poor class - when I say poor, I mean people on welfare, people on minimum wage, people who are single family mothers or fathers - those kinds of people who have inadequate income, and that is where you run into the majority of your problems with child abuse. The fact that the breadwinners, whether they be one or two breadwinners within a family, lose their jobs, can't get work, go through the UI program, run out of UI benefits, go on to welfare benefits, and they are right back to where they were when they first probably left school, maybe 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. This creates stress within the home and when you have stress within the home, that is when you start getting into problems with alcohol abuse and with the resultant abuse of children.

[Page 1166]

I notice that within the bill, Mr. Speaker, we are making changes to accommodate our native children and I think that that is a good move; I applaud the minister for that. I always thought, though, that there was (Interruption) It was black was it? Okay. So the minister has added the Mi'Kmaq to the equation, and that is good. I appreciate that the minister has done that.

[9:45 p.m.]

Now, where a child is considered to be the victim of abuse, within the bill - and I know that I cannot go through the bill and read from particular sections, et cetera - it says that when a child has been taken from the parent, the parent shall receive counselling. I don't think the minister spoke about this in his opening remarks to second reading and I don't think there was anything in the handout that the minister provided about how this was going to be handled, because, first of all, I don't know who is going to pay for this counselling and I don't know where the counsellors are going to come from; that is not explained.

It would seem to me that if the minister is going to provide counselling to all these parents whose children are either victims of abuse or in abusive relationships, then I would suggest to him that he is going to have to hire a lot more people than he presently has. I applaud the idea, but the increase in staff that he is talking about is to look after the children, but it is not providing the counselling for . . .

DR. JOHN HAMM: It is not available through the Department of Health; they are understaffed.

MR. RUSSELL: In the Department of Health?

DR. HAMM: Well, their counsellors, through Mental Health Services, they are overworked now.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes. The honourable Leader of the Opposition was just telling me in the Department of Health, the counsellors within that department being overworked. This is rampant throughout the Department of Community Services and the Department of Health, people who are, quite frankly, overworked and, as I say, stressed out. It is going to require a fairly substantial injection of funds to provide personnel who are trained and able to carry out what the minister wants to do in this bill, which I think, as I said before, is certainly a giant step in the right direction.

Mr. Speaker, I think that pretty well sums up my thoughts on Bill No. 11. I will be voting in favour of the bill and I look forward to the bill, particularly in the Law Amendments Committee, because I think there will be people, not coming to unjustly criticize the minister or to unjustly criticize the piece of legislation, but to make substantial suggestions for amendments to the bill to make it, perhaps, better fit the particular circumstances of the groups that will be coming before the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to discuss briefly Bill No. 11, An Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1990, the Children and Family Services Act. I want to commend the minister for bringing forward this piece of legislation. It will be one of those rare occasions, as I listen to the debate, that there very well may be unanimous support for

[Page 1167]

the legislation that the minister brought forward and I think that is, perhaps, the true measure of good legislation.

I would like to share just the little experience that I have had with foster children over the years, in my other life as a medical practitioner in Pictou County. Over the years, I have had contact with a great number of children who were under the custody of the Children's Aid Society in our area and would watch, with interest, as to how they would fulfil their mandate in terms of providing a lifestyle for those children.

I think of one particular situation with which I am very familiar and which, in reality, was in place 30 years ago when I started practice. This was a group foster home run by a husband and wife team. They were heavily relied on by the local Children's Aid Society when apprehensions would occur and these children would be placed in this particular home. Over the years they made renovations to their home. They made renovations to the kitchen so they could feed a very large number of children at once, they made renovations to the bedroom area so they could provide proper bedroom facilities.

I watched many of these young people, some of whom spent a matter of months, some spent years in this particular environment. Almost to a person those young people came away calling that couple mother and father. I knew many of these people who, when they grew to adulthood, looked back with fondness on this particular foster home and still continued to call the owner/operators of that institution mother and father. Over the years, as well, that same mother and father, in addition to their natural children, adopted a number of these children. The tremendous service they provided to society over the years is one that never fails to impress me when I think back on what happened in that particular situation over the years.

I think that several points of the bill that the minister has brought forward deserve special mention. One is the clause that allows apprehension and investigation when there is substantial risk. I think that is a very important step in the right direction. We are all aware of so many cases whereby a child who is at substantial risk, in fact, because of the wording of the old Act, had to be left in its present circumstance until actual injury could be demonstrated. Very often that injury had to be in the nature of visible bruising or visible injury. So I think that is a very important step in the right direction.

As has been pointed out by other speakers, it will provide some difficulties for the caseworkers because they will run the risk, of course, perhaps of overreacting when they are exercising their judgment as to when is the appropriate time to step in and protect a child. So as has been pointed out, we have to be prepared to give some measure of protection to caseworkers as they are administering the changes in this legislation. But in general, I certainly am in support of that clause which indicates that intervention can occur when a child is perceived to be at risk.

The other good thing to tidy up the legislation is to include native children and the Mi'Kmaq Family and Children's Services when there are cases involving native children. I think that, again, that is a step in the right direction and one for which I think the minister should be applauded.

Now one of the keys to proper protection and proper early intervention, of course, is the number of caseworkers available to the various agencies. We had some considerable discussion last year about this very issue. The minister is aware, of course, that the ideal situation is 20 cases and that number can be further broken down into whether or not the case

[Page 1168]

requires a lot of work, and there is a system of grading the severity and the amount of time that a case will involve.

The minister may wish in his wrap up to discuss whether or not there is any agency in the province right now that is coming close to the ideal of 20 cases per worker and whether or not we are getting anywhere near that. I know it was a issue in my own area and our own agency as they were carrying an unrealistically high caseload and were looking for help from the minister in terms of appointing new caseworkers to that particular agency.

In general, the bill is strong, the bill is an improvement and from our perspective, the bill is supportable and I congratulate the minister. Thank you.

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

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable members for addressing this bill. I think they have been fair, I think they have pointed out some of the areas that have been of concern, not only to their caucuses but of continuing concern to our own government. There are only a few minutes left this evening. I will try to address some of the issues, others will probably come out when the bill moves on to the Law Amendments Committee and certainly we will have the opportunity to address them later on.

One of the main areas that we have been dwelling on is the issue of the definition of substantial risk relative to neglect and as several members mentioned, the support for the worker in this. I think this was clearly pointed out in the Gove Inquiry Report in British Columbia that showed the failure of a system that was not adequately resourced to support the workers. This has been the experience also in this province and what this amendment addresses is the broader issue of the balance of the work that the social worker has to do. I think the member for Hants West clearly spelled this out this evening, that there is always that judgment call, that professionalism that is so important.

The bill does allow to put services in. It is not only that the bill enables to take the child under protection but it also gives the social worker a call on resources to put more services in and I think that was made also by the member for Halifax Atlantic. I think that is an extremely important area because I think at this juncture that as the member for Hants West said, there is no question, that many times social workers feel they lack support. If they do a certain initiative, it is a professional call and albeit to the best of their judgment that they may not have the support either of the court or of their own department, in fact, if they make that move. I think this idea to have call-in resources, to have the support of the legislation that spells that out.

I think the British Columbia inquiry that I mentioned, clearly pointed that out, that so many of the supports put in were actually not for the child specifically, they were more for the parent. I think it can work both ways. As I said, I don't know if it is the wish of the House that I would address some of the questions or that we move on to the Law Amendments Committee and perhaps that we can address them later there.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Sounds good.

DR. SMITH: The Minister of Finance says that that sounds good.

[Page 1169]

I do thank the members for their support and I move second reading of Bill No. 11. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 11. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will sit from the hours of 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m. and following the daily routine and Question Period, the House will resolve into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply dealing with the estimates of the Minister of Health in this Chamber and continuing with the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing in the Red Room. I move that we adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The House stands adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 10:00 p.m.]