Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., Apr. 30, 1997

Fifth Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 1997

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Route 337 (Antigonish Co.) - Pave,
Mr. B. Taylor 1209
Health: Children's Dental Prog. - Cuts Oppose, Dr. J. Hamm 1210
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Justice: Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Memos - Amendments,
Hon. A. Mitchell 1210
Health - Community Health Board Planning Guidebook Series,
Hon. B. Boudreau 1211
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Environ.: Flood Victims (Manitoba) - Donations, The Premier 1211
Housing & Mun. Affs.: Personal Property Registry System - Avail.,
Hon. J. Smith 1212
Bus. & Cons. Serv.: Licenses, Permits and Approvals (Task Force on) -
Report, Hon. S. Jolly 1215
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 268, Agric. - Scotsburn Dairy Group: Goods (N.S.) - Purchase,
Hon. G. Brown 1218
Vote - Affirmative 1219
Res. 269, Culture - Commonwealth Best First Book Prize:
Ann-Marie MacDonald - Congrats., The Premier 1219
Vote - Affirmative 1220
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 15, Regional and Community Health Boards Act,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1220
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 270 Justice - Institutions: Abuse - Review Re-Open,
Mr. R. Russell 1220
Res. 271, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Interests (N.S.) Ignored - Condemn,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1221
Res. 272, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Mermaid Hotel (Yar.): Anniv. (25th) -
Congrats., Mr. R. Hubbard 1222
Vote - Affirmative 1222
Res. 273, Educ. - Dragonfly Magazine: Patrick Burke (Shad Bay)
Contribution - Congrats., Mr. B. Holland 1222
Vote - Affirmative 1223
Res. 274, Health - Doctors: Departure - Action, Dr. J. Hamm 1223
Res. 275, Nat. Res. - Theresa Laffin (New Waterford): Mining Commun. -
Contribution Congrats., Mr. R. MacNeil 1223
Vote - Affirmative 1224
Res. 276, DFO - Scallop Fishermen (Inshore): Support - Extend,
Mr. J. Casey 1224
Vote - Affirmative 1225
Res. 277, Nat. Res. - Protected Areas: WWF Rating (C-) - Lesson,
Mr. J. Holm 1225
Res. 278, Disabled (Cdns.) - Dave Shannon Cross Country Tour:
Activism - Congrats., Mr. R. Carruthers 1225
Vote - Affirmative 1226
Res. 279, Fin. - Budgets (N.S.) (1993-98): Performance - Congrats.,
Mr. R. White 1226
Res. 280, House of Assembly - Coverage (CBC/CTV Natl.): Inequitable -
Condemn, Mr. G. Fogarty 1227
Res. 281, Agric. - House of Assembly Kitchen: Scotsburn Butter Absence -
Advise, Dr. J. Hamm 1227
Res. 282, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Surplus Prop.: Non-Profit Groups Use -
Congrats., Mrs. L. O'Connor 1228
Vote - Affirmative 1229
Res. 283, Nat. Res. - Protected Areas; WWF Rating (C-) - Action,
Ms. E. O'Connell 1229
Res. 284, Environ. - N.S. Youth Conservation Corps: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 1229
Vote - Affirmative 1230
Res. 285, Sports - Basketball (AUAA Champs. Men/Women):
St. F.X. Univ. - Congrats., Hon. W. Gillis 1230
Vote - Affirmative 1231
Res. 286, Fish. - East Coast Concern Day (04/05/97):
Atl. Ecumenical Council - Work Recognize, Hon. J. Barkhouse 1231
Vote - Affirmative 1231
Res. 287, Lib. Party (N.S.) - Election Campaign Slogan: New - Design,
Mr. A. MacLeod 1232
Res. 288, URB - Eastern Shore Bus Route: Termination Rejected -
Commend, Mr. K. Colwell 1232
Vote - Affirmative 1233
Res. 289, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Kim Jessome (New Waterford):
C.B. Tourism Initiative - Promotion Congrats., Mr. R. MacNeil 1233
Vote - Affirmative 1234
Res. 290, Educ. - Asia Connects/Nat. Youth Conf.: Brian Allaway
(Sir John A. MacDonald HS) - Selection Congrats., Mr. B. Holland 1234
Vote - Affirmative 1234
Res. 291, Fin. - Pub. Accounts: Pub. Aud. (Aud. Gen. Appoint) -
P.C. (N.S.) Party Commend, Mr. R. Chisholm 1234
Res. 292, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Marine Drive Tourism Operators:
Enthusiasm - Commend, Mr. K. Colwell 1235
Vote - Affirmative 1236
Res. 293, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Infrastructure Progs.: Gov'ts.
(Fed., Prov. & Mun.) - Cooperation Commend, Mr. K. MacAskill 1236
Res. 294, Fin. - MLAs: Householder Budget Inservice - Establish,
Hon. J. MacEachern 1236
Res. 295, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Bed & Breakfasts: Assessment -
Suspend, Mr. J. Holm 1237
Res. 296, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - MT&T: Job Losses - Condemn,
Ms. E. O'Connell 1238
Res. 297, Fin. - Budget (N.S.): Balanced - Possibilities Celebrate,
Hon. J. MacEachern 1238
Res. 298, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. Construction (1988-92):
Col.-Musquodoboit Valley MLA Misleading - Apologize,
Mr. D. Richards 1239
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 86, Health - Ambulance Service: Maritime Medical Care -
Negotiations, Mr. G. Moody 1240
No. 87, Health - QE II Health Sciences Centre: Med. Serv. - Comm.,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1242
No. 88, Health - Osteoporosis: Testing - Age Limit, Dr. J. Hamm 1243
No. 89, Health - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Environ. Health Group - Meet,
Mr. A. MacLeod 1245
No. 90, Educ. - Schools: Construction Policy - Document Table,
Mr. G. Archibald 1246
No. 91, Health: Ambulance Service - Contracts (Profitable),
Mr. J. Holm 1247
No. 92, WCB: Job Creation - Priority, Mr. R. Russell 1249
No. 93, WCB - Employees (Extra): Premium - Additional,
Mr. R. Russell 1250
No. 94, WCB - Forest Prod. Assoc.: Payroll Levy - Status,
Mr. B. Taylor 1252
No. 95, Health - Emergency Medical Technicians: Working Conditions -
Improve, Mr. R. Chisholm 1253
No. 96, Housing & Mun. Affs.: Bed & Breakfast Assessment -
Methodology, Mr. D. McInnes 1256
No. 97, Environ. - VGH: Medical Waste Incinerator -
Emissions Deadline, Mr. J. Leefe 1257
No. 98, Educ. - HRM School Bd.: Primary Hours - Uniformity,
Mr. B. Taylor 1258
No. 99, Commun. Serv. - Women's Centres: Funding - Equitable,
Ms. E. O'Connell 1259
No. 100, Tech. & Sc. Sec't. - Jobs: Software Sector - Training Ensure,
Mr. J. Leefe 1261
No. 101, Lbr.: Springhill Miners Museum - Inspections, Mr. B. Taylor 1262
No. 102, N.S. Gaming Control Comm'n. - Fire Depts.: Bingos - Licenses,
Mr. R. Russell 1264
No. 103, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Atl. Hwy. Corp. -
Court Case (Fish. Act [Can.]), Mr. J. Holm 1267
No. 104, Environ. - Meadowview (Kings Co.) Prop. Owners Assoc.:
Landfill Site - Compensation, Mr. G. Archibald 1268
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
Bill 14, Auditor General Act/Provincial Finance Act 1269
Dr. J. Hamm 1269
Hon. W. Gillis 1272
Mr. R. Chisholm 1274
Mr. R. Russell 1278
Mr. P. MacEwan 1280
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 233, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Supply/Price Preference (N.S.) -
Demand, Dr. J. Hamm 1281
Dr. J. Hamm 1281
Hon. E. Norrie 1283
Ms. E. O'Connell 1287
H.O. 1, Carried 1289
H.O. 2, Carried 1289
H.O. 3, Carried 1290
H.O. 4, Carried 1290
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE5(5):
Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Guysborough-Pt. Hawkesbury:
Commun. Efforts - Applaud, Mr. R. White 1291
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 1st at 12:00 p.m. 1294
NOTICE OF QUESTIONS FOR WRITTEN ANSWERS:
No. 6, Health - Home Care: Janet MacDonald (Bible Hill) -
Case Meeting, Ms. E. O'Connell 1295
No. 7, Health - Hants Commun. Hosp.: Report (John Breen) -
Provide, Mr. R. Russell 1295

[Page 1209]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 1997

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fifth Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Wayne Gaudet

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily proceedings at this time.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of concerned people on Route 337, Antigonish County, and the citizens submit:

"We the undersigned residents of route 337 north, known as the Mini Trail tourist attraction, want to make a petition to the Dept. of Transportation and the Minister of Transportation. Our concern is over the road conditions in certain sections of our road. Many sections are in poor disrepair and several are nearly impassable at any speed over 20-30 km/hr. One key area of concern is the stretch directly in front of St. Columbia Church, Lakevale. Not only is the pavement poor but guard railing has disappeared over the embankment and the shoulder of the road is also disintegrating.

1209

[Page 1210]

Our area is noted for its beautiful scenery and depends in many ways on tourism for our support as a viable community. Some things that would be directly affected would be our Craft Shops, Bed and Breakfasts, planned picnic area, canteen and the fishing Coop & Cottages. We feel that in order to encourage tourists and for that matter friends, to visit our community we insist that our road be evaluated and paved. If not in full, in sections, before the height of the tourist season is upon us.".

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition containing the names of 4,011 Nova Scotians who are opposed to the Liberal Government's recent cuts to the Children's Dental Program. The petition reads:

"We, the undersigned oppose the recent cuts to the Nova Scotia Children's Dental Program. The two-tier system is a personal affront, and changes within the program are not based on sound clinical experience. We the voters and taxpayers of this province insist that the government not make any more cuts to this extremely cost efficient program.".

This brings the total number of Nova Scotians who have signed petitions denouncing the Liberal Government and its cuts to the Children's Dental Program to 12,318. I would also like to point out that many more Nova Scotians continue to sign these petitions in opposition to the cuts to children's dental care. Mr. Speaker, I have added my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to welcome to the west gallery, many having their first visit to Province House, students from the Grade 9 class of Oxford School. Their leaders are Mrs. Louise Arsenault and Mrs. Eva Dimitropoulous. Would the members please welcome the visitors to our gallery. (Applause)

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules and Practice memos that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on November 29, 1996.

[Page 1211]

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table today the Community Health Board Planning Guidebook series. To date, 20 community health boards have been established across the province and this Community Health Board Planning Guide Book series will now be a very meaningful and practical assistance to those community health boards and to others that will be established. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The reports are tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have a long tradition of lending a helping hand when called upon to do so, evidenced most recently by the outpouring of support for the victims of the devastating floods in Manitoba. I rise today to advise the House of this government's response to this disaster on behalf of the people of this province.

On Thursday last, I spoke with Premier Gary Filmon of Manitoba and expressed to him our deep concern over the tragedy now facing his province. After conferring with the Minister of Natural Resources, I offered to him the full cooperation of the Nova Scotia Government regarding the supply of equipment and resources, particularly perhaps our helicopters that would be available, and welcomed any suggestions regarding assistance that this province could provide.

Premier Filmon advised me that Manitobans are touched by the measure of support received in addition to our own, and said that the federal Department of Defence is now contributing substantially to improve the drastic situation that now exists. Further, he advised, with gratitude that he would maintain contact with me and advise of any assistance that we could provide. He asked me to personally convey the thanks of the people of Manitoba to the people of Nova Scotia for what he called this generous gesture.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House, as I think the member for Lunenburg did last week, and all Nova Scotians who may be listening, that donations to the relief of Manitoba's flood victims can be made at any chartered bank. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 1212]

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly congratulate the Premier on his announcement. The Premier has done what I think is appropriate. All Nova Scotians cannot help but be painfully aware of what is happening out in Manitoba with the flooding in the Red River Basin and, particularly, the devastation that occurred yesterday in the community of St. Agathe. I had a resolution prepared which is now inappropriate, be it resolved that Premier Savage immediately offer to Premier Filmon any assistance which the Government of Nova Scotia may be able to render on behalf of the people of our province. I congratulate you, Premier, on your offer to the people of Manitoba for the support of the people of Nova Scotia. We are all, in this province, so mindful of how lucky we are here in Nova Scotia that our landscape does not lend itself to the horrendous flooding that they are experiencing in Manitoba. (Applause)

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, on behalf of the my caucus want to thank the Premier for passing on the offer of assistance to Premier Filmon and Manitobans for the tragedy that is going on right now. I would concur with all members of this House and all Nova Scotians that we must be ready to do what we can to provide support for people who are suffering through a terribly tragedy and the results that may last for many weeks and months in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise in the House this afternoon to inform you that a new Personal Property Registry system will be in place in Nova Scotia this fall. (Applause) The computerized service will be available province-wide and delivered through ACOL. ACOL is an on-line service providing electronic access to information maintained by the four provincial governments in Atlantic Canada.

As Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, I signed an agreement today with Unisys Canada to implement the new system. This innovative arrangement means that Nova Scotians will have access to a state-of-the-art Personal Property Registry without placing additional financial burden on the taxpayer.

Mr. Speaker, this agreement builds on the 1996 agreement reached between the Premiers of the four Atlantic Provinces and Unisys Canada establishing ACOL. This new system will improve the environment for commercial activities in this province. We've taken our original plan one step further by taking the ACOL route. This leaves the door wide open for an Atlantic Region registry in the future. I should also like to add, Mr. Speaker, that this public-private partnership has created 32 jobs in Nova Scotia related to the ACOL/Personal Property Registry solution. (Applause)

[Page 1213]

Mr. Speaker, there are several reasons for an overhaul of the registry system. Registration is still on a county basis in a Registry of Deeds office. There is no provision for a centralized province-wide registry to ensure the protection of financial interests in today's mobile society. The existing registry is paper based and offers no automated search capability. For many years the financial and legal communities have expressed frustration over the existing system. For example, when a consumer buys a used car today, that individual would have to conduct a manual search in 18 registry offices throughout the province to be certain that there were no outstanding liens against the vehicle.

[2:15 p.m.]

The new system has many benefits. These include a reduction in paper burden and storage costs for registry operations, self-entry of information by clients, allowing them better control over information transfers into the system, improved search capabilities, improved security, and control over personal property records, and an increase in the level of service to clients by the institution of electronic registration and search, a particularly important feature to the business community.

The Nova Scotia Personal Property Registry will be the first major offering delivered through ACOL and will be a flagship for other provinces. It demonstrates the benefits to be gained through effective application of electronic technology.

In closing, the new Personal Property Registry system is one of the many examples of how we, as a government, are improving the way we do business in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has said, more, and I wish I could, but there will be another day. This is just the start of many good announcements.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to introduce to you and through you to the House of Assembly, two guests in your gallery today. Mr. David Wagner, President and CEO of Unisys Canada, and with him is Mr. Allan Shatford, General Manager of Atlantic Provinces Unisys Canada. I will ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House.

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

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of his statement before he delivered it. I think that one would have to agree that for the most part this seems to be a move in the right direction. It is improving the search capacity and that is very important to individuals throughout the province.

I will be interested to see just what does province-wide access mean because I have always felt that a lot of times bureaucrats do not know that Nova Scotia exists after you get four blocks away from this House.

[Page 1214]

The question, of course, is that although we have the announcement of 32 much needed jobs and much appreciated jobs, one cannot help but wonder what happens to some of the people who are already employed in the registry. That is not clear through this. We all know that this government's record on public-private partnerships is, to say the least, abysmal, and every time we turn around people are losing work.

They are over there saying I have missed something. These guys have missed something for a long time. The fact of the matter is that the announcement for the most part is positive. We just hope that there are not people who are going to lose their jobs over this.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: I thank the minister for having provided me with a copy of his statement before he rose to make it in the House. He gave me the Coles' Notes version, however. What the minister read as the last section is not included within the notes that I received. However, I was able to follow the minister.

There are a number of points I would like to make. First of all, I have to tell the minister that your announcement of today was pre-empted by your colleague. The Minister of Business and Consumer Services was telling us about this when we were doing her estimates and talking about the great advancements that were being made in this area. Also, the minister himself told us a little bit about what is coming down the tubes because he said there were supposedly many more good announcements to come when he referenced the Premier. That tells us, of course, that like the federal government, as the election gets closer, there are going to be more positive announcements coming out. It is unfortunate that some of these things took so long to come forward.

Mr. Speaker, my initial reaction is, indeed, very positive, in terms of having a central registry. That has been a long-standing problem; it has been one that has been brought before this House by members of this caucus in the past and I believe, if I am going to be fair here, by members of the Liberal Opposition when they were in Opposition, with the former government. It is extremely important that no matter where you live across this province, that you have quick and easy access to the central registry so that you don't have to chase all over the place trying to find out if there are liens against a vehicle that you may happen to be buying and also to be able to file, whether that be information on a purchase of a property or what have you, that that information can be done. With the electronic technology that exists today, that kind of system is made much easier.

I do have some questions and I certainly will seek some assurance from the minister afterwards that although 32 jobs may be created in Nova Scotia, some of those very important regional jobs, where the services have been offered in the past, that those jobs will not be in jeopardy. I want to see those jobs maintained around the province because it is vitally important that you have that.

[Page 1215]

The last question I leave with the minister, because he didn't touch on this and I don't know the answer to this question, that is whether or not the company that received the agreement or contract with the government did so through an open tender process. Certainly the minister doesn't include that within the announcement. Maybe the minister could tell us if, in fact, because again it is very important if we are talking about an arrangement through the private sector to make sure that all businesses have an equal and fair opportunity to compete for this business, maybe the minister, even if he wants a point of clarification or a point of order when I conclude my remarks, even then he could stand up and tell us if the contract was awarded through an open tender process. That is an important question that still needs to be answered. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague from Dartmouth East on an additional good news story for business and consumers. I am making a statement on the report of the Task Force on Licenses, Permits and Approvals, which I made available to all the caucus offices this morning, from a press conference at 10 o'clock this morning.

Last year the Department of Business and Consumer Services was created specifically to make it easier for business and individuals, especially those in rural Nova Scotia, to deal with government. One of the major projects in my department has been the creation of the Nova Scotia Business Registry. Within a few years the Nova Scotia Business Registry will be the primary contact point between business and government in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would just interrupt, I have confirmation from my office that it was put on Mr. Chisholm's and Dr. Hamm's desks. (Interruptions) Dr. Hamm, you found it?

As part of building this registry, it was necessary to conduct a thorough review of all our government's licenses, permits and approvals, or what we call LPAs. Much of the early groundwork was done by the staff at the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, my honourable colleague, Richard Mann, and they deserve credit for their fine work on the initial stages.

A task force of civil servants, assisted by Peter O'Brien of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business examined almost 300 of the licenses, permits and approvals required of businesses and individuals in Nova Scotia. Their mandate was as complex as it was huge - to bring recommendations to make the whole process simpler for government and the end users of the LPAs. Also they were required to recommend which LPA should be thrown out and which should be combined or otherwise reformed.

The task force has come through and I wish to thank them for their fine work. These recommendations will go a long way to making the process of obtaining LPAs more user-

[Page 1216]

friendly and less complicated. There will always be a need for licensing and regulating to protect the public and our resources. This report outlines much of what government can and will do to make it as easy as possible for business and individuals to comply with these reasonable measures. It will surprise no one that government has a wide-ranging and far-reaching regime of licenses, permits and approvals. It is fair criticism that the regime is too wide-ranging and reaches further than is needed.

The Government of Nova Scotia has almost 300 licenses, permits and approvals or LPAs spread among 14 departments and agencies in the government. Until now, there had never been a systematic review of these LPAs in Nova Scotia's history. Considering the importance government places on regulating, and the impact that these LPAs have on the business and people of the province and those that must obtain them, it is astounding.

Over six months, the task force reviewed the 288 licenses that are administered by the government. Each one of these LPAs came under the microscope. Criteria was used to determine whether or not each LPA was justified. The first and the overriding guiding principle of the task force was to improve service delivery to the public and business while maintaining an efficient government operation. The task force has made 36 recommendations that will go a long way to accomplishing this principle. For example, of the 288 licenses, permits or applications, only 15 of them can be paid for with a debit or credit card; the rest require cash or certified cheque.

This practice, Mr. Speaker, is completely at odds with the way most companies and individuals conduct their business today in what is increasingly becoming a cashless society. Instead of being the last holdout against modern payment systems, this government will lead the way by reducing the hassle factor to Nova Scotians. Our commitment to this is illustrated by the fact that, in my department, the Registry of Joint Stock Companies and the Government Book Store have both been accepting debit and credit card payments for almost one year now.

Mr. Speaker, we have accepted the report of the task force without reservation. Its recommendations have been approved by Cabinet and implementation has already begun. This is a long-term project. The 36 policy recommendations, once implemented, will result in a vastly different system than exists today, if you can call what exists today a system. These will be direct and noticeable improvements in service delivery to business and individuals. We can now confidently say to Nova Scotians that our system of licenses, permits and approvals is becoming more responsive to the needs of the people and businesses they are meant to serve. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the minister's words, although I could not welcome her documentation; it did not appear on my desk. I did have the opportunity to

[Page 1217]

attend the press conference that the minister had this morning, in which it was very clearly outlined what had been done. A task force was formed. They looked at 288 of the licenses, permits and approvals that are required in the province and have now undertaken to eliminate some 22. They will provide access to 90 per cent of Nova Scotians, in less than 30 minutes and, as well, have provided some alternate payment methods.

I do agree with the minister that this will simplify the relationship of business and government. I think this is the right step, although I think it is the first step and, perhaps, a small step. I think the important thing is that it is an ongoing process - and I think the minister is committed to that - and that we continue to examine the morass of bureaucracy that has been created in this province. Most members are aware - but it bears repeating - that we create in this province some 800 pages of new regulations every year that impact upon this citizenry and impact upon our business and industry. A total review of that entire regulatory regime has got to be undertaken.

So I do welcome the minister's announcement. I think this is entirely appropriate and I would hope that it is not something that will end here and that it will, as the minister said earlier in the day, continue because it is certainly long overdue, but it is certainly the right thing for government to be doing.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but note at the start that the minister made reference to us becoming a moneyless society. Unfortunately, she didn't go on to expand upon that and explain that especially for middle and low-income earners that is because the government is taking so much out of their pockets that they haven't got much left to have cash for a lot of things.

[2:30 p.m.]

I also want to congratulate the minister. You can tell it is Opposition Day because she was able to spin out her very short press release that took less than a quarter of a page into the length of her announcement that she made this afternoon.

That having been said, Mr. Speaker, what the minister did announce, of course, is very important. There is no question whatsoever that we have to be modernized on an ongoing basis. We have to constantly be looking at ways to make it easier, simpler for individuals and for businesses to be able to do business with government, to be able to get whatever they are in the way of necessary permits, applications and so on. That is something that shouldn't, and hopefully it won't in the future, be allowed to get as outdated as it has at the present time. We have too much unnecessary red tape so that you can't find your way through the maze. So that part is certainly important.

[Page 1218]

Not only the staff that were involved but I certainly want to congratulate Mr. O'Brien for his considerable efforts in this. I know it has been a concern to the members of the business community, especially small businesses. The vast majority of jobs in Nova Scotia exist and are going to continue to exist in the small business sector and they don't have time or the money or resources to spend running around trying to make their way through the red tape in order to make sure that they are complying with all permits, applications, regulations, et cetera. So, we have to ensure that on a regular, ongoing basis we keep the system up-to-date and that we don't just simply pile one thing on top of another but we try to find ways in a concrete simple way to integrate them together so that they can be easily followed.

Now, with regard to some of the other points in terms of what the end product is going to be, I can't really comment on a lot of that because a lot of details are yet to be worked out. The announcement the minister made and the report that I looked at very quickly, and I acknowledge it was a very quick cursory scan through the recommendations and so on, one of the things that struck me is that there are time lines and a number of other processes that have to be undertaken. So the final judgment in terms of what the outcome is going to be is going to have to wait for six months to a year or whatever to see how well that process does, in fact, proceed.

Mr. Speaker, the initiative, the purpose, what is trying to be achieved I think is a very worthwhile one. I certainly look forward to a much more simplified and streamlined process that will ensure that yes, indeed, those who need to make their way through the maze can do it in an efficient and timely manner that isn't going to be expensive yet, at the same time, provide the protections for the individuals, the environment and all the other things that government is charged to make sure are, in fact, in place. Thank you.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 268

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

Whereas Scotsburn Dairy Group is a major player in the economy of rural Nova Scotia, employing about 500 people; and

Whereas Scotsburn Dairy Group is the only butter producer in Nova Scotia today, as well as producing cottage cheese at their Amherst plant to supply all of Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas Scotsburn also supplied the farmers with feed services, retail services, which also retains jobs in rural Nova Scotia;

[Page 1219]

Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this House that Nova Scotians buy and purchase Nova Scotia processed goods and support the rural communities of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice. I understand that the honourable member for Pictou West totally supports that and I appreciate it and I also want to mention to all members this fine Nova Scotia product which is supplied by Scotsburn.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 269

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

Whereas the talents of such authors as Robertson Davies and Margaret Atwood, to name but two, have ensured that Canadian literature ranks among the best in the world; and

Whereas in London yesterday another Canadian novelist, Ann-Marie MacDonald, joined this select group by winning the Commonwealth Writer's Best First Book prize for her best-seller, Fall on Your Knees, the story of a Cape Breton family; and

Whereas examples such as that set by Ann-Marie MacDonald encourage young Canadians from all regions to appreciate fine literature and instill in them the confidence to express themselves through novels, plays and poetry;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to Ann-Marie MacDonald our sincere congratulations on her exceptional achievement and acknowledge her valued contribution to Canadian culture.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1220]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure at this time to introduce a Private Member's Bill. As I said to the Minister of Health outside, the timing could not have been better, given how he tabled these reports on how community health boards are going to do their planning and so on. Well, I fit right into that and I am going to introduce a bill.

Bill No. 15 - Entitled an Act to Establish Regional and Community Health Boards. (Mr. Robert Chisholm)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 270

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

Whereas archives file RG-72 is a mammoth 182-box collection of Community Services files dating back to the 1940's; and

Whereas one of the lawyers involved in representing victims of abuse within our provincial institutions has asked the province to pick up the tab for his costs to do the search of that enormous collection of files, on behalf of his clients; and

Whereas access to those files should have fallen within the purview of the Stratton Review to begin with, so that all available evidence was at hand so the province could, in turn, have received a complete, independent report and assessment of the situation;

[Page 1221]

Therefore be it resolved that this Justice Minister take responsibility for this omission by his predecessors in this matter and reopen an independent review which allows for the inclusion of the RG-72 file, as well as an assessment of the current practices of the government's treatment of the victims and their interpretation of the compensation process, as outlined by the Stratton Report.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 271

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

Whereas evidence before the joint panel reviewing the proposed Sable Offshore Energy Project indicates that Nova Scotia users are not guaranteed a single cubic inch of gas from the project; and

Whereas evidence before the panel also suggests there is no evidence to support the claims of project proponents that gas be offered to Canadians on terms no less favourable than those given American buyers; and

Whereas these revelations are further proof that the government sold the farm in its negotiations with Shell and Mobil Oil;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the Liberal Government for failing to ensure that Sable gas would be developed, not for Mobil, Shell and American consumers, but in the best interests of Nova Scotia industry, Nova Scotia workers and Nova Scotia taxpayers.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

[Page 1222]

RESOLUTION NO. 272

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

Whereas in 1972 Brian and Barb Rodney of Yarmouth opened the Mermaid Motel in Yarmouth; and

Whereas during the past 25 years the Rodneys have provided superb accommodations for their guests from near and far; and

Whereas along with the operation of their motel, Brian and Barb Rodney have been actively involved in numerous community activities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations and best wishes to Brian and Barb Rodney on this occasion of their 25th Anniversary in the hospitality industry and wish them many more enjoyable years serving the travelling public.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 273

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

Whereas it is the goal of every writer to be published; and

Whereas a magazine called Dragonfly has been established for science enthusiasts from Grade 3 through to Grade 6 by the American National Sciences Teachers Association and Miami University; and

Whereas Dragonfly magazine has seen fit to publish Patrick Burke, an 11 year old resident of Shad Bay and a student at Atlantic Memorial Elementary School;

[Page 1223]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly extend congratulations to Patrick for his recent publishing success and commend Dragonfly magazine for encouraging interest in science in our youth.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 274

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

Whereas this government's health reform agenda has shut out both consumers and providers and been driven by budget rather than health care considerations; and

Whereas in 1993, 1994 and 1995 the net total of practising physicians dropped by 145; and

Whereas thousands of Nova Scotians are without a family doctor as physicians flee this government's backward and bullheaded reform agenda;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health acknowledge the devastation of Liberal reforms and take immediate steps to stem the flow of doctors by providing them, as well as nurses, consumers and other health care providers with meaningful opportunities for input.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 275

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

[Page 1224]

Whereas the Order of Santa Barbara at the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum is awarded to women in the progressive development of Canadian mining communities; and

Whereas this year is the first time the award has gone to a Nova Scotian; and

Whereas New Waterford-born Theresa Laffin will receive this year's national award in Vancouver for her tireless volunteer work in mining communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations to Theresa Laffin for her valuable contributions to the welfare of mining communities.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 276

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

Whereas during the past three weeks fishermen of the Digby scallop fleet occupied the constituency office of the MP for South West Nova, as well as my constituency office, since I share office space with the MP; and

Whereas these fishermen occupied these offices to bring to the attention of the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans the serious plight of the inshore scallop fleet; and

Whereas the fishermen have recently ceased their occupation of the offices, leaving them in excellent shape;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend to the inshore scallop fishermen their support in their battle to be fairly treated, allowing them to achieve a reasonable catch and enabling them to earn a decent living.

[Page 1225]

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 277

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 Liberal Government is always blowing its own horn about its efforts to become world-class; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas the World Wildlife Fund has given the government a less than world-class C-minus for its clandestine removal of the Jim Campbells Barren from the list of protected wildland areas; and

Whereas this removal took place behind closed doors following intensive political lobbying and in defiance of the recommendations emerging from an open public process;

Therefore be it resolved that the Jim Campbells Barren affair, also known as Barrengate, be a lesson to this government that you will not become world-class until you stop behaving like the government of a banana republic.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 278

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

[Page 1226]

Whereas Dave Shannon, an athlete, lawyer and quadriplegic is travelling across Canada by a power wheelchair; and

Whereas his goals are to create an awareness of the personal barriers that each Canadian faces while raising funds to assist persons with disabilities overcome their own barriers; and

Whereas Mr. Shannon was at the Scotia Bank in Elmsdale yesterday presenting this member with a canoe paddle painted with scenes of Canada for the signature of our Premier, which will be joined by the signatures of every Premier all across this country, symbolizing the awesome journey that lays ahead of him;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Dave Shannon for his activism and wish him every success as he continues on his 10,000 kilometre journey.

I would request waiver and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 279

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

Whereas the April edition of The Fraser Forum, a monthly publication of the Fraser Institute, has given Nova Scotia's budget performance an index of 4 out of the 10 provinces in Canada; and

Whereas The Fraser Forum gave the NDP Government of British Columbia a budget performance index rank of only 10; and

Whereas the NDP Government of the Province of British Columbia has had two terms to get their budget in order while the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia has achieved its fourth place ranking in less than one term;

[Page 1227]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Government of Nova Scotia and its Minister of Finance on its strong budget performance since it was elected in 1993.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 280

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

Whereas the budgets tabled in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Newfoundland were the only provincial budgets which both the CBC and CTV felt warranted a full report; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's budget received mention on CBC and none at all on CTV; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's budget ranked fourth among all provinces in budget performance;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House admonish the national networks of CBC and CTV for their failure to provide fair and equitable coverage of significant positive news events associated with the activities of this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION 281

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

Whereas today the Minister of Agriculture introduced a resolution praising Scotsburn Dairies; and

[Page 1228]

Whereas Scotsburn is recognized as a major manufacturer of quality dairy products; and

Whereas Scotsburn is the only manufacturer of butter in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister advise the Legislature as to the reason why Scotsburn butter is not the product available in the members' kitchen.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Scotsburn does several different labels for many different companies in Nova Scotia.

DR. JOHN HAMM: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the Minister of Agriculture indicating then that Scotsburn provides products under the Baxter label?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 282

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

Whereas a report tabled recently details the sale, disposal and donation of materials no longer of use to the government to 166 non-profit groups; and

Whereas schools and school boards, in particular, have received office equipment, curtains, desks and computers through NovaKnowledge, including 200 computers, 177 monitors, 121 printers, 172 keyboards; and

Whereas other groups benefiting from the program includes nursing homes, community groups and charitable organizations who receive items ranging from office equipment, beds, electric heaters, flag poles and Medicare equipment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate those non-profit groups for applying to the program and successfully benefiting from this government's initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1229]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 283

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

Whereas the Minister of Natural Resources accuses the World Wildlife Fund of taking "a harsh and unrealistic position" in giving this government a C-minus for its approach to protected areas and endangered spaces; and

Whereas this Minister of Natural Resources takes issue with the credibility of the World Wildlife Federation rating system, which gave the province its C-minus because of the under-handed delisting of Jim Campbells Barren and its failure to introduce legislation to enshrine protection of 30 other designated sites; and

Whereas some may well consider C-minus too high a mark and would prefer to substitute an F;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the minister to stop complaining about her marks, restore Jim Campbells Barren to the list of protected sites, call for debate and passage of Bill No. 8, the Wildlands Protection Act, introduced by the New Democratic Party and supported it in principle by the Official Opposition, thereby avoiding a trip to the resource teacher.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 284

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps is a program of the Department of the Environment that provides skills training and outdoor environmental employment for Nova Scotians between the ages of 17 and 24; and

[Page 1230]

Whereas the environmental projects range from fish habitat improvements along the Sackville, Cornwallis and North Aspy Rivers, to the development of portions of the Trans Canada Trail System; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps will be tackling a number of projects with community partners throughout the province to help in the protection, management and promotion of a healthy environment for Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly extend congratulations to these valuable young people for battling so hard in the protection of our environment through this government's successful program.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 285

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

Whereas earlier this year, the Saint Francis Xavier University women's and men's basketball teams won their respective Atlantic Universities Athletic Association, AUAA, Championships; and

Whereas the respective coaches, Doc Ryan and Steve Konchalski, directed their teams with distinction at the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union, CIAU, National Tournaments;

Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of all members of this House that the students, staff, athletes and coaches at St. F.X. be congratulated on their basketball achievements.

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

[Page 1231]

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 286

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

Whereas the Atlantic Ecumenical Council has proclaimed Sunday, May 4th, as a designated Day of Concern for the East Coast fisheries; and

Whereas the council has taken a leadership role in asking Atlantic Canadians to take time to consider the human impact of changes taking place in the fishery; and

Whereas many individuals, families and entire communities are struggling to make adjustments to changing resource conditions;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly recognize and thank the Atlantic Ecumenical Council for their work on behalf of the fishermen and communities, many of whom face uncertain futures. May we reach out on May 4th with faith and compassion.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 1232]

RESOLUTION NO. 287

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

Whereas the provincial Liberals are reportedly following their federal cousins' theme, "Government has to be a force for good in society", when they hit the campaign trail once the next election is called; and

Whereas this would be an insincere theme, to say the least, from a government which has fudged the books to balance a budget, delisted the Jim Campbells Barren for political reasons, promised to eliminate patronage but delivers jobs to its key workers; and

Whereas it is also the government that promised no new taxes and lots of jobs but delivered the BS Tax and few jobs, promised investment in our education system but slashed it by $52 million, and claims to have been the saviour of our health system but instead leaves people waiting for months for surgery after cutting 30 per cent of beds and closing down hospitals;

Therefore be it resolved that if this is the Liberal concept of "a force for good in society", they should take the time before the next election to design a new campaign slogan, one which is a little more honest and illustrates the true direction of a Liberal Government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 288

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

Whereas in early April, many concerned members of the Eastern Shore community made a presentation to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board in an attempt to preserve bus service along the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas the Utility and Review Board has ruled that the Zinck's Bus Company has an obligation to the people of the Eastern Shore, and therefore has rejected its application to terminate their Eastern Shore route; and

Whereas this means that bus service along the Eastern Shore, which plays an important role in the economic and social development of the area, will continue;

[Page 1233]

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the Utility and Review Board for their decision, and congratulate the people of the Eastern Shore for working together to defend their common interests and to make their voices heard.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 289

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

Whereas Reflection/The Cabot Meeting 1997 is Nova Scotia's biggest tourism initiative for 1997; and

Whereas a New Waterford printing company, Somethin' Creatif Print Inc., will develop the licensed merchandise line for this outstanding international event; and

Whereas this enthusiastic company is providing a real boost to tourism, while creating employment in our community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations to Kim Jessome, President and founder of Somethin' Creatif Print Inc., for working so hard to promote this Cape Breton tourism initiative and extend best wishes for great success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1234]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 290

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

Whereas the Asia Connects/National Youth Conference will be held in Winnipeg May 4th to May 11th, to make Asia a part of Canadian students' life experiences and inspire future career opportunity; and

Whereas participants will identify and appreciate the difference between Canada and Asia, with training in media, cross-cultural communications, resources, networks and information; and

Whereas Grade 12 student Brian Allaway of Sir John A. MacDonald High School was chosen out of 1,100 applications to join 155 other students from various countries as delegates to this year's Asia Connects/National Youth Conference;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly extend congratulations to Brian Allaway for being selected and extend our best wishes to him for a successful conference.

[3:00 p.m.]

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 291

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

[Page 1235]

Whereas the Tory Official Opposition has introduced legislation in this House to assign the task of auditing Nova Scotia's books to the provincial auditor; and

Whereas this measure is welcome because it would improve accountability and save over $100,000 a year now paid to outside auditors; and

Whereas the Tory Official Opposition, while in government, had 15 years in which to implement this important measure, but failed to do so despite prodding from members of this Party;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commends the Tories for finally seeing the error of their ways, but regrets that it took so many years and so many billions in accumulated debt before they did so.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 292

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

Whereas last week, in conjunction with the Seaside Tourism Committee and the Sheet Harbour and Area Board of Trade, I hosted the Fourth Annual Marine Drive Tourism Day in Sheet Harbour; and

Whereas more than 80 tourism operators participated in the event, a significant increase from last year and an indication that the tourism industry is on the move along the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas there was a tremendous amount of optimism and enthusiasm about the potential of the Eastern Shore tourism industry and clear signs that tourism operators are taking a more aggressive marketing approach;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the growing sense of enthusiasm and optimism felt by Marine Drive tourism operators, and wish them well as they work towards the continued growth of tourism along the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 1236]

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 293

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

Whereas it became evident in the late 1980's and early 1990's that Canada's infrastructure was in trouble because of a lack of funding for ongoing municipal maintenance and capital improvements to sewer, water and transportation systems; and

Whereas it was finally this Liberal Government who responded to the long-standing and continued need for upgrading of municipal infrastructure with the signing of the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Works Agreement; and

Whereas the recent announcement of the expansion of this program will be a significant benefit to Victoria and further support communities throughout Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the three levels of government - federal, provincial and municipal - be commended for working together successfully in the creation of over 4,000 jobs and strengthening Nova Scotia's infrastructure.

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

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 294

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

[Page 1237]

Whereas the John Hamm Tories, like the Donald Cameron Tories and the John Buchanan Tories, don't know the difference between a deficit and a surplus; and

Whereas the Robert Chisholm New Democrats, like the Bob Rae New Democrats and Glen Clark New Democrats, neither know nor care about the difference between a deficit and a surplus; and

Whereas the John Savage Government not only knows, but delivered two years of budgeting that paid the bills without borrowing and, in fact, has a surplus to carry into next year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House establish an in-service for all sitting MLAs and call it, what every householder should know - you can't spend what you don't have.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 295

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

Whereas bed and breakfast operations are an important part of Nova Scotia's tourism infrastructure; and

Whereas with the BST and changes in the application of assessment rules, these operations are being hit with a double tax whammy by this government; and

Whereas this government has gone to great lengths with the BST and tax credit measures to help big businesses to create jobs;

Therefore be it resolved that in the interests of fairness and preservation of the jobs of those employed in bed and breakfast operations the government suspend the application of the commercial assessment and the business occupancy tax on B & B operators.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 1238]

RESOLUTION NO. 296

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

Whereas MT&T has once again announced a hefty increase in profits; and

Whereas despite a 50 per cent increase in profits for 1996, the company will eliminate 260 jobs in 1997 while adding only 70 full-time jobs; and

Whereas this practice of cutting employment while profits soar is becoming a sadly familiar one at MT&T;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn job-killing corporations like MT&T and urge the government to bring in measures to take the profit out of job destruction.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 297

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

Whereas a government that spends more than it takes in in revenues is said to be in a deficit position and must borrow to pay its bills; and

Whereas a government that pays all its bills and has some money left over for next year is said to be in a surplus position; and

Whereas the government auditors and the Auditor General both agree that over the last two years the Government of Nova Scotia has managed to pay its bills, provide extra money for health care, education and roads, while still having a surplus for next year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and celebrate this fact and each member of this House trumpet the new possibilities a balanced budget provides ordinary Nova Scotians and, furthermore, condemn those who would, for their own selfish advantage, rob Nova Scotians of the realization that these new opportunities are before them and belong to them.

[Page 1239]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

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

Whereas confirmation has just been received that the butter today available in the members' lounge was not manufactured by the only butter producer in Nova Scotia, Scotsburn Cooperative Services Limited;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture report to the Legislature why made in Nova Scotia butter is not available in the members' lounge.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

HON. GUY BROWN: I find it unbelievable that the Leader of the Opposition is up on this issue when Baxters is an important company in this province that employs hundreds of people and buys from hundreds of dairy people in Nova Scotia. To hear the Tory Party being opposed to the Baxters operation in Nova Scotia is unbelievable. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

I would like to remind all members that members are only allowed to table two resolutions per sitting. So maybe the honourable Leader could table his resolution tomorrow, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 298

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 honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley during the debate on Resolution No. 134 on Monday, April 27, spoke about the Tory Government's expenditure of $15,440,500 on the highways in the constituency of Antigonish from 1988 to 1992; and

Whereas during the same period the same Tory Government spent $49,812,800 on highways in the constituency of Clare, which was represented in the House by a member of that government's Cabinet; and

[Page 1240]

Whereas Antigonish, which has at least double the land miles and at least five times the number of road miles of Clare, during the 1993 election had 14,854 voters and Clare had 7,371;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley apologize to the members of this House for misleading them about the impartiality of the previous Tory Government's highway construction activity.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

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

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly applaud the outstanding community efforts of the people of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury who recognize that the creation of strong partnerships between government and all stakeholders will ensure lasting tourism developments.

We will now commence the Oral Question Period which today will last for one and one half hours. The time now being 3:11 p.m., Oral Question Period will run until 4:43 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - AMBULANCE SERVICE:

MARITIME MEDICAL CARE - NEGOTIATIONS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. Last week I asked the Minister of Health about Maritime Medical Care moving into the ambulance business. At that time, he had no knowledge of that being the case. Yesterday, during estimates, my colleague the member for Hants West asked the Minister of Health if the Department of Health approached Maritime Medical Care to get into the ambulance

[Page 1241]

business. The minister said, no, one of the board members approached the Department of Health.

Mr. Speaker, this morning, on Information Morning, Mr. Jim Moir, CEO of Maritime Medical Care, was asked, how did this deal come about? Did you go to the government or did they come to you? Mr. Moir said, no, the government came to us.

I would ask the minister, could he clearly - he has been saying both things - tell this House, through you, Mr. Speaker, did the Government of Nova Scotia approach Maritime Medical Care to take over the ambulance business of this province?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question because it gives me an opportunity to clear up what might be a misunderstanding. As the honourable member will recall, one of his colleagues asked me in estimates debate how the original contact had come about. My response, at that time, was I had no idea. I did not know. In answer to a subsequent question, a note was delivered to me from one of my staff. I read the contents of the note in a subsequent answer. The contents of the note indicated that the first contact with respect to this transaction, which had just culminated yesterday, had been as a result of a conversation with a board member from MMC. That was the information I then relayed to the House.

I heard the comment, reported to me, made today by Mr. Moir and I asked for a copy of the exact comments. I will read them. I am quoting from his answer, "Government made MMC aware of the fact it was in the process of consolidating ambulances in the province and asked us if we would be interested. Indeed, they were probably aware that we do have plans in the long run to expand our health care operations, so it was a natural fit and a combined approach, I suppose.". That was from the statement this morning.

I asked staff, in light of that statement about the note that they had sent me, and it was confirmed to me that the first contact with respect to this transaction which is successfully concluded was, indeed, a conversation initiated by a board member with a member of staff and that staff member then subsequently contacted MMC.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I find it a bit confusing on who really made the contact. I am sure the minister must have been aware, with the ambulance service being such an important part of the system in this province, that one week ago, MMC was looking at taking over the ambulance service and probably aware of who made the contact.

Again, I am not clear; I understand that they are negotiating with MMC to take over the ambulance dispatch centre. I am wondering, again, whether that was put out to tender by the Government of Nova Scotia, or did the province or the Department of Health go to Maritime Medical Care and say, we want you to operate, without tender, the dispatch centre for ambulances in this province?

[Page 1242]

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. BOUDREAU: No, Mr. Speaker, the operation of the dispatch centre was the subject of the competitive process and there was a successful proponent with whom the government signed a contract. It was not MMC. There is a successful proponent; I hesitate exactly to give you the name, but I think it was involved with the Loewen Group, I believe.

In any event, there was a process, there was an evaluation, and there was a successful proponent. What our agreement with MMC does is that some of the liabilities, which were the province's as a result of that process and that agreement, will now be assumed by MMC.

MR. MOODY: My understanding - my final supplementary - is that Maritime Medical are not going to operate the dispatch centre for ambulances. I wonder if the minister would inform, or be so kind as to provide to us, was it an open tender process, was it a bid for proposals, and could the minister provide to us whatever that process was and how many bids there were and who the successful bidder was to operate the dispatch centre for the province?

MR. BOUDREAU: I would be happy to do that and I undertake to do so no later than Monday.

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

HEALTH - QE II HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE: MED. SERV. - COMM.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Health. We have heard, over the past number of weeks, some concerns about how the new QE II Health Sciences Centre is adjusting, in particular the new Infirmary, to the transition and so on. We have heard many of the medical staff talk about the stress, the problems in the emergency room, people are leaving, things are changing, and I think that we should all be concerned with some of the things that are happening.

Most recently, it has come to my attention that things were getting so bad with respect to the ability of the medical staff to deliver certain services to their patients that a committee has been formed of senior medical staff, outside the Medical Advisory Committee, in order to try to find a solution to problems, in particular, around the OR. I would like to ask the Minister of Health, would he confirm the fact that a committee has been established that is operating outside the Medical Advisory Committee because of the level of problems and chaos in the QE II?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Specifically, I can neither confirm nor deny that. If the honourable member wants me to get that information, I certainly will.

[Page 1243]

MR. CHISHOLM: I would like to ask the minister, as my first supplementary, if he would in fact investigate and report back to this House at the earliest opportunity, and confirm the fact that such a committee has been established, and will he investigate and confirm with this House whether or not problems relative to the sterilization unit and significant, if not serious, waiting lists in radiology exist at this present time at the QE II, and will he ensure that that information is provided to this House and steps are being taken by his department to clear up that problem?

MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, I will investigate and report.

MR. CHISHOLM: I would like to ask the minister. Given the magnitude of the responsibilities on the senior management of the QE II with trying to pull together four tertiary care hospitals, and given the fact that the business plan that was presented last summer suggested a $40 million reduction in budget which meant hundreds of hospital beds and staff were being laid off, will the minister advise whether his department is in regular contact with the QE II and in fact has a handle on whether or not the administration at that facility is going to be able to solve these problems in the short-term?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am sure, to answer the first part of the question, I am sure my staff is in contact with the management of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. On the other hand, I don't think we intend to manage that institution any more than we intend to manage the Izaak Walton Killam-Grace Hospital, or the Nova Scotia Hospital or any of the regional health boards from the Joseph Howe Building on Hollis Street in Halifax.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - OSTEOPOROSIS: TESTING - AGE LIMIT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health, as well. The Minister of Health is quite aware of what a devastating disease osteoporosis is, it affects literally tens of thousands of Nova Scotians. It is a condition whereby, particularly with advancing age and lessening activity, a decalcification of bones occurs leading to deformities of the spine, painful deformities and as well, the occurrence of frequent fractures of hips, arms, wrists and so on. The minister is also aware that the only accurate test of this condition and the only way to monitor the effectiveness of treatment is through a bone densiometer. Recent referrals to the QE II, which is the only centre in Nova Scotia which provides this testing, has indicated that they are now no longer willing to provide this testing to those over 79 years of age. Can the minister indicate, does he support rationing of this very vital service, based on an age cut-off?

[Page 1244]

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable Leader of the Opposition for bringing that subject to the floor. I have had an opportunity recently to meet with Dr. Diane Theriault, whom I am sure the Leader of the Opposition is familiar with having I think perhaps received some of the information he brings to the House from her. She is a very distinguished physician and practices actively in this area.

I had an opportunity to meet with her at some considerable length a few weeks ago as we discussed this problem of the incredibly rising demand in this area of medicine. I thought we had a very productive discussion and I received a brief from her on the subject. In follow up conversations we have asked her to come into a cooperative effort with the Department of Health to examine this problem and how we might address it in a practical way. She has agreed to do that and I hope we will have a productive result.

DR. HAMM: The proper diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis is something that will be going on from one end of this province to the other and the minister knows it is a very common and devastating condition. The minister is probably also aware that in a recent address to the Osteoporosis Society of Canada, a world renowned expert, Dr. Brian Lentle suggested that for a population of 1 million people, which is very close to the population here in Nova Scotia that eight bone-densiometers are required. It is my understanding that we have one in this province. Will the minister commit that he will take steps to ensure that this very valuable service will be made available to Nova Scotians in all regions of the province no matter what their age?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I think we have the opportunity to examine this problem in a serious way with the assistance of Dr. Theriault, whom I believe is probably the province's leading authority on the subject. I think what we should do is go through that process in a meaningful way and not propose any solutions or make any commitments until they have had an opportunity to look at this situation in the context of the entire province. When they have done that, we will intend to move forward.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his commitment. I would like to point out to the minister that there is only one other major hospital in the entire country that cuts off this test on the basis of age. I would also point out that the record of Nova Scotia, in terms of making resources available for the diagnosis is the second worst in the country and I am talking now about osteoporosis. Until this kind of a program is available, not only at the QE II but in every region in this province, in fact, we will be providing a sub-standard level of care for our citizens.

Will the minister indicate if, in fact, he has developed within his department a list of core services that he and his department feel should be provided to each health care region in this province?

[Page 1245]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, that is an ongoing effort and it will be an effort that I am sure will continue to grow and change as we move through the years. The unfortunate thing is that we don't have all the financial resources we should have to meet these needs, the main reason being that we spend $1 billion a year paying for the debt that that former government ran up.

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

HEALTH - C.B. REG. HOSP.: ENVIRON. HEALTH GROUP - MEET

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is also to the Minister of Health. On February 2nd (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has the floor.

MR. MACLEOD: My question, through you, Mr. Speaker, is also to the Minister of Health. On February 7th you met with a group of people who are involved with the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and they had some concerns that they expressed to you about environmental health and their problems there. At that time you gave them a commitment that you would investigate and get back to them.

Mr. Minister, it is now three months later and the question I would like to ask you is, are you prepared to meet with these employees again to live up to your commitment? If so, when?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is quite true, I met with them in my constituency office and am perfectly happy to meet with them again. I would suggest that they call and arrange a time.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you goes to the Minister of Labour, on a similar matter. Last December 6th the Minister of Labour committed to table all investigations and reports, orders and recommendations of his Department of Labour into the health and safety concerns of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. He has not done that as yet.

I would ask if the minister is prepared to keep that commitment and file those reports forthwith with this House?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his straightforward answer. Again, through you to the Minister of Labour, would the minister also commit to providing the House with an up-to-date list of actions taken to date by the

[Page 1246]

hospital, to correct the problems that have been identified by the Department of Labour? Further, would he assure this House that his department will stay on top of the hospital situation, to ensure that all recommendations are completed quickly and safely?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the direct answer to his question is, yes but I will preface that by saying that we have been doing some investigation on that and we have received some information from the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and I can assure the member that our department is acting on it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce two residents of the Eastern Shore, Roddie Robertson and Ron Gilford. I wonder if they would stand in the Speaker's Gallery, so we can give them a nice warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

EDUC. - SCHOOLS: CONSTRUCTION POLICY - DOCUMENT TABLE

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Now, Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education and Culture. The minister has been repeatedly asked for the piece of paper that would indicate to Nova Scotians that there is a great cost advantage to the taxpayer with regard to this private-public partnering of building schools. The minister has been asked to furnish this piece of paper; he has not done so as yet. However, he mentioned in a recent article in the newspaper that the government can document that school construction is cheaper using the new partnership process.

I am wondering if the minister would please table for this House and for Nova Scotians today the documentation that will prove beyond a doubt that it is cheaper for the taxpayers to proceed down the road that he has indoctrinated us upon?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, my staff is busy putting together all the documents that we committed during budget estimates to table here and I am sure we will be able to do that.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, the school, Sherwood Park Centre, has been chosen, designated and I guess it is operating and functioning. (Interruption) I am sure it is a good school. I am not criticizing the quality of construction or anything else. All I want to find out is the cost. If the minister has signed on the dotted line on behalf of the taxpayers, he must have the documentation that he could present today.

[Page 1247]

Could the minister tell us why he signed the taxpayers to have this public-private partnering and he has yet not been able to find the documentation that would prove it was a good investment for the taxpayer?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we committed during budget estimates - and we will honour that commitment - to table any and all documents related to the construction phase and as the lease arrangements are developed, we will table those as well, to show taxpayers that not only is the construction less expensive, but the financing less expensive.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Again, we have the minister saying, look I am going to do this, I am going to promise you this, you are going to have it, I can't wait to give it to you, but the very point is, the minister has obligated the province in a 20 year contract and he has not furnished one iota of documentation to prove it is a good deal for the taxpayers.

Would the minister please explain how he has signed a 20 year deal without the pertinent information regarding this lease-purchase agreement that he has worked out?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is incorrect. We have thoroughly canvassed this through budget estimates. We explained and gave detailed amounts that were recorded by those members opposite who were paying full attention on the actual cost of the construction, right to the dollar. We published that in estimates and committed to tabling not only that document, but all sorts of documents benchmarking that construction costs were less expensive. So the member opposite will receive all his information. If he reads the estimates Hansard, he will get all the information that he is looking for, as well.

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

HEALTH: AMBULANCE SERVICE - CONTRACTS (PROFITABLE)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go through you, sir, to the Minister of Health. I would like to get some clarification on the minister's announcement of yesterday in which the minister, of course, announced that the government is going to be approving the operation of the ambulance services by Maritime Medical Care Incorporated and, also, that the government has signed an agreement for a company to take over the administration of contracts related to central dispatches for ambulance operations, acquisition of new vehicles, et cetera.

My question is quite simple. Would the minister confirm that what the government has done is made agreements with companies that will be operating on a for-profit basis?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Will the minister confirm that there are agreements made with companies that are operating on a for-profit basis? Is that the question? We do it all the time.

[Page 1248]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, what the minister, of course, is confirming is that Maritime Medical Care, which will be acquiring the operation of the ambulances and which will pretty well have a monopoly situation will, of course, be a for-profit company. The minister already in the House earlier this afternoon announced that the contract for the administration of the dispatch and so on has been given to a large, multinational American, for-profit corporation, which is in violation of the Canada Health Act.

My question to the minister is quite simply this. If the minister and the government are concerned about ensuring that we have top quality health care and that the maximum numbers of dollars are going back into the health care system, instead of being trucked out in profits to American companies and others, why, Mr. Speaker, did the government not insist that these services be provided on a not-for-profit basis? The minister knows that Maritime Medical Care has a not-for-profit segment of that corporation. Why has the government decided to waste additional dollars by giving profits and privatizing this business and giving that money away that could be better used in providing the desperately needed health care services in this province?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, where has this member been in this province? Is he saying that we shouldn't pay anyone to operate ambulances that are in the business for profit? My goodness, we had 54 companies; they were all trying to make a profit. Now, some of them didn't, but it was purely accidental that they didn't. I mean they were all private sector companies looking to make a dollar in the provision of ambulance services. That has been the history in this province.

In fact, what I am concerned about, Mr. Speaker, and what that member should be concerned about, instead of dragging up 1930's socialist rhetoric, what the member should be concerned about is the quality of the service and the cost to the taxpayer. That's what we are all about. We will ensure that the taxpayers get maximum benefit.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will tell you, I have to say that I feel terribly rebuked by this minister. Of course, this is the minister whose responsibility it is, and whose job it is, is to try to ensure that American shareholders of these companies not take our profits but that the money, the scarce resources that we have, go back into our health care system to cut down on those waiting lists, to ensure that there are ambulances, to ensure that there is health care, home care; that's the minister's responsibility. He can call it what rhetoric he wants, but I tell you, this minister is letting the people of the province down if he is going to be trucking the profits out.

In his statement he also announced that Maritime Medical, for example, this for-profit corporation, will be able to draw upon the funds of the Immigrant Investors Fund. Now, that is a fund that is administered by the Department of Finance. It is a fund, Mr. Speaker, that is controlled by senior officials within the Department of Finance so, although it is technically separate, it is a public fund because it is administered by the Department of Finance.

[Page 1249]

My question to the former Minister of Finance - who will be very familiar with that as he has moved into his new Health portfolio - how much money is going from that investor fund into the start-up of this operation? How much money is Maritime Medical putting in, or Loewen, and how much of that money is actually coming from this public fund, which is a limited fund? Maybe, Mr. Speaker, the minister can answer that question, he hasn't answered the others.

MR. BOUDREAU: It is amazing to me that this honourable member has somehow, all of these years, missed the fact that we had 54 companies in this province, for-profit companies, operating the ambulance service. How could he have missed that? I mean I think everybody knew that. But now he is on to a hobby horse that says for some reason a company operating ambulance services in this province cannot be a for-profit company. What are we going to do with the others? Are we going to tell them to go out of business? Are we going to tell them that unless they promise us not to make a profit, they have to give us their licence back, they have to tear up the contract? Have you heard anything as silly in your life, Mr. Speaker?

Let's get on to the question he asked. He said, Immigrant Investors Fund, that there are senior officials of government involved in the administration of that fund, it is a public fund, Mr. Speaker, it is only a matter of a technicality. Well, this is the technicality, it is not government money. Now, that may be a technicality to him; I think it is pretty important to us. It is not government money. In terms of the purchases that will be made of ambulance services across this province, as I announced when I made the statement, not one cent of public money will go in to MMC.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

WCB: JOB CREATION - PRIORITY

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour. As we in this House are all aware, this government is continually trumpeting the fact that job creation is job one and that no impediments should be placed in the way of businesses who are trying to hire more people. I wonder if the Minister of Labour will go on record as endorsing that philosophy?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Certainly.

MR. RUSSELL: I take it that the minister would agree that departments and agencies of government should be doing everything that they possibly can do in encouraging small business to hire more people. Would he agree with that?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I just hope all the questions I get in this House are as easy as that one. Certainly.

[Page 1250]

MR. RUSSELL: Now that he has answered the easy questions, we are going to come to a difficult question. If he agrees with this, would he tell us why in Heaven's name the Workers' Compensation Board is fining employers who take on additional employees at the end of a calendar year - after the month of October? They are actually fining employers who take on additional employees. Could he explain that to the House?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I have to confess I have no idea what the honourable member is talking about.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West on a new question.

WCB - EMPLOYEES (EXTRA): PREMIUM - ADDITIONAL

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: As we know, the Workers' Compensation Board charges a premium and that premium must be paid at the beginning of the year, based on what the employer thinks their number of employees is going to be for the year. Do you know that? Of course you do.

The point is, if indeed we will say a firm picks up an additional contract late in a calendar year and has to hire additional employees after the month of October, they not only have to pay the premium for those additional workers but they have to pay a 10 per cent fine on top of that because they were not registered earlier in the year. Does the minister think that that is a good way to encourage employment by small business?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: I would like to thank the honourable member opposite for that question. It is a concern for the Workers' Compensation Board. We have a serious problem. I might say to you that we also have a serious unfunded liability with the Workers' Compensation Board, caused by 15 years of mismanagement of the Workers' Compensation Board by that member, who was the Minister of Labour for that government for some years. I can tell you we are trying to cope with a very serious problem we have there in regard to the unfunded liability and we are trying to address that and at the same time trying to be fair and hold the rates down to small employers in this province. We are addressing that particular problem and will continue to address it.

MR. RUSSELL: I would like to point out to this minister that this government has been in power now going on five - count them five - years. The problems that are existing out there now (Interruptions) I said going on for five years. Quiet, please. Have been going on for five years, Mr. Speaker, and the problems that are existing at the present time are not a previous government's problem. It is their problem. (Interruptions)

[Page 1251]

The problem is simply this. A person who picks up a contract late in the year and has to hire additional employees to meet that contract is fined by the Workers' Compensation Board because they took on additional employees. Sometimes those fines are in the thousands of dollars.

I am going to ask the minister this, will he be prepared, since his government has been in power for five years, to make some changes? Is he prepared to change the Workers' Compensation Act so there is no penalty . . .

Somebody just asked the question, why didn't you do something about it? Because this is in the new legislation. It was not in the old legislation. Guess who brought the new legislation forward? This government. Is he prepared to change that legislation?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I might say to the honourable member that time certainly flies when you are having fun. We are in office five years now. I thought we were just approaching (Interruptions)

In direct answer to the question, we have taken the unfunded liability of the Workers' Compensation Board down from over $0.5 billion to $375 million. It is still a tragedy in this province. That bunch opposite couldn't care less about the Workers' Compensation Board or the businesses during the years they were in power. I can tell you, we care and this government cares.

[3:45 p.m.]

I could tell you, the item he is talking about is not even in the legislation. It is a policy of the Workers' Compensation Board. So the previous minister has no idea what he is talking about when he talks about when I introduced legislation. That is a policy of the Workers' Compensation Board. Unlike previous ministers, I don't interfere in the day-to-day operations of the Workers' Compensation Board in dictating what is going to be on a daily basis and what isn't.

MR. RUSSELL: It is wonderful for that minister to say that it is hands off because it is bad news. If it was good news, that would be the government doing something. Mr. Speaker, it is a disgrace that this government, that says they are trying to create jobs, has a minister who runs an organization that is deliberately putting impediments in front of small businesses in this province who want to hire extra people and put people to work. That is what it is all about.

The minister can say whatever he wants, but, however, I would appreciate and the people of Nova Scotia and the small businessmen of Nova Scotia, would appreciate it if he would just simply stand up and say, yes, we were wrong and we are going to change it. Now, will he do that?

[Page 1252]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the disgrace that he talks about is the mess that the previous government opposite left this government to deal with and clean up in this province. That is what the disgrace is that he is talking about. We are trying to clean up a very serious problem in the workers' compensation mess in this province and, at the same time, trying to be fair to both people who are accessing the programs and the people that must pay.

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

WCB - FOREST PROD. ASSOC.: PAYROLL LEVY - STATUS

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Nice try, Ron. Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Labour. The Minister of Labour would know that the Nova Scotia Forest Products Association is promoting and advocating an additional 3 per cent payroll tax through the imposition of a workers' compensation levy. All forestry stakeholders, or at least most of the forestry stakeholders, are going to be impacted. The Forestry Association maintains that Christmas tree growers, Christmas tree farmers, logging harvesters, silviculturists and truckers and sawmill owners have all been consulted with regarding this tax, Mr. Minister. My question to you is simply this, could the minister tell me the status of that proposal?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. That matter is being discussed at the present time by my department and there will be recommendations coming to Cabinet very shortly. There are concerns on both sides. There has been lobbying on both sides of that particular question. It is one which we have to give very serious consideration to. To answer your question directly, no decision has been made.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, through you, of course, to the minister, it is my understanding that the Minister of Labour, along with the Minister of Natural Resources, on January 15th of this year, met with the Executive Director of Nova Scotia Forest Products, a one Mr. Steve Talbot, and gave him assurances that your government would effect, through an Order in Council or through some directive of Cabinet, a measure that essentially would effect the 3 per cent levy. Could you tell me if that statement is correct?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how I can give anybody assurances that we will do anything, unless it is a Cabinet approval. That has not been presented to Cabinet yet, but when it is, and we deal with it, I can assure the member opposite that I will make sure I tell him after that decision is made, promptly, so he will know exactly what the decision is.

[Page 1253]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, through you, to the minister, inexplicably and mysteriously, the pulp mills will not be required to pay this new tax the way the proposal is written. The minister, I am sure, is no doubt aware of the fact that many Nova Scotia companies who are already in business provide the types of programs that this new bureaucracy intends to deliver.

I am wondering if the minister would, perhaps, give me an undertaking that before he or this government effects any such 3 per cent levy on the stakeholders in the forestry, that he would ensure that all employers, especially the small businesses in this province, would be consulted about a new tax because that is what it is, a new tax?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there has been a tremendous lobby on both sides of this issue, but my understanding is there is a great number of people, interest groups in this province who would welcome this initiative. I would just like to know - it is uncertain to me which side of the issue this member is politicking for, but I can tell you that we have done much consultation on this to date and will continue to do it before any decision is made.

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

HEALTH - EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIANS:

WORKING CONDITIONS - IMPROVE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Health. Earlier this week we had a visit here in this House and, in fact, the Minister of Health reported back on a meeting he had with a number of emergency medical technicians from around the province who were in to talk to him and subsequently talked to myself and the Leader of the Official Opposition about the working conditions under which they are employed, working conditions which include hours of work that exceed 90 to 100 hours, difficult situations with respect to having time off and other things and the rate of pay.

We have asked the minister, as they did, on many occasions whether or not he is prepared to recognize the fact that there are some problems relative to legislation in this province that affect EMTs. In particular, I think of the minimum wage order which exempts EMTs, the Labour Standards Code which exempts EMTs and the Workers' Compensation Act which exempts EMTs. Those exemptions allow those people to be forced to work unreasonable hours under unreasonable conditions.

I would like to ask the minister here this afternoon if given the pleas and given the presentations of those members, given the fact that there are a number of other changes taking place with the delivery of EHS in the Province of Nova Scotia, is he prepared today to make a commitment to those women and men who work in that industry as emergency

[Page 1254]

medical technicians that this government will bring about the amendments required - either in one case, an Order in Council; in the other cases, legislation - to ensure that these workers are provided with the same basic protection of legislation as is provided to all other health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I was, indeed, very pleased to meet at quite some length with EMTs from across the province and I was very impressed with the discussion that we had.

It was interesting when I asked them that they had some significant concerns about the demands made on them and also with respect to salary, wage levels and so on. One of the results of having 54 separate operations across the province is that you get all sorts of circumstances. You get some situations where you are dealing with larger companies, smaller companies. Some of them are very good, some of them not so good; some of them the training is there, other companies do not have that training; some the equipment is good and some the equipment is not good. One of the real benefits that will accrue from the announcement that we made yesterday will be an opportunity to rationalize the industry and provide a quality of service and a uniformity of service across the province which will be of great benefit to Nova Scotians. I suggest it will be of great benefit to those EMTs, as well.

When I asked them why has the situation, in your view, become more difficult for you recently, it was interesting to hear their answer. They said because the standard of service and the quality of service that are now required of them have risen so much in the last couple of years. Indeed, it is not simply what is referred to in some corners as a load-and-go operation anymore. People are actually receiving critical medical treatment in these vehicles.

They do have, especially in certain areas of the province, some real concerns to bring forward. I am very optimistic that the developments yesterday will go a long way towards meeting those concerns. (Applause)

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister has very clearly supported my argument that, in fact, EMTs should never have been exempted from this legislation, from this basic protection, but given the situation now that they are, in fact, expected to provide a higher level of service, their qualifications and training must be higher, they are delivering more complicated services, they have more responsibility to provide critical medical treatment, therefore, the fact that they are exempted from the minimum wage order, from labour standards and from workers' compensation, Mr. Speaker, is absolutely unconscionable.

I want to ask the minister, instead of sitting around and expecting those workers, as he does other workers, to wait for the great beneficiary of a large corporation to come down and do the right thing with the workers, after having put millions of dollars into the system through new ambulances and equipment and by getting some of those individual operators out of the system, will he, give an equal commitment to the women and men who actually

[Page 1255]

deliver the service, the EMTs, by moving immediately to remove those exemptions from those very basics of legislative protection?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is a great champion, so he says, of the bargaining process. Well, in fact, employees are going to bargain with their new employers. I am very optimistic about the result of that process. I think we can just give it a little time to work its way through. We are not looking at a situation where we are prepared to see present circumstances continue indefinitely. We have, I think, some very significant progress that has been made, literally within the last couple of days and that will continue.

I think the employees will benefit from this significantly and very soon. I am prepared to let those employees and their employer sit down and talk to one another. I think that is a pretty good idea. I think we should at least give them a chance to work their way through this, Mr. Speaker. I can only say again that I am confident of the result.

MR. CHISHOLM: Well, you know the Minister of Health, I mean that is just beautiful. The Minister of Health says, let's leave this to the bargaining table. The point is, those workers are already bargaining with one arm tied behind their backs because they are not covered by workers' compensation if they are injured. In fact, because they are exempted under the minimum wage order and Labour Standards Code, they are allowed not to be paid for the kind of call-in and standby charges that normal workers would be protected by, under the Acts of this Legislature.

All I am asking the Minister of Health is to give those workers the same opportunity that other workers in the Province of Nova Scotia have, to bargain with their employer but without one arm tied behind their backs; remove the exemptions from that legislation that prevents those workers from having some modicum of protection provided under provincial legislation.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my learned friend, the member over there, is reverting to his days as a business agent for one of the prominent unions in the province. He wants to bargain a deal here, with the Minister of Health. I suggest (Interruptions) You can see from the shouting across the floor, what his approach must have been when he was a business agent himself. I think that when he was a business agent back then, he would have appreciated the opportunity to bargain a deal himself. Most of those workers are represented by a union, with a business agent. Why doesn't he give them a chance to sit down and see if they can work out an arrangement?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 1256]

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS.:

BED & BREAKFAST ASSESSMENT - METHODOLOGY

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. As the minister is well aware, tourism in this province is almost a $1 billion industry and a lot of our tourists are very proud and pleased to visit with bed and breakfast accommodations across this province. Now, apparently the government has been trying to force some of the bed and breakfast people out of business because of the way their assessments were being conducted this year. Hotels and motels are assessed on a percentage of their net operating revenues, whereas bed and breakfasts are being assessed based on space used not on their operating revenues. Would the minister advise why two different criteria are being used for the same types of businesses in Nova Scotia?

[4:00 p.m.]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. This is a very relevant question and one that is undergoing change as we move to a more effective, organized and more standardized assessment system throughout our province. Currently, we are meeting with the members of the bed and breakfast group and with Economic Development and Tourism and we are certainly looking at that change that the member mentions, the change from evaluating income.

One of the problems, Mr. Speaker, in arriving at that is receiving information from those particular groups as to what their actual income is and sharing information that as of now only Revenue Canada has. So we could speed it up with more information but we are trying to do as well as we can with what we have. We are currently looking at that. We have responded to the request made and I think we will be able to come up with some arrangement.

There are no changes, Mr. Speaker, by the way, as to the way we are doing business in this province. We are looking at over 5,000 home-based businesses within the province and that includes the bed and breakfasts.

MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, well, not only is different criteria being used on the hotels and the bed and breakfasts but there was a different criteria used in Pictou County, in the western regions, there was a different system used. In Pictou the bed and breakfasts weren't assessed. So why does this inequity exist within the department?

DR. SMITH: Yes, that's a very good question and it pertains back to my earlier comments that we are undergoing change in the way we are doing business, no change in the regulations. Previously, prior to the Tourist Accommodations Act, which now requires registration with the bed and breakfast units, it was done in an ad hoc manner. There are still probably over 50 bed and breakfasts that are outside of the system that have not been

[Page 1257]

assessed. So the member is right. I think it is part of the reason why this is on the floor of the House of Assembly at this time is that we are now proceeding to follow the Act and the legislation and fulfil the mandate our department has under the assessments to address this particular issue. So the member is right, there has been discrepancy, some have been grandparented in that have a larger number of rooms, over four, and there are still some not being assessed as a small home business. That will be addressed and that will be part of our ongoing discussions and negotiations.

MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister. I do understand, as the minister said, that this has been ongoing, we have letters months ago about this matter and I have been trying to get an opportunity to raise it with the minister. I think it is very important. The tourist season is coming on very soon and a lot of these people want to know whether they are going to have their operations in place. I would just ask the minister to please try and get this matter resolved as soon as possible because those people are very concerned about it. Some of them say, if they don't get it straightened out they are not going to have the bed and breakfast.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his comments and we will work and do what we can. I think the honourable member, if he does have some contact with groups that would want to share information with us, as he was recommending addressing the issue of gross revenues as opposed to space, which I think he would agree is more fair, that if anything he can do to facilitate information coming to us that could help our deliberations, that certainly would be appreciated.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

ENVIRON. - VGH: MEDICAL WASTE INCINERATOR - EMISSIONS DEADLINE

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. For a very long time the VG incinerator has not been functioning up to standard. I wonder if the minister could indicate to the House how many extensions there have been to the order that was originally initiated by his department, which required the operators of the VG incinerator to resolve operational problems?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I do recall at least three times and, perhaps, four extensions that have been given in the past year for the incinerator to improve its emissions.

MR. LEEFE: I thank the minister for his response. I wonder if the minister could indicate to the House what agencies, other than the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment, are party to the order? What other agencies are covered by the order?

[Page 1258]

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, there are several partners involved with trying to remedy the situation which has been a problem for metro residents in Halifax for quite awhile. The QE II Health Sciences Centre would be a partner, as well as the Department of Transportation and Public Works and ourselves.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, the minister will know that I encourage him to use his very considerable influence and power with respect to bringing this matter to a final conclusion. My last question to the minister. What is the deadline which must be met by the incinerator operator respecting creation of a final plan, with an implementation date for remediation?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we have gone through a lot of difficulties trying to bring the smokestack to remediation to meet CCME standards. At the end of last year we made a rather firm commitment to the residents of Halifax at that time, to members opposite and to the House, that we would strike a date on which the incinerator must be at the proper emission output or be shut down. The date is effective May 1st.

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

EDUC. - HRM SCHOOL BD.: PRIMARY HOURS - UNIFORMITY

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education and Culture. It was this government's decision to amalgamate the metro boards into one, with the responsibility for some 58,000 students in the metro board, the Halifax Regional Municipality Board. Currently that board is debating a $1.8 million question; the question pertains to the Primary program across the entire board. They are trying to decide whether to come in with a program that essentially provides, an equitable program, if you will; right now, as the minister is well aware, in the school board we have a program in Halifax and Dartmouth whereby the students in Primary receive extra hours, and in Halifax County and Bedford - the old Halifax County and Bedford - they receive less hours of instruction in their first year. Does the minister feel that the inequity which currently exists within his department's mega-board is fair?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, clearly in transition we are moving from 22 boards in this province to 7 boards and a commitment to make them work. This board is working through a variety of issues related to the transition of amalgamation. I am sure and confident they will be able to work that out to the benefit of all the children in their district.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the minister didn't come within a country mile of answering that question. I asked him if he thought this mishmash we have of full-day Primary and less than full-day Primary was fair in this board and he refused to answer the question. However, my question to the minister is essentially this. Is the minister prepared to support the board with additional financing to alleviate this concern so they can come in with a consistent program across the Halifax Regional Municipality School Board?

[Page 1259]

MR. HARRISON: As the member opposite will know, we have added a minimum of $13-plus million to all of the board's budgets this year, in an effort to make sure that all boards have the opportunity to provide the highest quality of education.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the minister's predecessor left the boards with the mess of amalgamation, the inequities of those being supported by supplementary funds from their former municipalities, et cetera. The minister may say that this is the board's responsibility, and his predecessor said the same thing, but he also found it necessary to intervene on something as trivial as the selection of a satellite office in the Southwest Board's jurisdiction.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is simply this. Doesn't the Minister of Education and Culture realize and support a consistent program within the boundaries of any board in this program pertaining to Primary?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, clearly, when amalgamation took place, rules were established that governed the reduction, if there was any intent to reduce, the supplementary funding that the metro board now enjoys from Halifax and Dartmouth and, to a certain extent, from Bedford. That reduction was laid out in legislation. In addition to that, monies have been found from fiscal management, from reduction in debt service that have been given to the boards, including the board that the member opposite describes. The third component is that we did province-wide consultation. In fact, we sent draft regulations to the members opposite on the issue of regulations as they pertain to Primary day hours and other elements of the education system.

I will simply repeat that I am confident that the metro board will establish its priorities, will bring about equity on a variety of fronts to its board as quickly as possible and as resources permit.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

COMMUN. SERV. - WOMEN'S CENTRES: FUNDING - EQUITABLE

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. As the minister will know, there are six women's centres in Nova Scotia and, as the minister also knows, these women's centres suffer from chronic underfunding. Worse than that, there is a shocking disparity between the funding of three centres and three other centres and it is not based on anything that seems to make any sense, such as population served or anything like that. Three centres receive a little over $54,000 and the other three receive 37 per cent of that, which is a little over $20,000. Women have been seeking fair funding for women's centres for three years.

[Page 1260]

My question is for the minister around this. Yesterday, during the estimates, the minister said that this shocking disparity is the result of historical accident and that it will soon be remedied. Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Community Services, will he assure this House and the women of Nova Scotia that he will not remedy this situation by lowering funding to any centre that currently receives the higher amount?

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I think the answer to her question was given in a press statement that I made downstairs that indicated that during the next year, there will be no decrease in anybody's funding allotments, their operational allotments, over the next year. Therefore, if somebody was receiving a particular amount, they will receive no less during this year.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe the minister understood my question. The question was not would anybody get a dollar or a nickel less than they receive now. The question, and I will get to it in a minute. This is part of what is so frustrating here. In 1994, the government promised to solve this problem of inequities, not of dollar funding. They had a committee which was supposed to report. This committee was a private/government committee that was supposed to report to Cabinet. Nothing was ever heard from it again. It sank like a stone. Now the Minister of Community Services has been reviewing funding, yet again.

Mr. Speaker, the minister said yesterday that he would repair this shocking inequity, but today, that is not what he said in his answer to my question. I am going to re-ask the question. The question is not will anybody get a dollar less than they got last year. The question is, will the minister commit not to remedy the situation, that is, the disparity, to not remedy it by lowering funding to one centre that gets a higher amount in order to give it to a centre that now receives a lower amount?

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. MACEACHERN: I will try this again. The people who received a higher amount will receive no less. Therefore, if it were to be remedied, the only way you can remedy is by taking the others up.

MS. O'CONNELL: I cannot tell you how delighted I am with that answer. I am delighted that I asked the question. My final question to the minister, because he told me yesterday that he had not yet informed women's groups in Nova Scotia of this good news, will the minister inform these concerned people as soon as possible, today or tomorrow, so they will know that those with the smaller amount of funding will be brought up this year to the $54,000 level of the three centres that are funded at that level?

[Page 1261]

MR. MACEACHERN: I thank the honourable member for the question. My answer to the first part was the same as my answer to the second part. As I said to the honourable member during the estimates yesterday, I told her that I had asked my staff to look very carefully at how we could proceed to remedy this. I do not have a report back, but as soon as I get that report I can assure the honourable member that I will immediately get in contact with the women's centres and I can inform her and all members of the House that we are setting up another meeting with all the women's centres and the transition houses to continue our dialogue. I think it is being set up within a month, the last one was about three weeks ago. So the discussions between us, the women's centres and the transition houses is going on together. As soon as the information is available, I not only will be able to send it by mail, but I will be able to address them personally.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

TECH. & SC. SEC'T. - JOBS: SOFTWARE SECTOR - TRAINING ENSURE

MR. JOHN LEEFE: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat. Recently, Macleans Magazine reported that 30,000 software sector jobs are unfilled in Canada and that the skills crisis respecting the filling of these jobs only promises to get worse. I wonder if the minister could advise the House what efforts his secretariat is undertaking to ensure Nova Scotians are trained and qualified to fill that gap in the software sector?

HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member opposite for the question. The matter of preparing people for entry into the whole IT industry in terms of knowledge of software or any other component, of course, is not the role of the secretariat. It is the role of the education system wherever it may be, at whatever level it may occur. However, having entered the IT sector, the IT industry, it is the responsibility of the secretariat to give whatever support technologically, informationally, to the industry to bolster the resources of the industry and to that end, the secretariat is establishing a school for the development and education of those in government and outside government that we can help.

MR. LEEFE: I thank the minister for his response. I fully understand that one of the principal functions of the secretariat is to monitor the development of science and technology in the province, which leads me to my next question.

The Government of Canada has eased immigration rules to allow an additional 1,500 to 3,000 additional software designers into Canada over this past year. I wonder if the minister could indicate how many foreigners have filled science and technology software jobs in Nova Scotia since the minister has held his science and technology responsibilities.

MR. O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I deeply regret that I do not have an answer to that question, how many, I think the honourable member said, foreigners have entered the IT

[Page 1262]

industry in Nova Scotia during the past year? Maybe if the honourable member would qualify for me what constitutes a foreigner, whether a New Brunswicker is a foreigner, a Nova Scotian is a foreigner, and a non-Canadian is a foreigner. I am not quite sure, I do not have the answer and I am not sure the answer is obtainable without doing a survey of the whole IT industry in Nova Scotia. If the information is available, I will research it and have it available for the honourable member just as soon as possible.

MR. LEEFE: I might suggest to the minister that he make an inquiry of Immigration Canada, I am sure that they can provide that information to him.

My final supplementary, over the next two years, companies, governments, public institutions, individuals will be tackling the so-called year 2002 computer millennium bug crisis. My question to the minister is this, in December 1996, a Montreal-based company CGI was awarded a $70,000 contract, I believe, by his department to find a solution to this looming technological crisis. They were to prepare a report for government by January 31, 1997. Will the minister provide broad details today as to what was contained in that report and further, would he agree to table the report in the House so that we can all understand what action his department will be taking in that respect?

MR. O'MALLEY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, again I thank the honourable member and we do have a committee established to resolve the millennium crisis, if you will, the 2000 crisis, particularly within government. We know that it is a problem of major magnitude within government and our committee is very actively pursuing the resolution of it. We see at this point in time, actually from my information here, the project, as far as we are concerned in government, will be resolvable at a very minimal cost.

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

LBR.: SPRINGHILL MINERS MUSEUM - INSPECTIONS

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Labour. The Town of Springhill and concerned citizens have been working vigorously to ensure the underground mine at the Springhill Miners Museum is open for the 1997 tourist season. The Miners Museum is part of the heritage of the Town of Springhill and at the present time the underground mine is padlocked and no entry designation has been placed on it by the Nova Scotia Government. Material and supplies are being provided by corporate citizens, but no decision has yet been given to permit persons to go underground to see what improvements must be done prior to the opening of the mine for the tourism season.

[Page 1263]

My question to the minister is merely this, will the minister today take responsibility (Interruption) Well the member and the Minister of Agriculture should know because I understand he was well connected to that mine at one time. My question is this, will the Minister of Labour, today, take the responsibility for the mine, owned by the province, and ensure that the necessary inspections and work is completed enabling the mine to open for the 1997 tourism season?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member opposite for the question. The role of the Department of Labour in this matter is one of safety. We are going to ensure that the Springhill Mine is safe and meets all the requirements of the Department of Labour under the Mines Regulation Act and under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. If those particular Acts are complied with and sections of those Acts that are applicable here, then certainly the mine can open. If they are not complied with, the mine will not open.

MR. TAYLOR: I do not expect the mining museum to be open unless it is safe and I am not asking the minister that. I am sure that the minister is aware that letters have been exchanged between the executive director of the Department of Education and Mr. Ken Warren who is a certified engineer and he has agreed to be the person people report to and who would accompany people and groups before they do go underground. The executive director has said that she has been working with the mining division of the Department of Natural Resources to have a code of practice approved. I understand that such a code of practice must be approved by May 15th, and that is in order for the Miners Museum to be operational for the 1997 tourist season. Will the minister tell me what must still be done by the Town of Springhill and concerned citizens before the code of practice is granted?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to remind the member opposite that the Department of Labour is concerned about safety and the provisions under our various Statutes to ensure that all safety laws are complied with, be they in a mine or in a factory or in any other place of business in this province. It is the role of the Department of Labour to assure that is the case and will be the case. We have adopted, in our department, zero tolerance when it comes to safety in the workplace or safety in any kind of facility that people are accessing from time to time, be they tourists or people working in that particular facility.

It is not the role of my department to tell you when that mine is going to open; it is the role of my department to ensure that that mine is safe. When we have received assurances that the mine is safe, we will certainly give all the necessary permits to have the mine open.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the response from the minister, who is collaborating with the member for Cumberland South, but I never asked the minister, and I never will ask the minister, to circumvent safety; that is not my intention. The concerned citizens are working hard to establish a code of practice that must be in place by May 15th,

[Page 1264]

and I certainly wish the group the very best in getting that code of practice approved by the Department of Labour.

By way of final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, I would like to go the Minister of Education, who is responsible for Heritage and Culture in this province. Can he tell me why the Nova Scotia Miners Museum in Springhill is not listed by the Nova Scotia Museum, in their family of 25 museums across the province? I can table a document that does list the mines in the province and we see Springhill has been excluded, leading us to believe that that Miners Museum, that valuable part of Springhill's heritage, will not be open for this tourist season. I will table the document, and I would ask the Minister of Education, who is also responsible for Heritage and Culture, why isn't that museum listed?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on the document that has just been tabled; I haven't seen it. I can comment on the fact that the Minister of Labour has answered the question well, that a code of practice is being developed. It is being developed with the Department of Labour and once that code of practice is deemed to be acceptable, then access to the mine will be provided.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

N.S. GAMING CONTROL COMM'N. - FIRE DEPTS.: BINGOS - LICENSES

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Business and Consumer Services and it is relative to her jurisdiction for the Gaming Control Commission. I am sure the minister is aware that there have been ongoing discussions between the Gaming Commission and the volunteer fire departments across this province with regard to bingos. That matter has been raised in this House by myself and others, over a period of about six or eight months now, bringing to her attention that volunteer fire departments depend on bingos to raise funds that are essential to the maintenance of volunteer fire departments in certain areas.

I understood that the minister has said that we are not going to do that any more, we are going to not exempt the fire departments, but we are going to listen with compassion and sympathy to the fact that some of them cannot make the mandatory 15 per cent. So I would ask the minister, why are letters going out from the Gaming Commission, which are actually threatening small fire departments such as the Hubbards Volunteer Fire Department, saying that they are only getting an interim license because they cannot meet the 15 per cent necessary to maintain a license?

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on this particular question because we have, as stated previously, the 15 per cent is an option for the commission to take a look at various facilities that are having difficulty dealing with the 15 per cent. As the honourable member says, they will be reviewed and currently the commission

[Page 1265]

is in the process of doing that. I understand, from discussion with staff, that the Hubbards Fire Department, the one that he particularly talks about, Mr. Terry Kelly has written me a memo to suggest that they have been in communication with him. They had some suggestions for the fire hall, how they might make some changes but that in actual fact the commission is looking at and my belief is will be making a positive decision that the 15 per cent will not be required from that department.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: Isn't that great. Well, then why on earth would they write a letter, and obviously the minister has this so I won't bother tabling it, but why would the Gaming Commission write a letter saying that, "Your organization should submit a proposal as to the manner in which you would achieve compliance with the above noted Regulation. The Commission will be reviewing financial and statistical information submitted by your organization for the past year. You will be notified of the findings of this analysis as soon as available.".

That, to a small, volunteer fire department, run by volunteers who make approximately $8,000 a year from bingos, I think is atrocious. I think it is atrocious to treat a volunteer organization in this province in that manner, particularly a volunteer fire department. I don't know what this government would do if every volunteer fire department in this province went out of business.

The way this government is treating volunteer fire departments, by giving them requirements to meet certain Department of Health requirements to be first responders, then cutting their funding off by threatening to close off their licences. What can the minister tell us that is going to provide some solace, not only to the Hubbards Fire Department but to all volunteer fire departments?

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is well aware that bingo in the Province of Nova Scotia has been under a very vigorous review for all benefits, for the charities that are providing the bingos, as well as for the citizens and the public to ensure that bingos are being run in a certain manner.

Certainly when we had the discussion and consultation with the fire departments, particularly the fire departments and some of the churches, it was deemed that the 15 per cent was difficult for them to handle. But, at the same time, it was also deemed, based on discussion with those individuals, that they would like to have an opportunity to have their facility and the way they are handling things reviewed, that there would be input by a group of people who are travelling the province and seeing how things are being done in other areas and suggestions as we have seen that in some instances, under the charities, that they are not receiving very much money, they are not receiving a very large portion or profit margin for the charity to continue to run.

[Page 1266]

The letter that has gone out to the Hubbards Fire Department says very clearly, "One area of concern was raised while processing this renewal application. It appears that estimated profits, based on figures submitted on the application, are not in compliance with . . .", regulations.

MR. RUSSELL: Change the regulations.

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the regulation does give the commission an opportunity to review the particular charity and look at 15 per cent. What they are doing is assisting the charities.

As I say, the commission has travelled the province, met with charities all across the province and they have come up with some good ideas. Surely the member opposite would not want those good ideas not passed along to other individuals. Surely there should be an opportunity for dialogue between the fire departments and the commission. Surely he wouldn't suggest that we should cut off consultation and discussion.

MR. RUSSELL: That is not a good point, because of the fact that unless something is done, the volunteer fire departments are not going to have any revenue. (Interruption) That is true. This letter, Paragraph 1, Mr. Speaker, says, "Enclosed is the above noted Gaming Licence issued to the Hubbards Fire Department to operate bingo in the Fire Hall. You will note that this is a term licence issued to June 30, 1997.". They are being put on notice that unless they reduce their prize money to push their revenue up to the 15 per cent, they don't get a license. That is just not good enough. I am telling the minister that she has to not wait until next year, that if she is going to bring in an amendment to the Act she should do it right now.

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly glad I have my copy of this letter because he is reading very selectively out of it. It says very clearly in the letter, "The Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission shares your goal to maximize funding for your organizations charitable purpose.". We share the goal. Yes, we share their goal; we share the difficulties they are facing in fund-raising. The commission has ideas of how they can help them improve it. "You may wish to address the prize board offered at your bingo and other expenses associated with the conduct and management of this bingo operation." You may wish to consider those. The commission has a job, I think, to communicate with these people, to give them opportunity and an idea of how they can improve their system. Certainly, we have said very clearly from the beginning we changed the regulation to assist these individuals. It is certainly not our intention to close them down.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

[Page 1267]

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I want to, through you to all members of the House introduce to you, seated in your gallery, Mr. Ron Dyer of the State of Maine Department of the Environmental Protection. Mr. Dyer serves as the state principal contact for environmental services and technologies. He is here visiting Nova Scotia on a technology/information-sharing mission which was made possible by a MOU signed by our Premier and the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. It is an important link to the Gulf of Maine Council on Marine and Environmental Talks that are continuing between our province and the State of Maine. I would like the House to welcome Mr. Dyer. (Applause)

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

ATL. HWY. CORP. - COURT CASE (FISH. ACT [CAN.])

MR. JOHN HOLM: We, too, of course, add our welcome. My first question is through you to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The question is for some clarification dealing with the Highway No. 104 western alignment extension. My question to the minister is quite simply this. Is there Department of Transportation staff on-site on a regular or a daily type of basis to ensure that there is proper monitoring going on to ensure that the construction, et cetera, is meeting the specifications, to ensure that all terms and conditions are complied with and that all other appropriate regulations are being met?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question is yes.

MR. HOLM: A quick answer, exactly what I expected, because that is my understanding. My next question. Of course, the minister will know that the Atlantic Highway Corporation which is building the road is currently before the courts for having violated - I do not believe a decision has yet been reached - two stop work orders. The minister probably also knows that the corporation had three court appearance dates scheduled - one for June, one for July and another one for August - all charges relating to altering, disrupting and destroying fish habitat. Charges were brought by the federal government under the Fisheries Act.

I know the former minister announced that there was to be a $4.25 million contingency fund to assist the corporation should they run into unforeseen environmental requirements. My question to the minister is, should the company be found guilty, would that fund be used to pay for the fines of up to $300,000 per offence for such infractions?

MR. DOWNE: I first want to point out to the members of the House that it is nice to see that this project is not only under the scrutiny of the Department of Transportation and Public Works but it is also under the scrutiny of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Labour. It is under the scrutiny of all the legislation that protects our

[Page 1268]

environment and our people in Nova Scotia. They are not exempt from any of those initiatives. The member opposite in bringing this issue forward is pointing out very clearly that the scrutiny is forthcoming.

Secondly, what is before the courts is an issue on which no decision has been made. He is assuming there is guilt before there has in fact been any decision by the court. To really get into an issue in regards to what if, I think is absolutely hypothetical and does not deserve a response, to a hypothetical situation that is before the courts.

MR. HOLM: I note that the minister did not state no categorically, that public funds would not be used should there be an offence. I also have to correct the minister. Yes, indeed, I do acknowledge that there is some monitoring going on, but he gave credit to the Minister of the Environment. Mr. Speaker, the actions were not brought by the provincial government, they were brought by the federal government for which the minister here in Nova Scotia, to the best of my knowledge, is not responsible.

My final question, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of the Environment. Thank you for paying attention, Mr. Minister. My final question is to you in your responsibilities as minister. I would like to know because, certainly, the minister and the Department of the Environment are no longer on a proactive basis. They respond to complaints that are really brought to them. I would like to know if the Department of Transportation and Public Works has - or any of the other officials of government - brought to your department's attention, concerns with harm to the environment being done by the construction of the Highway No. 104 Western Alignment Corporation, or has your government decided to abdicate its responsibilities and to leave all enforcement up to the federal government?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to answer the question. I think, in his question, he made an accusation that the Department of the Environment was giving up its responsibility to be proactive and further reactive. But I would like to remind the member that we are a very proactive Department of the Environment. In that view, we were proactive in working with our partners in government, as well as the consortium, to make sure the environment was protected in the construction of that highway.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North. You have one minute left.

ENVIRON. - MEADOWVIEW (KINGS CO.) PROP. OWNERS ASSOC.:

LANDFILL SITE - COMPENSATION

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of the Environment a question. It is on behalf of the Meadowview Property Owners Association. The landfill site in Kings County is located in the community of Meadowview. The people in Meadowview are absolutely fed up with having the landfill site there. They are entitled to and they deserve compensation.

[Page 1269]

I wish to ask the minister if he is aware that the Meadowview Property Owners Association has served notice of intent of action, which means they intend to take the Department of the Environment to court to sue over the fact that the landfill site is still in operation and they want compensation?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, he really gives me a permit not to answer the question, but I will acknowledge the fact that I am aware that we have been served notice. Yes.

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

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to introduce to you and to all members of the House in the west gallery, a friend of my son Michael, Brian McGraw-Alcock. Brian is a great academic student. He is an elite athlete, particularly, a swimmer. He is here today to visit with me and look at the proceedings of the House and, also, to work on his school project. I would like members of the House to extend their usual warm welcome to my friend, Brian McGraw-Alcock. (Applause)

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 14.

Bill No. 14 - Auditor General Act/Provincial Finance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to bring this bill before this House, An Act to Amend Chapter 28 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Auditor General Act, and Chapter 365 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Provincial Finance Act.

[Page 1270]

This, I think, is an important bill, one that, I think, reflects the thinking of the majority of people, not only in this province, but across the country. This bill does two things, but, primarily, what it does is it encompasses the main recommendations submitted by the all-Party Standing Committee on Public Accounts. One of the points that was discussed, but not agreed upon by the Liberal dominated committee, was the recommendation that the Auditor General have sole responsibility for auditing the provincial government's books.

Primarily, what this bill does is make the Auditor General primarily responsible for doing the auditing of the government's books and, as well, it lays down the responsibility to the Auditor General of making an annual report and as well, privileging the Auditor General to make special reports.

[4:45 p.m.]

This legislation would put us in step with what is going on across the country and I think would eliminate the fiasco which has occurred in recent days when the government chose to go another route. One of the responsibilities of the Minister of Finance is to present the finances of the province in an understandable and consistent way, in other words, that allows a very easy comparison on a year to year basis and clearly this has not been done.

The Liberals campaigned in 1993 on a platform of openness and accountability. That being the case, how could they possibly vote against this bill. I cannot believe - by altering the system of accounting, despite the fact that there was no really official change in the accounting policies of the province - the amount of confusion that has been created by the government in the way that it has chosen to report the finances of the province to the people of Nova Scotia.

What are the facts of the case? I think this is really the situation that bears explanation. Well, in fact, if you look at what the Auditor General says and it relates specifically to the government taking from 1996-97, $50 million of expenditures and putting it in the tax year or the reporting year 1995-96. Here is the Auditor General's comment on that, that the $50.9 million of capital commitments do not represent expenditures incurred during fiscal 1995-96. So, why should they be reported in 1995-96? Reporting them as such is inconsistent with the province's stated basis of accounting.

That leads to the question of what is the stated basis of the provincial accounting. Further along, Page 21 of the Auditor General's Report to the House, "Note 1 of the Province's financial statements titled Financial Reporting and Accounting Policies, includes a section titled Basis of Accounting which indicates these accounts are maintained on an accrual basis, revenues recorded when earned and expenditures recorded when incurred.". That is pretty straightforward because that is the kind of accounting that we all do when we are reporting to Revenue Canada each year. We report the income of that year and we report the expenditures of that year. The comments are, of course, if you can get away with doing

[Page 1271]

something other than that, we should perhaps arrange to have Bill Gillis do the books, our own personal books because I think it could work to our advantage.

I cannot fail but to be impressed by the number of Nova Scotians who made that comment that they would like Bill Gillis to be able to do their books. I point that out to the minister in that he will certainly not have to go back to geology when his stint at politics is over. I think he has identified a new career for himself.

I think fair is fair and if that is the way we do it, if we have an Auditor General, then I think we should take full use and we should get in step. Are all the other provinces wrong? Are the Territories wrong? Is the federal government wrong by having the Auditor General an arm's length watchdog of the accounting policies and the reporting of government of the provincial finances? I think not. I think the other provinces are in step with each other and we are out of step and it is time we got in step. It is a simple matter and the Auditor General being an officer of the Legislature would be obliged to follow the accounting policies laid down by this Legislature. That clearly has not been done by government. They have gone off on their own, on a political agenda, because it certainly would be in their interests to report for 1996-97 a surplus but, as the Auditor General correctly pointed out, the surplus is not a surplus at all, it is a $48 million deficit.

I, for one, and hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians for another, fail to understand what it is the government was trying to achieve when, in midstream, in the middle of the game, it changes the rules. Well, it is interesting because, how could Liberals possibly vote against this bill?

Now I have here a copy of Hansard, Page 2699, dated May 2, 1988. Many will recall that on May 2, 1988, that the now Minister of Finance was in Opposition. He was, I think, a very aggressive and effective Financial Critic. What did the Minister of Finance say before he took the short walk across the floor?

AN HON. MEMBER: Please tell us. What did he say?

DR. HAMM: Well what did the Minister of Finance say? I know the Liberal backbenchers are very interested in this. I quote directly from Hansard. This is reported in Hansard to have been said by Mr. Gillis. "We are the only province in the country that does not have a legislative auditor attest to our accounts. What is wrong with our Auditor General? Doesn't the minister and the government think that our legislative auditor is up to the job? I think our Office of the Auditor General can handle it . . . ". That is what was said in 1988, by the now Minister of Finance, who now is prepared to repudiate the same Auditor General which he supported in 1988, the same legislative officer.

[Page 1272]

Well, members of the House, I would indicate to you, think back to the position taken by the Minister of Finance in 1988 and ask yourselves, was he wrong in 1988 or was he wrong in 1997? I would think very clearly that it is time for Nova Scotia to get in step and it is time for this Legislature to support the 'Act to Amend' as presented by the Opposition Party; I encourage you to vote in favour.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Madam Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the possibility of Bill Gillis doing their personal books or the books of whatever organizations. All I can say is that it is too bad that the member for Antigonish was not doing the books of the province from 1978 to 1993 (Applause) when the Tory Government ran our debt from $0.5 billion to almost $7 billion in 1993. It is too bad the member for Antigonish was not doing those books; he would have done a heck of a lot better job than that, I assure you. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few comments on Bill No. 14. The issue before us appears to be one of accountability and openness. The question seems to be; how can we best report on the state of the province's financial health? What is the best method to ensure full and proper disclosure of all relevant information?

Mr. Speaker, this government has a track record, on these issues, second to none. Over the life of this government we have made very significant improvements. We have brought the province's spending under control; we brought good management to the system; we opened up government to public scrutiny.

In concrete terms, we brought in four-year budget planning. This was never done before. We insisted on business plans for each department and Crown agency. We make those plans public. We have balanced budget legislation. We are issuing financial reports on a quarterly basis. There is openness with regard to everything we do. All financial issues are disclosed, even the current matter that is before us. Nine months ago we disclosed the method of accounting for the change in capital spending. Nobody uncovered a discrepancy in our books. We went out of our way to point out what we did. We even made available detailed graphs showing the change.

The province's record on financial management received the approval of the financial community last September. As members know, Standard and Poor's upgraded our credit rating outlook from negative to stable. This happened after our financial statements for 1995-96 were released. This was well after we fully disclosed what had happened with regard to capital spending.

[Page 1273]

I now want to turn to some issues raised by the bill before the House today. What Bill No. 14 would do is take away a whole layer of auditing with regard to the government finances. It would leave the government dependent on the advice provided by just one group of accountants, those in the office of the Auditor General. The current system already mandates the Auditor General to evaluate the government in all aspects. Although he is not the auditor of record for the financial statements of the province, the Auditor General is able to look after them and make whatever comments he sees fit. His recent remarks show that he is not under any constraint. There is no limit. He is free to act.

In fact, I would argue the Auditor General has more freedom to investigate and to act under the present system than he would under the proposed bill. The reason I say that is because the province's auditor must do a great deal of routine work. The Auditor General is not tied down by this approach. He may focus his attention and efforts on bigger issues. That is what he has done and that is what we are encouraging him to keep on doing. He has more scope for review because he is not tied down by routine.

Right now, everyone gets the benefit of insights from both the Auditor General and the private sector experience of the province's auditors. We receive double the amount of insight and advice. We get twice as much accountability and oversight. This bill would cut that in half. Rather than having access to a considerable amount of world-class experience in accounting matters, we would be left with the resources found within the Office of the Auditor General.

I do not wish to downplay the qualifications of the staff of the Office of the Auditor General. In some respects, however, there is better advice available elsewhere. The reason for that should be clear to all honourable members. International firms such as Deloitte & Touche are able to draw on the experience of hundreds, if not thousands, of accountants and business experts from around the world. The current provincial auditor, Deloitte & Touche, offers us an important business perspective. In a world where taxpayers want governments to act efficiently it is important that we know what is going on elsewhere.

Nova Scotia is leading the country in this respect. In the United States there is a growing trend away from having an in-house auditor general audit the financial statements. It is becoming quite common for American state governments to turn to the private sector. For instance, Deloitte & Touche audits the books in Massachusetts and Wyoming. KPMG does the audit for the State of New York. We have been told one reason the states are moving in this direction is because of the strong credibility these accounting firms have in the eyes of the financial markets. Firms such as Deloitte & Touche have established very good reputations with the bond traders and others in the financial area. Those who lend money want the assurance that the financial statements are in order in all material respects. They respect the reputations of the firms that routinely audit thousands of businesses and organizations.

[Page 1274]

A firm like Deloitte & Touche also is able to concentrate resources in a way the Auditor General cannot. For six weeks the company is able to assign highly competent people to comb through the books and ask tough questions. A dozen or more people are involved, and they can offer us their time and attention, for a short period of time, and then those accountants move on.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this is a classic case of where it is more efficient to ask for help from the outside. Public accountability insists that information is made available in a timely fashion. We cannot assign a few people to the job and allow them a year to do it. The current system offers us a good deal at a fair price. In a fair and open competition, Deloitte & Touche won the contract. They had the best bid at the lowest cost; they even came in under the price they had charged the previous year.

Mr. Speaker, in drawing my remarks to a close, I want to point out that, on most matters, the Auditor General of Nova Scotia recognizes the good work this government has done. The latest report from that office says that this government is playing a leadership role in accountability. (Applause) The watchdog of the Legislature states that we have a level of commitment to accountability that is stronger than ever before.

On the matters of substance before this House, and before the people of Nova Scotia, our record is strong. After years of seeing the debt piled up by that bunch opposite, in 1996-97 the debt load went down. Argue if you will about deficits or surpluses, there is no argument on whether we owe more money than we did one year ago. (Interruption) We do not, we owe less now than we did one year ago. (Applause) Everything has been accounted for. Everything is in the open; moreover, everybody in Nova Scotia ought to know that the finances of this program are finally under control.

For those reasons I have just outlined, I will not be supporting this bill.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate about a bill which will, in fact, turn responsibility for the books of the Province of Nova Scotia over to the Auditor General. I commend the Official Opposition for having brought in this change. As I said earlier today, they did have the opportunity when they were in government to do so, but they waited until the last minute and, of course, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia decided - I think for other reasons perhaps - to turf them out, so this change did not go forward.

[Page 1275]

Unfortunately though, the Liberal Government made promises back when they were in Opposition as the Liberal Party, the Official Opposition, that they, if given the opportunity, would make these changes and would turn over the books of the province to the Auditor General, but, then again, they said they would create jobs; they said they would not raise taxes; they said they would not lay-off public sector workers; and they said they would be accountable and transparent. We know what happened there, Mr. Speaker.

I am appalled at what this Minister of Finance just said in this House.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shocked and appalled.

MR. CHISHOLM: He said that we are following the U.S. model. Mr. Speaker, this is not the United States and Canadians don't want to be part of the United States; nor do Nova Scotians. We are seeing the Minister of Health taking us down that slippery slope to the U.S. model of health care, which Nova Scotians don't want any part of because they know that it is an inadequate and an inferior system of health care in the United States. We don't have to take any leads from the U.S. in terms of managing the books of the Province of Nova Scotia. We should be looking at the rest of this country.

What does that tell you, Mr. Speaker? Let me tell you. That Auditor General reported in 1996, "Section 65 of the Provincial Finance Act creates an audit reporting relationship which is unique in Canada. Nova Scotia is the only jurisdiction in Canada where the legislative auditor does not audit and provide an opinion on the financial statements. The Province's financial statements are audited by a public accounting firm and the auditors' report (opinion) is addressed to the Minister of Finance. The audit opinion in other jurisdictions . . .", says the Auditor General, ". . . is addressed to the House of Assembly (or its equivalent).".

Here we have a situation where we have the government's private auditor and we have the Auditor General responsible to this House. What happens? For the last three years as a member of the Public Accounts Committee I sat in that committee while the Auditor General has commended this government for some of the direction that it has taken on accountability and timeliness of their records. This minister stood here a second ago and he again patted himself and his government on the back for those claims from the Auditor General. What happens when the Auditor General disagrees with the direction this government wants to go in? Well, they discredit him. They say no, he is no good, we do not want any part of it. That is not the way we are going to go, we are going to follow Maine and Massachusetts because that is the way that we can get our own way and that is not good enough.

MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, this honourable member is misleading the House. I have not seen anyone in this Legislature from the Liberal side of the House stand up and discredit the Auditor General. If he has some knowledge of that, then perhaps he should produce it.

[Page 1276]

MR. SPEAKER: On the point of order, it is not an official point of order, it is a point of clarification and I will rule it as such. I will return now to the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a point and it is not even a good point because it is a point that this government continues to try to make at the same time they in fact are trying to discredit the Auditor General from looking after the books of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Let us look at what the Auditor General said back in 1993 about this whole issue. He said in my opinion, the issue is not who performs the audit, but rather who it is performed for. Under the Provincial Finance Act, the auditor addresses the audit opinion to the Minister of Finance. In effect, this constitutes an internal audit reporting relationship. The annual financial statements represent the Minister of Finance's report to the House of Assembly and the audit opinion on them should be addressed to the House of Assembly by an auditor who is independent of the government. In other words, the same person or company that works on the annual financial statements by the Minister of Finance should not be also passing an opinion on them, that is the responsibility of an independent body, that is the responsibility of the Auditor General. It goes on to say that is the normal role and function of the Auditor General, one that is performed by every other provincial auditor in Canada, as well as the Auditor General of Canada.

This is outrageous what we have going on here in this province where this government has the nerve to go out and hire their own firm and say, this is an internationally recognized firm and aren't they great. That is not the point and that is what we are into. The government can pull on the taxpayers wallet in this case and they can go out and buy the best. They have all kinds of money - look at the money they can draw on.

The Minister of Finance just said, well we tendered, we got a good price, we got a great price for a great firm, we got the lowest price - wrong. Wrong again, Mr. Speaker, they did not get the lowest price. If they were concerned about the lowest price then they would have gone with the Auditor General who already has the infrastructure set up in order to handle this accounting process. He supplied a recommendation and a price to the Minister of Finance and this government and he said that I can do it for half the price that one of your private auditors will do. That is the reality, that is the truth of the matter and as far as I am concerned, this is absolutely outrageous that we would be in this situation.

We are talking about public accountability; we are not talking about the government being able to back-up the direction they want to go in that is contrary to public practice and public financing in any other jurisdiction in this country. This government has the nerve, a member of the Commonwealth of Canada, has the nerve to use as an example, how they are handling themselves down in the United States. Well, I could give a good God darn, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to that. That is not the issue here. The issue is how we handle public

[Page 1277]

finances in this country, in Canada. This government is not being straight with Nova Scotians; it is not being straight with members of this Legislature. It is time they were brought to task on that issue.

MR. SPEAKER: I think the honourable member should tone his language in debate.

MR. CHISHOLM: Well, I did, considerably.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I think it needs to be toned a tad bit more. You have . . .

MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, let me just say, if I may, that this government has tried a lot of tricks over the past four years to mislead the people of Nova Scotia. I cannot believe the lengths that they have gone to in this case.

The Auditor General said here two years ago that the Minister of Transportation of the Government of Nova Scotia should not have taken $26 million that was directed for one place in the province and sent it off somewhere else. He said that was wrong.

The Minister of Transportation of the day got up and said, aw, he is nothing but a bureaucrat and condemned him and demeaned his reputation left, right and centre. When the Auditor General says something good about this government then they applaud him and pat him on the back.

Now here we have a situation where the Auditor General has been very clear that the Government of Nova Scotia has misled Nova Scotians by misrepresenting when, in fact, it is spending money and when it is accounting for it. He says that is wrong, I say it is wrong and, worse, is the way this government is trying to suggest to Nova Scotians that this is simply a matter of one accountant against the other.

It is a question of credibility, Mr. Speaker; it is a question of whether or not this government has got the goods, whether or not this government can say to Nova Scotians that we told you the truth about our balanced budget last year or whether or not they have been caught, once again, with their hand in the cookie jar.

I suggest that all members of this House, especially government members, if they want to restore any sense of credibility to the financial processes of this government, agree, vote for this bill and let's have to it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

[Page 1278]

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is, indeed, a pleasure to get up today and speak on this bill because it is one that I subscribe to and one that I think every member of this House should subscribe to and it is one that should actually be passed in this House, although I know that this government will not do so.

The surprising thing, Mr. Speaker, is that we have an Auditor General in this province for one reason only, that is to keep track of the finances of this province. That gentleman was appointed to his job not by the government, as it was in the past when these people were in power back in the 1970's, this person was appointed to his job by the Leaders of the three Parties. They got together, they made nominations and they sat down around a table and decided among the three of them; that was a member from the New Democratic Party, a member from the Liberal Party and a member from the Tory Party sat down at a table and decided who the Auditor General was going to be.

The present Auditor General, Mr. Roy Salmon, belongs to nobody except to the Speaker of this House. He is not the servant of anybody in this House directly; he reports to this House through the Speaker. He is a servant of the Legislature.

For this minister to stand up and say that the private accounting firms have more credibility is absolutely nonsense, it is incorrect and he should apologize to the Auditor General for making that kind of statement about the Auditor General. The Auditor General, as I say, works for you, for me and for every other member in this Legislature.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I know that the argument has been made over and over again, by this government, by the preceding government and the preceding government before them, as to why we should be different in Nova Scotia. It has always boiled down to one fact, that is the same argument that the minister has presented here today, that it is better to have a private firm doing it than the Auditor General.

[5:15 p.m.]

I am going to tell you, I do not believe that. (Interruptions) Just a moment. Let's not go back 15 years. You can go back 20 years if you want. The same argument has been around. It is time for a change. Now you are the government who has the opportunity to act. If you think it is right, why don't you do it? This present Minister of Finance, as the Leader of the Opposition quoted a few moments ago, in the House in 1988 was all for it. He did not have two minds about it. He did not have two minds about it at all. He simply said, we are the only province in the country that does not have a legislative order attached to our accounts. What is wrong with the Auditor General?

Well, what is wrong with the Auditor General? He just simply says now - he did not say then - that private accounting firms have more credibility. He says that, for instance, because other provinces do it, they do not have the complexity that we have in this province.

[Page 1279]

For Heaven's sake, is he telling us that the Province of Ontario, the Province of Quebec, the Province of British Columbia, many times larger economies and functions than this government in the Province of Nova Scotia - they trust their Auditor General to carry out their orders. Why not in this province? What rationale can they have for coming up with the fact that they want things to stay the way they are.

They keep saying that the previous government did not do it. I could say the previous Government of Quebec did not do it either. That does not let them off the hook for not doing it now. They have the opportunity today - just pass this bill. We can put it through all three stages this afternoon in nothing flat. We can do that. We have done that with bills before.

You people may well think that, well, do not worry about it because the people out there do not understand what this is about. I would just like to read a very short editorial from The Advertiser down in the Valley, one of our leading newspapers down there.

"Tell the Truth" is the headline of the editorial. "Nova Scotia's Liberal Government is fast losing sympathy with the general population. The latest news that the province's books are apparently cooked to make it look like we are in the black is shameless.". That is what the editorial says. "Fortunately we have an impartial Auditor General in Roy Salmon who tells it like it is. Bending accounting practices is not illegal, but it certainly will not impress voters in the upcoming election.". I hope you guys remember that. "Clearing out a $48 million deficit is no mean feat unless it is by sleight of hand accounting . . ." And so on.

The people out there are concerned whether or not this government thinks they were right in doing what they did. If indeed the Auditor General had been the auditor of record for the province, this would not have occurred. You would have had a deficit. Okay, so you would have had a deficit. It is better to have a deficit than try to fool the public by saying you have a surplus when you do not really have it. (Interruption) Tell the truth. That is exactly it.

The minister says it only cost us $100,000 a year to have Deloitte & Touche do our books. Well, maybe in his mind that is not very much money. I am sure there are a lot of people in this province who would consider it to be a very great deal of money. Nevertheless, it is $100,000 that does not have to be expended. It does not have to be expended. Let the Auditor General do it. He may not be able to do it with the present resources that he has and he may have to, on a part-time basis, hire additional people to do that. He has done that on many occasions. When he did the audit of the universities in this province, he had to take on additional accountants to help him out. So, that is not unusual.

This bill that we have before us is very simple. It just simply says let us, for a change, do something that is right. This government has done very little in its history, its almost long history now - four years coming up in May, then five years. (Interruptions) It is almost five, Bill, you are getting there. You are going to be into five years by the time you get around to having an election. In fact, historically, of course, you realize how well governments have

[Page 1280]

done that have exceeded their four year term in this province. It is essentially zero on the win side.

Mr. Speaker, there is more to this bill than simply putting the Auditor General as being the auditor of record for the province because, in this bill, we are providing the Auditor General the permission, the authority to make an additional report annually. There are, frequently, items that arise, particularly in Public Accounts, which would warrant a special report by the Auditor General and, at the present time, the Auditor General is limited to one extra report a year. I don't see any reason why we should not allow the Auditor General to make an additional report if something comes to his attention that is of urgency, something that should be proceeded with in the immediate future.

Mr. Speaker, I would recommend this bill to the favourable consideration of the House and, as I say, I would urge the government not only to give consideration to this bill, but to vote in favour of this bill passing through second reading. We will not delay the House with endless debate on this bill. We will put it through the Law Amendments Committee where, I am sure, there will be no opposition from the public or from the Auditor General or from private accounting firms, bring it back in here, and give it passage. Thank you.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I think it would be inappropriate to deal with a measure of this importance with undue and unseemly haste. I would ask the House and its members to pause and reflect, perhaps for a moment or two, before we rush to vote on this particular measure.

Mr. Speaker, in defending the existing practice in this province, I want to state two things. First of all, what this bill contemplates is not the practice that has been followed in Nova Scotia within my lifetime, or even prior to that time.

AN HON. MEMBER: So what?

MR. MACEWAN: So what, I am asked. Surely there is some virtue to experience. That which is established and which works and which has passed the test of time is dismissed by some as of no consequence. The practice for which this government stands chastised this afternoon is the very same practice as was followed by the Government of R.L. Stanfield which, I think, was a rather successful government from the vantage point of retrospect. It is certainly not the practice that was followed by the Government of G.I. Smith. It is certainly not the practice followed by the Government of Donald Cameron. It is not the practice of the Government of Roger Bacon.

[Page 1281]

There is a difference, Mr. Speaker, between the practices of those governments and of this government, in that this government tendered for these services rather than simply awarding them without a tender.

I see my time has expired. I have further thoughts on this should the debate be continued at a future time. I would move the adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: I want to thank all honourable members for their participation.

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 233.

Res. No. 233, re Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Supply/Price Preference (N.S.) - Demand - notice given Apr. 28/97 - (Dr. J. Hamm)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the operative clause of Resolution No. 233: "Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government immediately and aggressively demand that Nova Scotia receive a preferential supply and price for Sable gas.". We are going to concern ourselves with the supply and the price.

The development of our offshore gas industry is one that should allow us to have a quick-start into the next millennium. It is a move that will eventually, I would expect, in the lifetime of many of us, result in an energy-self-sufficient province. We have the opportunity here to become self-sufficient and an opportunity whereby Nova Scotia dollars will not be shipped offshore to purchase our energy.

The question is, have we maximized - and this resolution opens up that debate, Mr. Speaker - the potential of this particular industry for our province? The answer to that question is, clearly, no. You only have to look or go back to the day when Maritimes & Northeast made their announcement that part of their project was a postage stamp rate going all the way from Country Harbour right to St. Stephen, New Brunswick.

Now it is interesting that the offshore producers, of which Mobil is a partner - Maritimes & Northeast also has a partner, that same company, Mobil. In the course of negotiations it would seem to me that the Province of Nova Scotia, the owner and controller of the tap, the gas, would have insisted that their business partners would make a preferential rate available to this province. This province has not done that; it has not negotiated with

[Page 1282]

Mobil or the other partners, in both the offshore development process and the pipeline process, a preferential rate for Nova Scotians.

That means that the advantage we should have in this offshore play has not been maximized right from that very fundamental, basic beginning of preferential rate for the Province of Nova Scotia. That is something which, if it is not corrected by the National Energy Board, we will pay for, for decades to come; a preferential rate both for home heating use and also to drive the wheels of our industry is something that this government will be criticized for, not only for days but also for weeks, months and years to come. We had an advantage at our fingertips and we failed to capitalize.

Now not only have we not arranged to have a preferential price but we haven't even negotiated a guaranteed supply. You know I could not believe my eyes today when a lawyer representing five of the province's biggest energy users made a comment in the press that said, ". . . 'not one piece of evidence' filed in the gas production and pipeline application guarantees access to gas on this side of the Canada-U.S. border.". So not only has this province failed to guarantee a preferential price, it has failed to guarantee a supply.

You know if I was the pipeline company, if I was those responsible for looking out for their interests, I wouldn't be interested in selling one bit of gas to this province. I would be interested in getting that gas on board at Country Harbour and shipping it the entire length of the pipeline, down to the U.S., because that is where I am going to make the most money. You know, we were in the driver's seat when these arrangements were being made; we could demand concessions but, for whatever reason, that demand was not forthcoming. We were not well represented at the table in these negotiations.

AN HON. MEMBER: How do you know that?

DR. HAMM: Well, the minister who was responsible for negotiating that deal has just said, how do I know that? Well, if the minister responsible for those negotiations knows differently, let him provide documentation that he went to Shell Oil and their partners and said, you will guarantee to this province all of the gas that we require. Has that minister, when he was responsible for providing that information - can he document any information that would indicate he required that as a requirement to develop our offshore resources? Did that Minister of Natural Resources, when he was responsible for presenting the position of the province, go to the pipeline company and say, give us a preferential route or you will not transport one cubic foot of our gas.

Did the minister provide that information? Was the minister aware that they were going to get up and publicly say that we are going to give New Brunswick the same rate as we are giving Nova Scotia? Can that minister say and provide documentation that he demanded those preferences on behalf of Nova Scotians? If that minister can provide information, the information is not known to anyone else and has not been made public.

[Page 1283]

Now the former Minister of Natural Resources, the now Minister of Transportation and Public Works is on his feet.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite is obviously very exercised about issues that he is not very familiar with. I pose a question back. They took money out of the offshore development fund to build roads and bridges to nowhere. They turned around and took a look at the Cohasset/Panuke project for which they were fully responsible and which left almost $0.5 billion of debt in Nova Scotia Resources Limited. You tell me what their record of success is in the offshore and compare that with what we have been doing. Even the Auditor General was saying we are on the right track. What I do not understand is why the member there and the Leader of that Opposition Party is sitting there blowing smoke out of his ears about what is happening in this project for which this project is gone on the road, it is moving forward and it is going to create jobs in Nova Scotia, a lot more than what that Opposition has ever done. (Applause)

[5:30 p.m.]

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like that minister to get up in this House and explain to us where these roads to nowhere were built and also, tell the people who live in those communities that they live nowhere and tell us what kind of a Nova Scotian would say that people in this province live nowhere. That is not fit for this government, that minister or anybody else in this House to say. (Interruption)

HON. GUY BROWN: On a point of order, the Auditor General's Report and the history of the Nova Scotia Legislature will tell that honourable member or anyone else, where they took money under that fund that was to help the Province of Nova Scotia and, for instance, built a bridge where there was no road; built a bridge where there was no road.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I will rule on all the points that were raised. They are points of interest and not points of order, all of them. I will now return to the Leader of the Official Opposition. You have about 10 seconds left in your time.

DR. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want the record to clearly indicate that the former Minister of Natural Resources got up on his feet and failed to produce, after an extensive dialogue, any evidence that he put a proposal before the pipeline proponents or the pipeline company any requirements that they provide a preferential price or supply to Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand with a comment to Resolution No. 233 put forward by the member for Pictou Centre. As the record will show, there has been a lot of debate, and interventions, on the resolution because I think the

[Page 1284]

members on this side of the House know full well how hard this government has worked over the past two years to make sure that this project, the Sable Offshore Energy Project, goes forward so that we will have gas, not only for Nova Scotians, but for the rest of North America. We have a huge opportunity here to get the gas out of the ground, get it to Nova Scotians and beyond. Our intervention in all of this process is to make sure that this project goes forward because if this project does not go forward, Nova Scotians will not get gas, no one will get gas.

All of our work has been worked very carefully to make sure that this project goes forward and the Opposition continues to show their ignorance on the offshore gas development. I am appalled at how little they have paid attention. I repeat, as I have again, that I asked the members opposite to spend some time to learn the issue. It is a very complex issue and I ask them to spend some time to work to make sure that they understand the issues so that they work with this government, to work with all Nova Scotians to make sure this project does go forward. I ask them to cease and desist from a negative attitude and from scaremongering and making innuendoes and comments that suggest that this government is not prepared or not going forward in the best interests of the people of this province on the offshore energy project.

Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are wrong to infer that the province is not protecting Nova Scotia's interests. They are wrong and they are misinformed when they infer that the province is not protecting Nova Scotia's interests. We have aggressively demanded that Nova Scotia get access to natural gas and we have also aggressively demanded that a preferential price for our natural gas be available for the people of this province.

We have been promoting natural gas for the benefit of Nova Scotia since we have come to office. We have brought forward a number of issues, from creating the opportunities for Nova Scotians, not only to have access to gas, to have preferential price, but also to have opportunities for the jobs that will be available for companies and contractors in this province to have opportunities to take part in this project, which is the hugest project, the largest development that has ever taken place in this province invested by private industry. There are no government dollars in this. We are not running up a $0.5 million deficit, as has happened in the past with previous governments. This is a private investor coming to Nova Scotia, investing in our province to create a new industry, a new source of wealth for this province, that is the natural gas offshore Nova Scotia. We will continue to work for a Nova Scotia First policy and we will continue to do that with the proponents and with everybody involved. We have prepared very well for this process.

Let me explain to you, as simply as I can, Mr. Speaker, so that the members opposite will understand the process, and there is a process in place to make sure Nova Scotia's voice is heard. It is an open process, an accountable process. This government set it up. We want public comment. That is why there are hearings taking place here in the Province of Nova Scotia, as well as in the Province of New Brunswick. We created, in concert with the

[Page 1285]

Government of Nova Scotia, September 1996, (Interruption) we are, as the members opposite are suddenly paying attention, they are suddenly taking an interest in this when they realize how important this is to the province. We have been quite cognizant of that for two or three years, the importance of this project to the province.

Last September, we created a Joint Review Panel to review the Sable gas project. That is a five person panel that was established to conduct a joint public review of the Sable gas project. That panel, in case the members opposite are not aware of it, is chaired by Dr. Robert Fournier, a Nova Scotian, Dalhousie University member. With the other members, another Nova Scotian, Dr. John Sears from St Francis Xavier University, we also have Dr. Jessie Davies, University of New Brunswick on that panel. Ken Vollman from the Natural Energy Board and Anita Coté-Verhaaf from the National Energy Board. That panel was established pursuant to the agreement with the federal government for a joint review panel on the Sable Gas project. That agreement was developed to avoid jurisdictional overlap and duplication. It was also there so we could have the voices of not only the Government of Nova Scotia, but all governments, all individuals, all interested parties, to take part in this process.

We openly appointed that panel with the federal government. The panel is made up of well-respected, well-known people, and, as I have said, two of them, including the chairman, are prominent Nova Scotians. They held informal hearings in Moncton and in Antigonish prior to the formal hearings. The formal hearings began in Nova Scotia about four weeks ago. They held three weeks of formal hearings here in Halifax and they plan a further three weeks in Fredericton, until they finally come back again for final arguments in Halifax, following the Fredericton hearings.

The Province of Nova Scotia, this government, has the advantage of being well prepared in advance of the process, Mr. Speaker; not now, not after it is well down the road, we have been prepared in advance. We did our homework. There are over 120 interveners in the process, some whose objectives are highly questionable.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do believe that the minister responsible for the pipeline and for the gas development in Nova Scotia should address the resolution. Now she obviously hasn't read the resolution. There was nobody criticizing Dr. Fournier. We want to know why Nova Scotians are not guaranteed gas. Why are Nova Scotians not guaranteed a benefit price and a price that is a more beneficial price than anybody else? We have to listen to New Brunswick to stand up for our benefit; that is what the minister is supposed to address in this resolution. She does not have enough confidence in her information, she does not have the information. Therefore, she is talking about the National Energy Board at a hearing taking place in New Brunswick and that is totally off the issue. Instruct the minister to speak to the issue that is before us today.

[Page 1286]

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe that we still have something in these Chambers called freedom of speech in debates. It is certainly the right of individual members to interpret the content of the resolution and to address that resolution as they see it and not as directed by the honourable member for Kings North.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. On both points that were raised, they are points of interest and not points of order.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources has the floor. You have a minute and a half.

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: A minute and a half to tell the members opposite that if they had taken the time, both caucuses of both the Official Opposition and the Third Party had filed for intervener status; we have filed, Mr. Speaker, and I will table these in the House, our intervention in this process. We have made our case strongly for the people of this province. We are ensuring that they will have access to Nova Scotia gas. As a matter of fact, as we speak, and they are telling us now to go forward and fight for Nova Scotia. We have been fighting for Nova Scotia.

If the members opposite would pay attention, already, as we speak, this is happening. Companies like Nova Scotia Power have filed with the proponents for a supply of gas to deliver here in the province. They have filed for 17 per cent of the gas. That is enough to heat approximately half of the households in Nova Scotia. There is a market here in Nova Scotia. If the people of Nova Scotia want gas and access to gas, they will have gas. I want to make sure that the members opposite, if they haven't taken the time to read the intervention of the Province of Nova Scotia, they have access to it, they are interveners, they have - and I will table this in the House of Assembly. If they would pay attention and do their homework, they would find out that we have access to gas and we will have a preferential price here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the members opposite pay closer attention to what is happening in this province, to make sure that they understand exactly what is happening here. Nova Scotia will get gas; we are working on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians will come first. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I will recognize the honourable member for Halifax Fairview but, in doing so, I would ask all members to show respect for the member who is speaking and give that individual an opportunity to express their views, so that all members can participate in the information being presented.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 1287]

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise in support of the resolution brought in by the honourable member for Pictou Centre. I do so because of what is behind it. What is behind it is the concern about the government standing back and, in fact, acting as a spectator on this issue.

Now in spite of what the government says, the government has not, in our view, worked the least bit hard to provide Nova Scotians with a good deal on the offshore gas. I noted very carefully what the minister said; she said that the government did work hard.

Well, Mr. Speaker, all I can say is that if jumping out of the way is working hard, then that is what the government did. The minister says that what this government has done is make it possible for this project to go forward.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there are wise courses, there are thoughtful courses and there are runaway trains. The notion that this project should go forward on such an accelerated timetable suggests to me that it might have more to do with a coming election than with the good sense of a government in protecting the interests of Nova Scotians when it comes to the resources and the economy.

[5:45 p.m.]

The minister also said that she wishes we would all cease and desist from scaremongering. That bothers me a lot. There has been an awful lot of that kind of talk around the offshore. I thought our role here was to ask the questions that need to be asked, to find the answers to the unanswered questions and to help, by our role, to make sure that Nova Scotians get a better deal than they are getting now. I thought that was our job and I am prepared to do it. When the minister talks about this - we should all stop being alarmists in making these things - I start to wonder. I mean, it starts to sound like cheerleading to me. You know, cheerleaders are kind of blind followers who shake their pompoms and say isn't this great.

Mr. Speaker, I do not think cheerleading and boosterism are the right approach at all to something this serious and this mammoth. In fact, the minister admitted herself. She said this is the largest development, I think she said it was the largest private development in the history of this province. That is exciting. It would be exciting if any of us had any faith in this government.

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege. I am sitting here listening to the member opposite speak and for her to make comments like shaking my pompom - I am quite appalled that the woman opposite would make such a comment to belittle any issue that is put forward by a female member. I am quite astounded that the member opposite would make such a comment. I would ask her to withdraw that comment.

[Page 1288]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I am very sorry that the minister misunderstood my comment. I myself was a cheerleader in high school and in my days before maturity and it seems to me that the difference between the boosterism of a cheerleader and maturity is reasoned analysis and common sense. The only point I was making, and I am sorry the minister missed it, is that we should not be just going around saying three cheers for the offshore. We should be looking very carefully here at what is really going on.

When and if we get a good deal, if it is good for the people of this province, if it creates jobs and does not take away as many as it creates, if it is a good deal for the people of this province, then I will get out my pompoms and join with the Minister of Natural Resources in cheering for this project.

I really do not think, either, that the minister should take credit for the National Energy Board hearings, if indeed she did, because after all that is something that has to go on. I guess what I would like to do and what I would like to say is that here are some of the things that we should stop being so boosterish about. We should stop just agreeing these are wonderful things for this province and let's all just sit down and be quiet and go away so that we can give away another resource that is off the shore of this province.

Some of those concerns have been raised by the member for Pictou Centre, the Leader of the Opposition. I want to make sure, though, that this House understands that we are concerned about them. We ought to be cautious. We ought to have these concerns. These hesitations are sensible.

The first one, of course, is about the price. This postage stamp rate, so-called because it means that the gas travels from here to here at the same rate, a certain distance, and everybody along the way pays the same price, that is not a good deal. What we need here is a distance or a metre charge or whatever it is called because it is going to penalize (Interruption) Thank you. The minister tells me it is called point to point. What we need is the point to point so that the people closest to the pipeline, to the well, will receive the benefits.

We have been concerned for some time, too, about the royalty rates and we have good reason to be concerned. (Interruption) As are the experts, the member for Sackville-Cobequid points out. The royalty rates are so piddling and so easy to (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, it is very easy for a multinational company to take the money, reinvest, do something with it and suppress profits and there we are with no royalties at all from a project that we should be making money in this province on.

[Page 1289]

The whole question of jobs. We have gone around it a few times. There are some construction jobs; there are not very many long-term jobs. This government has never dealt with the whole issue of balancing loss of jobs in Cape Breton with the creation of jobs elsewhere. You can bet that Cape Breton has been left out in the cold in this particular project. The fact is that if in the long term this is going to be good for the province, then the people of Cape Breton should have a piece of it and they should have a piece of it now because if you try to put in a pipeline later, after all the stuff has gone away, it is going to cost a whole lot more.

I don't think either that we have explored properly the economic implications of marketing electricity instead of gas. It is obvious to Nova Scotians - we have power in our homes - that the grid already exists and we could export the power through a system that already exists.

Mr. Speaker, in the couple of seconds that I have left, I just want to sum up by saying that Nova Scotia must have a competitive advantage from the development of this resource or leave it in the ocean until they can develop a competitive advantage. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call House Order No. 1, and I so move.

H.O. No. 1, re Educ. - School Boards: Amalgamations - Savings - notice given April 15/97 - (Mr. T. Donahoe)

H.O. No. 2, re Educ. - Atlantic Prov. Educ. Fdn. Progs.: School Bds. - Cost - notice given Apr. 15/97 - (Mr. T. Donahoe)

[The House Orders were read by the Clerk.]

MR. SPEAKER: The motions are carried.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Would you please call House No. 3, and I so move.

H.O. No. 3, re Educ. - Schools: Advisory Councils - Contracts - notice given April 17/97 - (Mr. T. Donahoe)

[The House Order was read by the Clerk.]

[Page 1290]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education and Culture.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, to the extent possible, we will be complying with that House Order.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: I thank the Minister of Education for his kind cooperation. I would then call House Order No. 4, and on behalf of the member, I would so move.

H.O. No. 4, re Fin. - Native Bands: Tobacco - Quotas/Sales - notice given April 21/97 - (Mr. R. Russell)

[The House Order was read by the Clerk.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I will provide as much information as I can. I think I have all that information, but just off the top, but, certainly, I will be prepared to put together as much of it as I can.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, that concludes Opposition Government Business for the day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, following Question Period tomorrow, we will go into Committee of the Whole House on Supply, with Natural Resources in the Chamber and we will continue with Community Services in Subcommittee. Following that, we will then go into Committee of the Whole House on Bills and we will be dealing with Bill No. 6.

[Page 1291]

I move that the House now rise and sit between the hours of 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion for adjournment has been made for the House to sit again between the hours of 12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. tomorrow.

We have arrived at the moment of interruption. The Adjournment debate has been chosen as announced earlier and won by the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, who will debate the following motion:

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly applaud the outstanding community efforts of the people of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury who recognize that the creation of strong partnerships between government and all stakeholders will ensure lasting tourism developments.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - GUYSBOROUGH-PT. HAWKESBURY:

COMMUN. EFFORTS - APPLAUD

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, as the members of the House know, this year we are entering the Year of Music celebration. I think it is important that any community, any nation, or any province remember its history. In Nova Scotia, our roots are reflected in our art and in our culture and in our song. What I would like to do is highlight a couple of the communities in Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury that are, indeed, doing that and looking at tourism as one of their development tools.

Before I get into the detail of the two communities I am going to talk about, I just want to mention a couple of unique celebrations. During the month of August, in the community of Guysborough at the Boylston Park - they hold what is called the Hootenanny on the Hill; that is a celebration of the music and culture of Guysborough County - overlooking one of the most beautiful vistas in Guysborough County. Also, in the community of Sherbrooke, Canada Day celebrations are ended with a tribute to our country and, again, a celebration of our culture, history through music and dance.

I think, Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia and throughout Guysborough County, we have a reason to be optimistic about the future of the Nova Scotia tourism industry. The Conference Board of Canada has indicated that we should expect a 3.4 per cent increase in

[Page 1292]

tourism. As previously mentioned in this House, tourism on the Eastern Shore, over the last two years, has shown some of the strongest growth in Nova Scotia.

What are some of the factors that are going to boost that activity? We can talk about the Canadian dollar, the interest Canadians and Americans are showing in Nova Scotia but, also, there are some special activities happening this year. We have heard, in this House, Mr. Speaker, about reflections on the Cabot '97 Meeting and also the celebration related to the Cabot landing in North America.

As I have mentioned earlier, this year is the Year of Music celebration. I think the most important thing we have to offer to visitors, besides our culture and our history, the most unique thing that tourism has is our people. In my riding of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, residents, community leaders, business owners and all the stakeholders of the tourism industry are looking forward to what they expect will be one of the most exciting years.

[6:00 p.m.]

I am pleased to have the opportunity to give the members of this House and, hopefully, Nova Scotians, some insight into two unique celebrations; one in the Town of Canso and one in the community of the Town of Port Hawkesbury.

I would like to start first, Mr. Speaker, by talking about the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, which will be held in the Town of Canso on July 4th, 5th and 6th. Many Nova Scotians, many Canadians know the role that Stan Rogers played in laying the foundation for many of the groups that now celebrate our music and our culture not only throughout Nova Scotia but North America.

The festival will offer an international calibre of performers, like Rawlins Cross, Sylvia Tyson and Quartette, Valdy, and Juno Award Winner, James Keelaghan, to name a few of the 26 groups that have already booked for this festival. There will be many types of music which will address many of the tastes of Nova Scotians and visitors; folk Maritime, bluegrass, country, zydeco, which is something that I just learned about and the blues. They will be featured on four stages which will be throughout the community, running all day, with a main performance on a larger stage in the evening. It is expected that between 3,000 and 5,000 people from all over Canada and the United States will visit this community which presently has a population of around 1,000.

The communities of Guysborough County - this is not just a project for the Town of Canso - have been working together over the last year to plan for this festival. They see the Stan Rogers Festival as a major economic development tool to promote the area, to bring tourists into the area and to provide some stabilization for services that are presently in the area.

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It is interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the organizing committee has over 100 volunteers to date and that number is growing. They are not only from the community of Canso but over a dozen communities are now involved in the planning and preparing for concession stands and also importance of the hospitality they can provide.

Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of groups that have provided funding for this Stan Rogers Festival; the Economic Development and Tourism Department, the Guysborough County Regional Development Authority, the Business Development Centre, Human Resources Canada and many other private sector partners. There are already four staff people on hand just to handle the calls of interest from throughout Nova Scotia about the Stan Rogers Festival.

I would like to leave that for a second, Mr. Speaker, as I know I have limited time to talk about what is happening in Port Hawkesbury. The Port Hawkesbury activities are being centred around the waterfront. This is one of our wisest investments in community development, the development of the Port Hawkesbury waterfront. These will be centred in a building called The Creamery, which has been revitalized as one of the key functioning facilities, as part of the waterfront development of Port Hawkesbury.

They will be sponsoring, Mr. Speaker, what is called Artscape '97. There are four components to that celebration. The first one is a new Artisans Co-op which will be held from May to October 31, 1997. This will provide new artisans an opportunity to display and sell their art works, opportunities for workshops and opportunities to demonstrate to the people of the area what we have to offer in the form of not only culture but also arts.

The second thing that was very successful last year is called the Isle Quilt Market. This is from July 4th to July 6th. This will sponsor quilts which are made from all over Cape Breton Island, which will be put on display. It is one of the most beautiful exhibits of art work in a special area of quilt making, which I had the opportunity to visit last year.

If you have nothing to do on Sunday evening and you happen to be travelling through Port Hawkesbury from July 6th on, each evening at a special location called Granville Green, there is an outdoor bandshell which overlooks the Strait of Canso and on a warm Sunday evening it is a great place for the family. There are free concerts scheduled each evening at 7:00 o'clock which are sponsored by various businesses throughout the community. This is an example where the community has identified an opportunity, business is involved and we can celebrate the beautiful music not only of Cape Breton but of all the Maritimes.

Further development to that, in early August there will be an art symposium. That will provide an opportunity to feature Nova Scotia artists. There will be on-site performances and various workshops throughout the community during that activity.

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Mr. Speaker, what I am trying to do tonight is to indicate to you and to the members and to Nova Scotians that this is going to be an exciting year within Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury with the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso in early July, and the activities that are taking place all summer long in the community of Port Hawkesbury. There are other communities from one end of the constituency to the other that have many things to offer for tourists. We have an extensive trail system. We have some of the most beautiful beaches in Nova Scotia and some of the most rugged seacoast which attracts artists worldwide.

In the Year of Music, through this opportunity I would like to issue a special invitation to any members of the House or the public to come and see our beautiful nature of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. Most important of all, come and meet our people and I am sure you will come back again. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable member for having taken part in tonight's late debate.

The motion for adjournment has been made.

The House will now rise to sit again tomorrow at 12:00 noon.

[The House rose at 6:07 p.m.]

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NOTICE OF QUESTIONS FOR WRITTEN ANSWERS

Given on April 29, 1997

(Pursuant to Rule 30)

QUESTION NO. 6

By: Ms. Eileen O'Connell (Halifax Fairview)

To: Hon. Bernard Boudreau (Minister of Health)

(1) During Question Period on April 17th, the Minister of Health expressed willingness to meet with me to discuss the guidelines of Home Care Nova Scotia as they relate to catastrophic cases like that of the MacDonald family of Bible Hill. When and where will the minister meet on this most urgent matter?

QUESTION NO. 7

By: Mr. Ronald Russell (Hants West)

To: Hon. Bernard Boudreau (Minister of Health)

In November 1994, the powers of the then Hants Community Hospital Board were suspended by the Nova Scotia Cabinet. Mr. John Breen from Antigonish was brought in to do an analysis of operations at the Hants Community Hospital. He did that and compiled a report on operations over a six week period, concluding early in 1995. To date, two years later, this report has never been made public. I was told by the former Minister of Health in early 1995 that the report would have to remain confidential for the present time as it might be required for use by the courts. Now, two years later, the issue has been dealt with before the courts, a sentence handed down.

(1) Will the minister provide me and the residents of Windsor-West Hants with a copy of that report compiled by Mr. Breen?