DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS
Speaker: Honourable Kevin Murphy
Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.
Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/
FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2015
TABLE OF CONTENTSPAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1963, Westray Mine Explosion: Workplace Safety - Legacy,
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 1964, CBU Immigration Task Force: Work - Acknowledge,
Vote - Affirmative
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 116, Service Dogs Act,
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS:
Hon. A. Younger
MacLean, Sarah - Lt.-Gov.'s Medal,
Creative Industries: Plan - Lack Admit,
Le Blanc, Gilles G.: Décès De - Hommage,
Bos, Ian: Cross-Can. Walk - Fundraising,
Small Towns/Rural Communities: Issues - Plans,
Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie - Fraternal Lodges,
MacDonald, Frank: Oran - Tourism Support,
Film Tax Credit - Cuts: Communities - Effects,
MacDonald, Stefanie - Vol. Efforts,
MacDonald, Aran - Lt.-Gov.'s Medal,
Birthday Wishes - MacDonald, Elizabeth (50th)/MacPherson, Joe (75th),
New Glasgow Farmers Market,
Strait Reg. Science Fair (17th Anl.): Prize Winners - Congrats.,
Pictou Advocate - Can. Commun. Newspaper Award,
Animation Ind. - Tax Incentives: Reports - Accuracy,
Easter Jam: Teazer's Pub & Eatery - Hosting Commend,
Bezanson, Sophia - Courage,
IWK Health Centre Eating Disorder Clinic - Importance,
Mombourquette, Thomas "Tommy" - Prov. Vol. Award,
Pier 21: Interactive Exhibit - Launch,
Film Tax Credit: N.S./Alberta - Comparisons,
Cabot Trailblazers - Girls Basketball Provincials,
McNeil Gov't.: Cuts - Summary,
Three Churches Fdn./Petite Riviere Vineyards - Wine Partnership,
Bligh, Dr. Peter - Commun. Serv.,
Acadia Univ. Global Brigades - Honduras Trip,
Chedabucto Curling Club,
Fairview Jr. HS Girls Soccer Team - FIFA Women's World Cup
Mayfest (Antigonish) - Fundraising,
C.B. Tourism - Top 15 of 2015 Events,
Com. Serv.: Income Assistance Bus Tickets - Info.,
HOUSE RECESSED AT 9:44 A.M
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 9:58 A.M
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS TO MINISTERS:
No. 843, Prem. - Dr. MacQuarrie: Meeting - Confirm,
No. 844, Prem. - Animation Tax Credit: Lbr./Prod. Costs
No. 845, Fin. & Treasury Bd. - Digital Animation Ind.: Arrangement
No. 846, Prem.: First Time Homebuilders Incentive - Reinstatement,
No. 847, Com. Serv.: Income Assistance Cheques - Labelling,
No. 848, Energy - NSP: Rate Increase - Expectation,
No. 849, Health & Wellness: Seniors' Pharmacare Prog
No. 850, DIS - Northern Pulp: 2020 - Operation Confirm,
No. 851, Environ.: Mattatall Lake - Algae Blooms,
No. 852, TIR - Gillis Pt. Rd. (Victoria Co.): Work - Time Frame,
No. 853, Environ. - Travel Planning Progs.: Elimination
No. 854, LAE: Tuition Increases - Details,
No. 855, Health & Wellness: Addiction Services - Funding Cuts,
No. 856, LAE - Universities: Collective Bargaining Suspension
No. 857, Energy: Nat. Gas - Marcella Supply,
No. 858, Nat. Res. - Clear-Cut: Reduction Goal - Outcome,
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 10:50 A.M
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 3:46 P.M
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., May 11th at 9:00 a.m
HALIFAX, FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2015
Sixty-second General Assembly
Hon. Kevin Murphy
Ms. Margaret Miller
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
RESOLUTION NO. 1963
Whereas on May 9, 1992, our province was changed forever when 26 men lost their lives in the Westray Mine explosion - 23 years later Nova Scotians continue to grieve with the families who lost their loved ones on that tragic day and acknowledge the significant impact this catastrophe has had on our province; and
Whereas Westray changed the workplace safety landscape of our province and our country, it has inspired strong legislative action that ensures that people running mining operations in this province are held to a very high standard, and has created national laws that hold companies and individuals criminally responsible when they are negligent with the lives and safety of their workers; and
Whereas we will never forget the sacrifice made by those 26 men for our province and for our communities, their legacy is strong and has had a significant impact on the lives of countless workers and employers in this province;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House take a moment today to remember the miners who lost their lives 23 years ago, and reaffirm our commitment to making sure every worker comes home safe to their families at the end of the workday.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
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 Justice.
RESOLUTION NO. 1964
Whereas I wish to acknowledge the outstanding work of the Cape Breton University Immigration Task Force that formed late last year to rally support for immigration across Cape Breton by studying the experiences of international students, performing community outreach, and drafting a plan of action for attracting and retaining more immigrants; and
Whereas the task force is a true coalition of forces led by Cape Breton University's David Wheeler and Keith Brown, and powered by a large group of municipal, business, and community leaders, including members of the following organizations: Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the Town of Port Hawkesbury, Richmond County, Victoria County, Inverness County, Membertou First Nation, Eskasoni First Nation, Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, Northeast Highlands Chamber of Commerce, Cape Breton Partnership, Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia Community College, Université Sainte-Anne, International Centre for English Academic Preparation, and the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration; and
Whereas on Monday, May 4, 2015, I was able to thank the task force for their contributions at a breakfast meeting in Sydney and to formally express our appreciation on their leadership;
Therefore be it resolved that the task force should be congratulated for developing a made-in-Cape Breton solution for current challenges to welcome more newcomers to the region to push Cape Breton ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
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
Bill No. 116 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Rights of Persons with Guide Dogs or Service Dogs. (Mr. Tim Houston)
NOTICES OF MOTION
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
HON. ANDREW YOUNGER: I rise today to congratulate all the successful candidates and the candidates who ran in the election in the United Kingdom yesterday and David Cameron for securing government again in what looks like possibly a majority government. Last night, 650 seats were up for election and this is the third election that we've had the opportunity to witness in the Westminster style over the past week or so.
Of course, in the U.K. it is always interesting to watch with the many, many Parties they have, including the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol Party, the We Are The Reality Party, the Eccentric Party and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, among the more traditional Parties we are all aware of. It is a very interesting election to watch and it is always fun to see the fact that all the candidates in the election stand together at the end and see the results announced while standing side by side while they are actually counted publicly on live TV. Thank you very much.
MACLEAN, SARAH - LT.-GOV.'S MEDAL
HON. ALFIE MACLEOD « » : Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Sarah MacLean, who recently received the Lieutenant Governor's Medal. Sarah is a Grade 11 student at Riverview High School and she is the daughter of Karen and Blaise MacLean from Coxheath.
On receiving this medal, Sarah has obviously met the criteria, which are based on her dedication to her school and to her community. Sarah MacLean is interested in all aspects of volunteering in and around her community and she loves helping other people. I would like to thank Sarah MacLean for all she has done for her school and her community, and we wish her the best of luck in the future as she moves forward in her education. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
CREATIVE INDUSTRIES: PLAN - LACK ADMIT
HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD « » : Mr. Speaker, the McNeil Government continues to prove that they have absolutely no plan when it comes to the creative industries in our province. Not only have they put the film and television industries in limbo, they are now creating chaos in the animation sector. It was clear yesterday that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board isn't even sure what's going on herself. All this confusion, all this chaos, and all this consultation after the fact is driving talented, creative, energetic people out of our province. That will not only hurt our creative industries, but our overall economy, as these projects bring money into our province.
We know the McNeil Government doesn't have all the facts and they don't have a plan. It's high time they admit it and put these decisions on hold until they do. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
LE BLANC, GILLES G.: DÉCÈS DE - HOMMAGE
HON. MICHEL SAMSON « » : M. le Président, c'est avec beaucoup de tristesse que je prends la parole aujourd'hui pour rendre hommage à Gilles G. Le Blanc, qui est décédé soudainement cette semaine à la suite d'une maladie. Gilles était un fier Acadien. Il a été pendant plus de 25 ans un chef de file du secteur de l'éducation francophone de la province. Sa carrière a connu des points forts dans les rôles de direction au ministère de l'Éducation et à l'Université Sainte-Anne.
Gilles était bien connu et respecté pour travailler sans relâche dans l'intérêt des étudiants acadiens et francophones de tous les niveaux. Il était champion de l'importance de la langue française. Il ne fait aucun doute qu'il était grandement dévoué en faveur de l'apprentissage et de l'édification d'une culture acadienne et francophone dynamique en Nouvelle-Écosse.
Il nous manquera beaucoup. J'offre mes condoléances les plus sincères à sa famille, à ses amis et à ses collègues.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise today to honour the memory of Gilles G. Le Blanc, who passed away suddenly from illness this week. Gilles was a proud Acadian and leader within the province's francophone education sector for more than 25 years. His lifelong work was highlighted with leadership roles in the Department of Education and at Université Sainte-Anne.
Gilles was widely known and respected for working tirelessly towards the best interests of Acadian and francophone students at all levels. He was a champion for promoting the value of the French language. There can be no doubt of his tremendous dedication to learning and to building a vibrant Acadian and francophone culture in Nova Scotia.
He will be greatly missed. I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
BOS, IAN: CROSS-CAN. WALK - FUNDRAISING
MR. TIM HOUSTON « » : Mr. Speaker, Ian Bos is heading out on a walk across Canada with the goal of raising $25,000. Money raised will be donated to the palliative care unit of the Aberdeen Hospital, where Ian's dad spent his final days. The staff under the leadership of Dr. Gerry Farrell and nurses Rhonda Langille and Debbie Williams were instrumental in influencing Ian to make this walk. Ian and his family want to ensure that the wonderful standard of care that his family received will remain a constant for future families.
I thank Ian and I wish him safe travels. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
SMALL TOWNS/RURAL COMMUNITIES: ISSUES - PLANS
HON. STERLING BELLIVEAU « » : Mr. Speaker, the Premier likes to wax poetic about how entrepreneurs and small businesses are the backbone of this province. It is unfortunate this government hasn't actually walked the walk when it comes to supporting small business.
The McNeil Government refuses to continue the trend of reducing small business tax. They seem oblivious to the effects their flawed changes to the Film Tax Credit will have on small business, especially in rural Nova Scotia. The McNeil Government continues to ignore economic development in rural Nova Scotia, and I don't think there could be a clearer sign of that than their elimination of the department responsible for rural development.
It is high time the Premier stops just talking the talk and actually makes a plan to tackle the issues facing our small towns and rural communities. Thank you.
GUYSBOROUGH-EASTERN SHORE-TRACADIE - FRATERNAL LODGES
MR. LLOYD HINES « » : Mr. Speaker, Masonry in Nova Scotia is controlled by the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia, A.F. and A.M. It is composed of some 100 lodges with a membership of nearly 6,000. The vision of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia is to provide a solid foundation for the advancement of the Freemasonry through strong leadership, education, and fellowship.
Masonry is a system of morality which endeavours to impress upon its members, through allegories and symbols, a method followed by many great teachers in inculcating the ethical philosophies of life. It was founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue. It is not a religion, but it encourages the practice of all moral tenets embodied in all great spiritual beliefs. It is not a benevolent society nor are any monetary benefits in any way promised to its members, although it has certain benevolent projects for the assistance and benefit of its less fortunate members and their families. It seeks to develop happiness among its membership and encourages the communication of happiness to others.
Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie is fortunate to have four of these fraternities assisting our local communities. The kindness of these men always amazes me. They have touched the lives of so many. Thank you for making our communities and province a better place to live. Thank you.
MACDONALD, FRANK: ORAN - TOURISM SUPPORT
MR. ALLAN MACMASTER « » : Mr. Speaker, for twenty years Frank Macdonald and the Inverness Oran have been publishing the Inverness County Sunset Side guide to assist visitors who come to Inverness County. It is dedicated to festivals, events, and activities taking place throughout the summer and fall. The Guide highlights each community along the coastal routes. Readers learn about unique places to camp, how to find the best dance hall on a given night, what museums can offer about local history, where to find galleries displaying local art, and so much more. Congratulations to the Oran and to Frank for their work to support Nova Scotia tourism.
FILM TAX CREDIT - CUTS: COMMUNITIES - EFFECTS
HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE « » : Mr. Speaker, the McNeil Government's cut to the Film Tax Credit doesn't just hurt people who work directly in the film and television industries. Millions of dollars are spent on labour, including the hundreds of local people hired as extras, and in local businesses. Restaurants, gas stations, hardware stores, dry cleaners, grocery stores, hotels, and many other benefits are seen from filming taking place in our communities.
Municipalities and towns also benefit from productions being filmed in their communities. In Chester, our village is compensated to the tune of $35,000 each summer from the rental of our rink by the producers of Haven. That money is used for, among other things, maintaining and upgrading the rink facility for our young skaters, hockey players, and others who use it for winter activities.
It is sad that the McNeil Government still does not understand how far-reaching their cuts will be for our communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MACDONALD, STEFANIE - VOL. EFFORTS
MS. PATRICIA ARAB « » : Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the outstanding volunteer efforts of an inspiring constituent, Stefanie Macdonald. Some of Stefanie's community contributions include being a coach, mentor, and board member with the Catapult Leadership Society. She is also a judge with TD Enactus Entrepreneurship and a founder of the "Fear is a Liar" bursary.
Stefanie is passionate about connecting people and opportunities through leadership, networking, entrepreneurship, and youth empowerment initiatives. She is committed to blazing a path for Nova Scotian students, and believes if you pour yourself into every opportunity the right ones will reciprocate.
Please join me in celebrating Stefanie's fantastic volunteer efforts in our community.
MACDONALD, ARAN - LT.-GOV.'S MEDAL
MS. KARLA MACFARLANE « » : Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Aran MacDonald of Pictou for being a 2015 recipient of the Lieutenant Governor's Education Medal. Aran will be presented with the medal at an award ceremony at North Colchester High School on May 14, 2015.
The Lieutenant Governor Awards have been given annually to Grade 11 students since 1961. The recipients are nominated by their school, based on academic performance, leadership qualities, and service as demonstrated in their school and community.
Aran is a student at Pictou Academy. She is active in her school, church, and community. Aran is well-rounded and has many varied interests, including basketball, student council, bagpiping, theatre, and is an active volunteer at the deCoste Entertainment Centre.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to congratulate my dear friend Aran for being chosen to receive this prestigious Lieutenant Governor's Education Medal. Thank you.
- MACDONALD, ELIZABETH (50th)/MACPHERSON, JOE (75th)
The first constituent is Elizabeth MacDonald and she is turning 50 years old on May 11th. Elizabeth is known for her sense of humour and her talent. Mr. Speaker, she is a great artist. She is part of the Heart and Hands program at L'Arche in Antigonish and is a very spirited drummer. She is a determined woman and is known to be very focused when she sets her mind to a task.
Mr. Speaker, the other constituent is Joe MacPherson. Joe turned 75 on the 29th of July. Now I know I am early in my birthday wishes, but I also know that being mentioned in the House of Assembly is something that would make Joe very proud. Joe is a gentleman who loves his community and his faith. He is also an artist and very talented at paper-making and weaving - I also hear he loves to bake.
Mr. Speaker, both Elizabeth and Joe are clients of L'Arche Antigonish, an organization that does amazing work and provides incredible service to exceptional people. I hope that the other members of the House of Assembly will join me in wishing Elizabeth and Joe a very happy birthday.
NEW GLASGOW FARMERS MARKET
HON. PAT DUNN « » : Mr. Speaker, the New Glasgow Farmers Market is gearing up for their May opening. Though the market lost their manager in the death of beloved musician Fleur Mainville, they are forging ahead and appointed Kristi Russell, of Knotly Acres, a market vendor based out of Salt Springs as the new manager.
On opening day, May 16th, it's all about Fleur. Her music will be alive through the sounds of former student Amelia Parker.
The Town of New Glasgow anticipates that the market will no longer be seasonal, starting this year. The plan is to have a building beside the original dome constructed by October. The extra space is required due to the popularity of the market. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
STRAIT REG. SCIENCE FAIR (17th ANL.): PRIZE WINNERS - CONGRATS.
MR. ALLAN MACMASTER « » : Mr. Speaker, congratulations to all students who took part in the 17th Annual Strait Regional Science Fair. Special congratulations to two students from Dalbrae Academy who were Grand Prize winners, Brenton Sutherland, a Grade 11 student who did a project called The Skies of Tomorrow, and Siobhan MacDonald, another Grade 11 student whose project is entitled Micro Hydro, Do a lot with a little.
Each student attended the Nova Scotia Science Fair Showcase held on April 30th in Halifax and will also attend the Canada-Wide Science Fair scheduled for May 11th to the 16th in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I'd like to wish them all the luck in this competition.
PICTOU ADVOCATE - CAN. COMMUN. NEWSPAPER AWARD
MS. KARLA MACFARLANE « » : Mr. Speaker, at the age of 18 years John MacDonald dreamed of setting up his own printing press. In the Fall of 1891 his dream became a reality. John's business continued to grow and on December 22, 1893 he purchased a second-hand newspaper press and launched the Pictou Advocate. Today, 122 years later, the Pictou Advocate remains a strong vibrant community newspaper.
The Pictou Advocate showed their strength at Canada's Community Newspaper Award Ceremony recently when they placed second for having the Best Editorial Page and placed third in General Excellence for best overall newspaper with the circulation between 2,000 and 2,999. Today the Advocate Newspaper Company owns 12 other publications while also printing numerous other jobs on a contract basis. Congratulations on a job well done.
ANIMATION IND. - TAX INCENTIVES: REPORTS - ACCURACY
MS. LENORE ZANN « » : Mr. Speaker, the McNeil Government continues to confuse, upset, and disrespect people in the film, television, animation, and creative industries. Yesterday the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board changed information they had previously released to the industry, the media, and the public about tax incentives for our animation industry. The minister had absolutely no explanation for this change, much to the chagrin of those in the industry. Journalists were also upset, they reported what they thought were the facts only to find out 24 hours later that what they reported wasn't accurate or maybe it was, the minister wouldn't or couldn't say. In the immortal words of Hamlet, "The Lady doth protest too much, methinks."
EASTER JAM: TEAZER'S PUB & EATERY - HOSTING COMMEND
MR. TERRY FARRELL « » : Mr. Speaker, I'd like to commend Teazer's Pub and Eatery for hosting an Easter Jam that will for the second straight year benefit Maggie's Place. Maggie's Place is our local family resource centre and they help countless families throughout Cumberland County and the Easter Jam gives people the opportunity to give back to the community. It was held on April 4th of this year.
Seven bands volunteered their time for the jam. Last year Maggie's Place used the money for its children's centre to buy toys and craft supplies. The Easter Jam is not the only fundraiser hosted by Teazer's Pub, they hold several one-time benefits for various people in need throughout the year and they also hold an annual Boxing Day Jam that benefits the Amherst Food Assistance Network. I'm proud to have such an establishment in our community and I'd like to sincerely thank them for their contributions to local organizations and people through benefits held at the local pub and eatery.
BEZANSON, SOPHIA - COURAGE
MR. TIM HOUSTON « » : Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to share the story of 7-year-old Sophia Bezanson with the House. Sophia is a true hero. On Wednesday this week while travelling home on the school bus she became very concerned about a grass fire she noticed near her friend's home. When she arrived home she called her friend and found her crying because only her friend and her grandmother were home and they were very afraid of the fire. Sophia asked her father to call 911 and the Eureka and Stellarton fire departments responded and put the fire out. I ask all members of this House to acknowledge and congratulate Sophia on her very courageous, very positive actions.
MR. DAVID WILSON « » : I'd like to draw the attention of members to the west gallery where we have a guest, Meghan Hubley. Meghan is a playwright and wrote a play about seven years ago. I wonder if the House could give her a warm welcome. (Applause)
IWK HEALTH CENTRE EATING DISORDER CLINIC - IMPORTANCE
HON. DAVID WILSON « » : Mr. Speaker, the McNeil Government's cuts to mental health are putting the most vulnerable at risk. The IWK Health Centre Eating Disorder Clinic will operate just two days a week and a grant for Eating Disorder Nova Scotia has been cut as well. One in six women will develop an eating disorder by the age of 20.
One of those women was Meghan Hubley. Megan is a playwright and seven years ago she wrote a show called Honey and Jupiter which is based on her own experience with an eating disorder. Meagan knows how important the IWK Eating Disorder Clinic is for young women, the McNeil Government needs to focus on patient care, their budget doesn't.
MOMBOURQUETTE, THOMAS "TOMMY" - PROV. VOL. AWARD
HON. MICHEL SAMSON « » : Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Thomas (Tommy) Mombourquette on being recognized at the Provincial Volunteer Awards, held on April 7th, as Richmond County Volunteer for his lifelong commitment to the community of L'Ardoise. Tommy Mombourquette has been volunteering in our community back to the 1950s when he helped organize the L'Ardoise Youth Group. Since that time he has been involved with the L'Ardoise Credit Union, Fisherman's Co-Op, L'Ardoise Parish Community Centre, and other community organizations.
From these early days Tommy has always been there to help those in the community who needed it. Even today Tommy can be seen outside the community hall cooking potatoes for dinners and suppers. On behalf of our entire community, please join me in congratulating Thomas (Tommy) Mombourquette on receiving the Provincial Volunteer Award. Thank you.
PIER 21: INTERACTIVE EXHIBIT - LAUNCH
HON. LENA DIAB « » : Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Pier 21, the Canadian Museum of Immigration, on the launch of a new interactive exhibit. Pier 21 is a special place; it looms large in the memories and hearts of many immigrant families, including my own.
Now a National Historic Site, Pier 21 was the first stop, the Gateway to Canada, for one million immigrants between 1928 and 1971. It also served as the departure point for 500,000 Canadian military personnel travelling overseas during World War II. On Monday, May 5th Pier 21 opened the new exhibit that helps visitors of all ages and backgrounds experience what it was like to immigrate to Canada, using digital technology and interactive activities - there's even a colonist train car.
My congratulations to the curators and museum staff; they have made us proud. I also want to acknowledge the leadership of the late Ruth Goldbloom, Pier 21's founder and first champion. Ruth's dream, her legacy, lives on. Thank you.
FILM TAX CREDIT: N.S./ALBERTA - COMPARISONS
HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE « » : Mr. Speaker, the McNeil Government has said their new incentives for the film and television industry are comparable to the Province of Alberta, so our industry should grow at the same rate as theirs. This is another example of the McNeil Government not having all the facts. Alberta has a number of competitive advantages beyond their tax credit that we do not have in Nova Scotia. For example, there is no sales tax in Alberta, which gives them an advantage. Alberta also has a brand-new soundstage; Nova Scotia doesn't have one at all, let alone a new one. So that gives them another advantage beyond tax credits that filmmakers can't access in Nova Scotia.
I wonder when the McNeil Government will start consulting with stakeholders and get all their facts before making decisions. Thank you.
CABOT TRAILBLAZERS - GIRLS BASKETBALL PROVINCIALS
MS. PAM EYKING « » : Mr. Speaker, I'd like to acknowledge the Cabot Trailblazers on bringing home a provincial banner from the Basketball NS D-4 Provincials that were held in Berwick. Ten girls represented North of Smokey proudly in the tournament displaying individual strength, sportsmanship, and a love for the game. This team was put together after the high school basketball season ended, and they only practised together for a month before heading to provincials and taking home the banner.
I'd like to congratulate all players and coaches of the Cabot Trailblazers on a successful tournament. Thank you.
MCNEIL GOV'T.: CUTS - SUMMARY
HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD « » : Mr. Speaker, we began this session of the Legislature with the McNeil Government trying to clean up the mess they had created last Fall. Who could forget how they wasted a year that could have been spent focusing on front-line health care instead of picking fights with health care workers, unions, and internationally respected arbitrators?
That was nothing compared to the atrocious budget introduced by the McNeil Government last month. I don't think we could find an industry or a community that won't be worse off now under the McNeil Government. A frozen provincial health care budget and an unknown but anticipated cut to the health authority budget isn't good for any province, let alone one with a rapidly aging population, and frozen income assistance rates and deep cuts to community organizations that have provided services to Nova Scotia for years, in some cases, decades.
Where will people get support? I expect the McNeil Government will be trying to clean up the new messes their budget has created, when we return to this House in the Fall.
MS. LOHNES-CROFT « » : In your gallery, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, I would like to introduce one of his constituents, Andre Brideau. Andre is an aspiring politician and was here before, when he was in Grade 2, with his class and has returned to watch Question Period, where I told him he would get some great drama. He is also going to be getting a tour of the Legislature today and will soon be off to Ottawa for a student Parliament. Please welcome him. (Applause)
THREE CHURCHES FDN./PETITE RIVIERE VINEYARDS
- WINE PARTNERSHIP
MS. SUZANNE LOHNES-CROFT « » : Mr. Speaker, about two years ago the Three Churches Foundation was formed in recognition of the status of the Mahone Bay churches as a cultural icon in the region and in Nova Scotia. One of their first projects was partnering with Petite Riviere Vineyards to launch Three Churches wine. The goal, in part, was to create a brand, not just a wine brand but a Three Churches brand. The foundation has an idea of producing T-shirts and high-end calendars as well.
Perhaps one thing the foundation wasn't counting on was for its wine to win awards. The Three Churches Maréchal Foch, vintage 2012, was awarded a bronze medal in its class at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in Rochester, New York.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that you join me in congratulating the Three Churches Foundation and Petite Riviere Vineyards on an award-winning product, and wish them nothing but future success. Thank you.
BLIGH, DR. PETER - COMMUN. SERV.
MR. KEITH IRVING « » : Mr. Speaker, in 1988 veterinarian Peter Bligh saw a need for helping stray and abandoned cats in Kings County and began the Valley Animal Shelter, which has been based in Wolfville since 1997. Along with running several veterinary clinics, he has maintained the Valley Animal Shelter for over 25 years, often at his own expense, providing essential medical treatment, vaccinations, and neutering and spaying to help curb the underlying problem of feral cat populations.
Dr. Bligh has rescued and helped thousands of cats find their forever homes. In 2013, Dr. Bligh created the Valley WAAG Animal Shelter with full charitable status. While the shelter is 50 per cent self-sustaining, Dr. Bligh's business supports the remaining 50 per cent.
On behalf of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, I rise to thank Dr. Peter Bligh for his years of generous and dedicated community service. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
ACADIA UNIV. GLOBAL BRIGADES - HONDURAS TRIP
MR. KEITH IRVING « » : Mr. Speaker, on Friday, April 24th, 55 courageous and compassionate members of Acadia University Global Brigades left Wolfville to spend 10 days in rural Honduras. The medical-dental brigade will work alongside physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and gynecologists, and provide health care to citizens while gaining hands-on experience.
The environmental and public health brigades work side by side with community members to improve the health in their homes through the construction of eco-stoves, latrines, water storage units, showers, and concrete floors.
On behalf of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, I would like to commend these dedicated and compassionate young people for choosing to share their skills, talents, and time with people less fortunate than themselves. The gifts they will gain from this important experience will no doubt be an encouragement to many others upon their safe return. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
CHEDABUCTO CURLING CLUB
MR. LLOYD HINES « » : Mr. Speaker, Guysborough maintains a wonderful club where folks in the community can come and enjoy many activities and bonspiels. The Chedabucto Curling Club was built in 1964 on land that was donated to the club by the generous Gordon Pyle in 1963. In 1965, membership was increased drastically; 40 ladies joined the 64 men, and the club became very active and a very social place.
There are now close to 80 new members who are involved in the curling club in 2015. In January 1965, the club applied to be registered as a society. The names on the application were: Cliff Hawes, William Shea, Edgar Sceles, Frank Gosbee and Harvey Hadley. This led to the official incorporation under the Societies Act on February 25, 1965. The constitution and bylaws were written, a crest and pin designed, and the club was off and curling.
I'm very pleased to have this admired club in my constituency. I think highly of the members of the club for all their hard work, determination, and dedication towards this enjoyable sport, and I hope it continues to thrive in our community. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
FAIRVIEW JR. HS GIRLS SOCCER TEAM
- FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP TROPHY UNVEILING
MS. PATRICIA ARAB « » : Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the Fairview Junior High girls' soccer team on participating in the unveiling of the FIFA Women's World Cup trophy in Dartmouth. The girls were excitedly applauding the unveiling at Mic Mac Mall surrounded by many, including Mayor Mike Savage and the members for Halifax Armdale and Halifax Citadel-Sable Island. The Fairview Junior High team had the opportunity to try to score on the mechanically operated goalkeeper. This was quite the challenge, but one of our girls showed off her skills and got the goal. Please join me in congratulating the team for the participation in this exciting event.
MAYFEST (ANTIGONISH) - FUNDRAISING
HON. RANDY DELOREY « » : Mr. Speaker, there is a very important annual event taking place in my community shortly. Mayfest is a major fundraiser for St. Martha's Regional Hospital. It's hard to describe the atmosphere at Mayfest to someone who has never been. It is an overwhelmingly wonderful experience. As a major fundraiser for St. Martha's Hospital Foundation it is always well-attended by the community. It is a true family affair with activities for everyone, no matter their age. For children there are games, the teddy bear clinic, face painting, as well as the always popular cake walk and science fair. For the adults in the family there is no shortage of baked goods or second-hand treasures to browse through and purchase. The gardening table is always popular as well.
Mayfest is organized by an amazing group of volunteers, the St. Martha's Regional Hospital Auxiliary. Not only do they organize Mayfest, they also operate the café and gift shop at the hospital. Their contributions to the hospital are so important. This year's Mayfest takes place May 9th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bloomfield Centre. The proceeds raised will be donated to purchase two electric birthing beds for the children's and women's unit. I ask that the members of the House of Assembly wish the best of luck to the hospital auxiliary as well, as we hope for another successful Mayfest. Thank you.
C.B. TOURISM - TOP 15 OF 2015 EVENTS
MS. PAM EYKING « » : Mr. Speaker, as Nova Scotians get ready to plan their summer vacations, I encourage them to have a look at the Cape Breton events with heart. These top 15 events of 2015 showcase Cape Breton's culture, venues, and lifestyle, and give people a glimpse into the spirit and personality of our Island and our people. I'm proud to say that a significant number of those 15 events are occurring in my constituency of Victoria-The Lakes.
I hope all Nova Scotians have an opportunity to be inspired and entertained by some of the top 15 in 2015, and encourage them to go to www.capebretonisland.com to learn more about them. Thank you.
COM. SERV.: INCOME ASSISTANCE BUS TICKETS - INFO.
MS. LENORE ZANN « » : Mr. Speaker, this session we have heard from vulnerable Nova Scotians who are on income assistance and whose bus passes have been revoked by the Department of Community Services. A spokeswoman for the department was quoted in a CBC article recently, saying, ". . . unless a client has a dozen appointments in a month, it's cheaper for the government to pay for bus tickets or taxis." The minister actually repeated that number here in the House.
The Department of Community Services is spreading misinformation to not only Nova Scotians but to the vulnerable people who rely on bus passes for transportation. Why is transportation for special needs that have been received for five, 10 years or more now being revoked, reviewed, and cut? Where in the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act or the Employment Support and Income Assistance Regulations does it specify that individuals must have at least 12 appointments to receive bus passes? Is the department trying to cut costs by denying these special needs and why is the government trying to save money by harming the poor and the disabled? Thank you.
[9:44 a.m. The House recessed.]
[9:58 a.m. The House reconvened.]
MS. ARAB « » : Mr. Speaker, I'd like to bring the members' attention to the east gallery where we're joined today by Roddie and Judy Munroe - if I could ask you to stand. Rod and Judy are two of the most amazing, kindest, loving, warm people you will ever meet. They are absolutely joyous to be around. If you ever have a chance to be up in Cape Breton, go and visit them, go hang out with them.
Roddie is exceptionally excited today because his Hawks swept Minnesota last night so it was a big night. I wish everybody in the House to give them a warm round of applause. (Applause)
HON. LEO GLAVINE » : Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to draw the attention of the House to the east gallery today where we have 13 students from the Apple Blossom School in Grafton, actually a social studies class taught by Tim Rimple, and also the chaperones Jay Barkman and Gerald Reimer and Merrilee Reimer here as well.
Today the Apple Blossom School is a Mennonite school, as part of a very vibrant Mennonite community in the Annapolis Valley. Let's give them a warm welcome here to the House. (Applause)
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS TO MINISTERS
PREM. - DR. MACQUARRIE: MEETING - CONFIRM
HON. JAMIE BAILLIE « » : Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday, I asked the Premier if the government would meet with Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie about her serious allegations of intimidation by a government official. He told me that a meeting was scheduled for next week, and I will table his statement from Hansard yesterday, but it turns out there is no meeting with Dr. MacQuarrie about her allegations next week after all.
I'd like to ask the Premier to clarify, why did he tell the House there was a meeting when in fact there isn't?
HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL » : I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I want to tell him and all members of this House there is a meeting next week that Dr. MacQuarrie will be part of, which is on Thursday. It's a meeting with the Minister of Health and Wellness and a number of other physicians as well. The minister's office attempted to make contact with Dr. MacQuarrie specifically about an offset time for her, to which there was no response.
MR. BAILLIE « » : Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry, but that's just a little bit too cute. I had asked the Premier specifically if the minister would meet with Dr. MacQuarrie about her allegations of intimidation. He said there was a meeting about that with her next week and there isn't. There's a meeting with maybe other OB/GYNs about other issues that she may or may not attend, but for such a simple question, we would have appreciated a more direct response.
We're frustrated. I can imagine how frustrated Dr. MacQuarrie is to have her name used again in that way when in fact there is no meeting on her issues. She deserves better. We deserve better answers than that. Will the Premier assure the House that his government will in fact meet with Dr. MacQuarrie herself about her allegations of intimidation and apologize immediately?
THE PREMIER « » : Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and Wellness has said he would meet not only with Dr. MacQuarrie, but any physician across this province. As the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party has already said, he is talking about allegations that there is no foundation, there is no proof, there is no file. What does he want the Minister of Health and Wellness to apologize for?
MR. BAILLIE « » : Mr. Speaker, you know what? Dr. MacQuarrie herself is the one making the allegations. If the Premier doesn't believe her, he should just stand up in his place and say so. But to laugh it off and to say, if she wants to meet, that's fine - that is not good enough. This government has had enough trouble getting its facts straight, whether it's being sneaky with the digital animation industry or being too cute with the facts . . .
The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
MR. BAILLIE « » : Mr. Speaker, I will retract that word, but the fact of the matter is they couldn't get their story straight about whether they were meeting with Dr. MacQuarrie or not. They can't get their story straight about what they're doing with the digital animators. They may seem unrelated, but the trend is clear. Why can't this government get its story straight on basic matters of fact about whether there are meetings or not and what they're doing with our digital animators?
THE PREMIER « » : Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I want to again remind him that Dr. MacQuarrie has a meeting with the Minister of Health and Wellness next week. I also want to remind him we led the country in export growth. I want to remind him that we've seen our population go up. We're beginning to see substantial private sector investment in this province. Those are all positive numbers that are moving this province in the right direction.
PREM. - ANIMATION TAX CREDIT: LBR./PROD. COSTS - COVERAGE
HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD « » : Mr. Speaker, it has been almost 48 hours since the McNeil Government announced a new tax credit for animators and Nova Scotians still aren't clear about the details. On Wednesday, the government announced the details of the credit in a press release; on Thursday morning, they quietly changed those details without any formal announcement; and then last night, when the minister was asked to explain how the new tax credit would work, she was unable to do so.
For the benefit of this House and for the people working in Nova Scotia's animation industry, I'd like to ask the Premier if he could please explain specifically what percentage of labour and production costs are covered by his government's new animation tax credit.
THE PREMIER « » : Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I want to thank all those in the animation community who have been working with government to ensure that when we released the animation tax credit, with the digital tax credit, that it works for them. I want to thank them again for sitting down with the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and the Department of Finance and Treasury Board to ensure that they can walk through those steps. After that clarification is made with the industry we'd be more than happy to share it with the Acting Leader of the New Democratic Party.
There are hundreds of young people in Nova Scotia who work as animators and DHX Studios in Halifax alone employs more than 150 people. These people and their families have been living in limbo for the past month, worried about the future.
They were given some hope on Wednesday, only to have it taken away a few hours later, so my question is to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, how was it that her department issued two different press releases, a fact sheet about the animation tax credit that contained incorrect information?
HON. DIANA WHALEN » : Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. The question really is not about the press release, it's about the fact sheet. The fact sheet was clarified in answer to some of the calls that we got from the industry, to make it clearer.
The important thing to note - and I want to make it very clear - the arrangement that is in play with the digital animation is going to be virtually as good as it was before. The industry is not in jeopardy - honestly the industry is not in any jeopardy whatsoever. We are answering their questions and, as soon as all their questions are answered, we'll make it clear to all members of the House.
Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia has a vibrant and growing screen industry. One month and one day later the entire industry is in turmoil because of the McNeil Government's decision to scrap the Film Tax Credit. The government's clumsy attempts to try and put a positive spin on the mess they created have only made things worse.
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, why won't she do the right thing and scrap her plans to change the Film Tax Credit so a proper and thorough consultation with the industry can take place, and a realistic plan that won't damage this industry can be developed?
MS. WHALEN « » : Mr. Speaker, I think I've said here many times that we appreciate the contribution that this industry makes to the province. We have a clear understanding of the importance of it to our cultural fabric and we believe that the current arrangement in place with the new film and television production incentive fund is going to meet the needs of the film and television industry. We have taken animation out into another tax credit.
As I said before, it's really going to be the same as it was before. It is not in jeopardy, it is strong and that is what is important. We have a responsibility, Mr. Speaker, to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to ensure that we have good value and that every single industry receives the right level of support and cannot be out of whack. Thank you.
FIN. & TREASURY BD. - DIGITAL ANIMATION IND.:
ARRANGEMENT - CLARIFICATION
HON. JAMIE BAILLIE « » : Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. Yesterday, amid great confusion and growing frustration, I asked the minister about the overnight changes that her department made to the arrangement with the digital and animation industry.
She agreed to meet personally with industry representatives and walk through the numbers. She even offered to provide more information to the Opposition at the time, Mr. Speaker, but this morning everyone is wondering what on earth is going on with this new arrangement.
The minister committed to provide clarity today, Mr. Speaker. I'd just like to ask her if she could now explain to the House why her department issued a press release that was so wrong and why, today, she needs to actually clarify a fact sheet?
HON. DIANA WHALEN « » : Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Official Opposition. As I said yesterday, the press release that was released was not incorrect. I think it's a complex issue and I think the formula is complex. It's a mathematical formula that the industry needs to understand completely. If they don't understand it of course it has a direct impact on their finances.
We sat down with them yesterday. It was the working group, it was our senior staff who sat down because I asked them right away to sit down and clarify the issue with the industry. We had all the right representatives around the table, from Digital Animators of Nova Scotia, Screen Nova Scotia, and some of the other players in the animation industry, and they're working on answering all of the questions that the industry has. Obviously, it was more complex and it needs to be solved.
The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
There is a July 1st deadline coming and the confusion is not going away - it's actually growing every day because of the mess that the government has made of this whole issue. We had hoped there was a solution for the animators, but you know what, Mr. Speaker? The entire screen industry deserves an answer to where this is all going.
Now it appears the government itself is not even ready for its own July 1st deadline. There are no guidelines in place as to how the new fund will work for the screen industry. There are no rules. There is no one to implement the new system because they got rid of Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia. How can the minister expect the film industry to adapt by July 1st when her own government is not ready for the deadline itself?
MS. WHALEN « » : I think it's very important for the members of the House to know that in this year's budget - 2015-16 - there is $24 million budgeted for the Film Industry Tax Credit. That will continue and be spent through this year - taxpayer dollars going out to support the creative industries. That's very important. Everything is in play for this year and the rules for July 1st will be in play as well and in place.
PREM.: FIRST TIME HOMEBUILDERS INCENTIVE - REINSTATEMENT
HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD « » : Mr. Speaker, Scotian Homes in Enfield, one of the most prominent and best-known homebuilders in our region, is being forced to close their doors for good. In Halifax, single-detached starts are down 67 per cent this year and all other starts across the province are down 85 per cent. Industry leaders like Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association CEO Paul Pettipas have been sounding the alarm for months, but after taking office, the McNeil Government ended an incentive that helped stabilize the homebuilding industry.
My question to the Premier is, how bad do things have to get before this Premier is willing to reinstate programs like the first-time homebuilders incentive to help stabilize this important industry?
THE PREMIER « » : I want to remind the honourable member we did not end that program. The program that was brought in by her government had an end date to it; she would know that. I also want to remind this House there is still a rebate for first-time home buyers that is in place.
I want to also remind her of the financial challenges that her government left the Province of Nova Scotia with. We're working towards getting ourselves back to fiscal health. We continue to work with the Home Builders' Association to find out if there are opportunities for us to help work with them to make those investments that they believe would help spur on the industry.
MS. MACDONALD « » : Mr. Speaker, the former government left the province in much better financial shape than the one that we inherited. The McNeil Government is desperate. They're desperate to tell people it's not their job to create jobs, and now we're beginning to see the accumulated effect of this do-nothing approach. Since this government came to power, the employment rate has decreased by 3.5 per cent and our province has lost more than 25,000 jobs. Housing starts are hitting record lows and businesses employing people are closing. My question to the Premier is, why is he ignoring backbone industries like homebuilding when experts who know our economy best are telling him he has a role to play?
THE PREMIER « » : There isn't a sector in this province that doesn't look to government to provide them money. Unfortunately, under the New Democratic Party, there was no limit to how much they were prepared to throw at every sector in this province, which leaves us with a tough situation in this province. There is no question, there are challenges facing some sectors in this province. We're also beginning to see some turnaround, beginning to see some investment.
I am looking forward to the population growing; new immigrants are coming into this province looking for new properties, that's a positive thing. We've seen our Nominee Program increase by 50 per cent. Those people are going to need a place to live, work, and play in this province. We're beginning to see the resource sector turn around for the first time in a very long time. Those will be good-paying jobs across this province. These incremental changes will put this province on a solid foundation to be able to move forward with the private sector driving job growth not the public sector.
COM. SERV.: INCOME ASSISTANCE CHEQUES - LABELLING
MR. LARRY HARRISON « » : Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Community Services. Nova Scotians receiving income assistance from the provincial government often find themselves in a situation where they are trying to get back on their feet, but lack of employment, the nature of the system or unfortunate circumstances make that difficult. A constituent recently brought to my attention that the cheques issued through income assistance are labelled poverty reduction. This means that wherever they go to cash their cheque in the community, people are going to know that they are on income assistance. Would the minister agree that having poverty reduction labelled on cheques is demeaning in nature?
HON. JOANNE BERNARD » : Thank you and I thank the member for the question. I believe the cheque that maybe you're referring to would be the actual poverty reduction cheque so it's a classification on it. Yes, I do agree with you, I do agree that that doesn't need to be classified and that people don't need to have that further stigma, when they are cashing their cheques in the bank.
Last year, we were able to increase the Child Tax Benefit within Nova Scotia and raise the threshold so that more than 1,200 more families were able to take advantage of that. This year we have invested $26 million into that program and the Poverty Reduction Tax Credit has approximately $3.5 million. But I agree with you. There could be a movement to change the classification on the cheques so it doesn't have that stigmatizing language.
ENERGY - NSP: RATE INCREASE - EXPECTATION
MR. TIM HOUSTON « » : Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Energy. This week Nova Scotia Power was approved to spend $273 million on projects for 2015 and that's up nearly 20 per cent from $228 million approved last year. When Nova Scotians hear about Nova Scotia Power spending more money, they begin to wonder if their rates are going up. Nova Scotians already pay amongst the highest electricity rates in the country so my question for the minister is, is the minister aware of whether Nova Scotia Power will apply for a rate increase this year or not?
HON. MICHEL SAMSON « » : Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would be aware, the decisions on the capital spend for Nova Scotia Power and any rate requests are handled by the Utility and Review Board, which is independent of government. Certainly we've seen a number of instances where Nova Scotia Power has submitted and the board has approved capital investments to help the reliability of the service to Nova Scotians, which is something that we have heard loud and clear and I'm sure the board has heard as well. As far as what rate requests may be made by Nova Scotia Power, those will be made to the Utility and Review Board and no such application has been filed to date.
MR. HOUSTON « » : Mr. Speaker, the application may not have been made yet but many Nova Scotians certainly suspect that there is a potential rate increase looming and that could further drive up costs to families. The government said that their plan to open up the electricity market would eventually lower rates. The Premier said when he was campaigning that eventually the forces of competition will drive our electricity rates down. My question for the minister is, at what point does the minister expect the forces of competition to actually drive electricity rates down, as pledged in the last campaign?
MR. SAMSON « » : Mr. Speaker, last election Nova Scotians had two options: they had a Party, led by the Premier, that was saying that we were going to break Nova Scotia's monopoly; we also had the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party who was magically going to freeze rates. Again, as I mentioned before, he thought he was Elsa from Frozen and that he could just freeze stuff and it would magically happen.
Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians know that Frozen is an act of fiction, as was his Party's plan for electricity. Nova Scotians voted for a real plan. We brought in legislation that will allow competition in this province. We have broken the monopoly, and in the Spring that honourable member and all members of the Opposition will see the results of competition in this province for electricity.
HEALTH & WELLNESS: SENIORS' PHARMACARE PROG.
- FUNDING RATIO
HON. DAVID WILSON « » : Mr. Speaker, the Seniors' Pharmacare Program helps seniors, age 65 and over, with the cost of prescription drugs. There are more than 120,000 Nova Scotians currently enrolled in the program. Earlier this year the minister eliminated the funding ratio that required the government to pay 75 per cent of the cost to operate that program with seniors paying the remainder, 25 per cent.
I'd like to ask the minister, what will be the new ratio that seniors will be required to cover this year for the Seniors' Pharmacare Program?
HON. LEO GLAVINE « » : Mr. Speaker, rather than move the 25 per cent plus or minus 1 per cent, 2 per cent, 3 per cent, it would have been 4 per cent this year of 29; in fact, the time had come to change that formula. What I am pleased to say is that by taking that fixed formula off, we're able to add more pharmaceuticals for seniors in the province this year.
MR. DAVID WILSON « » : I wish the Minister of Community Services would talk to the Minister of Health and Wellness because there was no answer. It was a simple question - what percentage? So the seniors are going to be paying for more of those drugs, Mr. Speaker. I think the savings should have gone back to the 120,000 seniors who pay for that program.
Mr. Speaker, in 2014-15 seniors contributed more than $40 million towards the cost of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. With more seniors coming into the program who are paying full premiums to the program, it is starting to look like a revenue-generator.
My question to the Minister of Health and Wellness is, if seniors are going to pay more for the Pharmacare Program, what is the minister going to do when the program generates more revenue?
MR. GLAVINE « » : Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite, a former Minister of Health and Wellness, realizes, we have not changed the premium for Seniors' Pharmacare and we have not changed the co-pay. We know that we have 35 seniors a day who are turning 65. Most are joining the program. With the additional funds we will, in fact, be able to cover more of the required drugs for seniors in our province.
DIS - NORTHERN PULP: 2020 - OPERATION CONFIRM
HON. ALFIE MACLEOD « » : Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Internal Services. In his closing remarks on Bill No. 89, the minister said: "If the mill was not operating by chance we would be cleaning up the Boat Harbour area in a much sooner time frame than four and a half years." He also said "This bill is about closing the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Plant, it is not about what the mill will do with its wastewater after that closure. That will be determined in discussions with the mill." I'll table that.
My question for the minister is quite simple, can the minister explain whether or not he expects Northern Pulp to be operating in 2020, and could he clarify whether his government believes that a new effluent treatment facility is the sole financial responsibility of Northern Pulp?
HON. LABI KOUSOULIS » : Mr. Speaker, as I've said many times, if Northern Pulp is operating in this province or not, that is their decision, not this government's. I have also said that this government has a role to play in the new effluent treatment facility plant with Northern Pulp and we're looking forward to having discussions with them. We have four and a half years to have those discussions and that gives them ample time for construction of that effluent treatment facility, which will take one to two years. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker, it was almost 12 months from the time that the pipe carrying effluent broke, to the introduction of Bill No. 89. During that time the minister and his colleagues would have been working on the bill and consulting, we hope, with impacted parties, so the question is, during that time, what discussions did the minister have with Northern Pulp regarding a replacement effluent treatment facility, and would the minister agree that more honest engagement with Northern Pulp over that period would have provided the mill more time to work towards planning a replacement treatment plant and ensure that the people who work there have a job to go to?
ENVIRON.: MATTATALL LAKE - ALGAE BLOOMS
HON. JAMIE BAILLIE « » : Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment. Property owners around Mattatall Lake are concerned about an algae bloom in their area. The Mattatall Lake Stewardship Committee has indicated that tests taken last Fall show that algae are emitting toxins in the lake at levels that are a threat to the health of people there and their pets as well as wildlife and other fish. This is very troubling to the over 90 homeowners that call Mattatall Lake home.
Will the Department of Environment assist with further water testing at Mattatall Lake?
HON. RANDY DELOREY « » : I thank the member for the question. Throughout the province, there are a number of regions where, from time to time, the organic materials in our lakes and our water systems increase to the point where an algae bloom occurs from time to time. The Department of Environment, in particular in participation with the Department Health and Wellness, does assess water qualities at times. Certainly, if residents from the area want to reach out to their local office and Department of Environment, I'd certainly be in a position to see about assisting.
MR. BAILLIE « » : I want to thank the minister for that answer. The Mattatall Lake Stewardship Committee has reached out to local Department of Environment officials and the response so far has not been encouraging. They've been advised that there is only $500 in the budget this year for water testing in Cumberland County. I'd like to ask the minister if he can confirm if that is the case, that there is only $500 available for water testing in all of the lakes of Cumberland County. If so, will he see to it that the local office is able to assist the residents of Mattatall Lake with this important issue?
MR. DELOREY « » : What I can advise the member opposite, the Leader of the Official Opposition, that in fact there are a lot of watercourses in the Province of Nova Scotia that fall under the purview of the Department of Environment. The resources of the department are disbursed as needed across the province. We try to assess our environmental concerns on a needs- and risk-based approach.
Of course, when we're going through the budgeting process, we make our decisions based upon estimates based on past history. That's likely what would have resulted in the estimates and the budgeted amount for that particular region cited.
I can assure the member opposite and all members of this House and the people of Nova Scotia that we assess based on the needs and the risk to the environment and public health, so again, once we assess the circumstances of that particular site, we would be happy to take a look and dedicate the resources if necessary.
TIR - GILLIS PT. RD. (VICTORIA CO.): WORK - TIME FRAME
HON. ALFIE MACLEOD « » : Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of TIR. For the second consecutive year, CAA has recognized the Gillis Point Road in Washabuck, Victoria County as the worst road in Atlantic Canada, and I'll table that.
The Department's 2015-2016 five-year plan for highways includes 3.5 kilometres of paving on the St. Columba Road, with the new paving ending at the Gillis Point Road. I'll table that. Additional work to the Gillis Point Road is not included for the projects for the next five years in the department's five-year plan. The question is, will any work be done on the Gillis Point Road in the next year so that it will not be recognized as the worst road in Atlantic Canada for a third consecutive year?
HON. GEOFF MACLELLAN » : Certainly, the work that CAA does to create awareness around roads that have soft spots and are in need of repair is certainly valuable for that public conversation. As the member knows, the CAA process is voting from those particular communities, so it's a good way for people to get their road concerns on the map and in conversation publicly.
With respect to the Gillis Point Road, we do have 3.5 kilometres dedicated. This is a significant investment. I've made no secret about it. It's an important road for the community, but at the same time it is a volume issue. We've got 23,000 kilometres of road; we do what we can. The plan is to pave the 3.5 kilometres at the entrance of the road; that's predominantly where the residents live, and then after that we're looking at chip seal, some rehabilitation. We are going to do what we can to fix this road. We know it's important but it's about the fiscal realities. We will certainly do our best.
MR. MACLEOD « » : Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his answer. At a meeting I attended in Little Narrows a couple of weeks ago, this road was brought up by the people in the local area. Anybody familiar with this part of Cape Breton knows that the Iona area attracts many tourists who tour the local roads to enjoy the scenery of the Bras d'Or Lakes and the area's Gaelic culture. We also want to ensure that bad publicity such as this for the area does not discourage visitors from coming to this beautiful part of our province.
The question I have for the minister, in establishing priority roads for the department's five-year plan, does the department specifically consider the amount of traffic from tourists in the summer months?
MR. MACLELLAN « » : Mr. Speaker, yes, there are a number of factors that go into these projects. Obviously volume is the big one, commercial value and what commercial activities are on the road. Of course the impact for trucking, for vehicles, residents in the area and the tourism impact in the summer. It is part of the conversation. Our engineers look at all kinds of factors. They are human beings; they talk to the people organically in those communities. They get a sense as to what is important and certainly we'll do our best.
There are limited funds. We spend $420 million as a department. It's a lot of money for transportation in the province to cover our 23,000 roads. But at the end of the day there is always a deficit so we try to catch up. The member himself has a number of roads he would like done and that's the reality in Nova Scotia. We're doing our best. We're meeting with MLAs, stakeholders, all people on the ground and we're listening to what their priorities are and we're adjusting our fiscal plan accordingly. Thank you.
ENVIRON. - TRAVEL PLANNING PROGS.:
ELIMINATION - SUPPORT EXPLAIN
HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE « » : Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Environment. In the budget we learned about the McNeil Government's decision to eliminate funding for School Travel Planning Programs run by the Ecology Action Centre. This annual funding allowed two coordinators to work with 24 schools across the province to help plan safe walking routes, trails and marked crosswalks. They also promoted walking school buses to get more kids walking or biking to school. The program helped kids stay active, helped to keep cars off the roads and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I'd like to ask the Minister of Environment, why does he support his government's decision to eliminate these programs?
HON. RANDY DELOREY « » : Mr. Speaker, what I really think the question that was asked there, as I understand it - the member opposite is asking why I support this government's budget. I support this government's budget because this government recognizes that we came into a province that couldn't sustain the fiscal road and path we were on. This government took a look at all of the programs that operate in all of our departments, just like my colleague in the Department of Health and Wellness did, assessed based upon the core mandates that we have within our departments and made the difficult decisions that we had to make to ensure that we get ourselves back onto a fiscal plan and get the province back on a path towards fiscal prosperity. Thank you.
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE « » : Mr. Speaker, I guess that when you create a deficit by paying $600 million off the pension plan in one year instead of 12 years, is your own creation, not the former government. (Interruptions) I'm sorry the facts hurt.
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE « » : Walking to school used to be a common thing for kids but over time this trend has changed. Now only 23 per cent of kids walk or bike to school in Nova Scotia even though 40 per cent live close enough that they could. This means more cars and buses are on the road sending greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. The Ecology Action Centre says these programs were working and behaviours were starting to change and it was also part of the obesity preventative plan for our province.
I would like to ask the minister if he will commit to working with his fellow Cabinet members like the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Minister of Health and Wellness to find the way to reinstate this funding so more kids have an opportunity to walk to school, and please give us a real answer.
MR. DELOREY « » : Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. Of course, both as a member of this government and as a parent of four small children, of course I encourage and support the notion of having children, where possible, walk to school and participate in physical activity.
With respect to how many children and the difficult challenges for walking, I encourage the member opposite to consider the process that her government put community schools under during their time in government, about the challenges for small community schools being closed in rural areas so that those students can't walk to school any longer, and ignoring that throughout the process.
With respect to the budgeting process, I encourage them to take a look at the budget that they brought in just after they took office in 2009.
LAE: TUITION INCREASES - DETAILS
MR. EDDIE ORRELL « » : Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. The government's announcement that they would allow for an uncapped increase on tuition fees took many by surprise. Students remain cautious over what this could mean for their tuition rates in future years.
I assume that the minister and her staff have an idea as to what institutions plan to raise their rates. My question to the minister is, could the minister tell the House whether she has received any indication from any universities other than CBU that they will take advantage of this one-time uncapped increase in tuition?
HON. KELLY REGAN « » : I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I'm happy to report to him that initial talks with universities indicate that about two-thirds of students will not see an uncapped tuition in the coming years. Thank you.
MR. ORRELL « » : Over the past several years, students and their families have a degree of certainty about how much tuition will increase. Now they are left wondering, what increase may be around the corner? They also wonder if the increase will come all at once or spread over several years.
Could the minister detail if she has provided the universities with any direction or limitations on how they apply this tuition adjustment?
MS. REGAN « » : Thank you to the honourable member for the question, Mr. Speaker. We've been very clear with the universities that we expect them to manage their institutions. We think it is right and reasonable that universities be allowed to charge similar amounts for similar programs.
As the honourable member probably remembers, when the tuition freeze came in, there were some universities, like Cape Breton University for example, that had tuitions that were much lower than elsewhere in the province. I want to assure the honourable member that at the end of Cape Breton University's tuition market adjustment, their students will still be paying below the average tuition across the province. Thank you.
HEALTH & WELLNESS: ADDICTION SERVICES - FUNDING CUTS
HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT « » : My question is to the Minister of Health and Wellness. Prescription drug abuse is a significant problem in Nova Scotia. In many communities, young people are getting access to opiates and other prescription drugs. They become addicted and led down a path that has devastating results.
Unfortunately, for many, rehabilitation services and detox are not available when they decide that they want to turn their life around. Bed shortages are a huge problem all over this province and unfortunately often the window for choosing sobriety closes quickly as people become more and more addicted.
Funding for addiction services was cut in this year's budget. Why did the minister cut funding for addiction services when bed shortages are already plaguing Nova Scotians across the province?
HON. LEO GLAVINE « » : First of all, I want to again inform Nova Scotians that we in the province have taken the most advanced steps in terms of developing a curriculum in our schools around alcohol, around opiates, around cannabis, and I know it's getting great accolades. I think that's the first area; it's obviously prevention.
When it comes to treatment, while that line item in the budget has changed, the overall delivery in regards to the number of beds - whether it's in Lunenburg, whether it's in Soldiers Memorial Hospital, whether it's in Amherst - all of those beds remain open and available for treatment.
MR. D'ENTREMONT « » : Mr. Speaker, we know that one way of combatting prescription drug abuse is to control the source. I know when the minister was on this side of the House, he spoke a lot of prescription drug use.
Last year in the Budget Estimates, the minister spoke of a high-volume prescriber program initiated by the department and a prescription drug monitoring program. Will the minister table any figures or results from that program that indicate the number of doctors identified and any increases or decreases in prescriptions for opiate drugs?
MR. GLAVINE « » : I'm pleased to say the College of Physicians and Surgeons has identified the top 100 doctors in the province in terms of the amount of opiates prescribed and they have all been, obviously, sent letters and asked to review their practice. As the member may know, we are developing a just-in-time information in all pharmacies across the province. Now when a patient goes to the ER and may be prescribed an opiate, we have a just-in-time information on whether or not they may be getting a prescription somewhere else.
LAE - UNIVERSITIES: COLLECTIVE BARGAINING SUSPENSION - EFFECTS
HON. DAVID WILSON « » : Mr. Speaker, universities in Nova Scotia have been put on notice. If any university enacts provisions to suspend collective bargaining rights or determine research priorities in Bill No. 100, they'll be sanctioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Sanctions imposed by CAUT will be a black eye on Nova Scotia and tarnish the reputation of our province's world-class universities.
I'd like to ask the minister: Did the minister consider this negative consequence, like sanctions, this legislation could mean for Nova Scotia universities?
HON. KELLY REGAN « » : I'd like to thank the honourable member for the question, but what I would like to remind the honourable member about is what is actually in the legislation. There are two parts in the legislation. The first part requires our universities to be more accountable for the funds they spend, something that his government did not do.
So government will have a better picture of what's going on with our institutions well in advance, so if there are problems developing we will be able to spot them well in advance.
The second part of the legislation gives universities a process by which they can restructure, it gives them a safe place to go so they don't have to go into receivership, so they don't have to go into bankruptcy, so they don't have to deal with those particular processes in which students, and faculty, and unions, will have no say whatsoever. Thank you.
MR. WILSON « » : Mr. Speaker, I'm trying to recall the last time a university went into receivership here in Nova Scotia, or in Canada. I don't know. If sanctions (Interruptions) I touched a nerve over there, they're waking up, it's Friday afternoon. If sanctions are imposed on Nova Scotia . . .
MR. WILSON « » : Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Sanctions would affect student enrolment, finances, donations, and the university's reputation. Sanctions are rarely ever imposed by CAUT, and only used in serious cases when the rights of academic staff are breached, says the executive director of CAUT. Can the minister detail the effect that sanctions will have in attracting students to Nova Scotia if they are enacted?
MS. REGAN « » : I'd like to thank the honourable member for the question. I would like to point out that the first part of the legislation should ensure that no university has to use the second part of the legislation - and they could have brought in legislation like that themselves, but they did not.
I would furthermore point out what would really damage a university, quite frankly, is if they did have to go into receivership, if they did have to go into bankruptcy. What we have told universities is that Nova Scotia taxpayers cannot continue to bail out universities that fail to live within their means, and we expect them to act accordingly. Thank you.
ENERGY: NAT. GAS - MARCELLA SUPPLY
MR. ALLAN MACMASTER « » : Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Energy explained what he was doing to bring affordable home heating to Nova Scotians, referencing Heritage Gas. But Heritage Gas has stated that very few communities in this province will be served under their business model and there are certainly no plans for Heritage to bring their service to residents of Richmond. A free flow of natural gas into Nova Scotia is what is needed to bring affordable home heating here.
Can the minister tell us what he is doing to bring the Marcella supply via pipeline to this province?
HON. MICHEL SAMSON « » : Mr. Speaker, just a correction for my colleague from Inverness. The fact is there is already natural gas coming to Richmond County; in fact coming to Point Tupper. So I know that is a distance away from his home but I just wanted to point that out to him.
We have met with Heritage Gas. Heritage Gas has been expanding in various communities around the province and has new technologies that they are looking at as well. They are also in negotiations with the pipeline companies around the Eastern U.S. Seaboard to ensure that there is a supply here in Nova Scotia. As well, as I mentioned before, we are working closely with the Alton gas project, which presents an opportunity to do storage of gas, especially during the summer months when the prices are low, so that we can avoid price spikes during the wintertime, which potentially could be a saving of $17 million for Nova Scotia consumers.
MR. MACMASTER « » : Mr. Speaker, there was some noise in the Chamber but I actually did state "residents of Richmond," but I can appreciate it's in Point Tupper and there are some good developments, as the minister mentioned.
Yesterday I mentioned a homeowner in Ontario paying $950 for the year for their heat and their hot water. Some Nova Scotians are paying that here every two months in the wintertime, with Nova Scotia Power.
Affordability has been something that has been missing from energy policy in the province. Breaking the monopoly is the answer by this government, but I say for what? All the current energy inputs are exactly what are driving the cost of power rates. There are three companies that see value in exporting natural gas from Nova Scotia around the world. Why doesn't this government see the value in having a plan to bring that gas here for Nova Scotians?
MR. SAMSON « » : Mr. Speaker, once again, as I mentioned during the last election, Nova Scotians had an opportunity to choose between our Premier, who was talking about breaking the power monopoly, making sure that Nova Scotians had a choice in their energy supply and making sure that there was competition in the province that would be led by the private industry, to give Nova Scotians a choice. On the other hand, we had the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party who once again was trying to do his best imitation of Elsa in Frozen by suggesting that we could simply freeze power rates in the province.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Nova Scotians, I would encourage the honourable member and all his colleagues that when it comes to the issue of trying to freeze power rates, as was famous in the movie Frozen, let it go.
NAT. RES. - CLEAR-CUT: REDUCTION GOAL - OUTCOME
HON. PAT DUNN « » : Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The Department of Natural Resources 2014-15 business plan outlined the department's intention to reduce the percentage of forested land harvested by clear-cut to no more than 50 per cent of harvests. I'll table that.
In 2011, 96 per cent of all harvests were done with the clear-cut harvesting method. The 2014-15 business plan indicated that data for subsequent years was not available. So my question to the minister is, is the data currently available and could the minister inform the House if his department has met this goal?
HON. ZACH CHURCHILL » : Mr. Speaker, in fact we are on track to reaching our target of reducing the percentage of the harvest as a clear-cut. I believe that in 2012 the number was approximately 75 per cent. We have brought that down to around 64 per cent. We are well on our way to reaching 50 per cent in this province.
More importantly, for the first time we are actually opening up this process to Nova Scotians. We have maps online for every Nova Scotian to see what harvest is happening where, so they can provide feedback to us to better inform our policy and decision making, Mr. Speaker. That is resulting in excellent changes to the way we do forestry in the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. DUNN « » : I must thank the minister for that answer, Mr. Speaker. Ensuring that our forested lands are harvested in a responsible and sustainable fashion ensures that future Nova Scotians will benefit from our forests' natural resources.
The 2015-16 business plan does not specifically outline the government's intention to reduce clear-cutting to 50 per cent or less of total harvests, as was the case in the previous year's plan. I'll table that. It also does not provide updated statistics regarding progress on the reduction of clear-cutting.
My question to the minister is, could the minister inform this House of the timeline the Department of Natural Resources has in place for the reduction of clear-cutting in this province?
[10:50 a.m. The House resolved into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Ms. Margaret Miller in the Chair.]
[3:46 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Ms. Margaret Miller in the Chair.]
Bill No. 108 - Financial Measures (2015) Act.
Bill No. 113 - Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission Act.
without amendments, and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. MICHEL SAMSON « » : Madam Speaker, that concludes the government's business for today. The House will meet again on Monday, May 11th. Following the daily routine we will go into third reading of Bill Nos. 108 and 113.
Madam Speaker, the House will sit on Monday from the hour of 9:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. With that, I move that the House do now rise.
Allow me, on behalf of the Premier and all my colleagues, to wish all the mothers in this Legislature and throughout our wonderful province a very Happy Mother's Day. Bon fête de Mères. Merci.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
We stand adjourned.
[The House rose at 3:47 p.m.]
[For Notices of Motion Under Rule 32(3) please see May 11th]