Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Tue., Dec. 17, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTSPAGE
Speaker's Ruling:
Resolution No. 1186 (Page 3931), Out or Order3943
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Oppose, Mr. R. Chisholm3943
Fin. - Gambling: Victims - Second Chance Provide, Mr. R. Russell3944
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1199, Fin.: Pst & GST Harmonization - Cancel, Dr. J. Hamm3944
Res. 1200, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Benefits -
Evidence Present, Mr. R. Chisholm
3945
Res. 1201, Exco - PST & GST Harmonization: Agreement - Study,
Mr. T. Donahoe
3946
Res. 1202, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Election Campaign -
Theme Guarantee, Mr. B. Taylor
3946
Res. 1203, Health - Cobequid Multi-Service Centre: Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Holm
3947
Vote - Affirmative3947
Res. 1204, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Public Input - Seek,
Mr. R. Russell
3947
Res. 1205, Central Nova MP - C.B. Jobs: Remarks - Rebuke,
Mr. A. MacLeod
3948
Res. 1206, Gov't. (N.S.) - Ineptitude: Public Comments - Understand,
Mr. G. Archibald
3949
Res. 1207, ERA: "Team Southwest" - Rename, Mr. J. Leefe3949
Res. 1208, Commun. Serv. - Labour Market Progs.: Input - Allow,
Ms. E. O'Connell
3950
Res. 1209, Fin. - Casino (Halifax): ITT Sheraton - Contract Fulfil,
Mr. G. Moody
3950
Res. 1210, CHF (Can.): Housing Co-ops (N.S.) - Administer,
Mr. A. MacLeod
3951
Res. 1211, Holiday Parade of Lights (Hfx.): Sponsors - Commend,
Mr. T. Donahoe
3951
Vote - Affirmative3952
Res. 1212, Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton - Birth (Anniv. 200th):
Historical Contribution - Recognize, Mr. R. Russell
3952
Vote - Affirmative3953
Res. 1213, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Hearing (LA) -
Prov.-Wide Direct, Mr. R. Chisholm
3953
Res. 1214, Agric. - PST & GST Harmonization: Min. Misleading -
Apologize, Mr. B. Taylor
3953
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 456, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Agreement - Compensation,
Dr. J. Hamm3954
No. 457, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Premier - Apologize,
Mr. R. Chisholm3956
No. 458, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Municipalities:
PST & GST Harmonization - Effect Resolve, Mr. B. Taylor
3958
No. 459, Health - Home Care: Provision - Commit, Mr. R. Russell3959
No. 460, Health - Home Care: Services - Provision, Mr. G. Archibald3961
No. 461, ERA - Seagull Pewter: Operations (N.S.) - Guarantee,
Mr. J. Holm3962
No. 462, Health - Home Care: Serv. - Provision, Mr. G. Moody3964
No. 463, Nat. Res. - Protected Areas: Barren (Jim Campbell) -
Recommendation Respond, Mr. J.
3967
No. 464, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Fleur-de-Lis Trail - Completion,
Mr. A. MacLeod3969
No. 465, Commun. Serv. - Employees (C.B.): Clients (Women) -
Treatment, Ms. E. O'Connell
3970
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 9:29 A.M.3973
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:59 P.M.3973
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Housing & Mun. Affs. - Municipalities: PST & GST Harmonization -
Impact Ameliorate:
Mr. T. Donahoe3973
Mr. J. Holm3976
Mrs. F. Cosman3979
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 6:30 P.M. 3982
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 11:56 P.M.3982
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Dec. 18th at 2:00 p.m.3982

[Page 3943]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

8:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Wayne Gaudet

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we move to our daily routine this morning, the Chair would like to rule on the notice of motion that was brought to the House last night by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. The third whereas of this motion is imputing improper motives of certain honourable members, so, therefore, this notice of motion is out of order.

We will now begin with the daily proceedings of the House at this time.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just say that they keep coming in, they keep rolling in. Those are petitions with signatures. I have 502 names on this package which brings the total up to 7,900, I believe it is. (Interruptions)

3943

[Page 3944]

Mr. Speaker, you may recall that the petitions that I have been tabling read as follows, "We hereby call upon the Liberal government to scrap the BST and live up to their commitment to bring in fair tax reform.". I will affix my name to the top copy and table thereto.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition and the prayer or the petition reads as follows, "We the undersigned endorse the proposal that Gloria Burbidge has put before 'our government'. We believe that if the provincial government is going to continue to depend on gambling revenues and justify this by providing rehabilitation to gambling addicts they must also be willing to provide second chances for the victims (the retailers who sell your product). This should not be an individual exemption but it should be a standard, uniform procedure used in conjunction with the justice system and victim services.".

Mrs. Burbidge owns the Brooklyn Country Store, Mr. Speaker, and over a period of two years she was robbed of $110,000 by an employee who took 6/49 tickets and she has had a fair bit of media attention. She has a petition here signed by 550 residents of that area.

MR. 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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1199

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

[Page 3945]

Whereas the Premier in his annual Christmas message noted that the true meaning of Christmas is captured by gestures such as helping at a local food bank and assisting a neighbour in need, and it is a good message; and

Whereas thanks to the disastrous policies of the Premier, more Nova Scotians than ever are required to experience the true meaning of Christmas by helping food banks or neighbours in need; and

Whereas even more Nova Scotians will experience the Premier's true meaning of Christmas next year thanks to the blended sales tax;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier discover the generosity of the Christmas season and give Nova Scotians a gift for which all would be grateful, the cancellation of the blended sales tax.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1200

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

Whereas this government has justified imposition of the unfair and regressive blended sales tax deal by saying that it will create 3,000 jobs; and

Whereas testimony before the Law Amendments Committee indicates that most businesses predict the tax will be a job killer, not a job creator; and

Whereas the combined job loss from the BST predicted by just the construction industry and the retail and service sectors far exceeds the rosy predictions of job gains presented by both the current Minister of Finance and his predecessor;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call on the Liberal Government to present some real evidence of the alleged economic benefits of the BST before proceeding to foist the tax upon Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

[Page 3946]

RESOLUTION NO. 1201

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

Whereas the Minister of Community Services, who is also a former teacher, refuses to have his government's BST given an F by a resourceful Grade 6 class from Sir Charles Tupper School who found, through a class shopping trip, that the BST would cost a lot more; and

Whereas because the Community Services Minister was unhappy with the failing grade the students gave the BST, he told them to check their parent's tax returns; and

Whereas the minister has failed to realize that the 2 per cent reduction in income tax is in itself insufficient to cover the increased cost of the BS Tax to Nova Scotia families;

Therefore be it resolved that the Community Services Minister and all members of this government study the federal-provincial BS Tax agreement a little more so that they are better prepared for their next test, a provincial election.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1202

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

Whereas last week, the member for Cape Breton Nova paraphrased a Perry Como song to criticize valid concerns about the BS Tax; and

Whereas the Minister of Finance, when asked about the BST, enjoys singing along with the Doris Day tune, Que Sera, Sera, call 1-800-OTTAWA; and

Whereas when bragging about 3,000 jobs, all Liberal MLAs should remember the Patsy Cline hit, Sweet Dreams . . . things I know can't come true;

Therefore be it resolved that by proceeding with their regressive BS Tax, the Liberals are guaranteeing that their next election campaign will be a trip to Heartbreak Hotel.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 3947]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1203

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

Whereas the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre Foundation has recently published the first issue of its semi-annual newsletter, the Cobequid News; and

Whereas the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre has been a pioneer and role model for the development of community-based health care facilities in Nova Scotia through the services it provides to Sackville, Bedford, Beaverbank, Fall River, Hammonds Plains and surrounding area; and

Whereas the centre wants to expand on these services and has instituted its newsletter to better inform the community of its activities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre on its continuing efforts to better serve its community.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1204

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

Whereas while the Legislatures of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and the Parliament in Ottawa have not pressed the same panic buttons as the Government of Nova Scotia to ram through the BS Tax; and

[Page 3948]

Whereas the only reason behind the pressure for the rule changes to the House hours, the limitations to the length of the Law Amendment presentations, and the refusal by the Premier to hold a public debate must be political - out of sight, out of mind; and

Whereas when buried in the busiest season of the year, Christmas, the government is seeking to legislate the BST before Nova Scotians realize the dirty deed is done;

Therefore be it resolved that this government apologize to Nova Scotians for its pathetic attempt to pull the wool over their eyes in what is for so many one of the happiest times of the year and, instead, follow the initiative of its counterparts in Ottawa and hold its sessions for public input after the holidays.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1205

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

Whereas the Member of Parliament for Central Nova is quoted as saying that she wishes to break the Liberal Cape Breton hold on jobs and economic benefits; and

Whereas in the last 12 months, Cape Breton Island has lost 5,000 jobs; and

Whereas according to Statistics Canada, Cape Breton Island has not only the highest regional unemployment rates in Nova Scotia, but also one of the highest regional unemployment rates in the country;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House strongly rebuke the MP for Central Nova's remarks which pit one region of Nova Scotia against another for personal political gain.

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

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled. (Interruptions)

Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 3949]

RESOLUTION NO. 1206

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

Whereas the president of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party recently told the annual federal meeting of the South Shore Liberal Association that the Liberal Government of John Savage may very well not win the next provincial election; and

[8:15 a.m.]

Whereas the Liberal Party president was commenting on the turmoil created by this Savage Liberal Government over the past three years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Liberal Party president also admitted the Savage Administration has been unpopular;

Therefore be it resolved that with comments from friends like this, this Liberal Government begin to understand what concerned Nova Scotians are saying about their ineptitude and that it begin to take seriously the concerns and frustrations of Nova Scotians instead of dismissing them.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1207

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

Whereas 1,000 residents of southwestern Nova Scotia lost their jobs during the month of November, according to the latest figures from Nova Scotia's own Department of Finance; and

Whereas 2,000 residents of southwestern Nova Scotia have abandoned the labour force since the Liberal Government assumed office in June 1993; and

Whereas in the wake of the failures of 30-60-90 and community economic development, the Liberals established Team Southwest earlier this year to address the region's serious economic difficulties;

[Page 3950]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier rename his Team Southwest of Liberal MLAs and Cabinet Ministers to Team South-Waste, as it has been a colossal waste of time which has added nothing to the economy of southwestern Nova Scotia but lost jobs and a smaller labour force.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1208

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the federal government is spearheading the transfer of federal labour market programs to the provinces; and

Whereas the Governments of Alberta and New Brunswick have recently announced the signing of agreements following months of secret wheeling and dealing; and

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia, through the Minister of Community Services, is actively considering the federal deal through a secret internal committee;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services not follow the secret back-room deal approach of Alberta and New Brunswick and allow Nova Scotians to have input into the future shape of labour market programs in this province and in this country.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1209

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

Whereas the deadline in the casino contract for submission of the casino design documents, construction budget and construction schedule was no later than April 30, 1996; and

Whereas on August 7th, over three months past the contract deadline, it was announced with great fanfare that ITT Sheraton had submitted a new plan which was tailor-made to Nova Scotia; and

[Page 3951]

Whereas the government has allowed seven months to elapse after the contract deadline and now has another two months extension request for review of the proposed permanent Halifax casino;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government explain to Nova Scotians why they bounce around contract obligations of ITT Sheraton but stick to the letter of the law for others.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1210

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

Whereas co-op housing is currently a national initiative falling under the jurisdiction of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Co-operative Housing Federation; and

Whereas the federal government is negotiating the transfer of the social housing envelope to the provinces; and

Whereas the Co-operative Housing Federation of Nova Scotia feels that such a transfer would threaten the stable, well-maintained co-op community in which Canadians have invested over the years;

Therefore be it resolved that this government press its federal counterparts that CHF/Canada be authorized to administer housing co-operatives in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 1211

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

Whereas thousands of Nova Scotians gathered in downtown Halifax on a recent chilly Saturday evening to watch 18 lighted floats in the first-ever Holiday Parade of Lights; and

[Page 3952]

Whereas three groups of very young twirlers performed and 20 organizations volunteered considerable time, enthusiasm and creative effort to this unique holiday event; and

Whereas through this effort the Downtown Halifax Business Commission was able to gather two and one-half van loads of food for the Metro Food Bank;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend all sponsors, in particular Park Lane, and all the volunteers who worked with staff and members of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission on this community-spirited event and urge them to make it an annual parade.

Mr. Speaker, I do ask for waiver of notice and the question be put without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1212

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

Whereas today marks the 200th Birthday and Anniversary of well known Nova Scotia and Windsor author Thomas Chandler Haliburton; and

Whereas in commemoration of this anniversary, Canada Post this fall unveiled a commemorative stamp of Judge Haliburton at the Haliburton museum in Windsor; and

Whereas Judge Haliburton is renowned for his creation of the fictional character Sam Slick and his many famous one-liners such as, quick as a wink;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature take a moment today and recognize the tremendous contribution that Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton has made in the history of our province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 3953]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1213

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

Whereas the Liberal Government has tried to justify ramming the blended sales tax through this House on the grounds that it needs to keep pace with its Ottawa counterparts; and

Whereas the House of Commons has recessed and will not resume deliberations on the BS Tax until late January; and

Whereas this hiatus provides members of this House with time for serious examination of many of the issues raised at the Law Amendments Committee and the opportunity to consult with a wider spectrum of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that this House direct Law Amendments to take advantage of the time available and schedule additional hearings on the BST at locations throughout Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1214

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

Whereas the Minister of Agriculture recently made the following comment about the BST to the media, "There's nothing there to ram through and that claim is as phony as a $3 bill"; and

[Page 3954]

Whereas in response to criticism about the BS Tax, the Savage Liberal Government unilaterally changed House hours, scheduled weekend hearings of the Law Amendments Committee and refused to hold Law Amendment Committee hearings across the province; and

Whereas the only claim that was ". . . as phony as a $3 bill" came from the Minister of Agriculture;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture apologize for misleading Nova Scotians about the government's intentions respecting BS Tax legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Before we move to Orders of the Day, I wish to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the late debate. The honourable member for Kings West will debate at 6:00 p.m.:

Therefore be it resolved that the government meets with each municipal unit in Nova Scotia in order to fully comprehend the impact the BS Tax would have on residential taxpayers and design an appropriate rebate to maintain existing levels for residential taxpayers.

The time now being 8:25 a.m., the Oral Question Period will run for one hour until 9:25 a.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: AGREEMENT - COMPENSATION

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Last week in Question Period, I had occasion to ask the Minister of Finance why it was that the Province of New Brunswick would receive some $99 million more in compensation for initiating the blended sales tax, $99 million more than we receive here in Nova Scotia. I pointed out that they have a smaller economy, a smaller population. The minister stated on that occasion that while we have the same provincial sales tax rates, that New Brunswick presently taxes items that we do not and that accounts for the difference.

I ask the minister, is the compensation package that was negotiated with Ottawa between the three Atlantic Provinces based on lost revenues?

[Page 3955]

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: I believe, as I indicated at the time, after I had some chance to do some research on it, the reason the compensation was higher was because New Brunswick was getting more money from its sales tax because, for example, they were taxing municipalities, hospitals, school boards and universities and we don't do it. There is a lot of money involved in that and that is why the compensation was higher.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister just informed us that because the Province of New Brunswick was taxing items that we don't tax that they, in fact, would undergo a larger tax loss. Now I have in my right hand a document released last spring by the government, by the former minister and I will quote from that document; "Sales tax harmonization per se will result in a annual loss to the province in sales tax revenue of $120 million.". I think everyone in the House is familiar with that document.

I have now in my hand a document introduced by ministerial statement in April 1996, at approximately the same time as this document. It is by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board of New Brunswick. He says in his document; "With a harmonized tax, our tax revenue . . ." being the tax revenue of New Brunswick, ". . . .would be reduced by $105 million annually .".

Again I will ask the Minister of Finance why is it that when the Minister of Finance in New Brunswick says he will lose $105 million in revenue and our Minister of Finance of the day said we are going to lose $120 million annually in revenue, why is it that the Province of New Brunswick was able to negotiate $99 million more in compensation to enter the same agreement that we are entering here in Nova Scotia?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Opposition refers to two documents. If he would like a detailed answer to that, I would be glad to provide that in writing to him. I don't know what document, I am not familiar with what document the Minister of Finance in New Brunswick might have tabled in April of this year. I repeat again, the New Brunswick Government are losing revenue because they were taxing school boards and municipalities, which we were not, and under harmonization they are losing all this revenue, whereas we didn't tax them and, therefore, we don't lose the revenue.

I would be glad to undertake to review Hansard and give the Leader of the Opposition an answer and, if possible, he could table the two documents he has, in particular the ones from New Brunswick.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am arranging to have a copy of that made for the minster because it is very clear and it says in one sentence what they will lose. I find it very difficult to understand, in view of the information that we have, why it is that we received a smaller compensation package than the Province of New Brunswick. I think that is a very legitimate question for the Minister of Finance to answer. I am asking him to table in this House the documents that justify the Province of New Brunswick receiving a larger compensation

[Page 3956]

package than the Province of Nova Scotia, to initiate a blended sales tax here in our province at the same time that they are doing it in New Brunswick, documentation that allows the Opposition benches and all Nova Scotians to understand why New Brunswick gets more than Nova Scotia?

[8:30 a.m.]

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, based on the information that the honourable Leader of the Opposition referred to, he indicated he would table both documents, I undertook to take those documents, consult with my staff and get back in writing to the Leader of the Opposition and I intend to do that.

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

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: PREMIER - APOLOGIZE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Premier. Yesterday we witnessed the Prime Minister, after days, weeks and months of pressure, for backing off on the commitment that he and his government made to Canadians in the last election to scrap the GST, we saw the Prime Minister apologize to those Canadians. We heard in the last few days and we have certainly heard it in the last weeks and months also, a number of Nova Scotians asking what happened to this government's commitment to not proceed with harmonizing the sales taxes and with a fair tax commission. Given the fact that this government likes to follow the lead of its federal cousins, I would like to ask the Premier when he is going to be apologizing to Nova Scotians for failing to proceed on his commitment to set up a fair tax commission and not harmonize the sales taxes?

HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Third Party will remember that I did try to engage in a little debate with him some time last week about the combination of both consumer taxes and the reduction in income tax that this government has brought in. This is the opportunity for us to state, of course, that the reason that we have introduced this is because of the tremendous opportunity that it offers this province for the first time since Confederation to attract business in a way we have never had the opportunity to do so before. I will not apologize for creating jobs in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't know, maybe the Premier was expecting a different question because he certainly gave a different answer than the question that I asked him. Let me go back in my first supplementary to the Premier. The Parliamentary Committee that is going to be examining the harmonization deal for the House of Commons, the House of Commons has just recessed, they won't get started again until sometime later on in January, they have set up at least a month if not two to hold hearings, I would like to ask the Premier why he will not follow the lead of the federal government and give direction to either the Law Amendments Committee or another committee of the Legislature to go out and talk

[Page 3957]

to Nova Scotians, to hold hearings over this recess that the federal Parliament is holding to go out and properly consult with Nova Scotians over the issues and the impact of the harmonized PST & GST?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I guess we never quite understand where the Leader of the Third Party is coming from. For the first three weeks that we were in here we were assailed by a request to bring in the bill. We bring in the bill and he is even more disappointed. We have had consultations with over 400 citizens. Most of us, and I speak for the backbenchers, have had conversations with senior citizens, myself as recently as yesterday with 20 senior citizens in my area. We have had consultations despite much of their efforts, of course, going around collecting - I will not condemn the petitions that he raises but going around collecting signatures quite often and we will leave the origin of some of those for the time being since we have geographical difference over where some of them came from. We have listened to the people, we have heard the Law Amendments Committee and what is more, we will continue to listen to the people when it comes to the regulations that we will carry out after the bill has passed.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, you noticed the Premier in summing up there talking about how we will listen to Nova Scotians once we have passed the bill and once it comes to doing regulations. We heard two things from presenters at the Law Amendments Committee: one is that they knew of lots of other people who would like to have had the opportunity to present to the Law Amendments Committee but did not have the time; and we also heard from those same presenters that there was not enough time to properly prepare a presentation.

I want to ask the Premier, given the fact that he has failed to make any commitment to a reasonable consultation with Nova Scotians, will he tell those Nova Scotians why it is that he has asked them to participate in a charade like we saw at the Law Amendments Committee where they passed the bill on before the last presenter had even left the room yesterday. Why is he asking Nova Scotians to participate in such a charade?

THE PREMIER: I suppose I should take offence at the offensive language used to convey that the Law Amendments Committee process was a charade. It was not a charade. There were over 100 people who presented. They were listened to with courtesy. I would remind you, too, Mr. Speaker, that in an effort to open this up, we offered to have the Law Amendments Committee on Saturday, the only time since 1979 that the Law Amendments Committee has in effect sat on a Saturday. We offered the opportunity for people to come on a Saturday, which I think was an offer that was taken up by relatively few. We have listened. We will continue to listen (Interruptions) I indignantly refute (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . a lie.

THE PREMIER: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker. Somebody called me (Interruptions) Okay.

[Page 3958]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS. - MUNICIPALITIES:

PST & GST HARMONIZATION - EFFECT RESOLVE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: I would like to ask the honourable the Premier a question. The Premier will know that all municipal units across Nova Scotia are very concerned about the impact that the BS Tax will have on their budgets. In fact, the Halifax Regional Municipality projects that probably $6 million in additional revenue will have to be generated relative to the new tax. (Interruptions) I stated earlier that my question was for the honourable Premier. What positive steps are the Premier and his government taking to resolve the very serious and very real concern that municipal units have across this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that we have offered and continue to offer to meet with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. There are some efforts being made in which the process may be ameliorated but we have not had outstanding success in meeting with them because of their refusal to meet unless there is total removal of the sales tax. This government is determined to work with municipalities and we will continue to offer to meet with them.

MR. TAYLOR: Perhaps by way of supplementary and after that fiddle-faddle from the Premier, I would like to ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs a question. The Minister of Municipal Affairs would know that several municipal units have unique financial circumstances and inasmuch as the UNSM allegedly has been asked to meet with the government, what steps are the Minister of Municipal Affairs and his department or designates taking to address the concerns that each municipal unit has to inform them?

HON. JAMES SMITH: I have met in the last few weeks with 53 municipal units, the ones that we could accommodate, 53 out of the 55. We have had frank and open discussion on many issues. The honourable member in his question mentioned several specifics, but he did not go on to highlight what those particular issues were. I assume particularly some smaller towns are having some difficulties in balancing budgets and those types of issues, but this has been the only province in Canada that has not had tax such as the provincial sales tax on municipal units and this was pointed out earlier in Question Period here today. Municipal units will benefit, as all Nova Scotians will, from this harmonized tax. It will benefit those groups that they are doing tendering with. That will be passed on to them. We are looking at issues relative to all municipal units with offsets. We have some proposals and the discussions are ongoing.

[Page 3959]

This is a package, Mr. Speaker, as it is for all Nova Scotians, and the same with the municipal units. The relationships that I have tried to build and have built in the last few weeks, we have had good discussions on these matters. There are issues. They are not insurmountable. I think the economy is the issue, Nova Scotians want and need jobs. This will provide them and the municipal units will benefit the same as all Nova Scotians.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, perhaps by way of final supplementary I could go to the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance will know that many municipal units are afraid that they are going to have to raise property taxes to accommodate this new blended sales tax. The Minister of Finance, I am sure, is fully aware that municipal units are eligible for a 57 per cent GST rebate. Will the Minister of Finance commit to reimbursing municipal units for 100 per cent of the blended sales tax which is 15 per cent?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, no, I cannot make that commitment and I just repeat what the Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs said. There are discussions ongoing with the municipal units. We have had meetings, the door is open to continued meetings and the president of the union knows that. So that is the situation there. More than that, the Minister of Municipal Affairs has met with almost all, if not all, of the units in his own area. We have suggestions of financial disaster but the facts based on the residential and commercial assessment for a $100,000 home, assuming even a 25 per cent pass-through, given no offsets and pass-through of 25 per cent of the input tax credits, the increased cost on a $100,000 home across the province would be around $30 to $35. So that is the financial horror story we are hearing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

HEALTH - HOME CARE: PROVISION - COMMIT

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Whenever one raises a question with the Minister of Health in connection with home care, we are told about how much money was in the health care system in 1993 and how many people were covered and then we go on to 1995 or 1996. We are told that all is rosy because about three times the number of people are being looked after and there is about three times the amount of money in the system.

The problem is, Mr. Speaker, that the minister is distorting the statistics in that in 1993 those who were drawing or taking advantage of the home care system were not necessarily those who had been released early from hospitals, but with the closure of beds, there are more people on the medical list and, as such, taking up home care and knocking off those people who are not there because of medical referrals.

Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if the minister would assure us that those who have to have home care and cannot afford home care will be provided with home care?

[Page 3960]

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I hate to obviously annoy the honourable member by raising a bit of history. I know history is a sensitive subject for that particular Party but the fact of the matter is, there was no comprehensive Home Care Program in this province until June 1, 1995. That, in itself, is a disgrace. (Applause)

The second little statistic that they hate, Mr. Speaker, that they absolutely hate, is that the last four years they were in office, when they had an opportunity to do something, the amount committed to home care actually went down. Not only didn't it go up, it actually went down. Is the Home Care Program perfect now? No. Is it at a level where we want to see it? No. That is why I publicly said that the home care budget next year will be larger than it was this year.

I will give you another announcement, Mr. Speaker, the year after that it will be larger than next year's because we want to reach a level of a mature program that meets all the needs of Nova Scotians and we are going to do it in a responsible way.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the other day I mentioned to the minister about a 93 year old man. Well, today I would like to tell him about a 79 year old woman who is required, every three weeks, to have blood taken and to have a vitamin E needle. She was getting that care provided by VON. She got a phone call the other day that said the VON could no longer provide that particular service.

[8:45 a.m.]

This lady is on the supplement; she is being looked after at home by her son who is disabled and on a small disability pension. They simply cannot afford to have the VON come in every three weeks. Is that the kind of service we are getting from home care now? The system is knocking people off to accommodate others. Mr. Speaker, that is not the home care that this person was getting back in 1993.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, our department has met with the VON. We have had extended meetings with them on more than one occasion. Quite recently we asked them if they were aware of any cases, particularly on the heavy care end, that they believed anyone was being put at risk. There were only two cases across Nova Scotia where they expressed specific concerns, we addressed those concerns.

The fact of the matter is that this Opposition Party now - one might be tempted to say they are a tad hypocritical on this issue. In a year when they blew $617 million out the door in a deficit, the largest in the history of this country, on a per capita basis - they have the record, Mr. Speaker - in that year they chose not to increase home care by one dollar.

[Page 3961]

MR. RUSSELL: So I am taking it that what the minister says is that a person such as this, who is receiving care, is now off the system, may not die tomorrow, may not die at the end of this year, may not die at the end of next year but somewhere along the way, who isn't going to receive adequate care is, indeed, going to die. (Interruptions) I don't think it is particularly funny and I am sure that Mr. Haines doesn't think it is particularly funny either.

Mr. Speaker, I would like some assurance from this minister that nobody who is receiving medical attention will be taken off the home care list unless the Department of Health has done an investigation as to the circumstances of that person's health.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, we have attempted to run a program efficiently that has gone through absolutely tremendous growth, the growth I have talked about, the growth that took it from about $19 million when these fellows left to about $60 million. Whenever you grow a program that quickly, to that extent, the largest growing program in government and with a growth rate that was unmatched in any other province, and for good reason because they started their comprehensive home care in the other provinces back in the 1970's and 1980's, not back in June 1995, there are obviously problems of maturing the program and bringing it into full impact. We are trying to address those problems and they have not all been easy.

I want to say something about the home care workers who have been doing a tremendous job for us all across the province, both Department of Health personnel and the actual deliverers of the service. We are going to mature this program and we are going to deliver the kind of program that has to be delivered in this province. I don't apologize, Mr. Speaker for growing it from $20 million to $60 million in three years. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

HEALTH - HOME CARE: SERVICES - PROVISION

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health regarding home care. We are hearing a great deal about home care in the past few weeks and months. Many people are not quite satisfied or happy with it. Yesterday I met the Davis family and they indicate they are feeling a little bit less than fairly treated. Mr. Davis is 84 years old; they are paying $30,000 a year for home care. This $30,000 is subject to a 7 per cent tax and if Mr. Davis was in a rest home or a nursing home, the $30,000 wouldn't be taxable. I am wondering if the minister would indicate to me whether he thinks this is a fair system where you are penalizing senior citizens for staying in their homes by charging them tax?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would clarify and indicate what tax they are paying?

[Page 3962]

MR. ARCHIBALD: They are paying 7 per cent and most people refer to that as the GST, and in April they will be paying the BST which you negotiated. You are standing here proudly telling us how great home care is; the man who brought us Minmetals and the BST, I wouldn't think would have a whole lot to brag about. Could you tell me for the interest of the family, Mr. Minister of Health, if you feel it is fair that Mr. Davis is being penalized because he wants to stay in his own home? Is this the type of taxation and health care program that you are advocating for now and in the future?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member seemed to indicate in his first question - at least one might have been led, however innocently by him, to the erroneous conclusion - that we were now charging them tax and that of course is not the case. With respect to the harmonized sales tax, if the services are medically necessary, there will be no tax. If the services are required and delivered by Home Care Nova Scotia, there will be no tax. If there are non-medical services which the individuals feel that they can afford and they want and they are not medically required then, yes, it will be taxed.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it is helpful having the Government House Leader back, isn't it? Now the Minister of Community Services has a fool to play with over there and they can heckle all they want. For the Minister of Health, who should be the most concerned Nova Scotian with regard to both the mental health and the physical well-being of Nova Scotians to dismiss this so readily, perhaps the Minister of Health is unfamiliar with seniors who do require specific attention in their home. Some of it perhaps isn't quite in the medical term that you would look for in a hospital but you certainly cannot say to an 84 year old person who can't get out of bed that they should be able to do the housework, the cleaning and the cooking for themselves.

I would think that the Minister responsible for home care would be doing everything in his power to do two things: one, to see that it is more readily available than it is and two, that it is placed before people in a fair and equitable manner. For the Minister of Health, who is the minister responsible for bringing Nova Scotia into the BST, would the minister indicate now that he will ask the tax departments in Nova Scotia and Ottawa to exempt home care services that are required by our seniors from this dreaded, hateful BS Tax?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I will try to avoid the editorializing that the honourable member weaves through his question and simply indicate that anyone receiving home care under Home Care Nova Scotia need not worry about the tax.

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

ERA - SEAGULL PEWTER: OPERATIONS (N.S.) - GUARANTEE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. Up until last June, ACOA had provided Seagull Pewter

[Page 3963]

over $2.6 million, plus $730,000 in loans. The provincial government, late last year, piggybacked on that by granting assistance to Seagull Pewter to the tune of $2 million more in the way of loan guarantees. My question to the minister is, quite simply, what guarantees did the government extract from Seagull Pewter to ensure that all of the monies it is going to guarantee could only be used to expand its operation and employment operations here in the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would have to go back because that agreement would have been prior to my days as Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency so I would have to check the file to get the detailed specifics but I believe if the member would check, he would find that what the Government of Nova Scotia did was in fact provide about a $2 million loan guarantee so that Seagull Pewter could expand their market and in fact get into the Asian markets. That is a practice that is often required in many businesses as a company wants to expand to go to new markets, the banks look to the province to have a loan guarantee to ensure that they can expand and access those new markets.

MR. HOLM: Yes, indeed, I do know it is for loan guarantee and that is what I said in my question.

Mr. Speaker, as of last week, it is my information that there are 80 employees of Seagull Pewter, headquartered in Pugwash, on layoff. I also have in my hands, two Christmas ornaments, Seagull Pewter, stamped 1996 and on the back of them they are also stamped St. Lucia, WI. These were manufactured in St. Lucia for Seagull Pewter.

My question to the minister is quite simply this - because it is very obvious that Seagull Pewter has established a manufacturing operation in St. Lucia which is in direct competition with its operation here in Nova Scotia and placing Nova Scotian workers' jobs at risk - why did this government provide loan guarantees to a company that can be using that money in direct competition to its operation here in Nova Scotia, placing Nova Scotian jobs at risk?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I think once again we see the member opposite has put two things together and has jumped to a conclusion that somehow, because Seagull Pewter, a very important company in this province and one that has provided a lot of very important jobs, again is being slammed by the member opposite because he has jumped to a conclusion, putting two simple things together, that he has got all the answers to this. Now I don't pretend to have all the answers to this and I will give an undertaking to look into this, but I think we want to be very careful that we don't go around here smearing the name of a company that has provided tremendous opportunity to Nova Scotia and a lot of jobs to Nova Scotians.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the former Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency said it is about Nova Scotia jobs and it is. That is why I held up these ornaments that are not manufactured here in Nova Scotia. I want to ask the minister, and I appreciate the fact he was

[Page 3964]

not in the portfolio last year, he was not the one who made the recommendation - he was part of the Cabinet that approved it, but was not the one who actually made the recommendation - will the minister agree to table here, on the floor of the House, before the day is over, the guarantees that his government extracted from Seagull Pewter to ensure that any monies that it is guaranteeing cannot be used for any purpose other than the expanding of its operations and employment here in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the member, I will undertake to look at the file and to come back with some answers but, again, this is the same Party led by a gentleman who wrote a letter to me and said send OSP home we don't like the jobs they are bringing to Nova Scotia. Again, I will suggest, the member is jumping to conclusions here and suggesting just because Seagull Pewter are manufacturing in another jurisdiction, that somehow is jeopardizing the Nova Scotia operation. I would suggest when the companies that have a base here and have plants in other places are producing in other places, it is because perhaps the bottom line is requiring it to do so; perhaps you cannot break into certain markets from this area because of costs that are built in.

Well, you can smile and you can laugh and you can ridicule Seagull Pewter all you want, but those jobs are important to Nova Scotia and you, a member of a Party (Interruptions) you would like to pretend you represent the working man. You would like to pretend that. Well, let me tell you, you don't and your Leader writing letters and saying, send them home, they don't pay enough money, is not helpful to this province. You can stand there and you can ridicule companies and slam companies all you want to but you are not being very helpful to this province. (Applause) (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - HOME CARE: SERV. - PROVISION

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health, in an earlier question today, talked about the Home Care Program. I would be the first to say that I believe in a comprehensive Home Care Program. I believe that a comprehensive Home Care Program can provide services to the elderly and to the sick that can keep them out of hospital beds and out of nursing homes. The minister went on today to explain about his comprehensive Home Care Program.

[9:00 a.m.]

I had the opportunity to meet with two people who had the Home Care Program. One is a 91 year old person and her daughter, a 67 year old paraplegic in a wheelchair. I guess their concern is that if what the minister is saying, that they want seniors to stay in their own

[Page 3965]

home - and I think the minister would agree a two and one-half hour week of personal care service is cheaper than putting somebody in a nursing home. I would ask the minister if it is his intent to look at situations and if it is cheaper to allow people two and one-half or three hours a week of personal care that will keep them from a nursing home, is that the objective of his Home Care Program or is it the objective to cut those people so eventually, obviously, they would have to go into a nursing home situation?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the longer we can keep people in their own homes the better it is for them and for us. As a matter of fact, the sooner we can get them out of hospital, back into their own home, the better the recovery is and the better it is for them and for us. So, obviously, the answer to the question is simple. We will encourage through our Home Care Program, particularly in cases of medical necessity, that more and more of that treatment is done at home and more and more of the recovery should take place at home. The results are simply better. The patients are more satisfied.

MR. MOODY: All things working, that, I assume, is what we would all like to see. This person was in hospital during the summer, came home and there was no home care available on the weekend. Because of the cuts to home care, these people are now having to consider other options, which are more expensive. I would ask the minister how he would expect a 91 year old who is unable physically to do any housework and a paraplegic who is in a wheelchair, how that paraplegic is able to scrub the floors, change the beds, those sorts of things? That could be done by a personal care worker to allow them to stay in their own home. How does the minister explain the cuts to these people who were getting the home care during the summer, prior to September and his cutbacks, who were getting the personal care worker, who now have been cut? This paraplegic is expected to scrub her own floor, clean her bathroom and change the beds. How is that person expected to automatically, not being able to do and assessed prior to September and now being assessed after September and told, you must be able to do that?

MR. BOUDREAU: Well, Mr. Speaker, obviously the honourable member doesn't expect me to address the individual situation off the top of my head here on the floor. That is not why he brought it up. There must be another reason why he draws it to our attention. I certainly will, if the honourable member would like to give me the information. I may be able to respond to him very specifically on that case.

I understand when the honourable member gets up and he says, we really supported comprehensive health care, when he was Minister of Health he really supported it. Just didn't have the time to do it, I suppose. Only there for 15 years, you know. Didn't have the time to get to it or perhaps he couldn't talk his colleague into doing it. Perhaps that was the problem. He was in favour of it but he simply couldn't talk his colleagues into going along. In a year when they overspent the budget by $617 million, he couldn't talk his colleagues into going along. You know, Mr. Speaker, that honourable member still has that problem.

[Page 3966]

MR. MOODY: One problem I do not have is misleading people and that is what this minister is doing. I do not have that problem. (Interruptions) I will not tell people that something is available that is not available. I would ask this minister again, since he is going around bragging about the comprehensive program and yes, he told Nova Scotians it was to be better. Nova Scotians expected better. I would ask that minister - and I will send over a copy of this letter which he already has as it was sent to him in September, yet the situation has not changed - if he would assure all Nova Scotians that the comprehensive program that he says is available is available? That is all I am asking him. I am not asking for a history lesson. I am not asking for something that is not there. I am asking for the seniors out there who have been promised by this government a comprehensive program and when they go to apply it is not available. I do not want seniors to be misled, which I feel they have been.

MR. BOUDREAU: The honourable member began by saying he has never had a problem misleading people. I think he is being too harsh on himself. One of the things that we have is a situation where the honourable members would like us to somehow disregard history. We would have been happy to do that, if we could have talked the bankers and all of those other people into forgetting about it, we would have forgotten about it. We would never have mentioned it, Mr. Speaker, but every day when we get up whether it is in the Department of Health or Education or any other department, we are faced with that reality. Every morning, every decision we make, we are faced with that reality so please forgive us if we occasionally bring it up in the House.

What I wanted to direct is this member gets up and says they were in favour of comprehensive health care. He wanted to do it. He did not do it. His government did not do it. As a matter of fact, as I have said previously, they reduced the amount in their last four years that was going into home care. He talks about misleading people. Think about that one. He has had trouble, perhaps, convincing his own Party where to stand on health care. Here is an example, if I may just conclude my remarks with this point. On June 17, 1994, this gentleman - the Health Critic - got up and said, ". . . this caucus . . .", referring to his own caucus, ". . . and I think my friends to my left . . .", he was speaking on behalf of the NDP on that occasion as well, ". . . support the Blueprint Committee Report and I think the both of us support it in totality.". Those were the words, Mr. Speaker, not my words, his words. In totality. The same day his Leader gets up and says, "By my earlier remarks, I believe that you will understand that I am not totally in accord with what the Blueprint Committee has said . . .". (Interruptions) The same day, not hours apart. Perhaps it was even minutes apart.

Now, I can understand the problem this Health Critic has with his Leader and his caucus. They have not been able to take a sensible, consistent stand on any of these major issues throughout this entire session.

[Page 3967]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

NAT. RES. - PROTECTED AREAS:

BARREN (JIM CAMPBELL) - RECOMMENDATION RESPOND

MR. JOHN LEEFE: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister has removed the Jim Campbell Barren. Mr. Speaker, the minister cannot hear because her colleagues are chattering over there. Would you? Thank you. (Interruptions)

The minister has removed Jim Campbell Barren in Inverness County from its status as a protected candidate site, a status recommended in the Liberal Government's own report entitled Protecting Nova Scotia's Natural Areas. The decision was taken on the basis of potential mineral development in the area of the Jim Campbell Barren, as I understand it from the minister's press release. The same press release attributes to this 1995 report the recommendation that existing mineral sites should, and I quote, "be recognized while they are in good standing.". The minister conveniently, it appears, or perhaps by lapse of memory deleted the rest of the sentence which goes on to say that every effort should be made to negotiate the termination of existing licences and leases wherever possible and practical.

My question to the minister is this. What effort was made on the part of the minister to respond to the complete recommendation of her own and her predecessor's report?

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member opposite bringing the question to the floor of the House. Yes, this government has made a decision to remove the Jim Campbell Barren from a protected area. We did not lightly, the decision wasn't taken lightly. There are a lot of concerns expressed by the local community and, as the colleague of the member opposite this morning stated some statistics in a resolution on unemployment in the Cape Breton area. We see here that the Jim Campbell Barren may not have been as pristine as may have been thought. There are opportunities there for mineral exploration, there are opportunities there for jobs for the area.

I want to reassure the member opposite that when this decision was made by this government it was done under the concern that there were licences in good standing, there was opportunity there for exploration with potential jobs for the area. With some of the work that has already been done there, the area wasn't as pristine as we would have liked, so we made a decision to remove it from the protected area listing, one of the 31 candidate areas that were identified. We now have 30 left and we remain committed to that strategy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. LEEFE: It is clear then that every effort was not made to negotiate termination of the existing licences and leases. My first supplementary, again to the Minister of Natural Resources, is this, her decision - the government's decision, it is not hers alone, of course and I understand that so I will rephrase that - the government's decision strongly implies that the

[Page 3968]

economy take priority over protection of the natural environment. Now there are significant mineral and forestry resources in the Tobeatic Game Sanctuary, another area which is pending designation.

My question to the minster is this, is the minister prepared to provide the same economic opportunity to business interests in the Tobeatic Game Sanctuary in western Nova Scotia, where unemployment is an increasing problem, as she has to the Jim Campbell Barren in Inverness County, where unemployment is an increasing problem?

MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, again the member opposite is bringing up another area of the province that is listed as a potential or identified as a candidate area. There is a moratorium on that area on any development there. There is a committee that has been struck that the member opposite may be aware of, to address the Tobeatic Gamp Sanctuary finger and the concerns from the local area. The staff of the department has been meeting with that committee and there will be an announcement made shortly, as we bring the whole strategy forward on the Tobeatic.

MR. LEEFE: Again, Mr. Speaker, the implication is quite clear, that given appropriate requests from the community, that the Tobeatic may well, in part or in whole, be released from the list of protected places. That being the case, my final question is simple and straightforward; what objective criteria has the minister established in order to assist her in deciding which areas proposed for protection will be protected and which will not? Will she please table that matrix which will be used to assist her and her staff and this government in making those decisions?

MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite I think would also realize that following the release of the protected areas in the province, we are now putting together a strategy to develop and manage all those protected areas in the province. That strategy is now being developed. It will be released shortly and it will identify each of the areas and the opportunity for a management plan for each area.

I remain committed and this government remains committed to those areas, the 30 candidate spaces that were identified, and perhaps other areas in the province that may have the same opportunities to be identified. We, as a government, are committed to and remain committed to protecting those areas of the province that are pristine, that have definite qualities and criteria that single them out as areas of the province that should be protected and should be kept in a way that we can all be proud of and that we can hold out to the world as areas that are pure and pristine and identify certain characteristics that are unique to those areas. I will now commit to the member opposite that that strategy will be coming forward shortly and I know that he will be waiting for it because I know that he, as well as the previous Minister of Natural Resources, is concerned and proud of what we had to offer here in Nova Scotia.

[Page 3969]

[9:15 a.m.]

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: FLEUR-DE-LIS TRAIL - COMPLETION

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. A couple of years ago, this government took great pride in making an announcement about the Fleur-de-lis Trail to help open up Louisbourg and make it more viable for that community; it was a good announcement. So far there have been millions spent but nothing has happened to achieve opening up Louisbourg for the residents and businesses there, and my question is quite simple. Could the minister please enlighten the House as to what his government's commitment is and what the time-frame is for the completion of the Fleur-de-lis Trail?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is pretty evident by the actions of this administration over the last year with regard to our commitment to the Fleur-de-lis Trail. As the member opposite understands and realizes all too well, as he alluded to questions with regard to a time-frame, we are determining activities in that area, but first we are reviewing the archeological findings that are going on there with regard to the aboriginals and others that have been in that area. Obviously, we are not prepared to go ahead with any project that would have any impact on an archeologist's report prior to me getting it. When I receive the report - it is due this spring - then we will be making decisions with regard to the future activities on the Fleur-de-lis Trail.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that that study is basically complete but the question is, once it is complete, what is the time-frame for the completion of this project and what resources will be allocated to it? The contention of this whole project was to help open up Louisbourg and make it a pass-through area, so that people could come to Louisbourg and continue on in a different direction. Right now, as it stands, Louisbourg is only a day trip from Sydney and the idea behind the Fleur-de-lis Trail and the monies that were supposedly to be spent there was to help the economy of Louisbourg. So far, the only economy that has been helped is that of Richmond County.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, with regard to a time-frame, I am not in a position to commit any specific time-frame to the member opposite. We will be reviewing the file, we are going through a budgetary process and it will all be in good time. When I am prepared to make a decision with regard to the activities of that route, I will be happy to inform the member.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my final question is again to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Is this government indeed committed to completing the Fleur-de-lis Trail before the end of the 1990's?

[Page 3970]

AN HON. MEMBER: How come you always criticize . . .

MR. MACLEOD: I never criticized the Fleur-de-lis Trail. I criticized you on where you took the money (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is always interesting watching the heavyweights from Cape Breton get together with their verbal rally and vaults across the floor here. I don't know who would be the winner, but my bet would be on this side of the House; he is probably three or four inches taller.

The member opposite was talking about our commitment to the Fleur-de-lis Trail. We spent $13.8 million on the Fleur-de-lis Trail so far on behalf of the people of Cape Breton. That is more than a commitment to the member opposite than a Tory Regime ever spent on the Fleur-de-lis Trail in the Province of Nova Scotia. It seems to me that they had talked about that Fleur-de-lis Trail for years and, in fact, election upon election committed that they were going to put some money where their mouth was. Never did that administration spend any money in regard to the Fleur-de-lis Trail; we spent $13.8 million. That is our commitment to the Fleur-de-lis Trail and we will see when we spend the rest of the money on the Fleur-de-lis Trail that this government is committed to move forward on that project. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

COMMUN. SERV. - EMPLOYEES (C.B.):

CLIENTS (WOMEN) - TREATMENT

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. We have been reading in the press that the Advisory Council on the Status of Women has had to involve itself, particularly in Cape Breton, to address concerns about the treatment of women by community service workers there. I would like to ask the minister, what has he done to address this terribly urgent problem?

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. The only dialogue we have had with the Advisory Council on the Status of Women on the issues that the honourable member refers to has been through the media. The council received some letters, we had some copies of some letters, we investigated them. They raised some questions, or almost allegations, if I might, about some concerns that some individuals had with the Department of Community Services. These particular issues were passed through individual workers, through the local office, through the regional office, through appeal. Then when they arrived at a conclusion and the appeal concurred with the decisions of the Department of Community Services, some objections were sent through the advisory council

[Page 3971]

and copies were sent to me. We investigated the ones that arrived at our desk and we found that our staff behaved responsibly and caringly.

If I might, Mr. Speaker, and this is very important to the honourable member, the advisory council had a press conference and made statements not unlike those made by the Leader of the New Democratic Party on Friday. He came to this House and stated that somebody had done something. It turned out that that person had not done it at all. Then he got up and said, well, somebody told me they had done that.

Likewise, the advisory council had a press conference to say, we have some complaints, and they stated that the complaints were valid, without investigation. In the media - as I said, the only dialogue that we had - I said if the council or anyone has complaints or allegations about any of my staff, concerning any particular case, I will investigate it personally and carefully, but if I have allegations that said that the Department of Community Services is doing a bad job, treating the people who arrived at their doors badly, I want to tell you that that is not so. I am saying very clearly here, to take a particular case and allege that the Department of Community Services is acting badly I think is just as inappropriate as taking a particular case of fraud, for example, by somebody coming to the Department of Community Services and to suggest that people who receive help from Community Services are fraudulent because both things are incorrect.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, the allegations uncovered in Cape Breton included total invasion of privacy, interrogations, coercion to sign documents without informed consent, discontinuance of assistance without proper explanation. Now the minister is implying that there has not really been any problem and that he is satisfied with that. It seems to me that if he is so sure about this, he ought to make absolutely sure that everyone knows that. The head of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women has asked for a meeting with the minister to review the appeal process and to investigate these claims.

I would like to ask the minister whether he is going to have this meeting with the chair of the Advisory Council and give her the results that he is so confident of? Then, having done that, will he report back to this House?

MR. MACEACHERN: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I did not say there were no problems in the Department of Community Services, I didn't say that at all. What I am saying very clearly is that if somebody has a concern about a particular person who has been treated badly by a particular person in the Department of Community Services, send it to us and we will investigate it. The chairman of the council requested a meeting with the minister at a press conference. The way it usually works is they call my office and ask for a meeting. As far as I know, to this point there is nobody that I have refused a meeting with. I have met with everybody who has called the office. So if that lady would like to call the office and ask for a meeting, I would be pleased to meet with her.

[Page 3972]

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired for Question Period. Before moving to Government Business, I would like to recognize the honourable Minister of Finance on a point of order.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: A brief point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is a matter that came up at the beginning of Question Period today, brought up by the Leader of the Opposition. I offered to provide information with regard to financial compensation, comparing Nova Scotia with New Brunswick. As I recall the discussion, the Leader of the Opposition referred to a document indicating that sales tax revenues would go down $100 million approximately, and I assumed it was a New Brunswick document and I asked the Leader of the Opposition to table it. There may be just an error in the documents that came my way, but the document I received was a statement by the Honourable Paul Dicks, Q.C., the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board of Newfoundland. I cannot very well reply to the question when it is Newfoundland we are talking about, not New Brunswick, so maybe the honourable Leader could explain.

MR. SPEAKER: The point is noted.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a separate point of order. During Question Period the Premier indicated that the government had taken the unprecedented step of holding Saturday meetings of the Law Amendments Committee. He suggested that even having done so, no one bothered to, or not very many people bothered to take up the challenge, I believe was his phraseology. My understanding is that is absolutely not so, in that the chairman of the Law Amendments Committee made it clear to various members that the Committee's Office did their best to direct people who wanted to appear on Saturday to appear on Monday. I was talking to a presenter yesterday. He informed me that he wanted to appear on Saturday but in fact was told that they would rather have him appear on Monday. So I just think it important to clarify the record that the direction given to Nova Scotians was to appear on either Saturday or Monday and even for some people who did want to appear on Saturday, they were not allowed to do so. I think it is erroneous for the Premier to get on his feet and to say in this House that Nova Scotians did not take up the challenge of filling Saturday's hearings.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, let me correct him once again. First of all, I did not say it was unprecedented. I said it had happened before, in 1979. I indicated that it was a rare opportunity. People were given the opportunity to come on Saturday. It was requested because of the two days that we were spending most of the time to do it on Friday and Monday but from the point of view of the committee, people could have presented on Saturday if there had been enough demand for it.

MR. SPEAKER: The point is noted.

[Page 3973]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[9:29 a.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]

[5:59 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Wayne Gaudet, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The Adjournment motion this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Citadel. The debate tonight will be:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government meets with each municipal unit in Nova Scotia in order to fully comprehend the impact the BS Tax would have on residential taxpayers and design an appropriate rebate to maintain existing levels for residential taxpayers.".

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS. - MUNICIPALITIES:

PST & GST HARMONIZATION - IMPACT AMELIORATE

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to have a few minutes this evening to address this resolution. We suggested this topic for consideration because we have become very concerned, in our dealings as an Opposition caucus, with the municipal units and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities in regard to what is coming clearer by the day to be at least - and I underscore the words, at least - a $10 million hit on the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia as a consequence of the BST, the blended sales tax.

[Page 3974]

You will note, Mr. Speaker, that the resolution calls upon the government to meet, ". . . with each municipal unit in Nova Scotia in order . . .", for the provincial government, ". . . to fully comprehend the impact the BS Tax would have on residential taxpayers and design an appropriate rebate to maintain existing levels for residential taxpayers.", and that can be done. Both of those things can be done.

I would not be surprised that some speaker, on behalf of the government, will rise and say, well, the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs and other ministers did, in fact, have some contact with the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, I am well aware, and was aware as we crafted this resolution for consideration this evening, that the Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister, following the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities early in October, did indeed commence a province-wide tour to meet with as many municipal leaders as possible. If that was the end of the story and the concerns, which we know and I know were expressed to those ministers on that tour, were reflected in the legislation which brings us the BST, I would say, good for the ministers, good for the government; the tour and the meetings obviously had some impact and were of some importance.

The key point however, Mr. Speaker, if I may, is, and my question to any minister or ministers or the Premier who might offer in response to the language of our resolution, yes, but we did travel and we did speak with the municipalities, I think the key point for consideration is, yes, indeed, you may well have travelled and you may well have spoken with any number of municipalities and municipal leaders, but did you listen? Did you hear the message that was being conveyed to you? I would ask any such minister or any Premier to tell me what concerns presented to you, to them, to the government, during the course of any visits that they wanted to tell us they had with municipal leaders, appear or are reflected in the BST legislation. The evidence is clear. The concerns raised by the municipal units, at the time of those meetings, are in fact not reflected in the legislation.

We have a publication of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, a monthly newsletter. I have in my hands the December 1996 monthly newsletter called The Municipal OPEN LINE. In an article entitled, The President's Private Line, Warden Steven Stoddart writes, among other things, as follows: "Tax Harmonization. At the present time, we are awaiting . . .", remember this is December 1996, this very month in which we debate the BST legislation, ". . . a second proposal from the Government on the harmonization issue. The UNSM remains solidly committed to our position that there should be no greater financial burden on municipalities as a result of harmonization. The UNSM Executive rejected a program of 'offsets' presented by the Minister of Finance. The 'offsets' package would not have provided municipalities with complete financial relief from the negative impact the Harmonized Sales Tax will have on municipalities. The membership . . .", the municipal membership, ". . . remains committed to a full rebate of the Provincial component of the new tax. I . . .", the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, ". . . have presented this position to the Premier and Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs and am awaiting their response.".

[Page 3975]

It is interesting that we are debating the legislation here in December and the December newsletter from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities indicates that the president of the UNSM is still awaiting a response.

"The UNSM plans to convene a series of workshops in the new year to discuss technical aspects of the tax. The workshops will be provided free-of-charge to two representatives from each unit. The impact of the tax on general operating activities of the municipal entities, as well as the impact on capital projects, will be focused on. Key requirements relating to filing returns both for users of the regular method and those having selected the quick or streamlined methods will be discussed. More information on this UNSM program of workshops will be provided in the near future." So there is a forum, an opportunity being laid on by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, Mr. Speaker, which is available to the various ministers in the government to enable them to have the kind of legitimate discussion with the municipal leaders that frankly they should have had well in advance of the introduction of the BST legislation.

Part of the materials which I have in front of me, Mr. Speaker, include a resolution presented to and passed by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. They passed a resolution directed to the Minister of Finance and the heading of that is, "BLENDING OF GST AND PST". Their resolution was as follows: "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities urge the Province of Nova Scotia to establish a tax rebate fund to compensate municipalities for the increased municipal costs associated with the introduction of this new sales tax structure to insure that municipalities assume no greater tax burden.".

Now, I know you know and I am sure all honourable members are well aware that when the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, Mr. Speaker, says to ensure that municipalities assume no greater tax burden, they are speaking not for the entity, the municipality, the government of the municipality, they are talking for and on behalf of those who are their taxpayers, their municipal taxpayers. So the municipalities are asking and did ask the Minister of Finance that any new sales tax structure be designed in such a way to ensure that municipalities assume no greater tax burden.

Here is the response from the Minister of Finance, dated November 29, 1996, the Honourable William Gillis, Minister. His response to that resolution was, as follows: "I am pleased to respond to your recent correspondence concerning Resolutions you wished drawn to my attention. Resolution # 7A . . ." the one that I just read ". . . deals with the new harmonized sales tax and it is my hope that the constructive discussions that Minister Smith and I have been having with you and your colleagues will allow us to reach a mutually agreeable solution in the very near future. The Honourable William Gillis Minister November 29, 1996".

[Page 3976]

Well, what other conclusion, Mr. Speaker, can one reach except that either this is a fiction and the Honourable William Gillis never . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has one minute left.

MR. DONAHOE: I have one minute only, my goodness. Well, I guess, I think the resolution and the response really says everything that I really want to say. That when the municipalities ask for the opportunity to have a new tax structure which will result in the municipalities assuming no greater tax burden and Minister Gillis, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, writes back and says, ". . . it is my hope . . ." it is his hope ". . .that the constructive discussions that Minister Smith and I are having with the municipal units will allow us to reach a mutually agreeable solution in the very near future.", and within days following that he introduces a piece of legislation to make into law the blended sales tax and the net result is as we have seen from the presentations of the municipal units to the Law Amendments Committee that the result is that the municipalities as a totality across this province are going to face $10 million of new expense. That is going to be the burden, not of the mayors and wardens and the councillors, but of the municipal taxpayers.

I say that the government would be well advised to take the advice suggested in this resolution and that they meet and seriously discuss with the municipal units an opportunity to devise a system which will not increase the tax burden on the municipal taxpayer. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I was waiting to see if any of the government members wanted to get up to speak tonight. Obviously, at the moment, they don't. I want to say a few words, in the 10 minutes that I have available to me, on the topic tonight. It is a topic, of course, that has gotten considerable debate during the Committee of the Whole House on Bills stage, the bill that we are currently on, in the main House. It is also a topic that has drawn considerable attention during second reading debate and, of course, it also drew a lot of attention during the committee hearings - brief as they were; as rushed as they were - through the Law Amendments Committee process down the hall.

Mr. Speaker, we did hear, even in the short time that was afforded to residents in this province to come before the government representatives to have their views known, we did at least hear, or have an opportunity to hear, the kind of detrimental effect and hear of the anger and the frustration that municipal politicians have with this government for not only this particular measure in which they are going to be, yet again, downloading costs onto the property taxpayers, but those frustrations are built on top of frustrations from years and years of abuse they have received from successive provincial governments; the current one and the past one.

[Page 3977]

Mr. Speaker, I support the tenet and the principle that is behind the resolve, although I would have liked it to have gone a step further in terms of the actual wording of the resolution; however, the speaker in his remarks certainly did indicate that he wanted to go further. Here what it is saying is, ". . . that the government meets with each municipal unit in Nova Scotia in order to fully comprehend the impact the BS Tax would have on residential taxpayers and design an appropriate rebate to maintain existing levels for residential taxpayers.".

Mr. Speaker, I would like it to go a little bit further in the sense that meeting with them and to understand them, first of all, I think that this government understands what it is doing. There is no doubt in my mind that they understand what they are doing. They know very well that what they are doing with this BS Tax is imposing additional costs on homeowners, those who are struggling to maintain their homes to be able to live, and also upon the municipalities that are struggling to find ways to continue to provide hard-pressed services that the citizens deserve. The government knows that.

The Premier himself, a former President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, a former mayor of the once City of Dartmouth and if you take a look at the members who sit on the Liberal benches - whether we are talking about the member for Bedford-Fall River, herself a former mayor, and many other members in this House - who, not too many years ago were members of municipal councils, they were complaining about the very same kinds of things that councillors are today. They were complaining about how the former government always was downloading costs to the municipal property taxpayers and the commercial payers at that level, whether that be through increased costs for the education that was downloaded, whether that was as a result of capping of social service payments which meant that the costs had to go up that are going to be paid for by the municipalities; it is the same thing over and over again. That level of government at the bottom, but that is closest to the people, has been the one that has been bearing the brunt of cuts that have been coming from Ottawa, down to the provinces and then down to the property taxpayer.

I could be talking tonight, Mr. Speaker, with a presentation. I have it here, for example, the one that was made by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. I could talk about the presentation that was made by the Mayor and Council of the Halifax Regional Municipality, in which we are located. I could talk about the presentation that came forward from the regional municipality of Sydney who outlined, among a whole bunch of other items, in terms of the cuts and the betrayals of the anticipated benefits of that amalgamation to the residents in that area, pointed out that this could be the last straw for that municipality. I could talk about the letters that we have in from Oxford or the presentations from Lunenburg or from Bridgewater or from Shelburne or, Mr. Speaker, I could keep going on and on.

[Page 3978]

[6:15 p.m.]

The point is that each and every one of these representations that came forward were all expressing the same fundamental concern, the same fundamental point, that there is but one taxpayer. They know that they are going to be faced with a task, very shortly, of calculating the tax rates that are going to be charged next year. They are having to put together their budget and this government is telling them that for the first time, property taxpayers, commercial taxpayers, are now going to have to pay provincial sales tax on the services that they receive through that municipal government. In other words, this level of government is going to be taxing the municipal government and those costs will be passed on. You can't cut it any other way.

They are asking for a very reasonable thing. Stop trying to make money, stop trying to take advantage of us. Zero rate us, make sure that we get a full rebate, a full refund of any monies that you are going to be collecting from us. To do otherwise would have the province making a profit off of the property taxpayers in this province which would be placing an increased strain on the working families in this province, will make it more difficult for those who are trying to get a home or for those who are trying to maintain their home, whether they be seniors, disabled persons or others, Mr. Speaker.

The province continues to offload these difficulties. Not only are they going to be charging taxes here but they are going to be imposing a transitional tax. A transitional tax is going to apply to vehicles and heavy equipment that the municipalities must purchase, not only to their equipment but of course to school boards, to hospitals, to all of them. The government is actually proposing to make a profit. The Savage Liberal Government wants to make a profit off the purchase, for example, of school buses because school boards would have to pay tax. Imagine.

Another thing that is extremely disturbing in the way this tax is set up, here we are talking about cooperation and trying to foster cooperation, one municipality with another. Let's cut down on duplication, let's share our services. What is the government's response? Tax them. If one municipality is going to cooperate with another municipality, so if you have two neighbouring ones and one is going to provide the service to the other, obviously the costs are going to have to be paid because this municipality cannot afford to provide that service to somebody else for free but now they have purchased a service and lo and behold, Jean Chretien and John Savage have said, we want 15 per cent of the action. They are going to charge tax. That, Mr. Speaker, flies completely in the face of and goes contrary to everything that this government has talked about.

Here they had a shotgun wedding. They brought together the four municipalities. You have to cooperate, you have to bring them together. They did the same thing in Cape Breton. Let's eliminate duplication. Let's cooperate and here those municipal units and those citizens who live in those municipal units where they are trying to cooperate, trying to share services

[Page 3979]

to save money, the government decides they want a piece of the action, they want to charge the tax. Mr. Speaker, that is crazy. It is foolishness. It is an abuse of power and it is taking advantage of the level of government that is closest to the people.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that government members don't actually support what their own government is doing. They probably were not aware of it. So I look forward to government members standing up and saying that they do not support the abuse that is being done in municipalities and that they will be supporting Opposition members in their efforts to get the government to change some of these most regressive measures in their legislation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.

MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, over the past several days we have listened to many groups that have come into the Law Amendments Committee to talk about the harmonized sales tax from their own sector perspective and that is a good thing because we all need to hear this public input. I think when you hear that kind of input, you also have to realize that you cannot talk about the impact of the harmonized sales tax from only one or two perspectives. You obviously have to talk about it from a number of perspectives. That is really the big picture and that is what I want to talk about this evening in this debate.

In the same way you can't talk about the impact on local government without taking into consideration the impact of harmonization on the entire province because they are related. The big picture, Mr. Speaker, with harmonizing the sales tax is that the province will reduce by $100 million, the taxes collected by this province. I want to say that again, the province will reduce by $100 million the taxes collected in Nova Scotia. Now that money stays in the province and it stays in the economy where it can be of the most benefit and the municipalities across Nova Scotia will also benefit from lower prices, like everyone else.

Now the province would not be implementing a harmonized sales tax if we didn't think it was good for the economy of Nova Scotia. We are creating a better climate for business. We are creating a better climate for consumers and in the Consumer Price Index, in the shopping cart scenario, 42.4 per cent of the prices that we currently pay will stay the same, 34.1 per cent of the prices will come down and 23.5 per cent of those prices will go up.

Strong, viable communities are important to the well-being of Nova Scotia and there are 55 municipal units in our province consisting of three regional governments, 31 towns and 21 rural municipalities. Good government is about making choices and we all know that. The tax changes are a bold step but it is a way of leaving more money in the economy and that means in the hands of Nova Scotians. That money will be freed to grow and grow in the economy and therefore to create jobs.

[Page 3980]

The harmonized sales tax puts a lot of money back into the economy. The government is also bringing in other measures such as the first ever cut in personal income taxes in Nova Scotia by 3.4 per cent, Mr. Speaker, and special tax breaks for low income Nova Scotians. This is one of the measures that we are taking to make sure that all Nova Scotians benefit from the harmonized sales tax. Since announcing its intent to implement the HST last spring, the Nova Scotia Government has consulted with over 80 groups, one of which was the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you listen to them?

MRS. COSMAN: That is one of the very large groups that were consulted with.

Now the member opposite has introduced a resolution asking that government meet with each municipal unit in order to fully comprehend the impact of the harmonized sales tax. I would remind the members opposite, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs has made a very strong effort to tour the province and to meet with the municipal units. In fact, he has met with 53 out of 55 of those units and he has had the opportunity to better familiarize himself with the issues and the challenges that face local government in Nova Scotia. He made the commitment to do this at the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Conference in October and he followed through with that commitment. His discussions have been frank, they have been open and they have dealt with the big picture. He discussed a variety of issues. He discussed issues such as the draft municipal government Act, social services, reassessment, solid waste management and, of course, the harmonized sales tax.

Councils were praising the Nova Scotia-Canada Infrastructure Works Program that resulted in $218 million being spent in communities around the province. Approximately $70 million was provincial government money. Now that program has improved municipal infrastructure such as sewer and water and roads but it has also created a lot of much-needed jobs. Everyone benefitted from that program - municipalities, contractors, local restaurants, stores - and during the minister's tour, municipalities also brought forward special concerns.

Municipalities recognize and understand that we both share the same goal. We all want strong, viable communities. The government wants to work with those municipal units and for municipalities, the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs provides an opportunity or a window into the workings of the provincial government.

With the case of the harmonized sales tax, the impact on municipalities is estimated to be approximately $6 million per year. Now, that actually represents less than 1 per cent of the total annual municipal expenditures. (Interruptions) This is spread across a municipal assessment base of $40 billion, and a total municipal expenditure base of $900 million. After April 1st of next year, businesses supplying municipalities will be credited back 100 per cent of the PST they pay, and some portion of these substantial savings that are coming back to

[Page 3981]

business will be passed through to the municipal units in lower costs, particularly when a competitive bid is tendered. For example, the laying of a sewer or a water line will be less expensive. Today, to get the job done, the price to municipal units includes hidden, imbedded taxes, taxes that are hidden in the cost of doing business. Businesses are paying those and those are costs to the municipal units, but by removing those hidden costs, municipalities, through the input tax credit effect, will be lowering their costs. As well, blending the taxes will be a major boost to business in each municipal unit, from retailers to restaurants. This is a benefit because as those businesses grow, so will the municipal unit through new business expansions and new development. There is an economic boost in all of this scenario.

At present, municipalities in Nova Scotia pay no PST and they receive a rebate on the GST. Municipal units are eligible for 57.14 per cent in the new HST and this is the same percentage rebate that municipal units now get on the GST. (Interruptions) It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that we are one of a few provinces that actually give that rebate. There are other provinces that do not give any rebate.

Now, over the summer, the Department of Municipal Affairs has worked with the UNSM and it has worked with individual units to assess the implications of the harmonized tax measure. (Interruption) Government hopes to move forward some initiatives to minimize the impact on municipalities. Discussions with the UNSM are ongoing in this area. The harmonized tax will give competitive advantages for business in Nova Scotia and municipalities, along with other Nova Scotians, will benefit from an improved economy. As the economy improves, so goes the economy of individual Nova Scotians. Economic development is, and always has been, a great concern to municipal units. The harmonized tax will improve the climate for business and, in general, will enhance the economic development efforts across Nova Scotia.

Next year, Nova Scotians will experience their first-ever income tax reduction delivered by a Liberal Government. (Applause) July 1st will bring that first income tax reduction - and it is delivered by a Liberal Government - in this province's history. At 3.5 per cent, income taxes in this province are going in the right direction, and that is downward.

Harmonization is controversial, as is the case with any major change, but the key point here is that it leaves $100 million more in the hands of Nova Scotians. The Minister of Finance, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the UNSM have already met on several occasions to discuss the HST. I am confident that the municipalities and the minister will continue to meet to discuss their concerns and to have further consultation with their membership on this very important item. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's late debate. The Committee of the Whole House on Bills will now resume.

[Page 3982]

[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]

[11:56 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Wayne Gaudet, resumed the Chair.]

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

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made considerable progress and begs leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow's Opposition Business after Question Period, we will be debating Resolution No. 1165 and Resolution No. 1145. I believe the hours tomorrow will be from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion for adjournment has been made.

The House will rise to sit again tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 11:57 p.m.]