Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., May 9, 1996

Fourth Session


Women, Status of - Workplace Safety: Atlantic Ministers -
Brochure, Hon. E. Norrie 1549
House Order No. 77, Return Tabled, Hon. R. Mann 1549
Women, Status of - Workplace Safety: Atlantic Ministers -
Brochure, Hon. E. Norrie 1550
Res. 505, Westray Mine Disaster (Pictou Co.) (09/05/92): Silence -
Observe, The Premier 1551
Vote - Affirmative 1552
No. 25, Halifax Trust Funds Transfer (1996) Act, Hon. J. Abbass 1552
Res. 506, Westray Mine Disaster (Pictou Co.) (09/05/92): Victims -
Remember, Dr. J. Hamm 1552
Vote - Affirmative 1553
Res. 507, Lbr. - Westray Miners Memory: Workplace Safety -
Enhance, Mr. J. Holm 1553
Vote - Affirmative 1553
Res. 508, Westray Mine Disaster (Pictou Co.) (09/05/92):
Grief (Families/Friends) - Empathize, Mr. W. Fraser 1553
Vote - Affirmative 1554
Res. 509, Transport. (N.S.-Can.) - Trucking Industry (N.S.):
Broken Agreements - Acknowledge, Mr. B. Taylor 1554
Res. 510, Auditor Gen. (Can.) - Taxation: Corps. (Multinat.) -
Laws Enforce, Mr. J. Holm 1555
Res. 511, Fin. - Budget Speech: Warning Label - Attach,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1555
Res. 512, Educ. - Michael Smith (Astral Dr. JHS):
Canada-Wide Science Fair Rep. - Achievement Congrats.,
Mr. D. Richards 1556
Vote - Affirmative 1556
Res. 513, Health - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Suicides - Report Release Order,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1557
No. 255, Health - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Suicides - Report Release,
Dr. J. Hamm 1558
No. 256, Health - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Suicides - Report Release,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1559
No. 257, Environ. - VG Hospital: Med. Waste Incinerators -
Emissions Standards, Mr. T. Donahoe 1561
No. 258, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
Commencement, Mr. B. Taylor 1562
No. 259, Transport. - Hfx. (Port): Vessels Fees Increase -
Protest, Dr. J. Hamm 1563
No. 260, Fin. - Taxation: Families (Low Income) - Cuts Veracity,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1564
No. 261, WCB: Membership - Representation, Mr. R. Russell 1566
No. 262, ERA: IMP Plant (C.B.) - Update, Mr. A. MacLeod 1568
No. 263, Nat. Res.: Offshore Exploration - Negotiations,
Mr. G. Archibald 1569
No. 264, Gaming Control Comm'n. - Lotteries: Ticket Sales (Brokers) -
Regulate, Mr. J. Holm 1571
No. 265, Transport. - Marine User Fees: Official Opposition Late -
Premier Withdraw, Dr. J. Hamm 1572
Health - Grants: Estimated-Actual - Comparison, Hon. R. Stewart 1574
No. 26, Bridgewater Waterfront Development Corporation Act,
Hon. D. Downe 1574
No. 12, Adoption Information Act 1575
Mrs. L. O'Connor 1575
Mr. R. Russell 1576
Hon. J. Smith 1577
Vote - Affirmative 1578
No. 4, Nursing Assistants Act 1578
Mrs. F. Cosman 1579
Mr. G. Moody 1579
Mr. R. Chisholm 1580
Adjourned debate 1581
Educ.: Funding Formula - Review:
Mr. T. Donahoe 1582
Hon. J. MacEachern 1584
Mr. J. Holm 1586
No. 4, Nursing Assistants Act [debate resumed] 1588
Mr. R. Chisholm 1589
Mr. B. Taylor 1589
Mrs. F. Cosman 1590
Vote - Affirmative 1590
No. 13, Occupational Health and Safety Act 1590
Hon. R. Mann 1590
Mr. R. Russell 1591
Mr. R. Chisholm 1602
Adjourned debate 1606
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Mann 1606
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., May 10th at 8:00 a.m. 1607
[Page 1549]


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

12:00 P.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time and commence the daily routine.




MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a brochure that has been put forward in cooperation with the four Atlantic Ministers of Status of Women.

MR. SPEAKER: The brochure is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a return to House Order No. 77.

MR. SPEAKER: The return is tabled.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.


[Page 1550]

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, all members of this House will already be aware of the fact that violence against women, particularly in the home, has been a major issue for women, for communities and for government in the past decade or more. At the same time, it is worth considering that the workplace, too, can pose risk for violence for women.

We have heard the concerns of nurses who, at times, are abused by patients or their families. Customer service staff are often expected to take threats and intimidation in their stride. Women working alone, particularly when handling cash, rightly feel vulnerable.

This issue was brought to the table at our annual meeting of Atlantic Status of Women Ministers and is particularly timely in light of this government's work to produce new Occupational Health and Safety legislation, which includes a concern for workplaces free from violence and intimidation. As Status of Women Ministers, we decided to provide information for prevention of workplace related violence to women and their employers.

So, honourable members, you see before you today a poster/brochure, which the Atlantic Status of Women Ministers produced jointly, based on a product used very successfully in British Columbia.

Within this province, special thanks go to my colleagues, the Honourable Guy Brown, the Honourable Robert Harrison and the Honourable Sandra Jolly for the financial support of their departments in producing the brochure.

I encourage you to call the Women's Directorate for additional copies to make available to your constituents throughout the province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now, is there a poster or brochure that is supposed to be circulated here? All right, it is coming around.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the minister forwarded a copy of her statement to the benches opposite, prior to making her statement. Having said that, while I am fully in support of actions to prevent violence against women, whether it is at home or in the workplace or any other place, I am not a great believer in brochures and posters. I think that is all smoke and mirrors. I don't think it really achieves anything.

There is a great need for action and I would suggest that it is time that the government got together and got a task force going and did something to actually prevent violence against women in the home and in the workplace. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to thank the minister for her announcement today. Certainly, one of the things that I had to underline at the very beginning, however, in the minister's statement where she pointed out that it ". . . has been a major issue for women, for communities, and for government in the past decade or more.". Well, certainly to suggest that it has only been a problem for the past decade and it does imply a little bit longer as well, but I would suggest that this has been a major problem, it certainly has been coming to the fore as a serious concern and being recognized for the kind of concern

[Page 1551]

that it has been and is over the last several decades. We have been promised programs that will bring an end to this kind of abusive action for well more than a decade.

As I take a look at this, and the minister has singled out, for example, nurses, I would not want the minister or members on the Liberal benches to think for one minute that nurses are the only ones who are, in fact, suffering abuse at the hands of sometimes their patients or the families of those patients, Mr. Speaker, because there are many other home care and health care providers who sometimes do find themselves in very difficult situations, whether that be in a home where they may happen to be working or in a facility where individuals are being cared for. That is often as a consequence of inadequate staffing levels, which mean that people can be placed in very serious risk situations.

Mr. Speaker, I see the brochure, I see the pamphlet passed out, I haven't, obviously, had a chance to read it. It's fine, it's great, it's something that we can stick up. But the more crucial matter, this does not even begin to meet the needs out there. What we do desperately need and what women in this province desperately need are concrete programs that are in place, that will provide the assistance that is necessary to ensure that no woman in the Province of Nova Scotia will have to tolerate and put up with unsafe working conditions or living conditions as a result of violence either in the home or the workplace.

I look forward, quite honestly, to stage two, where the concrete programs are announced and necessary resources to provide it to ensure that, in fact, those practices are in place.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.


HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas four years ago, on May 9, 1992, people all over this province and across the country woke up to the tragic news of a massive explosion at the Westray coal mine and for several days kept vigil while the draegermen carried out their brave and heartbreaking task; and

Whereas Nova Scotians will remember with sadness today, the names of 26 husbands, fathers, brothers and sons: Larry Arthur Bell, Ferris Todd Dewan, Robert Steven Doyle, Charles Robert Fraser, Myles Gillis, Trevor Jahn, Eugene William Johnson, Harry Alliston McCallum, Eric Earl McIsaac, Romeo Andrew Short, Adonis Joseph Dollimont, Remi Joseph Drolet, Laurence Elwyn James, George James Munroe, Peter Francis Vickers, John Thomas Bates, Wayne Michael Conway, Roy Edward Feltmate, John Philip Halloran, Randolph Brian House, Stephen Paul Lilley, Michael Frederick MacKay, Angus Joseph MacNeil, Glenn David Martin, Danny James Poplar, and Bennie Joseph Benoit; and

Whereas since that day, we have witnessed the steadfast resolve of the Westray families, to obtain justice for their loved ones, and to find answers so that such a tragedy may never again be allowed to happen;

[Page 1552]

Therefore be it resolved that in memory of the 26 men so tragically lost, the members of this House stand and observe a moment of silence.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We will now observe a moment of silence.

[One minute of silence was observed.]


Bill No. 25 - Entitled An Act to Permit the Transfer of Certain Trust Funds from the City of Halifax to the Halifax Foundation. (Hon. Jay Abbass as a private member.)

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I wish to add by this resolution to the resolution that was recently introduced by the Premier a few minutes ago.

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

Whereas four years ago today, 26 miners lost their lives in an explosion at the Westray coal mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the families of these miners, relatives, friends, neighbours and, indeed, all Nova Scotians have shared the tragedy; and

Whereas a memorial service will be held tonight in Stellarton to commemorate the tragedy;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House join with the families and friends of the victims in remembering them.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

[Page 1553]

[12:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?

It is agreed.

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

I declare the motion carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


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

Whereas four years ago today the Westray coal mine tragedy took the lives of 26 miners; and

Whereas after several years of legal and jurisdictional delays the Richard Inquiry is finally hearing the testimony of some of those who were responsible for the operation and regulation of the Westray Mine; and

Whereas for the sake of the families, other miners and all Nova Scotians, all factors surrounding and contributing to the Westray tragedy must be known;

Therefore be it resolved that on this tragic anniversary the members of this House honour the memory of Westray miners by committing to the strongest possible legislation and enforcement of workplace safety.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.


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

Whereas four years ago on this date, May 9, 1992, 26 miners lost their lives in an underground explosion at the Westray Colliery in Plymouth, Nova Scotia; and

[Page 1554]

Whereas the families of these miners were left without fathers, husbands, sons and brothers, and the community was left without good community-minded citizens, volunteers, friends and relatives; and

Whereas this tragedy has deeply affected not only the families and friends of these miners but also all the communities of Pictou County, Nova Scotia and Canada and touched many of the people around the world;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly keep foremost in their minds and hearts the tremendous grief and pain suffered by the families and friends of these courageous men.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas during the 1993 federal election campaign the Cape Breton federal Liberal candidates promised to support and ensure that federal projects requiring trucking service would honour and include Nova Scotia's provincial transportation rates and the 20/80 clause; and

Whereas the federal government contract to repair and improve the Sydney Government Wharf does not provide for any of these measures; and

Whereas in similar fashion, the provincial Minister of Transportation and Public Works has refused to insert and guarantee the 20/80 clause respecting construction of the Highway No. 104 western alignment;

Therefore be it resolved that the Chretien and Savage Governments acknowledge and admit that their trail of broken agreements and unkept promises has failed the Nova Scotia trucking industry miserably.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 1555]


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 federal Auditor General says that Revenue Canada must pay more attention to tax avoidance by large corporations, especially those with extensive domestic and foreign operations which have significant opportunities and resources to enter into tax avoidance schemes; and

Whereas the federal Auditor General's latest annual report provides graphic details of tax avoidance schemes employed by large corporations in Canada; and

Whereas these tax avoidance schemes affect government revenues at both the federal and provincial level and are an affront to honest taxpayers in Nova Scotia and all of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House support the recommendations of the federal Auditor General for tougher laws and better enforcement, to reduce the rip-off of the tax scheme by large multinational corporations.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House? (Interruption)

I could not hear the motion myself. Perhaps you could read the Therefore be it resolved part to see if there is consent for this. Therefore be it resolved that . . .

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as others have said, it was a good one. I am often accused of speaking too loudly so maybe I toned it down that time. Anyway, here it goes:

Therefore be it resolved that this House support the recommendations of the federal Auditor General for tougher laws and better enforcement to reduce the rip-off of the tax system by large, multinational corporations.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House, unanimously? (Interruptions)

There appears to be dissent.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


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

Whereas the Minister of Finance has admitted that statements in the budget which claim that a family of four with an income of $15,000 or less would qualify for $930 in tax relief are misleading and that in fact such a family will collect not one red cent in tax relief under changes to the Low Income Tax Reduction; and

Whereas the budget also misleads when it makes the false claim that the low income tax reduction will help 155,000 low income Nova Scotians and their families; and

[Page 1556]

Whereas the Budget Speech of the Minister of Finance contains other misleading statements, including the biggest whopper of them all, namely that this is a balanced budget;

Therefore be it resolved that if this government insists on distributing copies of the Budget Speech, it attach a label warning Nova Scotians to take its contents with a large grain of salt.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.


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

Whereas the Youth Science Foundation Canada, a national organization dedicated to stimulating an interest in science and technology among young Canadians will be holding a Canada-wide Science Fair in North Bay, Ontario from May 11th-19th; and

Whereas more than 400 representatives across Canada will attend this science fair, a premier event, which is the pinnacle of the National Science Fair Program of the Youth Science Foundation of Canada; and

Whereas Michael Smith, a Grade 8 student at Astral Drive Junior High School, who won first place in the Grade 7-8 division at the 20th Annual Halifax-Dartmouth and County Regional Science Fair will be one of four representatives from our region attending the science fair;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly offer congratulations to Michael Smith for his outstanding achievement as he joins the representatives from Nova Scotia and commend all participants of the Canada-wide Science Fair for the initiative, proficiency and contribution to the promotion of science and technology in youth.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, before I introduce this resolution, I would like to make a few introductions, if I may, of people, I believe, in the east gallery. First of

[Page 1557]

all, are members of the White family: Melvin White, Mary White, Cindy MacDonald, Paul White and Carrie Ann White. Joining the White family are the sisters of Marion Godin: Dorothy Barrie, Isabel Ferguson, Mary Sparkes, Theresa Barrie. Also joining them is the family of Yolanda Cain: Melvin Sparkes, Annie Mae Steffens, Shannon Barrie, Beth Barrie and Denise Sparkes.

As you will know, these people are here trying to get information on the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate and the tragic suicides of their family members. I wish that you, Mr. Speaker, and all members of the House, would join me in welcoming these individuals to the House and ask them to stand and receive our warm welcome. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, events have changed somewhat since this resolution was put together but I still think it is relevant because it refers to the report from the Cape Breton Regional Hospital that was recommended to be released by the freedom of information officer, but we have yet to see it. Therefore, I believe this is important.

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


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

Whereas assurances were made by the Minister of Health to the families of individuals who died by suicide that they would receive the details in a report of what happened to their loved ones at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital; and

Whereas Cape Breton Regional Hospital officials have to date obstructed at every turn the release of this information; and

Whereas the freedom of information officer has clearly recommended that it is in the public interest to release this information;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health stop aiding and abetting the veil of secrecy and order the immediate release of the report.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Are there further notices of motion? If not, that would appear to conclude the items under the daily routine. I wish to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the Adjournment Debate at 6:00 p.m. The winner this afternoon is the honourable member for Kings West. He has submitted a resolution for debate as follows:

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Education review its funding formula for school boards to more accurately reflect - it says effect, but I think that should be reflect - changing enrolment figures.

So we will hear debate of that topic at 6:00 p.m. this evening.

[Page 1558]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if I could, I am sorry to intrude on your Orders of the Day, but I think it might be appropriate if we made one introduction, the introduction of Mrs. Janet Connors, in the gallery, a person well-known to people on both sides of this House for the fight that she had led across the country for victims of tainted blood and their families. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The Oral Question Period will last for one hour, until 1:27:30 p.m.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health is now aware that the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Board has, in fact, indicated its intention that it would release the report of the three patients who committed suicide in the Cape Breton area. Would the minister indicate if he is supportive of that decision of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Board?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I just became aware of the decision by the board to follow the advice of the freedom of information officer. We are indeed supportive of that, particularly in light of the ruling of the freedom of information officer, yes.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Minister of Health. The minister has recently made a comment that he felt, when he was considering this particular question, that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act needed tightening up. In other words, he felt or he seemed to imply that there was something wrong with the Freedom of Information Act. I wonder if the minister would explain to the House what he feels is wrong with the current Freedom of Information Act and why it needs tightening up and what that tightening up would achieve?

MR. SPEAKER: The minister is free to comment if he wishes, but it doesn't come under his jurisdiction responsibility.

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond, because I made some comments in light of the ruling of the freedom of information officer. As this honourable House knows, our government was concerned about opening the process of governance and governing, both of government and our agencies, and the Freedom of Information Act was, I think, improved quite a bit by our efforts. However, the question that was posed to me was the effect of the Freedom of Information Act and the Evidence Act and how those interlocked, particularly in respect to the efforts that we have been making in the health system to increase the auditing and review of procedures and of the performance of professionals and those who deliver care in our facilities and in our health system.

My comment was that we needed to examine very closely whether there needed to be, in fact, additions or deletions from the current legislation. We are currently looking at that. I, of course, Mr. Speaker, would not presume to give a legal opinion on this except to say that

[Page 1559]

we were looking at the effect of these rulings on the ability of our system to do an audit on the performance of those who deliver service.

[12:30 p.m.]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I think it is time to cut to the chase. Is the minister prepared to support the decision of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Board to release the documents and the study? Is he prepared to stand up and make sure there is no impediment put in the way of that decision of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Board being carried out?

DR. STEWART: I thought, Mr. Speaker, I had supported the decision and mentioned that we would be supportive of the decision and hoped it would be carried out promptly.

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go to the Minister of Health on the same issue. We have been at this now for about five months, trying to get some of the information relating to the circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths of the suicide victims at the Cape Breton health care complex. The minister and the hospital have been reluctant at every turn to release that information even though it was clearly stated when the review was initially requested that its mandate was to ensure that information relative to policies and practices of that institution be made available so that implicitly we can all understand from the details of the events, what to do to correct the problems.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a long time and the families have gone through a lot.

MR. SPEAKER: Now, you know the rules of Question Period. We are not here to make speeches. A question is to be asked to the minister, a question is put to the minister.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is also important, I believe, to lay a bit of a foundation. What I wanted to say to the minister in asking him my question is, he has indicated that he is in support of the decision to release the report. What steps will he take, as Minister of Health, to ensure that this report is, in fact, released as soon as possible, if not before the end of the week, to the families and to the public in general?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party knows full well that I do not have within my jurisdiction the power to dictate in terms of this particular issue. The hospital has, as of today, agreed to release the report as advised by the freedom of information officer. We support that decision and we have, in fact, encouraged that process to be carried through. Certainly I would assume from what the report comes from the hospital, that that would be carried out promptly and without any further barriers on anyone's part.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we also have the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate and tragic death of Yolanda Cain after having been in the care and custody of the Nova Scotia Hospital. I would like to ask the minister if he will agree here today to ensure that all details relating to the suicide of Yolanda Cain be made available to the Cain family at the earliest opportunity?

[Page 1560]

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to comment in detail on any particular case except to say that I would trust that the meetings that have been held concerning this with the hospital and the facility and the information that has been shared and the consultations that have gone on would be sufficient to make judgments. I can only say that I believe the hospital has done its part to try and encourage the release of information that was relevant. These are two different issues that I don't want to compare or cross over except to say that we encourage the peer review process that goes on in our facilities on a daily basis and we are protective of that so that all information may come to light and to improve our care of people in the system.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ in that I think the matters are extremely closely linked and that it has to do with how mental health services are delivered in the Province of Nova Scotia and the responsibility of this government when people have, in this case, been injured or committed suicide while under the care and custody of the government and its agencies. I would like to say that part of the problem, and the minister I don't think can duck this, given the fact that it is decisions he makes relative to whether those . . .

MR. SPEAKER: This is a speech, it is not a question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . institutions have the resources to carry out those services.

MR. SPEAKER: Is there a question?

MR. CHISHOLM: I would like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, given the cloud that is hanging over the delivery of mental health services in this province as a result of the way that these matters and others have been handled by this government, will he commit today, on behalf of his government, to initiate a public inquiry into the matters relative to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and the Cain Family, and all mental health issues in the Province of Nova Scotia?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, there is a question of process and balance here. We operate through our health care system, as the honourable member opposite knows, particular facilities that deliver services, and they are in the hands of the citizens who govern those facilities. We have certain standards which we adhere to. The process is that we examine - we have set those standards - events on a day-to-day basis, called a peer review and audit process. When these conditions and these problems come to light, they are dealt with by the local facilities, which are autonomous under the Hospitals Act, and we proceed in that way. So we are committed to improving this. (Interruptions)

We have, as I mentioned, as government, increased the net, if you would, of the Freedom of Information Act. We have also pledged ourselves to be as open and forthright as possible when particular instances involve my ministry or the government of the day. But let us understand that we also have to make sure and support those workers on a daily basis who carry out the services that we so much depend on. We would do that and we continue to do that in the best way we can. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party please be quiet!

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

[Page 1561]



MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. In a letter dated April 19th addressed to me from the Minister of the Environment, he provided me with the then latest results from the Victoria General Hospital's biomedical waste incinerator. In that letter, the Minister of the Environment indicated to me that results from a re-test would be available at the end of April. It is now nine days into May and I have yet to see the results of that re-test. My question to the minister is, where are the results of that re-test? If they are in his possession, will he table them here today?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, at the end of Question Period, I will have in my possession the results of that testing, which I will table.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, I suppose it is none of my business, in a way, but it is curious that the results will be in his possession at the end of Question Period, which doesn't afford us an opportunity to have a look at them during Question Period.

By way of supplementary then, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Public Works, the operator of the incinerator, has twice missed deadlines to bring this incinerator up to national pollution control standards. There is now concern that the incinerator fumes are, in fact, reversing themselves somehow and going back into the hospital vents. Although the minister assures the House that, as best he knows, there is no evidence of a threat and that things are being taken care of - I might say just as he did with the lead contamination issue in Sydney River - can I ask the minister why it is that he does not err on the side of caution and order the reduction of emissions from the incinerator to ensure that if there is any credence to this story that the emission are reversing themselves and getting back into the system, that situation can be corrected, and corrected immediately, so that we don't have a further very serious difficulty?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in a question, I did give the answer that we would ask our senior staff to look at how we might ensure the air quality inside the building, as was speculated by people around the hospital. We want to make sure that the air is not going back into a vent, after leaving the smokestack. So that investigation is now under way. When we get those results, we will report them.

The reason we asked for that check, Mr. Speaker, was to make sure that we are protecting the lives and safety of both the patients and the hospital staff.

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, again through you to the Minister of the Environment, it is possible, if the minister and his colleagues were so minded, to shut down the activity of the VG incinerator. There are alternative arrangements whereby the biomedical waste could be disposed of in the interim, in the short term, somewhat differently.

I ask the Minister of the Environment why it is he will not make a commitment to shutting down the biomedical waste incinerator at the VG Hospital, long enough - and it does not have to be a long period of time - to ensure that the tests we have been talking about can be conducted, so that the people working at the hospital, the patients at the hospital, to say nothing of the residents in the surrounding community, can be assured that once it is then up and running again, that the biomedical waste incinerator system is up to standard and is not causing emissions which offend against the protocol and the criteria established by the

[Page 1562]

Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Will the minister give us an opinion on the closure of the incinerator at this point?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, it is a long question but I am sure that he, being a former minister of the same department, would recognize that it is always wise to take the best advice you can from your senior officials and, in this regard, from health officials as well.

We have not been convinced at this stage that we have a major health threat on our hands but we certainly do have a major nuisance and we don't want that nuisance to become a threat. My best advice is that there is no immediate health hazard that has gone beyond anywhere where it has been in the past. We do know that the emissions go beyond the CCME standards, some 10 times more, but, Mr. Speaker, we do want to get those emissions down.

Our department is working in cooperation with the Department of Public Works. We are going to reach a solution very soon as to how we will maintain those smokestacks or bring them under control.

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the honourable Minister of the Environment. The circumstances surrounding the selection of a tire recycling proponent for this province has been nothing short of a sham, in fact, they have been scandalous. The Provincial Interdepartmental Committee recommended a Nova Scotia company. They conducted a study. The Minister of the Environment, at least the Resource Recovery Fund, engaged a private consultant to study that study. Negotiations with . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You are getting into a speech here, a history lesson. I want to have a question.

MR. TAYLOR: I am coming to the question, Mr. Speaker. The Manitoba-based company and the Resource Recovery Fund are bogged down in negotiations. Because this minister has exhibited a certain degree of inconsistency, he has not been very forthcoming . . .

MR. SPEAKER: There is nothing interrogatory here at all.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is simply this, the minister's announcement stated that the Resource Recovery Fund and the Manitoba-based company would have a facility up and running on November 30th at the latest, of this year. We have learned that the facility will not be up and running until some time next year. Will the minister confirm that?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member just confirmed the statement that the proponent made and I will repeat it. There is nothing new that has been said or has not been said before. We did, if you will, postpone our ban on tires in landfills in the province until November 1st. The proponent who is hoping to be successful in his negotiations has clearly said that they will be in a position to collect the tires after that date and will be in full production by the first of the new year. That is not a secret.

[Page 1563]

MR. TAYLOR: So now it is the first of the new year, it is not the end of November of this year. (Interruption) Okay.

Mr. Speaker, the minister in his statement which he made on March 25th, stated that he has decided it is in the best interest to extend the deadline for banning tires from landfills until that date. When we check the Royal Gazette, the ban is still in effect for April 1, 1996. We checked with the Registrar of Regulations and were also told that there has been no ban extension. Why is the minister violating provincial Statute?

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: That is a rather strong accusation to make. (Interruptions)

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, it certainly is. The member only knows how to make his point by being very strenuous with his remarks but the fact is, there is no ban until November 1, 1996.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, there is no ban but there is nothing in the regulations that indicates that. Yesterday, a member of the tire industry took a load of scrap tires to a balefill facility in Colchester County and was informed that effective May 1st, the price for taking scrap tires to that particular site had raised from $20 per ton to $100 per ton, a 500 per cent increase. That is extremely difficult for the tire industry, a 500 per cent increase. My question is, does this government and the Minister of the Environment intend to assist the tire dealers who are at such a real disadvantage by the minister's indecision on this recycling plan?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, what he talks about is a decision made by the tire industry, it is not a government decision. We had no impact on that decision at all. What the government will do is solve the whole problem when we get into the tire collection business with a private operator, who will collect all of the tires from the province and have a process to remanufacture them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. We engaged here in debate yesterday on a resolution having to do with port fees. All of us in this place realize just how serious a matter that is because, as has been stated very often in this place, the Port of Halifax has tremendous potential in being the economic generator to help drive our economy here. As a result of the debate yesterday on the resolution, I think it became obvious that the interim fees that are to come into being on June 1st, are still not satisfactory. I read that those who are shipping bulk cargo of low value are still concerned that that will hurt their competitiveness. I still feel that the cruise ship industry will be negatively impacted by these fees that are being applied this summer.

My question to the minister specifically is, as a result of yesterday's debate and the concerns that were expressed in this place, has the minister decided that he will follow a new course of action, perhaps in consultation with the Atlantic caucus of federal Liberal members? Is he prepared to forward an objection on behalf of the province on the implementation of these fees without an economic study being done?

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is fair to say that that has been done, that we have passed on our concerns, our objections, our request for a moratorium, our concerns on behalf of stakeholders, on behalf of industries, manufacturers, port officials, we have joined with them in doing it. The Premier has done it, I have done it, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency has done it, the Minister of Business and Consumer Services has done it, the Minister of Human Resources has done it. We have spoken to MPs, we have spoken to federal officials and we will continue to make representations on the issue.

[Page 1564]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that answer but I think the difficulty is that the representations that are being made on behalf of the province, on behalf of all ports in this province, really have been whispers. Unless the Minister of Transportation is prepared to tell us that he has done this, we don't seem to see that it is happening. What I am suggesting and will ask the minister is, is he prepared to be aggressive and to be public in terms of his objection and to seriously go after the Government of Canada to change this particular position that they have taken on port fees? They were able in the inland ports of this country to get a moratorium because the matter was not fully understood economically. Why have we not been able to secure the same kind of agreement on behalf of coastal ports?

MR. MANN: I thank the member opposite for saying I should get aggressive. It is something that no one has ever had to suggest to me before. The honourable gentleman opposite is playing politics. He has played politics with all the federal transport issues, from the beginning, from the time he first set foot in it. He could at best, at the very best, be called a johnny-come-lately to these issues.

We were making presentations and recommendations on these issues last October and November and December. The honourable member opposite joined, I don't know, maybe April or early May. But, Mr. Speaker, we have been very aggressive in this. I have been taken to task and if he was on top of this issue, he would know that I have been taken to task publicly by Members of Parliament, by Liberal Members of Parliament for being overly aggressive, for accusing the Coast Guard Commissioner of conducting a patronizing sham and other things.

Now, if he is suggesting that I should hop on a plane, go to Ottawa and start tossing bodies around, well, maybe he will come with me and suggest to me which bodies I should start tossing around.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up in my supplementary to the Premier. Does the Premier have recollection of the letter that I sent to him encouraging him to get in touch with the Nova Scotia members of the Liberal caucus, federally, to become more aggressive and I volunteered our support in any reasonable approach by this government in the matter of port fees? Will the Premier acknowledge receipt of that letter and perhaps explain why that letter was not made available to the Minister of Transportation?

THE PREMIER: Because it was too late, Mr. Speaker, we had already done it. It was too late.

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Finance. Yesterday, the minister acknowledged that the statement in

[Page 1565]

the budget to the effect that a family of four with income of $15,000 or less will qualify for $930 in tax relief tends to be misleading. In fact, the family of four with an income of $15,000 a year will get absolutely no benefit from the low income tax reduction. So, I would like to ask the minister will he tell this House what steps he has taken, given the fact that he has agreed with that, or will he take, to correct this misleading impression that has been left by his budget?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, information and documentation was released on budget day. The honourable member has a copy of all of it as do all of the media and it has been referred to here in the House. What I admitted yesterday, and I did so accompanying with an apology, is to suggest that the presentation of this information or this material might tend to be misleading for some people who picked it up and did not read the entire document or did not follow it through, because there is a column that says, Maximum Low Income Tax Reduction. That maximum low income tax reduction is obtained and there are various examples; the one I think he is referring to is the family of four, two adults and two children.

We have also done tables, family of three, one adult and two children; a family of five, two adults and three children; and calculated what their maximum eligibility would be. For example, a family of four, with two adults and two children, has a maximum eligibility of $930. Now, the column very next to that indicates the tax that they pay. They don't pay $930. So the problem with an eligibility of $930, if you don't pay that much tax, you obviously don't get a $930 benefit. That, in fact, was the problem with this particular table.

Indeed, another reason for doing the eligibility column, however, is that this is phased out, this program is phased out as you get up to the higher income levels and, in fact, phases out at about $34,000; in this particular example, a family of four, two adults and two children, the eligibility phases out entirely around $34,000.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let's remember that this document was not made available along with the budget documents that were tabled by this minister. The budget document also states that 155,000 low income Nova Scotians and their families are currently benefiting from the low income tax reduction. Detailed analysis, that I tabled yesterday, prepared by the Department of Finance, shows that only 18,000 families, in fact, benefited from the low income tax reduction, so the budget was misleading on this point as well. Nova Scotians only became aware of these misleading statements in the budget because of the Analysis of the Low Income Tax Reduction, with Illustrative Examples, which was somehow released by the Department of Finance.

My question to the minister, Mr. Speaker. Do similar analyses exist for other budgetary measures and will he agree to table those analyses, so that Nova Scotians will know the real impact of his budgetary measures?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the eligibility, I have already answered that question in my initial response, but this is a case where the honourable member is in danger of misleading, as we discussed when he tabled that document yesterday. Right in the very document that he refers to indicates, for example, the new, enriched, low income tax benefit and it goes category by category: single adults, it will impact on 104,000; couples, 62,000; total adults, 166,000; children, 54,000; and total altogether, all over, individual Nova Scotians impacted by this low income tax measure, 220,000. Very clear.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance, as we have seen, likes to exaggerate the benefits of the low income tax reduction. What he does not talk about are all those Nova Scotians who do not benefit at all from it. By our calculations, there are 200,000 Nova Scotians making less than $15,000 per year. The minister has set aside all of $8 million, or 74 cents a week for them; yet these Nova Scotians will all be paying higher taxes, under the BST, on the necessities of life.

[Page 1566]

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister. Will he provide this House with a detailed analysis of his budget on these Nova Scotians, those Nova Scotians so warmly referred to in this House by the minister and his Premier as the small people of Nova Scotia?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, this is a case, again, where the honourable member, not deliberately, I am sure, wanders into an area where there is danger people will be misled by his comments. First of all, we have addressed very specifically, directly, openly, and on the floor of this House, the situation - and, I might add, in the budget - for people who will not benefit. There are people in this province who will not benefit from the low income tax reduction, the rebate program, we have said it. That is why there is specifically $8 million in the budget to cover those people between the family benefits and that income level where the low income benefit kicks in. So, we have said very specifically.

Now, how many? The honourable member has said to the House, right here, that there are 200,000 taxpayers in that category, below $15,000. Produce that information. Think about this. There are less than 1 million people and there are 200,000 taxpayers in Nova Scotia making less than $15,000. That is what he said. I ask the honourable member, table the information.

MR. CHISHOLM: This is the document you just used.

MR. BOUDREAU: No, no, table the information. I don't see a document. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: It is rather noisy in here, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: We are having the same problem again. The honourable member for Hants West has the floor now, not the Leader of the New Democratic Party. His turn is over.

The honourable member for Hants West.


MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I was going to ask the Minister of Labour a question and now I am almost tempted to ask the Minister of Finance; however, I will go with the Minister of Labour.

Mr. Speaker, in the Workers' Compensation Board, as you are well aware, there is an equal number of labour representatives and management - oh, I shouldn't say management -employer representatives and there is a neutral chairman. Unfortunately, on the labour side of the Workers' Compensation Board, the representatives have come from the major unions across this province. There has been no - I shouldn't say no because that is not quite true - but there has been very little representation by the smaller unions in this province and by

[Page 1567]

those who are not unionized at all. In fact, those two groups make up, I would think, the major number of people who are employed in this province.

[1:00 p.m.]

Now there has been a resignation in the recent past from the Workers' Compensation Board. Junior Weir, Charles Weir, has resigned. I was wondering if the minister would give any consideration to: number one, coming forward with a nomination who is female; and secondly, somebody to represent that group of workers who does not belong to a major union, but nevertheless are attached to the employee side?

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for his question. I want to say that we appointed the first woman to the WCB in the history of this province. (Applause) If anybody looks at our total boards that we have run since we have been elected, over 50 per cent of our appointees have been women on boards throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. So the honourable member doesn't have to convince us on that one. We are with him all the way when it comes to appointing women to boards.

Number two, he raises a good issue with regard to those who are not unionized. The smaller unions all belong to the Federation of Labour, or most of them do. We get our recommendations through the Federation of Labour. Some day I would like to see it be more flexible but there are going to have to be negotiations take place between the government, the private sector and the Federation of Labour. As the member knows, being a former minister, it has been for a number of years that half of the appointees will come from the labour movement and half from the management side. The chairman, of course, being independent.

I appreciate his thought but those negotiations have not gone very far under his government or ours at this point in time. We looked at it; we have a concern. Many of my colleagues here have said, too bad we couldn't appoint just some labour people like a carpenter, a lawyer - not a lawyer, there are enough of them there now - that don't belong to the trade union movement. I think we have to look at that and try to develop a way to make such appointments. I am very open and this government is open towards changes there.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is the minister's board. If he says that this is the way he wants it, that is what happens. So I don't think that is a very tremendous problem for him to resolve.

Anyway, the board is in place, it is still operating and that is good, I guess. However, I wonder if the minister could give us any indication when the new classification system for businesses will be out? In other words, the new classification system which sets the premiums that employers pay to the Workers' Compensation Board for protection.

MR. BROWN: I am really a bit confused here. He is talking about the new classification system with regard to employers. The notices will go out this fall but the classification only based on their experience rating will be involved in any changes for next year. I don't see any changes for two or three years with regard to that, Mr. Speaker.

The honourable member is right: it is my board, it is the government's board. However, we like to sit down with labour and work with them. We are not sitting here and just saying this is the way it is going to be from now on. We are working with labour, with management and hopefully we will have some changes that we can all agree to down the road. But I am certainly not going to dictate any changes in that board at this time.

[Page 1568]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I guess I am getting two answers to the one question. The thing is with regard to the board and the fact that the minister says he will sit down with labour to determine who is going to replace him; the trouble is, and I know the quandary that the minister faces, when he sits down with labour what he is talking about is sitting down with the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour and the other big unions around the province that will give him a nominee and advice.

Unfortunately, that does not represent the whole labour scene. There are thousands of people out there employed in the workplace who are not members of large unions or even small unions, but I think that sector is entitled to some representation on the Workers' Compensation Board.

But getting back to the original question; it was my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that indeed there was a new classification system coming forward. In fact, the number of classes was going to be, as I understand it, dramatically increased so that the rates within their own individual sectors would go down.

Now if I am wrong, I would like the minister to advise me but I understood that was under way. Certainly the employers around this province are awaiting changes to their rating system.

MR. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, there was a classification done last year and the WCB went all across this province holding meetings in all regions and in a lot of areas, explaining how the new classification would work. There are groups now. That is not new, that will be reviewed every year or two, whenever the board gets at it. But that is not a new classification, they were all told a year ago with regard to that. The notices went out and they were told what classification they were assigned to throughout this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize another questioner, the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party wishes to make an introduction.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the west gallery a group of Grade 6 students from the William King Elementary School in Herring Cove. They are joined by teachers Jim MacFarlane and Gerard MacNeil.

Before we welcome them, I would just like to say to all members, Mr. Speaker, that these people were here, I think about a half an hour ago, ready to come up but because of the overwhelming interest in the proceedings of this Legislature during Question Period, they had to wait until some other group left. I don't think that happens very often.

Anyway, I would like to ask all members to afford them the usual welcome. I would ask them to stand and receive that welcome. (Applause)

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


MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. I was wondering if the minister could give the House an update as to where we are with the IMP situation in the Northside Industrial Park?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, our contact with the workers at IMP is that they are proceeding with meetings, I understand, with the company, either yesterday afternoon or today, that they are in discussions with the company about the future of their employment and the future of that company in Cape Breton.

[Page 1569]

MR. MACLEOD: It is my understanding that the minister has assigned somebody from his department to help out in tracking down a partner to work with this group. That is a worthy cause and I commend him for that.

My question to the minister is, why is it that the person who has been assigned from his department has not been in contact with the employees at the IMP plant and/or their consultant in over a week?

MR. HARRISON: We have two people responsible for dealing with Mr. Young and others who are, I think, funded, if I am not mistaken, by ECBC. There are contacts and discussions going on, daily, is my understanding. The issue here is one of our department assisting ECBC and the workers in trying to find national or international partners that they could bring to the table to respond to the demands of the company.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, as short as 15 minutes ago, I was speaking to Mr. Young. Mr. Young has informed me that certainly nobody from that department has been in contact with either him or their consultant in over a week. That being said, Mr. Young and a few of his fellow employees are here in Halifax attending some meetings and I wonder if the minister would be in agreement to meet with those people at a time later on this afternoon, after Question Period, around 3:30 p.m. so that you can express your interest in their case?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I spoke personally with the workers and with the MLAs who represent those workers. I know full well that my staff has been, is and continues to be in touch with them. They know that that is literally one phone call away and they know full well the efforts. I hope the member opposite is not using a political opportunity here to make a statement. There is no question that what we are dealing with here is the perception that we might not be supportive of the workers' cause. We have done everything we can, we continue to stand ready to do anything we can to make sure that the workers at IMP have access to provincial and federal, because ECBC is involved as well, support for their cause.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.


MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. My question is very short. The Government of Nova Scotia is having royalty discussions with Mobil Oil Canada and its partners regarding the Nova Scotia offshore. These talks have sort of broken down, I guess because there hasn't been much happening of late. Last year, Mobil won a bid to do $86 million worth of exploration work off our coast. The work was to begin this summer, there were two boats chartered to do the work, $25 million was going to be expended in our offshore. One of the boats has cancelled and is working now in the offshore. The other boat that was going to do the exploration work, they are not sure where it is at the present time. What they are sure of is there is no exploration work going on in our offshore because Mobil has decided it cannot get anywhere with the royalty discussions with the Province of Nova Scotia. I am wondering if the minister could update the members

[Page 1570]

of the Legislature where exactly the Province of Nova Scotia is with the royalties, with regard to the oil companies and our offshore?

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, first I would like to correct the perception that the member opposite has just brought to the floor of the House of Assembly. The talks and negotiations with Mobil and their partners have not broken down, we are continuing in good faith. We are continuing to work to get the best deal we can for the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I think the impression the minister has provided is somewhat different than the impression that the people at Mobil have because the people at Mobil have taken their exploration somewhere else this year. I am wondering if the minister could perhaps indicate when the royalty negotiations will be concluded?

MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite continues to preface questions with information that is not accurate. I do wish the member opposite would get his facts straight before he steps on the floor of the House and makes accusations and comments that are absolutely not appropriate and do not describe or represent the situation as it is. Mobil has not pulled out. We are definitely in the middle of negotiations and they will be concluded when we get the best deal we can for this province. (Applause)

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it is difficult. The minister indicates that my information is faulty and it is not right. Well, that may be the opinion of the minister, it is difficult to get information on our offshore from this minister because I continually ask questions and I get very little in response, in questions. The list of questions that I have not had answers to in the last little while is enormous.

[1:15 p.m.]

The minister should look, herself, and I am asking the minister if she will inquire with Mobil and find out whether the two boats that were supposed to do the $25 million work this year, one of them was going to do a $7 million shoot on a 74 hectare block just west of Sable Island, it won the bid last year to do the work, it has now been released for work in the North Sea. I am wondering if the minister would make the commitment that she will check with the officials of Nova Scotia Resources and make sure that negotiations have not fallen off and find out whether there is a chance of saving and getting some exploration done this summer, because at the present time, there will be no work done on our offshore? So will the minister look into that?

MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite continually amazes me with the information that he has or doesn't have regarding the offshore of Nova Scotia. I don't know who his sources are or where he is getting his information but as he says, he does need help and I do agree with him when he asks that question of the Speaker. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, negotiations are continuing. We have had a good response for requests for services for the gas coming in offshore, if and when that does happen. We are working closely and negotiating with the consortium that are partners with Mobil Oil. They are continuing to study out there. There will be work done beginning in June on seismic study. We are working closely and working practically daily in the negotiations. We will do that, and, unlike the members opposite when they were in the process of negotiations, we are not going to sell the farm, we are going to get the best deal possible for this province.

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



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question, through you, to the Minister of Business and Consumer Services. Yesterday, I asked the minister a question wearing his hat as Minister [Page 1571]

responsible for the Gaming Control Commission. Truthfully, we both got a little bit animated yesterday and I want to go back to that topic and ask the minister a couple of other questions.

Under the regulations made by the Governor in Council under the Gaming Control Act, one of the regulations dealing with the sale of lottery tickets says that no retailer shall sell a ticket at a price other than the face amount shown on the ticket. With the situations that I have raised in this House before, the minister will know, of course, that the retailers in Nova Scotia have not necessarily been selling the ticket at a price higher than the face value but that they have been provided to brokers who have been selling them at a higher than face value price, Mr. Speaker.

So my question to the minister is quite simply, is the government interpreting that regulation and operating on the basis of its literal meaning or does the government also oppose tickets being bought in this province being resold elsewhere for a higher price and if so, will they amend the regulations to ensure that that doesn't happen?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the provincial legislation or the commission's Act itself, he is quite clear in bringing forward that one cannot sell for a price higher than what the individual paid for it, unlike British Columbia's legislation or Act that says, one cannot sell to another individual. We don't necessarily have the same paralleling or same legislation.

What I had indicated to the member opposite, yesterday, is that this is as much a federal jurisdictional issue for which I understand, nationally, they are reviewing under the national auspices a way of dealing with this, because this problem is not unique to the Province of Nova Scotia, in fact, it is an issue that other jurisdictions across Canada are reviewing. It is my understanding they are reviewing it currently.

Furthermore, if there are any other allegations that the member is making in regard to this issue, simply bring this matter forward to the commission and they would undertake to review it.

MR. HOLM: Of course, the minister, if he has had his briefing, will know that it was as a result of efforts or appears to be as the result - let me clarify that - it was shortly, conveniently after British Columbia tried to crack down on these kinds of operations that, lo and behold, we hear them starting to pick up here in Nova Scotia and elsewhere. In the letter that I received from the RCMP, they said that they had briefed the Nova Scotia Gaming Commission and that the Commission will "be reviewing their policies with reference to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and monitoring the activities of Hendrickson Holding Ltd.".

My question to the minister. Could the minister update us in terms of the review that the Lottery Commission has been doing, not only in terms of this particular company, but also of the policies, because, Mr. Speaker, despite what the minister says, it is currently a

[Page 1572]

provincial responsibility and the province has the ability to control the kinds of gaming activities that are taking place from Nova Scotia?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would agree that this is clearly a national issue, dealing with international and national trade and that clearly, under the auspices of Justice in other jurisdictions, are dealing with this matter, as I indicated before, at the national level and they are reviewing this whole issue in Ottawa.

Secondly, in regard to the commission itself, as I indicated to the member opposite, the commission would be very open to any recommendation or ask for the commission to deal with it. They would be open to that process. Now this is a quasi-judicial body that has the right to be able to deal with the gaming issues in the Province of Nova Scotia, so that, in fact, there is no political interference and this process is handled in a forthright manner. I would be willing, if the members opposite would like, to bring their specific concerns to the commission, to undertake that they make sure they are dealt with.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I noted that the minister in his answer didn't touch upon the question about giving us any kind of update on the reviews that have been done and the minister also points out that it is a quasi-judicial body and he is absolutely correct. Of course, they can only operate within the rules and the guidelines that are provided by this Legislature or by the Cabinet by Order in Council.

So my final question to the minister, who has really indicated by his answers that the government is not looking at it, is not prepared to do anything . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Please, time is scarce. Come to the question.

MR. HOLM: That is what I am placing, Mr. Speaker, as I speak. My question to the minister. What percentage does the Government of Nova Scotia make from each of those tickets that are sold abroad, and is that a reason why this government refuses to take the action that it can take to ensure that this kind of reprehensible practice does not occur out of Nova Scotia?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite alluded to earlier, the discussion got a little animated, and here we go again. As was brought out yesterday, and as I indicated to the House yesterday, the member opposite brought his concerns forward to the RCMP. They dismissed that allegation that was made to the RCMP, saying it was unfounded for them to proceed any further. In regard to the commission itself, specific questions on revenues and things of that nature, I would be happy to take it under advisement and report back later.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Premier. Earlier in Question Period, the Premier was able to stand up in this place and say that the intervention by the Opposition was, in fact, too late. I would like to table a letter - and I have a copy for the Premier - and this letter was written and sent to the Premier 19 days after the first proposal for marine port fees here in Nova Scotia. It was written 98 days ago and there still has not been the courtesy of a response from the Premier, other than his response today to suggest that it was too late.

[Page 1573]

The letter said, written by myself, "I also fully endorse a call by the Atlantic Provinces Transportation Commission for an economic impact analysis prior to the implementation of any marine user fees, . . .", the position that I took in debate yesterday, ". . . and urge you . . .", the Premier, ". . . to talk with each and every Nova Scotia Member of Parliament to ensure that changes are not put into place to the detriment of Nova Scotia's economy . . . An economic analysis would provide an opportunity for interested parties to comment on the impact such fees would have for their business.".

Now the Premier has had a chance to reflect on that. The first plan was . . .

MR. SPEAKER: We have two minutes left in Question Period.

DR. HAMM: The first plan was reported on January 12th. My question to the Premier. Is the Premier now prepared to withdraw his remarks that the intervention 98 days ago was in fact too late, and anything that happened after 98 days ago was of no consequence because the federal government has not and is not prepared to listen to any submission from this government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the reason that I said that this letter dated February 1, 1996, was too late was because I had already met with the Minister of Transportation in January.

DR. HAMM: That is an answer but it certainly isn't an answer to the question I asked.

Is the Premier now prepared to say that he has no appreciation for what goes on in this place, has no appreciation for the help that the Opposition may be prepared to give to this government when there is an issue on the floor that absolutely can harm, in a very serious way, the economy of Nova Scotia and he is prepared to overlook any suggestion that this Opposition is prepared to make?

THE PREMIER; Mr. Speaker, it is not my habit to be nasty or cynical but going to Ottawa to seek the help of two federal Tories is really not the best way of trying to change things. The Opposition here is virile and strong, except maybe for the back row. You can see that they work hard and cooperate with us.

I do want to point out that we do welcome this. Let me put it this way, you certainly deserve a reply. I do not want to see you as choleric as your seatmate. I don't like to think of your health being affected in any way. You are entitled to a letter and I apologize for not giving you a letter. That is serious and I should (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, that is the backbench speaking.

MR. SPEAKER: Your time is up, Mr. Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know. Let me just say that he deserves a reply to his letter, that is for sure. I apologize for that and you will get a reply.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 1574]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a compendium of grants that have been provided. The honourable member for Kings West, I believe, during estimates debate, asked me to provide a comparison of estimate and actual and I do so with pleasure.

MR. SPEAKER: The compendium is tabled.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[1:29 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]

[5:30 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills.


Bill No. 26 - Entitled an Act to Incorporate the Bridgewater Waterfront Development Corporation. (Hon. Donald Downe as a private member.)

[Page 1575]

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 12.

Bill No. 12 - Adoption Information Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The floor is open. Is there a speaker to Bill No. 12?

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak only for a few minutes on this bill, a bill that some people say has gone too far and others say does not go far enough. But above all, to me, this is a very emotional bill. I listened to what the previous members said and then I went back to Hansard to read their words.

The reason I find this bill very emotional is because I may be the only member in this Legislature who was adopted. I was adopted by my family members and I would have had support if I wanted to know anything about my father's side, but I decided I didn't. In fact, Mr. Speaker, my father died 56 years ago this month.

I know how I felt when I was told I was adopted. As a child, I had many emotions, today the emotions are different. I would like to read what one honourable member said, "None of us asked to be here; each of us has a right to know who it was who brought us into this world.". I won't disagree with that but I would like to add, children who are adopted are special. Children do not ask to be brought into this world but adopted children are special because they were chosen by the families who have a special love. Parents chose the child; the child did not choose the parents. I have always felt that special love from my adopted parents and I will always cherish that love.

Mr. Speaker, there is only one negative comment I have and I am not even sure if it belongs with this bill. But I would like to see that the government work somehow with the court to persuade the court that a copy of the original birth certificate be released. Since my father died, I find that that is very important to me and I don't have that.

Mr. Speaker, as the minister said, this bill strikes a balance. I agree. This is a start. In the future the bill will be changed but for now, this is the bill and I urge all members to support the bill and allow it to pass through all stages of the Legislature as quickly as possible so Bill No. 12 will become law. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 1576]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I must confess that I have not done a great deal of research on this bill and I will confess that right at the beginning, it is not my field. However, I have had a number of representations from persons who were adopted and I also have a personal reason for raising this point because I had a sister that was adopted and she spent a large part of her life trying to search out her natural parents. So I can understand where people are coming from when they say, I would like to trace my natural father and mother, my natural parents, and be stalled by the bureaucratic process which says, no, you can't do that.

Now I know there are occasions, Mr. Speaker, when the adoptive parents are not too happy about having the adopted child going out and seeking their natural parents. I can understand that, it would be jealousy of some kind and the fact that they have built up a natural bond with the child and there is the fear that if the child should find their natural parents, they might, indeed, have an affection over and beyond that which they have for their adoptive parents, so I can understand that.

Now from what I have been told about this bill, Mr. Speaker, it is a step in the right direction and I will certainly be voting in favour of the bill. However, from what I have been told by persons who are searching for and researching their roots at the present time that this bill will not go the full way along the road to enable them to do that.

Furthermore, as I understand it, one of the big problems is with the long and the short birth certificates. As you all know, at the present time you have to be a birth parent, or you have to be the person named in the birth certificate to get hold of your long certificate. The long certificate is the biggest step for those who wish to trace their roots because they can then determine the name of their actual mother and, in many cases, the name of their actual father. In fact, I think if you go back into the records, prior to about 1920-something, you could obtain a long certificate but you also had the names of your grandparents on the certificate, which did provide a lot of information that people could use to go back and attempt to find that natural parent.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if you agree and if this government agrees that, indeed, the purpose of this bill is to enable adopted children to find their natural parents, then I would suggest that every avenue that is available to the government to expedite that process and to make it easier, should be done. If it is not done on this bill, as I have been told it has not been done, then I would wonder if the minister, in his wrap up on this bill, would tell us why that is so. Is it pressure from some groups that are preventing the bill enunciating that process, or it is some other reason? Perhaps the minister wants to do this gradually, a step at a time, I don't know.

However, I do know there are a lot of people, not in the hundreds but certainly in the tens anyway, who are out there at the present time who are actively searching for their natural parents but will not be able to achieve that end with this piece of legislation when it goes through.

So, Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I would like to ask the minister to give considerable thought to making this a better bill, from the point of view of those who are searching for their natural parents, in that all the information that can be made available is made available to those particular persons. Thank you.

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

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to make a few closing statements. I had a few papers around here trying to address some of the issues that were brought forward but in dealing with the budget estimates, they seemed to have got mixed in a little bit, so I will try to do as well as I can.

[Page 1577]

I want to thank the honourable members, I thought the debate was very good and very strong and very positive towards the initiatives that we brought forward for this particular legislation.

As the members know, the reports of the ministerial task force that was appointed prior to us taking office came forward and had recommendations that we reviewed and committeed on and came forward with this legislation.

The last member who spoke, the member for Hants West, is correct in that we did not go the full system, if you will. There are some jurisdictions that have done that, in his native country not far from there, in New South Wales. That system works where those people seeking either adopted children who would be adults and those seeking their birth parents, that it be a completely open system. That has not been done.

I, personally, have not had a great number of groups lobbying in particular. I have had some presentations made to me by people with some knowledge of the law that were against any kind of contact. They had been adopted at a young age and they did not want to be contacted by anyone. So, the bill would provide for those persons concerns.

I did want to specifically address issues surrounding those concerns brought by members but this is a balanced bill, it is an attempt to respect the rights of those who have had commitments made to them concerning privacy but also, trying to address in some way that need to know the roots and where people have come from.

The member for Cape Breton West touched on several issues, as others did, on the advisory committee. I know the member for Halifax Citadel did that as well. The advisory committee that is now under the Children and Family Services Act, we would formalize that, recognizing the need of someone knowledgeable, probably from Parent Finders or from some group like that, they would be a member of that particular committee.

The terms of reference of that committee is spelled out. It is a ministerial advisory committee and we would add that some persons knowledgeable on adoption matters would be a member of that committee. It would be probably a person who has been a birth parent looking for their child or an adopted person. Also, the member for Halifax Citadel spoke about making it accountable to the committee accountable to the Legislature. It is now made public and there would be no problem to bring that to the Legislature. I propose to do that and I think that is a good suggestion.

There was some concern expressed about the powers of the director. The terms of the director is not necessarily an individual as such but it is the director's office. There is an adoption disclosure unit that the director would have resources that would be available. So, it would be a consultation process and it would not be a heavy-handed director that would be making the decisions. All appeals are heard in oral presentations so that anyone who was not

[Page 1578]

literate could in some way have the appeal set up but the appeal itself would certainly be an oral appeal.

The member for Halifax Atlantic mentioned some things that I could discuss with him privately perhaps if he still has concerns. I didn't quite follow the question and my resources tell me that there was something to do with the consent of the adoptive parents required by the adult adoptee. The legislation makes no mention of this but I could discuss that with the member later. The member for Queens spoke in a personal way on the idea of sharing and also the impact of psychological factors. Again, the member for Halifax Citadel brought some very good points forward.

The issues surrounding disclosure, I think that was the member for Halifax Citadel as well and parts of Clause 15(2)(b) and others. Some of this was relating to the passive registry. What we are doing is formalizing the passive register. What we are doing is formalizing the passive registry. There is one area that I did want to say, that the honourable member for Halifax Citadel brought up. It was the issue relating to a sibling searching for a sibling and needing the request of the birth parent. That was really to give some alert to the birth parent that in fact this was happening. I discussed this with staff and there may be a discrepancy there and we will look at that as the legislation proceeds.

[5:45 p.m.]

I really want to thank members for their support. There is a lot of concern actually about getting the birth certificate. That was often mentioned. It has to do with Vital Statistics. The identifying information though that would be made available with the permission of the birth parent or the adopted person would be identifying in a way that the birth certificate per se would not necessarily be needed. I feel that it is a step forward. It is moving from a passive register to an active register and with that I move second reading of Bill No. 12.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 12. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 4.

Bill No. 4 - Nursing Assistants Act.

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

MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 4, An Act to Amend Chapter 319 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Nursing Assistants Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 1579]

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting this bill but I am disappointed. Nursing assistants had been working for about three years with the Department of Health for legislative change. They were looking to be self-regulated, like many other groups in the province. They thought they were going to see this legislation, not this legislation, other legislation, in the fall of 1993, the spring of 1994, the fall of 1994, the spring of 1995, the fall of 1995 and now we have a name change in the spring of 1996.

They withdrew, obviously, after the department watered down the bill. They sort of withdrew and now are saying, we will take the name change and we will have to go back to the drawing board on becoming a self-regulating group. I don't think I have to give a long history of CNAs in this province. I don't think there is any member of this Chamber who doesn't recognize the work of CNAs. I know there might be some who don't consider CNAs nurses. I consider them nurses; they perform nursing tasks. We all know that RNs also perform nursing tasks and there are restrictions on what CNAs could do.

We are now calling them licensed practical nurse, from nursing assistant to practical nurse and from certified nursing assistant to licensed practical nurse. I think this was part of what they wanted - but a very small part of where they saw their body going as a group. I think the CNA group, no question, as I talked to them, are a very dedicated group, a very good organization, but we were really misled by the Minister of Health in assuming that they would get this legislation. They worked diligently with the Planning and Policy Section of the Department of Health, lobbied everyone of us in this Legislature for that legislation.

Many members of this Legislature saw that initial legislation and indicated that would support that legislation. That legislation never came forward. What we ended up with, when they saw it being watered down by the Department of Health, indicated to government that they would accept a change in name only, but this is not what they wanted from the very beginning.

I think it is a sad day when we, as MLAs, who all at one opportunity or another were briefed by the CNAs of the kind of legislation that they wanted as to be a self-regulating group. I do not think they were asking for anything and I know they met with the Registered Nurses Association, RNANS, of this province so that there would be, and I know the minister said at the time maybe there could be, one bill to cover all of these groups that wanted to become self-regulating, whether it is a dentist or whatever other health profession. There are various groups that want to be self-regulating in the province.

I think all of these self-regulating groups, including the CNAs, were prepared to allow consumers on their board. They were prepared to be governed by legislation and they were to be no different than the other health professionals that are self-regulating. As members of this body know, they are regulated by a board that really leaves a lot to be desired as far as self-regulation is concerned.

So, I do not see in this bill the kind of commitment to CNAs in this province that I would have liked to have seen. I recognize that the member who brought this bill forward, as a Private Member's Public Bill, I have no difficulty with that, but I do not understand why

[Page 1580]

it could not be brought forward in the manner that the CNAs wanted it to be brought forward.

We all know that there is going to be a role for CNAs to play in nursing in this province. We know that much of work done by CNAs can still be done, even with reform, whether it is in home care and we have CNAs performing duties in home care. We have CNAs performing duties in hospitals, we have CNAs performing duties in residential care and that is not going to change. We also know if did away with CNAs that the cost of health care would rise because CNAs work for almost half of what RNs work for. We recognize they both have a different role to play and those roles should be defined.

We also know that we have nursing aides and I am not sure where they fall, but their training as a nurse's aide is quite different from the training that is required to be a CNA. We also know that, in the past, government trained CNAs in what we know as our community college, but that has changed. We also know that the requirements to be a CNA today are going to be upgraded from what it was to be a CNA a number of years ago. We all recognize that the course has changed over the years and is changing to keep pace with what is happening in the health care field. As we all know, we are moving to the baccalaureate degree for registered nurses. It only makes sense that we upgrade the standards of the CNAs as well. We understand that there is a role for them to play.

I have no difficulty in supporting this name change. I think the CNAs of the province support this bill. There is no question about that and I think we, as members, should support this bill. But I think if we, as members, are fully supportive of this group, we would also insist that the Minister of Health dig out their original request and not water it down, but come forward with the kind of legislation that gives them the kind of recognition that I believe that they deserve.

As I said, this legislation, I doubt, will be opposed by anybody. It will not be opposed by RNANS and it will not be opposed by the Medical Society or anybody because, obviously, it is a name change only. So, it is very unfortunate that I stand here today and debate a bill for CNAs that is not what I expected to see and I think not what the CNAs across the province expected to see initially, when they started meeting with the Department of Health, back in my tenure as Minister of Health, when the process had just begun, when they came to the department and asked if we would encourage them to go down that road.

I encouraged them and I know the present minister encouraged them. Then it came to a point where it got watered down, diluted, and we ended up with a name change only. I am quite disappointed, but I will be supporting the bill to go on to the Law Amendments Committee. I look forward to other members, as well, supporting this bill.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to indicate very clearly my support for Bill No. 4, An Act to Amend Chapter 319 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Nursing Assistants Act, which, as stated earlier, ". . . changes the title of the Nursing Assistants Act to the Licensed Practical Nurses Act.". We changed the designation nursing assistant to practical nurse, and certified nursing assistant to licensed practical nurse. It would also change the present registration system.

[Page 1581]

I just want to make a brief comment, Mr. Speaker, on the process that has been followed. I refer back to a letter of February 22nd, written to the Minister of Health by the Nova Scotia Certified Nursing Assistants Association, which chronicles the work put into coming forward with a self-regulating piece of legislation that dealt with the issue of self-governance. They went through a process back in 1992; they received commitments from the then Liberals and the New Democratic Party, and they expected that they were close to having a bill introduced in the fall of 1993. That commitment was thwarted.

They then went into fairly extensive consultations with the Department of Health and the registered nurses. Over the period of 1994, there was a collaborative working group set up to consider the whole question of a joint certification model. Mr. Speaker, the collaborative group completed its activities, they again received a commitment from the Opposition Parties, the Official Opposition and the NDP caucus, and they thought they had the commitment from the government, from the Minister of Health. But, again, it is like, at every turn, they were misled. They were led to believe that, in fact, it was all set.

I refer back to a letter that we received from the Nurses Association back in March 1995, where, in effect, they said it looks like we are there. They said that to our caucus: it looks like we are almost there; the government wants to know if they introduced the legislation, will you have very much to say? You will recognize that, Mr. Speaker. This government's approach to dealing with legislation sometimes is, as long as there is no opposition whatsoever, they will bring it in.

But anyway, we wrote a letter. The Health Critic at the time, the member for Halifax Fairview, wrote a letter on March 24th on behalf of our caucus, which indicated our wholehearted support for their call for self-governing legislation and that if, in fact, it were to support those principles, that we would fully support it throughout the process of debate in this House. That went for naught, Mr. Speaker, again, things began to get jammed up, and here we are today with a piece of legislation which does far less than what was originally expected.

But, nonetheless, the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption.

MR. CHISHOLM: I will have to wrap up at 6:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The moment of interruption has been reached. The winner of the draw today was the honourable member for Kings West. The subject of the debate is on the formula for school boards:

[Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Education review its funding formula for school boards to more accurately reflect changing enrolment figures.]



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

[Page 1582]


MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer a few remarks in regard to this late debate resolution this evening. You will be aware that the resolution before us this evening is, and I think there are a couple of typos in it:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Education and Culture review its funding formula for school boards to more accurately reflect [effect] changing enrolment figures.".

[6:00 p.m.]

The words are slightly different, but the result is not terribly different at all.

I am well aware, as the spokesperson on behalf of our caucus, relative to this resolution, Mr. Speaker, that it is perhaps tempting to the Minister of Education - and he may take the temptation or not, I don't know - to respond when I am finished by making remarks to the effect that during my time as Minister of Education, a funding formula was put in place which did, in fact, present some difficulties to the school boards of the Province of Nova Scotia - and I recognize that - because the funding formula that was the legacy of the Walker Commission was based on average school board enrolment figures for the three previous years. That, with changing demographics and, in some communities of Nova Scotia dramatically changing demographics - and I think particularly of some of the metropolitan regions and some of the areas in the periphery or surrounding the Halifax-Dartmouth metropolitan area - caused some real problems on an annual basis when it came to working out funding for the public school system in any given year.

This minister and this government addressed that issue and, last year, through the work of the Education Funding Formula Review Board, altered that formula and altered it in a positive and effective way, I think, so that now where, at least at the moment, the funding formula for the public school system of the province is based only upon the previous year's enrolment - the reference point is the previous year's enrolment - that has had the effect of greatly minimizing the difficulties which school boards have, in fact, experienced this last year or two - this last year at least - relative to their funding.

Regardless, however - and the minister and I had an opportunity to canvass this reality the other day during the debate of his estimates - of that being the case, we have now - this year, as a matter of fact - as a result of the estimates of this government, the difficult and unfortunate circumstance where the amount of money being committed and dedicated by the Province of Nova Scotia to the school boards of the Province of Nova Scotia has, in fact, been reduced. Now, the minister said to me in debate of the estimates, well, yes, but we have maintained the same 39 cents per 100 municipal contribution which was in place when they came to government. That is fine; they did. But all that statement does is just that; it states the current government position.

What it belies or, frankly, doesn't reference is the fact that by maintaining the mandatory municipal at the 39 cents and concurrently or simultaneously reducing the provincial grant, it forces the school boards of the Province of Nova Scotia to have to go on deeper bended knee, with a bigger hat in hand, to the supporting financing partner - namely, the municipalities - to ask for greater and greater amounts of money. When that happens and when their need for money and their ability to be precise in fixing the amount of money which they require is further compromised by virtue of the funding formula being based,

[Page 1583]

additionally, on a reference in terms of enrolment numbers, as it is enrolment driven, it makes it that much more difficult if they are looking at numbers which are last year's enrolment numbers and in any given school board, as is the case so frequently, the current year's numbers will have changed rather dramatically.

Now, I may be mistaken but it is my recollection - as poor as that recollection sometimes is - that at the time that I was Minister of Education and at the time we were talking here in this place about what the Opposition of that day considered to be the inadequacies of the funding formula, namely the three year rolling average of previous years, I remember very, very strong strident statements from - if my recollection is correct - the present Minister of Education and many of his colleagues, saying to me and saying to the government of which I was a member that that is just ridiculous, that just isn't the right way to fund public education.

Their position at that time, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Opposition at that time, was the only honest, rational, decent, fair, sensible way to fund the school system is to fund it on a program basis. Therefore, we should, said they at that time, move away entirely from a situation where it is in any way, shape or form enrolment driven.

Now, I said a moment ago and I repeat, I think this minister and the government of the day deserve some kudos for having made the change which they have made. They have moved from the three year average to the previous year basis. Regardless, as I have said, however, by maintaining the municipal mandatory at the same level and simultaneously reducing - and in this year's case it is $9 million or $10 million - the funding of the school boards, they are placing a number of school boards in jeopardy.

My inquiries in recent days of various school boards indicate that by reason of the uncertainties of the funding levels, there is going to have to be and will be a lay-off of a very substantial number of teachers. As an example, if a school board saw its enrolment increase last year by 1,000 students, that school board doesn't have adequate or perhaps wouldn't have adequate funds to - I said increase, I think I should have said decrease by 1,000 - the enrolment driven portion of the formula would result in this current year, that same school board if it found that its enrolment grew by - for the sake of discussion - 250, 300, 400, the funding available would result in either having to lay off a significant number of teachers or to very dramatically expand class sizes. So neither option is a positive one and I know the minister understands that and recognizes that.

I know I only have less than 60 seconds in which to say this and as one who can't clear his throat in fewer than 10,000 words, that's not going to be easy, but in my final few seconds here this evening, Mr. Speaker, let me simply say to you that the thought in our mind, as a caucus, to ask the House to consider this particular resolution was simply to enable one of us -and in this case I turned out to be spokesperson - to ask the Minister of Education to sit with the Education Funding Formula Review Board and with each and every of the new amalgamated boards, and now that is a small number of seven and the number of meetings, therefore, are not onerous, to attempt to redesign even further the funding formula to see if we can't, perhaps by stages, move away from the enrolment driven portion of the annual school board funding system so that we don't, each year, put the school boards of the province in this very, very precarious circumstance of teacher lay-off and increase of class sizes and so on.

[Page 1584]

While I am not suggesting for a moment that I have the quick fix, I do raise it simply to put it on the agenda for attention by the minister. On the basis of past performance, I am sure he will take it seriously and attempt to address it seriously. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Halifax Citadel for bringing this up. The resolution as it reads talks about not moving to program funding - and we could talk about that another time - but to ". . . review its funding formula . . . to more accurately reflect changing enrolment figures.". I can report to the honourable member that there has been a history and he related part of it. Before we came into power, they did average across the previous three years. As a result, a fast growing board - in fact, the patterns across the province are totally predictable; there are no boards going up and going down, the boards are growing or shrinking and they are shrinking in predictable ways. We have mapped it across 12 years now and we actually have a very good analysis on what the growth is.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the areas where we come from there is a collapse of population. They are estimating numbers in the order of 1,500 to 2,000 students being reduced over a period of three to four years. In the Strait area, they are estimating 1,200 students will be lost over the next four years. Halifax and Dartmouth are relatively stable but outside that, in fact, if you were to drive between 20 minutes and 60 minutes from the Macdonald Bridge, there is a band around the Halifax region which is growing significantly. It stretches out into Kings County, Hants County and down into Lunenburg County. That band is growing very quickly, it is growing so fast that it is impossible to build schools fast enough to satisfy it.

In answer to that, three years ago we made adjustments which allowed for growth boards to be treated across two years and non-growth areas, the previous September. So for example, when we provided the funding allocations in December of a particular year, we used, for declining boards, September of that year. Now for a board that is expanding, we used a two year average so that, in fact, we don't impact on declining boards in a very serious way. They focused on a very particular number, they made an agreement among themselves and I will talk about the group that makes these decisions, the minister is not a part of that but they said that no board would decline by more than 2 per cent and that is why they looked at two years for growing boards and one year for declining boards.

This past year, now that we are working with seven boards, there were other figures involved. There was a funding waiting system by which geography is funded in a particular way. They had a density rule, they had a small board rule, they had a whole sequence of very complicated numbers that affected what happened. For example, if you had a low density board which had a small population which had, in fact, a declining as well, then figuring out how they arrived there would involve formulas of about five different kinds.

When the group sat together, there were six of them from the Department of Education and nine from the school boards, so you get a sense of the balance. What they do is work on consensus. There used to be a member of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union there, they withdrew last year suggesting that they would only stay if they could report all the decisions, day by day, to the public and have them comment on them. It made it very difficult to have any kind of free flowing discussion where people made suggestions because that suggestion would become public and when it was withdrawn, people would look as if they had been compromised. There are 15 people on it and they came to some significant conclusions.

[Page 1585]

First of all, we have a single weighting tied entirely to population, the population of the September before, because they are balancing three things. The equity question and it goes back to the programming and I will comment on that quickly that if, for example, you need to have equity in how the province funds it, some kind of formula or way so that no matter where you are sitting in the province, you can see transparently that you have been treated fairly. So driving it by enrolment at least is equitable in the sense that if you have a population of 10,000 students, for example, then you know how your funding is going to flow and it is totally predictable.

Programming varies back and forth; in fact, our guys who have examined it say it can become an almost bottomless pit. If you add a new program and it gets approved you get more money, but if the envelope is closed, if you get more money, somebody else loses money. As a result, it becomes totally unpredictable and difficult to look across three and four years.

[6:15 p.m.]

We started two years ago giving boards three year plans. Now each year we add to it just like we do in the House of Assembly. When we firm up the numbers - we have tried the last two years to firm them up in December - the best enrolment numbers we have are September 30 of that year, they are the best actual numbers we have. The new formula that has been recommended by this committee is on the way to Cabinet, in fact. With no two systems for growing and declining boards, the enrolment of September 30th becomes the enrolment for the next year.

That is fair to the growing boards and it is fair to the declining boards. The declining boards are worse off than they were last year because by averaging the growing boards then less money will go to them, obviously, but by going to the actual number from the previous year, then the growing boards catch up quicker and the declining boards, of course, shrink quicker. But because you now have seven boards - set the francophone board aside for a moment - the six regional boards, you do not have the difficulties with geography, density as we did before. You do not have 22 boards which were completely different in population and demographics. We have a much more balanced way of doing that.

We are exploring that this year. In fact, the recommendation in the resolution has been carried out. To try to give numbers in December that would anticipate something happening next September is a very difficult thing. So, what we are trying to do, is we accepted the principle - in fact, they have accepted the principle and I have accepted the principle - but at the same time to try to predict what it is going to be like next September and give the numbers in December of the previous year is giving a very difficult time to school boards.

This proposal has been signed off by the people. I gave nine from the school boards, some CFOs, some CEOs, the School Boards Association have signed off it because they see it as fair. They want to watch it very carefully to see how, in fact, it deals with the declining boards. When you have smaller boards, by the way, and the honourable member from Halifax Citadel and I have spoken about this, some of our smaller boards because of the fiscal difficulties we find ourselves in, were close to bankruptcy. I remember the CEO from Guysborough saying to me that people are talking about cutting to the bone; well, we arrived at the bone a year and one half ago. Now what was happening is they were actually concentrating into programming so that the high schools they had were getting to the point that they had no high school programming. As a result, this is much more reasonable to them with the larger board.

[Page 1586]

The mix of the two things has allowed them to accept that principle as a fact, as a given and it is being exercised and has been accepted across the province. My understanding is that the only board that it provided significant difficulties for, and I will try to explain the reason for that, is the last couple of years, the Cape Breton District Board has collapsed population-wise below the 2 per cent. As a result, there is this buffer. Therefore, when you jumped to the exact enrolment they had this backlog of bumping that they had to catch up with, so the decrease that they experienced this year was of the order of 4.5 per cent. My staff went down and sat with them and worked it through to see if we can give them some bridging and I understand that has occurred to their satisfaction.

All of the other boards are very comfortable with this principle. They have accepted the principle. In fact, if they did not, I would have had many telephone calls and I do not have those. I know, for example, that the School Boards Association would have checked with their membership before they signed off on this. I think this is accepted in principle. We are in a situation of enrolment driven. Without argument now, I think there is equity across the province in funding. It could be argued that there should be some kind of affirmative action, in particular if you consider how the 39 cents per $100 is spread. For example, if you have a very well-off community, the 39 cents per $100 is very good; if you do not, it is a problem. So equity still has to be addressed.

That is the reason and I can tell the House through you, Mr. Speaker, that the resolution has been satisfied, I believe, not only in principle but in fact by the proposal here. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I was trying to follow as closely as possible the comments made by the Minister of Education and his explanation of, I guess in part, what we can hope to see or expect to see maybe when the new funding formula is released and that, of course, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It is with the boards. The boards have it.

MR. HOLM: . . . the boards might have it, but maybe the member for Halifax Citadel does. I haven't seen it and Cabinet hasn't seen it, I'm told, as well. So we are at a bit of a disadvantage in terms of being able to describe it in terms of whether it is or isn't obviously going to be able to meet the needs. Certainly the funding formula is looked at each and every year. The committee comes together and tries to grapple with the difficulties of how do we fairly and equitably distribute the shrinking pot of dollars that are being provided for public school education in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I am sure, I don't doubt for one second, that all of those who sit on this committee, have worked and grappled very hard, trying to come up with a system which they consider to be equitable. But one key function, one key thing that they don't have any control over, is the numbers of dollars that are in that large envelope that will then be distributed by the different formulae. That is decided by the government of the day, the Government of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: And the taxpayers.

[Page 1587]

MR. HOLM: The taxpayers, of course, will be providing that money, the minister says. Yes, they will. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, the taxpayers in the province are also extremely concerned about the level and the quality of education that the children receive. The minister said that the current formula that will be coming forward hopefully, according to the minister, is going to be seen as more equitable because it is student-based. It is based on numbers. So if you have gone up, as of last September, then you should receive more money than the year before and vice versa. If the numbers have gone down, you will receive less. But that is equitable.

There is only one problem and the minister knows this very well, that even with the larger amalgamated boards the distribution of those population bases are not equitable. I will just give you the very simple example here. Let's say, hypothetically, that the pot per student - and it differs, I know, from elementary, junior high and senior high and there are all kinds of other things in - but for convenience, and this isn't the number, let's say $3,000. It is probably closer to $4,000 now . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: $4,500.

MR. HOLM: . . . $4,500. Okay, $4,000 is easier for quick math in my head. Let's say, Mr. Speaker, that a particular school district in a school catchment area, that the enrolment in the school that has, let's say 10 classes, drops by 20 children. That means that there are 20 fewer units times $4,000. That is $80,000 less to be provided to the board because there are 20 fewer students. If those 20 students are spread amongst 10 classes, that is two students per class. So if the numbers in that school have dropped by 20 students and the classes evenly drop - let's say going from 30 to 28 students - you cannot eliminate any of those classes. The cost to the school board remains constant.

Now, where they are growing - and this is true, too, - that the costs don't necessarily go up equally when the enrolments grow, because if a classroom grows from 26 to 28 students or even to 30 students, that does not necessarily mean any great increased cost other than for the textbooks and those kinds of materials. But you are not hiring additional staff, you don't have additional heating costs, you don't have additional lighting costs and so on, Mr. Speaker. The point I am trying to get at is that although the best attempts may be to make things equitable, it isn't necessarily equitable. The only way we are going to have an equitable system across this province is if we do, in fact, turn towards expanded program funding.

Now the minister has said in his remarks that if we go to that system, and I may not be quoting verbatim, but basically saying that what we could be getting into is a bottomless pit. Mr. Speaker, what I would suggest we need to do, however, is to be moving towards that direction in any event. I am not saying that does have to mean a bottomless pit because the program funding would be based on the kinds of programs that are delivered. For example, I believe that all children in the Province of Nova Scotia attending our public schools have basic rights not only to reading, writing and arithmetic but they have a basic right to expect that they will have proper services, whether they be speech therapists, or pathologists, if that be social workers, if that means guidance counsellors, if that means a psychologist to be able to serve. The government, of course, can be determining the ratio and the level on a per student ratio to these different programs offered.

I am sorry if that would be seen as opening up a bottomless pit but I believe that the children who live in my community of Lower Sackville, the children who live in your community, Mr. Speaker, in New Waterford, or in the minister's in Glace Bay or those who live in Yarmouth or any other point, all have a right to an equal opportunity to education.

[Page 1588]

That means in terms of programs, it also means in terms of those specialist kinds of services that can be used to help identify if they have a learning disability, in the early years to identify if the child is in crisis and if, in fact, there is a need then or a way to address that so that we are not paying longer term costs down the road.

Now I know that is not an easy thing to get at and I know it is not something that we can move to instantly. But surely to Heavens we have to make a commitment to the children and to the parents and to all the stakeholders in this province that instead of making it worse, instead of withdrawing, instead of taking back all the time, that we are going to stabilize the situation and move towards enhancing the quality of education that our children can receive.

That will mean that in some communities there is going to be a need for an increase beyond the level of service, beyond the minimum, because of what are known to be severe problems that exist within those school communities. For example, in areas where there is high unemployment there may be additional stress; in areas where there are social difficulties that are well known there may be a need for additional services. So we have to have some flexibility built in where the minister and/or the board can have additional resources being provided to them to respond, in a human way, to that.

I know I am hearing and I am sure other members are as well, countless times where parents and educators are extremely frustrated because they can't get the child assessed to find out what the difficulty is, what is leading to the behavioural problems, or leading to their inability to be successful in school. Or, if that has been identified - yes, Mr. Speaker, I see you telling me that my time is about gone - but if they have been able to identify it, that the resources are not available to assist the educators and/or to provide the additional specialist services to meet those needs.

In fact, if we take a look at the number of professionals and para-professionals who are on the ground delivering services to children with special needs, those numbers have actually been declining over the last five years.

So, Mr. Speaker, I wait with a great deal of interest to see what the formula is going to be. The unfortunate thing is that we already know what the total pot of money is going to be from the province. We know that at a 39 cent rate and we know that in Nova Scotia generally in some parts that assessments have gone down . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the end of the Adjournment debate and the House has now reconvened to where we were prior to six o'clock, which was on Public Bills for Second Reading.



Bill No. 4 - Nursing Assistants Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The debate had been adjourned by the Leader of the New Democratic Party, whom I now recognize.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[Page 1589]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, while talking on Bill No. 4, the Nursing Assistants Act, and indicating quite clearly, I think, my support for this piece of legislation, I was also trying to take the time to indicate my disappointment, perhaps, more importantly, I guess in the process that was followed to get us to this point and the fact that we have another group out there that promises were made to them about self-regulating legislation, commitments and now, three years later at least, if not more than that, they were put off, they were led on, you might say, by this government and the Minister of Health. Now they have withdrawn, I think it is fair to say, in complete frustration and basically are taking what they can, that is a name change and a change to the registration system.

So as a legislator, as a member of this House, Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed in the process followed here that sends a rather distorted message, I think, on how politicians and government should be dealing with or can deal with issues like this that are positive and constructive and well supported.

Nonetheless, the association has asked us, regardless of the fact that this is not what they were promised, this is not what they had set out and spent so many years working on, but they would still, nonetheless, like to have this change, this amendment to the Act. So I indicate that I and my colleague will be supporting Bill No. 4 as it passes through this House. Thank you.

[6:30 p.m.]

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to add that I would support this legislation and do support the legislation, the Nursing Assistants Act. Our caucus has had discussions with the CNAs. We know that they had requested to be given a self-regulating body and they wanted self-regulating legislation to enable them to have more control over their careers and their profession.

I, too, express disappointment and find it very disconcerting that this government has really chosen to bring in legislation that is nothing more than superficial. It is a name change and we will have LPNs now - licensed practical nurses. But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that the nurses had requested legislation to enable them, if you will, to have some control over their profession.

Now we find that changing the title of the Nursing Assistants Act to the Licensed Practical Nurses Act is only, as I pointed out, Mr. Speaker, and I know I must not repeat myself, but it is only a name change. The nurses will be delighted that this legislation will proceed, of course, into the Law Amendments Committee and eventually and subsequently receive third and final reading.

The present registration system is being replaced by a licensing system. The change itself, again when one reads the legislation, is merely striking out one word and substituting it for another. Now the licensed practical nurses, Mr. Speaker, provide a very essential service in this province. They work extremely hard. In many cases they will change bandages and in other cases they can give out certain medicine. I understand that it depends on the institution where the nurse is working, whether or not they have approval to deliver and, of course, provide those types of services.

I would just like to speak in support of nurses in general and, of course, in this case the licensed practical nurse. Mr. Speaker, it is again very disappointing that the government didn't go perhaps a step further and, of course, grant the LPNs the opportunity - it is disconcerting that the nurses were not given legislation, at least, so they could regulate their profession and business a little better. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member for Bedford-Fall River it will be to close the debate.

The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.

[Page 1590]

MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to be standing in this House in support of this bill. When the Nursing Assistants Association members came to me and asked me to facilitate moving this, I was only too pleased to do so. I know from my own nursing days 30 years ago that today the standard of care that the nursing assistants give is vastly improved over three decades ago, and they are responsible for much of the bedside care and much of the compassion that is shown toward the patient.

I want to thank Albert McIntyre, the Executive Director of the Certified Nursing Assistants Association and I want to thank the honourable members who spoke here tonight and, in particular, the honourable members from the Progressive Conservative caucus and the Leader of the New Democratic Party. With that, I move second reading of Bill No. 4.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 4.

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

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 13.

Bill No. 13 - Occupational Health and Safety Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I regret that the Minister of Labour had to leave the Chamber and is not here to introduce this bill, because I know he has taken a great deal of pride in the fact that he has prepared, I think, a quality piece of legislation for introduction in the Chamber and into the Province of Nova Scotia. As we all know, the member, last fall, brought forward the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a draft of the bill in legislative form, introduced it for second reading and allowed it to sit on the order paper;

[Page 1591]

it, in fact, died with the last session, but that was the plan. The plan was to allow the bill to be introduced, so that not only members of the Chamber but all Nova Scotians, people with a vested interest in occupational health and safety, had an opportunity to peruse the contents of the bill and to recommend changes to the bill.

To his credit, the Minister of Labour looked at and listened to those concerns that both management and labour interests had and made changes to the bill and reintroduced it at this spring sitting of the Legislature. I know, and I think every member of this Chamber knows, the many hours that he has put into developing this piece of legislation, meeting with anyone who wanted to meet and taking, very serious, the concerns brought to his attention by people throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. I know that when he returns tomorrow, he will take a very close look at the comments made by members of the Chamber with respect to this bill, and I know he will address the concerns or the questions that members bring forward. We will certainly make sure that those remarks are brought to his attention.

So without further ado, on his behalf, I would move second reading of Bill No. 13.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 13.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I suppose we have to make the best of a bad deal. I would have preferred to have heard what the minister had to say, with regard to this bill, before attempting to address what is probably one of the major pieces of legislation for this particular sitting. For that reason, in fact when we were examining the estimates of the Minister of Labour in the Red Chamber this afternoon, we didn't address, at least I didn't and no other members that were in the Chamber at that time, I think, really addressed occupational health and safety because we realized that the minister, or at least we thought the minister would be addressing some opening remarks in introducing this bill for second reading and so I am thus a little disappointed that is not available.

First of all, I support this legislation and I think that that is important. Occupational health and safety is very much the thrust that we must have in this province not only for the benefit of the workers, but also for the benefit of the institution that protects workers and that is the Workers' Compensation Board.

The best accident, Mr. Speaker, is a non-accident. The best prevention against an accident is proper precautions and proper training and proper materials available for workers and others to do their job without putting their lives or their limbs in jeopardy.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this bill, I think, to a certain extent, does that. It is certainly a step forward from the old legislation which it is replacing and that is quite an old Act. However, having said all that, I would have suggested to the minister, were he here, that there are a number of amendments that we will be bringing forward with regard to this bill because there are things that I think can be done right now to make this bill better, not only for workers, not only for employers and business generally but also insofar as the actual mechanics of the implementation of this piece of legislation.

It is not a particularly hefty bill, Mr. Speaker, as you know. It is about 50 pages in length. It has 88 clauses in the bill. So, while it is not as big a bill as some of the other ones we have had in previous sittings, I think it is probably, for sheer mass, the biggest piece of legislation that we have at the present time.

Mr. Speaker, I know that I cannot go through this piece of legislation clause by clause and sometimes I feel that that is a pity in second reading because it is a good time to make known - I wish the people in the audience who are not interested would go some place else to talk because I intend to make some remarks and maybe other people would be interested in this particular bill. As I was saying, we cannot go through it clause by clause although we can go through it section by section but I think that sometimes a [Page 1592]

clause by clause, not in-depth, but discussion of various clauses to make a point actually points out how the principle of a bill is being applied or could be improved to make the principle better.

We are fortunate in this particular piece of legislation that has come forward from the Minister of Labour, in that he has told us what the foundation of this particular bill is, what are the principles. The foundation of the bill is the internal responsibility system which - and I am going to read this, Mr. Speaker, if you would permit me because I think it is important. In this bill we are told that - Clause (2)(a), "is based on the principle that (i) employers, contractors, constructors, employees and self-employed persons at a workplace, and (ii) the owner of a workplace, a supplier of goods or provider of an occupational health or safety service to a workplace or an architect or professional engineer, all of whom can affect the health and safety of persons at the workplace, share the responsibility for the health and safety of persons at the workplace;". That is pretty broad language.

If you can imagine, Mr. Speaker, that every person who has even a remote interest in that workplace and there is an incident or an accident at that workplace, are going to share part of the responsibility and part of the consequences for that accident taking place. As I say, that is a very broad responsibility and I am wondering - if the minister was here, I would ask him the question - were the architects and engineers consulted prior to the inclusion of this particular principle, because, as I say, they certainly are going to be liable under this bill for anything that can be accrued as being part of their responsibility.

[6:45 p.m.]

Further, Mr. Speaker, in the principle of the bill, I think the other important issue that we have to examine is that of the responsibility of the Department of Labour through the Occupational Health and Safety Division. Now, we have outlined the responsibilities of all those who are working at the workplace and all those who supply services, all those who provide professional advice, but we haven't spoken about the responsibility of the Department of Labour and the Occupational Health and Safety Division.

I think it is very interesting to read what the responsibility of the Occupational Health and Safety Division is. It says, as a principle, that all these things that I have spoken about a moment ago, that the others who are affected by this bill, it says, Clause 2(d), "is supplemented . . ." - "supplemented" is the word that is used - ". . . by the role of the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour, which is not to assume responsibility for creating and maintaining safe and healthy workplaces . . .". Now, does everybody follow that? Nobody followed it. Well, I am going to repeat it, because it is pretty important.

This is the division of the Department of Labour called Occupational Health and Safety. It says, part of their role ". . . is not to assume responsibility for creating and maintaining safe and healthy workplaces . . .". Their responsibility is, that is the Occupational Health and Safety Division, ". . . to establish and clarify the responsibilities of the parties under the law, to support them in carrying out their responsibilities and to intervene appropriately when those responsibilities are not carried out.". This is what they mean, Mr.

[Page 1593]

Speaker, by this new concept, which they have developed, which is called the Internal Responsibility System.

It means if you have a workplace, you're building a building, you're building not this building but a new building, let's take the one across the road, the Royal Bank Building, and you have literally thousands of workers over the lifetime, from when you start digging the hole in the ground until you finally top the building off, who work on that project. (Interruption) Yes. You have hundreds of different trades, probably. You have trades coming in to work on that building, you have trades leaving it as their particular work is finished; in other words, the electrical trades come in and they do their work and they depart and then another crowd takes over and perhaps they are putting in the drywall and what have you. These things are ongoing in the building and the workforce is changing.

Each and every subcontractor, each and every employer, each and every person who did anything with regard to design on those particular subtrades are responsible, including, Mr. Speaker, those who provide, for instance, the plugs that go in the wall, the light fixtures, the gyproc on the wall, everything that is supplied to that building, if it affects in any way the safety of the worker on that job, the responsibility falls back, accrues to, the person who supplied that particular product, whether it be a building supply company or perhaps even the manufacturer.

The Department of Labour, the Occupational Health and Safety Division, has abdicated all responsibility, as I said before, for anything that goes on in that workplace, and does not, ". . . assume responsibility for creating and maintaining safe and healthy workplaces, . . .". Well, I am not too sure if I am perfectly happy with the way that is laid out. It would seem to me that the Department of Labour should be responsible for creating a safe workplace. It seems to me that they should be creating the regulations to make a safe workplace. I am not saying that they should get in there themselves and physically put in place the safe and healthy workplace, but they should certainly be in a position to advise on what is necessary for that to happen. As I said, that is, "The foundation of this Act . . .", as it is called, in Clause 2 of this bill.

Mr. Speaker, there is an amendment that has to be made to this bill and if anybody is taking notes, they might advise the minister that on Page 3 they talk about the previous Act that this bill replaces. They refer to Chapter 310 of the Revised Statutes; in fact, that is incorrect. It should be Chapter 320 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, which is the existing Act that will be repealed.

This bill covers people on seasonal employment whose period of employment exceeds four weeks. Now, heretofore, of course, seasonal workers were not covered directly insofar as the numbers that went up to make a workplace, which was covered under this Act, effective. In other words, it was just full-time employees we were speaking of. But in this bill, anybody who works at the workplace for more than four weeks is counted to make up the basic number for the establishment of a workplace committee. Mr. Speaker, that pretty well deals with the first part of the bill, which covers various definitions and, as I say, covers the principles of the bill.

The second one deals with the Application and Administration, that is part two of the bill, and in this particular part in administration, we are dealing with something that has been going on for many years. People may or may not be aware that the Division of Occupational Health and Safety, while it is contained within the Department of Labour, it is not funded by the Government of Nova Scotia. It is funded, instead, by the actual employers themselves who

[Page 1594]

contribute to the Workers' Compensation Board. The Workers' Compensation Board, in turn, pays to the Department of Labour sufficient funds that the Department of Labour would think they would need to carry a Division of Occupational Health and Safety. In fact, I think in this fiscal year, there is something in the order of about $1.5 million, I believe, transferred from the Workers' Compensation Board to the Department of Labour, specifically, for running the Occupational Health and Safety Division.

We are told in this particular bill, Mr. Speaker, how the Occupational Health and Safety Division will be funded and it says, in Clause 10, that, "Part of the costs of the Division pursuant to this Act and the regulations and costs of education and research related to occupational health and safety shall be paid out of the Accident Fund . . .", the Accident Fund, of course, being the fund that the Workers' Compensation Board has to pay out benefits, ". . . as determined by the Governor in Council.". So this is carte blanche, in reality, for the government to dictate to the Workers' Compensation Board how much money should be paid to the Department of Labour to cover the costs of occupational health and safety.

Mr. Speaker, that doesn't seem to me to be a very democratic way of running a division of a department of government. Surely to goodness it could be done as a percentage, perhaps, of the receipts of the Workers' Compensation Board in any given year should be applied to occupational health and safety, or some other mechanism so that it is not just an arbitrary system, an arbitrary parcelling of money from the Workers' Compensation Board into the coffers of the Department of Labour. I would like to see some kind of a mechanism there set up so that a percentage of what an employer pays into the Workers' Compensation Board goes out to occupational health and safety.

I think that would be better because I think at the present time employers recognize the important of occupational health and safety because they have a vested interest in maintaining safety in the workplace. Every time there is an accident or an incident in the workplace, well then their premiums either go up - I beg your pardon, they always go up if you have an accident - but they could possibly come down if, indeed, the number of accidents and claims against the Workers' Compensation Board can be reduced in some given sector.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, some sectors pay very dearly for workers' compensation, particularly in the forest industries, in fact, pretty well all those industries covered by the Minister of Natural Resources; in other words, working in the mines, working in the woods. All those things carry a very heavy premium for the employer to pay to the Workers' Compensation Board to cover accidents, not because the Workers' Compensation Board does not like those kinds of industries, but simply because those kinds of industries have more accidents and incidents than others for the same number of employees. So they naturally pay higher premiums, the same as if you are driving your car and you have a lot of accidents and a lot of claims, then your premiums on your car go up.

Everybody that employs people today has to pay a premium to the Workers' Compensation Board and they would like to reduce that premium. If you told them, okay, from your premium of $2.50 or $4.10 or whatever it is, you are going to pay, say, 10 per cent or 15 per cent, whatever. Every time you pay your premium that will be going into the Occupational Health and Safety Division to try and reduce the accident and incident occurrences within your industry. I do not think any employer would object.

As an aside, it has nothing to do with the bill I guess, Mr. Speaker, but one of the first things when a business is going to establish in this province, one of the first things they look at in deriving the cost of doing business in any province anywhere is what is the cost of workers' compensation because it varies considerably right across this country. For instance, in some particular sectors that are perhaps $1.50 or $2.00 in this province, you can go to another province which has an equal sized industry, but they are only paying half of that premium. That, in a sector where you have a large employment base to put out your product, is a very important advantage. So people do locate to a certain extent according to the cost of providing workers' compensation. Of course, you have no choice, you have to provide.

[Page 1595]

As I was saying, the Occupational Health and Safety Division is funded by the Workers' Compensation Board. I would like to suggest to the minister, in fact, that somewhere along the way that occupational health and safety should not be within the Department of Labour. I truthfully believe that occupation health and safety should not be in the Department of Labour, number one, because they do not pay for it to sustain it, but secondly, because it has a greater impact on workers' compensation than it does on the Department of Labour.

The Department of Labour should be setting standards, it should be policing, it should be doing all those things, establishing regulations, but the actual Division of Occupational Health and Safety - the training, the visiting of sites, the setting up of committees - all those things, I believe, could best be done directly through a Division of Occupational Health and Safety attached directly to the Workers' Compensation Board.

It is not so very far-fetched because at one time, Occupational Health and Safety was a division of the Workers' Compensation Board and somebody in their wisdom back in the late 1960's or early 1970's decided to take it out of workers' compensation. (Interruption) No it wasn't, no. In 1978, I know for sure where it was and it was in the Department of Health. It moved from the Workers' Compensation Board into the Department of Health back in, I think it was the early 1970's actually, and it remained there until about 1983 or 1984 and then we shoved it off and moved it down to the Department of Labour thinking it belonged there. Well, actually that was a wrong decision, it should have gone back to the Workers' Compensation Board.

[7:00 p.m.]

I was speaking a moment or two ago about the role of the Division of Occupational Health and Safety under this bill, what their role is. It is fairly clear that they haven't got too much of a role from the point of view of actual safety, that it is being left up to what they call internal responsibility, which may or may not be a good idea. The difficulty with any piece of legislation such as this is it is quite logical that it is going to come out with thousands, and I mean that figuratively, thousands of regulations. They have to have regulations for each different trade, they have to have regulations for the mingling of trades, as well as a whole bunch of overall regulations which will apply to all trades. So there are going to be literally thousands of regulations, many of them already in place but they will probably have to be amended some, that come along as part and parcel of this bill.

When this Act comes into being and I think it is date specific, I am not just too sure about that, it is on proclamation actually but we are told that some sections take effect on or after July 1, 1999, another section takes effect on or after July 1, 1997, another one takes effect on or after January 19, 1998 and so on and so on. But still, although it sounds like a long way down the road, it is like the next election just after you fought an election. It looks like a long way down the road but as you well know, it is not all that far down the road. Well the same thing applies to this. When this legislation is proclaimed and we start into the process down toward the full implementation, there is a tremendous amount of work that has to be

[Page 1596]

done. Most of that work is going to involve the training and the education of employers and employees and I will tell you why.

At the present time, if I have a company and I employ 20 or more workers, I have to have a safety committee. I have to have a safety committee that meets on a regular basis. The committee examines safety matters within the workplace, makes recommendations, hopefully the employer accommodates those recommendations if they make sense. That is the process. There are a lot of firms, in fact, I have got the numbers here and if I thought the bill was going to come forward tonight I would have had it available but I haven't got it right at my fingertips. But there are a lot of businesses with more than 20 employees.

However, in this bill, we are reducing the threshold and we are reducing it substantially. It is going down now to five employees in any workplace. Now we have a little restaurant across the road here, Rudy's. I don't know how many employees Rudy's has but I will bet you he has more than five. The little corner store down the road here has more than five employees. I have been in there often enough to know how many employees there are, there are about seven. So we are cutting right down now to the very small businesses across Nova Scotia. There are thousands of these businesses that employ five or more people, and they all come under the umbrella of this bill.

When we say that this bill is going to affect a lot of people, this bill is going to affect almost every adult Nova Scotian because if you consider that a person working in a workplace with more than five is going to be involved in occupational health and safety, under that umbrella, they probably have family, they have wives, mothers and fathers and what have you, they are all interested, I am sure, in the health and safety of the person that is working in that workplace. So, in effect, this piece of legislation is going to affect almost every adult Nova Scotian whenever it comes into effect. So it is, from that point of view, a pretty important piece of legislation.

I have lost track of where I was going now. Oh yes, we are back to the training of these people who have smaller workplaces. Now, Mr. Speaker, many people - not all - but many who have small businesses employing five people, six people, or seven people, started off as a one-person operation and gradually their business expanded, and they hired a few people, et cetera. These people, who probably were operating without regulation or very much regulation to the present time, have adopted certain practices. Many of them may be what you would call practically minded people, but perhaps not very well-educated people.

If you said to some of those people, well not to worry, this is the legislation that covers you and these are the regulations you must abide by to run your corner store, they would look at you in sorrow and wonder and that would be the end of it, because they would never ever understand how these regulations apply to them or how this bill applies to them. But they better, because this bill can provide a fine, for violation, of $250,000. Have you got that? One-quarter of a million dollars is the penalty under this bill and that is a lot of hay.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Would the honourable member permit a question? It is on this issue of an employer with five employees versus the old threshold of 20 employees and what is required of those employers. Now as I understand, if you look at Clause 27, for example, it talks about where five or more employees are regularly employed by an employer and so on and what is required. There it says that it is basically a policy. You have to have a policy on occupational health and safety and so on. When you get into training, you are looking at 20 employees or more. The requirement with small employers of five persons and under, you have to provide a training program. It is not exactly the same, it is a little stronger now, but it is still that threshold, 20 or more employees.

If you look at Clause 28, where it deals with training, for the small employer. I understand the concern that the member raised, Mr. Speaker, about the onerous effects of having to have a training program and so on and so forth for those small employers. I think this is - and I may be mistaken, and that is why, I guess, I am asking the member - I may be mistaken but I think in fact the specifics regarding a training program and an occupational health and safety committee and so on, still relate to the 20 or more employees.

[Page 1597]

MR. RUSSELL: I thank the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic and I welcome his intervention. He is absolutely correct. The smaller employer only does have to develop a policy. However, Mr. Speaker, if you read through the bill - and I can't just find it off the top of my head - there are occasions when those with five or more employees, must establish a committee. I am not just too sure where that is, but perhaps I will come to it later.

This is an onerous responsibility. These people with five or more employees, less than 20 employees, as the member has said it, is indeed very demanding. I just can't locate that to answer that question that he had just a moment ago. There is in this bill, Mr. Speaker, the provision that the director, I believe, can order a workplace with less than 20 employees but more than five employees to indeed have an occupational health and safety committee. But this is still an onerous burden upon the small employer, because there are no specifics on training, and that training has to be made available not only to the employer, but to the employees. Let's not forget why we have this piece of legislation. Let's not forget why we are changing this legislation. We are doing it to ensure workplace safety and that is motherhood and that is all the good things about a workplace. It should be safe, there is no argument, but I am just saying that we are imposing a burden that we may not be able to accommodate unless we have a long enough period to implement this bill and unless the Department of Occupational Health and Safety is willing to put out the bucks to provide enough training officers, to provide enough people to go around the province to talk to employers and employees and tell them of the full implications of this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, we understand that under this particular piece of (Interruption) Yes, I just found that by the way. On Page 14, Clause 29(2), "At a workplace where fewer than twenty persons are regularly employed, the Director may . . . (b) order that a committee be established.". So that can be done by the director and the director we are speaking about is the executive director of the division of Occupational Health and Safety. So, he does have that power. He may not ever exercise it.

AN HON. MEMBER: I think it is 20 or more though.

MR. RUSSELL: No, ". . . where fewer than twenty persons are regularly employed, the Director may . . . (b) order that a committee be established.". So, Mr. Speaker, that power is there for the executive director. He may never, ever exercise it but nevertheless, it is a hammer that he has.

AN HON. MEMBER: But it is good for if you have a small manufacturing facility . . .

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, and that is why it is there. As the member says - and we are playing tic, tac, toe here - if you have a small manufacturing business, Mr. Speaker, and you are making widgets, you have to keep pushing them underneath the punch and the punch comes down, thump, and you don't get your hand out in a hurry, you are in trouble. Those

[Page 1598]

kinds of plants, yes, indeed, they do have to have good occupational health and safety and they may well need that kind of committee. What I am saying is that there have to be facilities for training, for education of workers and the employers.

The other arm to this, Mr. Speaker, is I run a plant and I am a good operator. Somebody else runs a plant (Interruption) Okay, and I am a bad operator, okay? Somebody else runs a plant and they are a good operator. (Interruption) I am a good operator. If, indeed, I operate my business in a slack and slothful fashion, I ignore every regulation that is written, I have whips handy to whip my employees - do all those things that a good employer would not do. If, indeed, I am that kind of an employer, I should be inspected. Now under the bill, there is a whistle-blowing - well, it is not exactly a whistle-blowing provision but it does entitle, within that workplace, for the person who is running the health and safety committee, to go out and to complain to the director. There is a channel right through to the director and that is good.

However, a moment ago, I was talking about how the number of workplaces has exploded. It is going to be a tremendous number and I forget the exact number. I think it is something like 90,000. Is that the right figure? (Interruption) I think that number rings a bell, 90,000 workplaces across this province. Now the Minister of Labour said a week or so ago that he did not have sufficient inspectors at the present time. That is quite true, he does not. He does not have enough inspectors right now to inspect the workplaces that he has but he said, not to worry, I am going to get - and I do not have my Estimates Book here - I am going to hire four more inspectors, almost immediately, and another four more inspectors in another six months or so. So, we get a total of eight more inspectors.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I would say to you and I would say to the minister that it is absolutely impossible for the Minister of Labour to adequately inspect the workplaces across this province unless he has something in the order of 100 to 200 inspectors. You need a lot of inspectors and the only way that you are going to get people to abide by occupational health and safety rules is if the employer and the employees know that their workplace is going to be inspected, not on a regular basis, on a random basis, somebody walks in and says, I am inspecting the place and I am from the Department of Labour. Away they go and they go around and they inspect it and if they find infractions, they can, if they require, shut the place down or else they write up a report.

[7:15 p.m.]

Now I don't want to get into Westray but we hear a great deal today about the lack of reporting on Westray. It is no wonder because we can have accidents anywhere, in any industry if, indeed, the inspectors do not have sufficient time to do adequate inspections, do not have sufficient numbers to adequately inspect the whole spectrum of workplaces that are in the province. So the Minister of Labour has to have adequate inspection.

Now if you add up what he needs in inspectors and then you say that all these 90,000 workplaces, at least the majority of those with under 20 employees, are going to have to not only be inspected but their workforce and the employers are going to have to be educated as to the ramifications of this piece of legislation and the ramifications of this bunch of regulations, that minister is going to require help and I think it should be provided. I have no argument with that.

[Page 1599]

If we are honest about this, if we are honest about cutting back on accidents and incidents in the workplace, if we can see that the end result is going to be less of a demand on the services of the Workers' Compensation Board, if we can see that this lessened demand on the Workers' Compensation Board is going to affect the unfunded liability of the Workers' Compensation Board, to lessen it, and also to bring down the premiums that must be paid for workers, I think that we will, if, indeed, this government wants to, we will be creating jobs. Sure, we are going to create some jobs for inspectors and educators but we are also going to create some jobs out in industry because people will be paying a lower premium for workers than they are paying at the present time. So I think it is a step in the right direction.

Now, Mr. Speaker, moving on. There is a lot in this bill about health and safety representatives, et cetera, and I would have to get into clause by clause to adequately discuss it. There is one particular section that I would like to talk about for a moment. It talks about where there are committees that were established January 1, 1986, and where those committees have been maintained, then they are grandfathered as being acceptable committees. I think that is a good move.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we have penalty clauses within this bill which are quite dramatic. I mean as I said before, we have gone to $0.25 million that a person may be fined for an infraction of this bill.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this bill also beefs up the right to refuse work. A clause that some people, I would sort of guess, are not too happy with. But we have had a right to refuse work for some considerable time, this makes it a little stronger, but I don't know of any job that is being shut down because somebody had a frivolous intent, just to close down a plant or a work site just for a lark. I think that every case that has come forward that I am aware of under the right to refuse work clauses, has been a legitimate complaint. There is no doubt that that does affect change in a hurry.

There is also a section in this bill that deals with discriminatory action against those who invoke this Act to try and achieve a safer workplace. We deal with all kinds of various things to do with chemical safety. We also deal with trade secrets and I think this is an important section to have in the bill. It is already in the existing Act in a somewhat watered down way, now we will strengthen that so that a company that has some chemical mixture that they make and they wish to protect the formula for that particular chemical mixture, they can do so by invoking this particular section. They still must make known to certain select bodies what those chemicals are, et cetera, and any adverse effects that they may on their workforce.

There is an appeal process in here. Now, I am just going to say a couple of words about the appeal process. This is primarily for the employer who feels that a decision made by the director is unjust and has the opportunity to appeal to a panel which is established by the minister. I have some reservations about this. I think the appeal process is necessary and I don't think that this is too bad as a first step. The appeal process that we have isn't ideal but it is not bad. There is a panel established by the minister and that panel consists of three persons. This is where the difficulty comes in.

The minister has a list of panelists, if you will, and from those he selects three people to make up this appeal panel. One of these persons should be representing the employees, a second person represents the employers and the other person acts as a Chair to the panel. That is fine, that sounds very democratic and all those kinds of things but this is a pretty important deal because you may, as I said before, be appealing a fine perhaps of up to $250,000. So, it

[Page 1600]

would be nice if this appeal panel were expanded perhaps by one more person or if you want to keep it an odd number, two if you wish.

There should be on this panel a person who has technical knowledge and expertise with regard to the subject that is being appealed. For instance, you might have a stamping machine or something of that nature. The violation has been that you can't walk around the side of the machine but to properly operate this machine, maybe you have to do that. If you have three persons who do not necessarily know anything about that particular machine and what it is used for and the mechanics of it, et cetera, they may not arrive at the proper answer. That is why I think that on that panel there should be somebody with expertise in those matters which are being brought forward. I am glad that we do have an appeal process in the bill and that it does, indeed, seem to be a fair program.

I didn't mention, when I was talking about the number of inspectors that the minister is going to have to employ, that not only will the minister be responsible for educating the employers and the employees at the workplace but the Department of Labour, I would suggest, is going to have to train those people who are going to enforce this Act and that is going to be quite a job as well. In other words, these people, they may be well qualified in all of the basic needs for this particular type of work; however, when they walk to their desk in the Occupational Health and Safety Division, they are going to have to know this Act backwards and forwards and they are going to have to know these regulations backwards and forwards. So there is a training period that is going to have to take place within the department itself.

I spoke before, I am just up to the appeal part of the bill at the present time and I was talking about a fine of $250,000 maximum for an offence. It goes on to say, in Clause 74(1), a person ". . . is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years, or to both a fine and imprisonment.". You could be, if you were in violation of this bill, you could end up in the slammer for two years and also having to pay $250,000. There is a pretty good incentive, I would suggest, for most people to abide by the regulations and by the bill.

We have had a number of pieces of legislation of late which have directed that penalties for non-observance of articles within a Statute can be held accountable and this bill is no exception. In fact, in Clause 77 it talks about, "An officer, director, manager or agent of a corporation who directs, authorizes, assents to, acquiesces or participates in the commission of an offence pursuant to this Act is guilty of that offence.". In other words, if you are a director or a manager, you could be far removed from the actual site of the violation and you could still be penalized and maybe that is not bad.

However, the next Clause 78, in the bill deals with, "No action lies or shall be instituted against an officer, the Director, an appeal panel, a member of an appeal panel or the Director of Labour Standards where that person or body is acting pursuant to the authority of this Act or the regulations for any loss or damage suffered by a person because of an act or omission done in good faith by the person or body . . .".

Now my question is why the government has that out, if they react or act in good faith, they are absolved of any fault against any corporate body or any person, whereas the, ". . . officer, director, manager or agent of a corporation who directs, authorizes, assents to, acquiesces or participates . . .", in an act are guilty. Why not to Clause 77 simply add the words, in good faith. What is good for the goose, I would suggest, is good for the gander and I think on this particular occasion that the government has protected itself but, however, has provided no protection whatsoever for others who also sometimes act in good faith.

I went through the regulations in the present Act and I went through the regulations in the new bill or the regulation-making power, I should say, not the actual regulations. There are many of the present ability to make regulations in this bill that are the same as was in the old Act. However, there is an absolute multitude of new regulatory power. Some of it may be good, some of it may be bad. Who knows? We do not know until we see the regulations and then we are going to have to sit down for a month or two to read them, I guess. There is a tremendous number of regulatory powers that are given to the Director of the [Page 1601]

Division of Occupational Health and Safety within the Department of Labour. Then, Mr. Speaker, the bill goes on into the transitional procedures as the new Act comes into force.

As I said when I started out, this a good piece of legislation and I will be voting in favour of this legislation. This is a good piece of legislation, it fulfils a requirement for an update of the present Act, it does that. However, unfortunately, it requires some fine tuning and I do not blame of Minister of Labour for that or the Director of Occupational Health and Safety or the Legislative Counsel. It is something that you have to read through and think about for a little while before you can actually say, well, maybe that could be improved some.

This bill, as it is right now, is adequate, probably. However, I would say, with something like about 10 or 15 small amendments can be made much better. I think that in this Legislature we should always try and aim for as near perfection in a piece of legislation that we are putting out, as we possibly can. I don't care whether the amendments come from this side and are adopted by that side, or whether that side brings them forward, I think that amendments put forward in good faith for honest concern that we have the best possible legislation, deserve some time on the floor and deserve consideration for inclusion in the bill.

[7:30 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate when the minister gets around to wrapping up on this bill, that he talk about some of the things that I have spoken about. Number one, the need for a much larger - I said 100 inspectors - I realize I am speaking wild numbers, but, however, he is going to need a substantial number more than the present four inspectors that he is looking at. He is going to need a great many more than that. He is going to need inspectors that fully understand the Act and the regulations. He is going to have to have educators or else hire companies who do that educational process to train the various employers and employees.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know what those companies charge but if it is the intention of the department that the very small business - and I am talking about the corner store, et cetera, kind of business - if it is the intention of the minister that those firms will have to go out and hire expertise to come into their small business and train their workers and train them as to how this legislation reads and how the regulations are enacted, I think it is going to be probably an intolerable financial burden on those small businesses. So I would expect that the Minister of Labour will be making available on a sector by sector basis across this province, educational courses for both employers and employees so that they can indeed come up to speed on this bill.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a pleasure addressing this bill this evening and I look forward to its reception in the Law Amendments Committee to see what kinds of representations are made. I also look forward to getting the bill back into the Committee of the Whole House so

[Page 1602]

that we can address some of these concerns that I have addressed this evening and do something perhaps to make this bill just a little bit better than it presently is.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 13, An Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety. I will be supporting it, as will my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid because it is an improvement over the previous bill. It has made some interesting and considerable strides in certain areas and I will hopefully have an opportunity to touch on those areas that I think are particularly significant.

Let me say just for a second that I want to congratulate and commend the Advisory Council on Occupational Health and Safety, the minister's advisory council that has been working now for four years, I think it is. It was in the fall of 1992 that the committee was established to deal with a host of things but the most important on their plate was overhauling the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This was a group of people equally representative of employers and organized labour, of workers, Mr. Speaker, along with and well-supported by staff from the division of Occupational Health and Safety in the Department of Labour and they have worked tirelessly, I would say, over that three and one-half year period, coming up with not only these changes, but a lot of regulations dealing with other issues including the whole issue of violence, the question of air quality, and matters of fall arrest and scaffolding and so on, and I think it is fair to say that they have done a good job.

It is not an easy job, Mr. Speaker. I think you, as well as some other members, would have to recognize that in many ways you have competing interests represented around that committee because, clearly, decisions relative to how the workplace is organized and money that might have to be spent on safety equipment and on safety and health practices and policies and training are an increase in the cost of doing business for employers. At that same time, there were representatives on that committee who felt that we needed to have, basically, zero tolerance relative to unsafe and unhealthy work practices in any workplace, regardless of the size. What they had to do was to bring those interests together and try to hammer out some very practical, yet very relevant and positive regulations and legislation, and I believe, seriously, that they have, in fact, done that.

Mr. Speaker, I think we all recognize the fact that the reason we have this kind of legislation, the reason we need to have firm and clear standards of how employers and employees are to conduct themselves within the workplace, how employers are to proceed and inform and communicate with the workers relative to these issues, relates mainly to probably 5 per cent of workplaces, maybe more in terms of more everyday safety and health problems.

In terms of the idea of the bad employer, the dangerous workplace where every time you walk in you are putting yourself at risk and you are risking everything you have in order to go into that workplace, that is a very small percentage of workplaces in this province, and that includes those rated as the more risky or the more dangerous workplaces: farms, fishing, industrial workplaces, Sydney Steel, coal mining, or whatever. Most of those employers take very seriously the whole issue of ensuring that their workers, including themselves, are not made ill or injured on the job because most employers recognize the fact that, when you have injuries or illnesses, that costs money, that impedes production, that interrupts the work flow, and it increases the costs of insurance, of workers' compensation, and a whole host of other things.

[Page 1603]

Most employers understand that poor safety and health practices in the workplace mean, eventually, more money not only to them, but to society in general. I think we all understand that; we all recognize that, Mr. Speaker.

Unfortunately, there still exists those workplaces where the government needs to be extremely vigilant, or the public, society, needs to be very vigilant in terms of ensuring that everything is done to provide workers with sufficient power and sufficient rights within the workplace, that they can balance off the over-arching power of the employer to make those decisions, relative to how the work place is organized, so that they will be in a position to be able to protect themselves and their co-workers and the other employees to ensure that that workplace becomes more safe and more healthy.

The member for Hants West referred to the unfortunate and the ugly tragedy at Westray but we have heard from people, the miners, the people that work there time and time again, about how they felt they had no other choice. They were told very clearly that when they complained or when they raised concerns about working conditions, about safety in the workplace, that it was communicated to them that they had two choices. They either: number one, continued to work and shut their mouths; or, number two, they hit the road. In that instance it even got so bad that there has been some suggestion that the local employment centre was part of that whole network that ensured that the workers weren't able to deal with those workplace concerns because the workers, when they went to their local employment centre, unemployment insurance office, were told that if they quit because of unsafe working conditions, they have had information that those working conditions are not unsafe and they would not receive benefits. That is from the mouths of the miners themselves.

They felt powerless to do absolutely anything about it because they not only had the work or don't work situation but they had the chains of unemployment and of poverty binding them to their workstations in that mine. We cannot sit idly by and allow those circumstances to exist in any workplace in this province. The ultimate consequence was paid four years ago by 26 miners at Westray and we cannot allow that ever to happen again.

This kind of legislation goes some distance in ensuring that that won't happen. I will talk about it in more detail but what it does is it ensures that certain things are done. You know there is a workplace health and safety committee, that there are reports filed, that the operation of that committee is inspected, it is monitored closely and that there is a training that has to take place within that workplace, health and safety training that has to be conducted. That training has to be approved by the Department of Labour, the Division of Occupational Health and Safety. Those kinds of things are extremely important.

The provisions in this bill with respect to the right to refuse have been strengthened to ensure that if workers, in fact, do take advantage of their right to refuse, because that has existed in the past but it has been strengthened to ensure that if they do, they can't be discriminated against, they can't be fired for having made use of that right and it also ensures that the conditions under which that right to refuse are enacted are cleared up before any other worker would be likewise exposed to any unsafe and unhealthy conditions. Those kinds of things are extremely important to prevent the kind of situations that we have had before.

I said this last year when we were dealing with the changes to the Workers' Compensation Act, in that there the ultimate goal of the government was to reduce the cost of the workers' compensation system as a way of eventually being able to deal with that unfunded liability problem. What I said then, and others a lot more knowledgeable in this area than I have said, that the best way to reduce our workers' compensation costs is to ensure that our workers are not injured, to ensure that they are not made ill as a result of going to work. That is the ultimate goal and the Construction Safety Association has compiled data which shows the kind of economic return that you get by investing money into safety, by investing money into training, that you can get the kind of returns that are not going to be realized by other measures, that it is not a humane and reasonable idea just to reduce the eligibility of people who are injured and made sick at work, to reduce their benefits as a way of trying to make the system more affordable for government and for the taxpayers of this province.

[Page 1604]

[7:45 p.m.]

I think that this bill goes some distance. What needs - and I see some of it in here - to go along with this document is a clear shift in the culture at the Department of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Division, and that is a philosophy that ensures, in fact, that any infractions are enforced, that ensures that workplaces are inspected and are monitored, and when infractions take place, that the department moves quickly and effectively to end those infractions in a way that translates to all employers in the province that the Government of Nova Scotia will not tolerate unsafe and unhealthy work practices in the workplaces of Nova Scotia. Once we begin to re-establish that kind of philosophy, then it will take even less vigilance and less regular inspections, because employers will recognize that even if they were somewhat lax and slack in the past, that if they get caught, they will be held responsible, ultimately, for that infraction. I think this bill goes some distance in sending that message.

I remember, on the other side of that, how aghast I was when a document came into my possession back in the fall of 1992, and that was the policy of the Occupational Health and Safety Division for handling inspections and for handling orders, Mr. Speaker. Under the former Act, and under this bill to some extent, when an inspector goes into a workplace and identifies an infraction, what they do is they issue an order to that employer that says, you have contravened section blah, blah, blah, and you need to do the following to remedy that. That would be delivered and communicated to the employer, and the inspector, ideally, would follow that up. But what was happening - and we found this clearly enunciated in a policy from that department - was that you had to have three strikes; in other words, an inspector would go in and find an unhealthy situation or an infraction, and they would issue an order. Then they might come back in the next week or the next month or several months later, and if they found the same situation, what they would do is issue you another order.

Mr. Speaker, I have seen hundreds of these documents from the department. That was the policy; this is what the inspectors worked with. So it is not a question, necessarily, of having to blame them as it is of recognizing the fact that there was a culture that existed within that department on how this Act was enforced. They would then issue another order and then another time period would go by, without anything happening. If the inspector found that situation continued to exist, they would issue a final. Before they would follow up on that to actually charge and enforce an order, they would have to send it up the line to the director, with a recommendation in order to get that approval.

So you can just imagine the time delays that existed, and perhaps as important if not more important, is the clear indication that employers would get that they didn't have to take this very seriously. They didn't have to take an order from the officer, from the inspector or, as an indication that they had to move immediately to get something done, so problems continued to exist and workers were continually exposed to unsafe and unhealthy workplaces. Again, this doesn't happen in all workplaces by any stretch of the imagination. The problem is that when you have that kind of philosophy, that kind of culture at work where it does exist, it is not corrected and that is a problem. It leads to the kind of carnage that we have

[Page 1605]

seen year after year in this province and across the country as a result of workplace accidents and workplace illnesses.

This is a step in the right direction and I think this is the kind of change that the advisory council was trying to get at, not only to the details of the bill which would set a framework for how the inspectors would carry out their function but more importantly or as importantly is the philosophy upon which that department would carry out its activities, Mr. Speaker. I clearly applaud them for that.

It is not as if this is a piece of legislation that simply the workers or labour representatives wrote. Again, as I said before, it was a joint committee, a bipartite committee with a heavy involvement from the minister's staff and they put together what I would consider to be a very honest and a very reasonable compromise.

Did it take too long? Maybe. Were there significant time delays that should have been prevented? Yes, but nonetheless here we are today in May 1996 and we have a piece of legislation before us at second reading, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that all members will support this legislation going forward. Will we be able to make some adjustments, some changes at the Law Amendments Committee and then in the Committee of the Whole House? That might not be a bad idea because there are some weaknesses but I think it is important to recognize that the changes that have been made are very positive.

Now I want to deal with a couple of things in the few minutes that I have this evening. I have heard concerns raised by employers, small employers in particular, and people in this House concerned about the obligations expected of small employers. Those employers with five or more employees. As the member for Hants West indicated earlier, the threshold, before this Act was applicable, was 20 employees. It was 20 or more employees before you had to have a health and safety committee or you had to follow the various provisions of this Act.

Now it is five or more employees. There has been another category. There are five or more employees and then there are 20 or more employees and there are different expectations on each category. For the five or more employees, Mr. Speaker, the prime area of responsibility and the only real responsibility is that they have a policy and that it is developed in consultation with the employees and that it is updated every year and that it is communicated to those employees.

It doesn't say anything about training, it doesn't say anything even about having a committee with workplaces of that size but it does basically ensure that the employer in these small workplaces and, Mr. Speaker, these small workplaces can be as dangerous as large workplaces, but I don't think the bill is putting an onerous and expensive burden on those employers when it asks that they develop a policy respective of their commitment, that identifies their commitment to health and safety. Clause 27(3), "The policy shall express the employer's commitment to occupational health and safety and shall include (a) the reasons for the employer's commitment to health and safety; the commitment of the employer to co-operate with the employees . . . (c) the responsibilities of the employers, supervisors and other employees in fulfilling the commitment . . .".

That is very general, some would say it is, I was going to say, a motherhood statement, but it is a general statement of commitment of principle. I think it is a very positive step and I really don't believe that it is particularly onerous on those employers.

[Page 1606]

Now when we come to employers with 20 or more regularly employed by an employer, Mr. Speaker, then you begin to get into a little more structure and there is a little more responsibility required of those employers and of those workplaces. To have a program, first and foremost, in order to establish parameters on how, in fact, safe and healthy workplaces will be conducted in that particular workplace. I think that is extremely important. It is extremely important that those workplaces have a clearly laid out strategy and program that includes things like training and supervision, that includes the process whereby the committee will function and how the community will communicate with the employees, how it will communicate with the employer, how it will relate with the Department of Labour, the Division of Occupational Health and Safety, including education, including training and so on. I think that is a very positive step forward in the development of the policies and the framework for safe and healthy workplaces in the province.

Another important development in this bill is what is being said in here with respect to joint occupational health and safety committees. You know in the former legislation, Mr. Speaker, and, by the way, when I moved back to Nova Scotia in 1989, I began conducting a lot of health and safety training around this province on the Act. I dealt with legislation all across this country and I was proud to say that the legislation that existed in the Province of Nova Scotia was one of the more superior pieces of legislation. It was lacking in terms of regulations, it was lacking in terms of enforcement provisions but it had a number of areas in the legislation that were certainly positive, relative to what existed in other parts of the country.

Mr. Speaker, I will have an opportunity when I resume debate tomorrow to talk more about the positive effects and positive parts of this particular bill. I now move to adjourn debate on second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate on second reading on Bill No. 13.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 18 - Financial Measures (1996) Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

[Page 1607]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will sit tomorrow from the hour of 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Following the daily routine, we will deal with the Committee of the Whole House on Supply and pick up on Community Services in the Chamber, where we adjourned in the subcommittee. We will then deal with Private and Local Bills at Second Reading and move on to Public Bills for Second Reading and continue on the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

I move that we adjourn until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 8:00 p.m.]